READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, March 30th

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Consumers Plan Record Spending on Easter

Consumers plan to spend an average of $179.70 this Easter, the highest figure on record, according to survey results released by the National Retail Federation. A total of 79 percent of Americans will celebrate the holiday and spend a collective $21.6 billion, down slightly from last year’s pre-pandemic forecast of $21.7 billion. NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay says, “There is a lot of momentum heading into the Spring and holiday events like Easter.” The momentum is fueled by positive trends in vaccinations and growing consumer confidence. Easter gifts, food and candy are the biggest drivers of growth this year. Consumers plan to spend an average of $31.06 on gifts, $52.50 on food and $25.22 on candy. As more and more individuals become vaccinated, consumers plan to celebrate in ways they might have missed last year due to COVID-19. Consumers plan to celebrate by cooking a holiday meal, visiting with family and friends, planning an Easter egg hunt or attending church.

Vilsack: Mexico’s GMO Corn Ban Doesn’t Include Animal Feed

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week stated Mexico’s ban on imported genetically modified corn would apply to human food products, not livestock feed. That understanding was revealed following recent talks between Vilsack and his Mexican counterpart. Vilsack says limiting the ban is a relief for U.S. farmers, saying, “It’s not going to have as great an impact as it would if it was everything all at once all now.” Vilsack says U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai has also addressed the plan with Mexico and that there is a process under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement for raising such issues, according to Reuters. Late last year, Mexico published an executive order seeking to ban the use of GMO corn for human consumption, but did not define the products included in the ban. Mexico pledged to substitute imports of GMO corn with local production by 2024. Mexico imported around 16 million metric tons of mostly GMO corn in 2020.

Fertilizer Prices Up Dramatically

Fertilizer prices are up dramatically this spring, increasing input costs for growers. Data from the Department of Agriculture shows prices are up between 17 and 57 percent since the fall. David Widmar of Agricultural Economics Insights says that while nitrogen often gets the most attention, phosphorus prices are up the most. Anhydrous ammonia and urea are up 37 percent from the fall, but considerably smaller increases over Spring 2020. Meanwhile, liquid nitrogen prices are only up nine percent over last year, but 20 percent higher than last fall. The increase in fertilizer prices means fertilizer expenses are up $29 per acre than last spring, or 30 percent higher. However, Widmar notes, the increases follow a strong downturn a year ago, adding prices are up from historic lows and, for the most part, remain well below the levels of 2011-2014. The exception, however, is phosphorus fertilizer, up 51 percent compared to last fall.

Interior Joins Government-Wide Effort to Advance Offshore Wind

The U.S. Interior Department is part of the Biden Administration’s effort to boost renewable energy, including offshore wind generation. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland joined leadership of Energy, Commerce and Transportation at a White House forum Monday on the topic. The event included a commitment to establish a target to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, creating nearly 80,000 jobs. At the forum, leaders discussed key opportunities and challenges to ensuring domestic economic and employment benefits of aggressively expanding offshore wind. Interior announced the final Wind Energy Areas in the New York Bight – an area of shallow waters between Long Island and the New Jersey coast to identify the offshore locations that appear most suitable for wind energy development. Additionally, the department is initiating the environmental review of the third commercial scale offshore wind project by announcing a Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for Ocean Wind, LLC’s proposed project offshore New Jersey.

USDA Restricts PACA Violators from Operating in the Produce Industry

The Department of Agriculture Monday announced sanctions on five produce businesses. The sanctions are in response to the businesses failing to meet obligations to the sellers of produce they purchased and failing to pay reparation awards issued under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act, or PACA. The sanctions include suspending the businesses’ PACA licenses and barring the principal operators of the businesses from engaging in PACA-licensed business. The businesses are Urban Fresh Produce of California, Sunrise Produce of Maryland, PFI Express and Temple Turmeric of New York and Eli Gonzalez Distributors of Texas. PACA provides an administrative forum to handle disputes involving transactions, which may result in a reparation order that requires damages to be paid by those not meeting their contractual obligations in buying and selling fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables. By issuing these penalties, USDA continues to enforce the prompt and full payment for produce while protecting the rights of sellers and buyers in the marketplace.

Fuel Prices Taper Off

The national average price of gas and diesel fell for the second straight week, after a constant rise to start the year. GasBuddy reports the national average price of gasoline fell 2.7 cents to $2.84 a gallon, with diesel prices down 1.2 cents to $3.08 a gallon. GasBuddy’s Patrick De Haan says, “increases have largely tapered off, and we’re now seeing decreasing prices in most areas of the country, thanks to oil prices that have moderated for the time being.” However, demand is rising. According to a new dataset released by GasBuddy, U.S. gasoline demand continued to rise for the week ending March 27, as Americans continued to get outside amidst better conditions and fewer travel restrictions. National gasoline demand rose 1.95 percent. Weekly gasoline demand last week again set another new pandemic high, rising to just three percent above the last pre-pandemic figures from mid-March 2020, but still stand down several percentage points from what would be considered normal for late March.

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.