READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, March 25th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

AFBF: Agriculture Must Be Prioritized for COVID-19 Vaccine

The American Farm Bureau Federation is urging the Biden administration to prioritize agriculture for the COVID-19 vaccine. In a letter sent to the administration Wednesday, AFBF President Zippy Duvall called for the elimination of barriers to vaccine access for America’s farmers and farm workers. Duvall says, “This prioritization would ensure that planting, harvesting, processing, and distribution of human and animal food can continue to ensure our grocery shelves and food pantries remain stocked.” The administration recently directed states to prioritize vaccines for teachers. AFBF’s request that similar action be taken for agriculture is consistent with the recommendations of several medical and science groups, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While farmers and farmworkers in some states have been able to access the vaccine, AFBF says other states have not allowed food and agriculture workers priority access. Duvall asks the administration to “take additional action to eliminate any barrier to vaccine access for America’s farmers and farm workers.”

Farm Lending Pullback Continues

Agricultural debt at commercial banks eased further at the end of 2020, and loan repayment problems moderated slightly, according to the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank. Research by the KC Fed released this week shows general improvement in the agricultural economy likely drove the pullback in farm lending activity and strengthened credit conditions. Higher crop prices and an influx of government payments in 2020 also contributed to stronger growth in deposits, which supported a sharp increase in liquidity at agricultural banks. Agricultural loan balances at commercial banks reached a five-year low in the fourth quarter and continued to shift toward farm real estate. Although the accumulation of farm debt remained higher than the average of the past ten years, the total value of farm loan portfolios fell five percent from the previous year. Moving forward, the research says the pace of lending to farmers may remain slower than in previous years, as 2020 government payments and recent strength in crop prices have improved borrower liquidity and farm balance sheets.

EPA Extends RFS Compliance Deadline

The Environmental Protection Agency this week extended the compliance deadline for refiners to meet their Renewable Volume Obligations. EPA is extending the RFS compliance deadline for the 2019 compliance year and submission of reports for the 2019 compliance year for small refineries. The new deadlines are November 30, 2021, and June 1, 2022. EPA is also extending the RFS compliance deadline for the 2020 and the associated deadline for attest engagement reports. The new deadlines are January 31, 2022, and June 1, 2022. Finally, EPA is extending the attest engagement reports deadline for the 2021 compliance year to September 1, 2022. Following the Announcement, Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor stated her organization is disappointed in the decision to agree to the deadline extension request by refiners. Skor says, “Refiners using COVID-19 as a pretext to attack the Renewable Fuel Standard is wrong, as biofuel producers were among the hardest hit by COVID-19.”

Equipment Manufacturers Report Positive Outlook for 2021

Equipment Manufacturers report a positive outlook for 2021, according to a new survey by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. The survey found 88 percent of manufacturers report a positive outlook for 2021, while more than half expect sales to increase or remain stable despite the ongoing impact of the global pandemic. The online survey was targeted to employees of AEM member companies and includes results from more than 130 respondents, including CEOs, vice presidents, and sales and operations leaders, among others. AEM President Dennis Slater says, “Equipment manufacturers have begun to turn the corner.” Looking at the biggest challenges facing company executives and the equipment manufacturing industry as a whole in 2021, respondents indicated that the lingering COVID-19 pandemic and keeping employees safe and on the job remain the top concerns, followed by finding skilled workers for new jobs being created. One in eight respondents said that COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on how they work.

Organic Valley Launches National Clean Energy Fund for Its Farmers

Organic Valley is partnering with Clean Energy Credit Union to launch the Powering the Good Loan Fund. The fund seeks to provide the best loan terms for farmers seeking to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels with renewable energy and efficiencies. Organic Valley says the program is the first of its kind for both cooperatives, pioneering a unique clean energy loan fund for over 1,700 farmers across the country. To accelerate energy improvements, Organic Valley and Clean Energy Credit Union will roll out a $1 million fund with plans to expand. As the nation’s largest organic, farmer-owned cooperative, Organic Valley pulls carbon out of the air through regenerative practices like rotational grazing, while also working to reduce carbon emitted wherever possible. Bob Kirchoff, Organic Valley CEO, says, “We are providing farmers a means to reduce their energy costs and become more self-sufficient and sustainable.”  He says farmers who participate will contribute to a healthy, regenerative future for the next generation.

Farm Bureau Chief Economist Join Senate Ag Committee Staff

Farm Bureau Chief Economist John Newton is joining the Senate Agriculture Committee staff. Newton will serve as Chief Economist for the Ranking Member John Boozman, an Arkansas Republican.  Boozman announced the appointment of 15 staff members this week. The Senator says, “I am excited to move forward with this accomplished team.” AFBF President Zippy Duvall says, “Although I am sorry to see John go, I am also pleased to know he will serve in such an important role.” Before joining AFBF, he served as the chief economist for the National Milk Producers Federation. Newton holds a doctorate in agricultural economics and master’s degrees in macroeconomics and agricultural economics, all obtained at Ohio State University. Boozman also added Pam Miller as a Senior Professional Staff member. Miller previously served as the administrator of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. And, Martha Scott Poindexter returns to the Committee as staff director for the Republican side. She had previously led the committee staff from 2005-2010.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

By Brian Allmer - The BARN

Brian Allmer & the BARN are members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB), the Colorado FFA Foundation, the Colorado 4H Foundation, the Colorado Farm Show Marketing Committee, 1867 Club Board Member, Denver Ag & Livestock Club Member, the Weld County Fair Board, the Briggsdale FFA Advisory Council, Briggsdale 4H Club Beef Leader & Founder / Coordinator of the Briggsdale Classic Open Jackpot Show.