READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, April 9th

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World Food Price Index Rises for Tenth-Straight Month

World food prices rose for the tenth-consecutive month in March, rising to their highest level since June of 2014. Reuters says the climb got sparked by costs rising in the vegetable oils, meat, and dairy indices. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s food price index measures monthly changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy products, meat, and sugar. The index averaged 118.5 points in March, compared to 116.1 in February. The FAO says worldwide cereal harvests are on course to hit an annual record in 2020, with early indications for 2021 pointing to another production increase. The vegetable oil price index jumped eight percent to its highest level since 2011. Dairy prices also climbed for the tenth straight month, rising almost four percent and driven by a surge of imports in Asia. The meat index rose 2.3 percent but was still slightly down on a year-to-year basis. Poultry and pig prices increased in part because of the fast pace of imports in Asian countries, mainly China. Sugar prices dropped four percent month on month but were still 30 percent higher during the year. The drop in March was driven by prospects of large sugar exports from India.

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Ethanol Production Hits Highest Point Since December

Ethanol output jumped to its highest level in more than three months while inventories dropped again. The Energy Information Administration report says production rose to 975,000 barrels a day, on average, in the week ending on April 2. That production level rose from 965,000 barrels a day the week before and was the highest output level since the week that ended on December 18. The Midwest, by far the highest producing region in the U.S., saw production rise to an average of 929,000 barrels a day. Government data showed that was up from 917,000 barrels a day the previous week and was the largest output since mid-December of last year. East Coast production was unchanged at 12,000 barrels a day, and both the Rocky Mountain and West Coast output remained steady at 9,000 barrels a day. The Gulf Coast region was the only area that dropped production, falling to 16,000 barrels a day from 18,000 the previous week. Ethanol inventories dropped to their lowest level in four months. Biofuel stockpiles fell to 20.642 million barrels in the seven days ending on April 2, the lowest level since November 13.

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Petition Asks EPA to Regulate Large Livestock Farms

Two dozen environmental and consumer groups are asking the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate large dairy and hog farms under federal air pollution laws. Groups like the Sierra Club and the Government Accountability Project say in their petition that “The EPA has the duty and authority to regulate these methane super-emitters under the Clean Air Act as part of the administration’s larger strategy to prevent catastrophic and irreversible climate change.” A Successful Farming article says the petition points out that the EPA could use the same section of the Clean Air Act to set air pollution limits on industrial hog and dairy farms that it used to propose carbon emission limits on power plants. The petition calls for regulations on operations with at least 500 cows or 1,000 hogs in place without access to pasture. The groups say in their petition that large farms account for 13 percent of all U.S. methane emissions. “Proven, pasture-based farming with reduced, sustainable herd sizes will help restore rural communities, help stabilize the climate, and provide environmental justice,” the petition states.

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Coalition Asks for Increased Conservation Funding

Seventy of the top agriculture, conservation, and wildlife groups delivered a letter to Congress last week asking for robust funding for conservation programs and technical assistance for the fiscal year 2022. In the letter, groups like the American Farmland Trust, the National Association of Conservation Districts, and many others called on House and Senate appropriators to provide necessary robust increases to discretionary USDA conservation funding and reject any cuts to farm bill conservation programs through the FY 2022 appropriations process. The coalition says, “As Congress and the USDA continue to increase focus on climate change and the opportunities that agriculture and forestry can provide to sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and build resilience, funding for conservation support is more important now than ever.” The letter asks lawmakers to maintain full funding for conservation programs mandated by the 2018 Farm Bill. They also want appropriators to provide at least $1.2 billion in discretionary funding for Conservation Operations, including $1.1 billion for Conservation Technical Assistance. This money facilitates Natural Resources Conservation Service operations outside the mandatory farm bill programs. “Technical assistance is essential for the delivery of conservation support for farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners across the country by providing capacity and conservation planning to support implementation,” the letter says.

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Farmers, Biofuel Producers Not Sold on Electric Cars

Both President Biden and the U.S. auto industry say the nation is headed to a giant shift from liquid-fueled cars to electric vehicles. However, the Associated Press says biofuel producers, farmers, and their congressional supporters don’t agree. They say now is the right time to increase sales of ethanol and biodiesel, not set them aside. Biden’s infrastructure proposal includes billions of dollars to pay for 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, while General Motors set a goal of shifting its entire production to electric vehicles by 2035. But any shift to electric cars will be gradual, so ethanol and biodiesel producers say biofuels will be needed for the foreseeable future. Biofuel supporters cite a recent study from Harvard and Tuft Universities that found ethanol emits 46 percent less carbon than gasoline, which they say makes it imperative for the climate that the nation prioritize increasing its biofuel production. In the effort to cut carbon emissions, Geoff Cooper of the Renewable Fuels Association calls ethanol the “low-hanging fruit” when it comes to slowing global climate change. He supports an immediate change from gasoline blended with 10 percent ethanol up to a 15 percent blend.

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Plant-Based Retail Food Sales Grow 27 Percent

New data from the Plant-Based Foods Association and The Good Food Institute shows U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods continued double-digit increases in 2020, rising 27 percent. That brought the total plant-based market value to $7 billion. The plant-based food market grew almost twice as fast as the total U.S. retail food market, which increased 15 percent as COVID-19 closed restaurants and consumers stocked up at the grocery store. Of the total households in the U.S., 57 percent say they purchase plant-based foods, up from 53 percent in 2019. The value of plant-based meat, which is the second-largest plant-based category, hit $1.4 billion in 2020. Sales grew by 45 percent, up from $962 million in 2019. The plant-based meat category grew twice as fast as conventional meat and now accounts for 2.7 percent of retail packaged meat sales. Eighteen percent of American households now buy plant-based meat, up from 14 percent in 2019. Plant-based milk, the largest plant-based category, reached $2.5 billion.

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.