READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, July 23rd

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

U.S. and China Trading at a Brisk Pace

China and the U.S. are shipping goods back and forth at the quickest pace in years. Bloomberg says that’s making it look as if the tariff war and COVID-19 never interrupted the world’s largest bilateral trade relationship. Bilateral trade in goods is an area of stability in a relationship that otherwise continues to struggle. In February of 2020, monthly two-way trade dropped to $19 billion amid shutdowns. However, official Chinese data says the trade numbers rebounded over the past year to set new records. That boom is likely to remain as China purchases millions of tons of U.S. farm commodities for this year and next. While the U.S. government has somewhat different numbers on trade, the brisk pace has defied all expectations that the tariffs still in place on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of merchandise would interrupt supply chains. Both sides are living with the extra cost as China continues to buy large quantities of farm products to fulfill terms of the 2020 Phase One Trade Deal, while U.S. companies continue to purchase the products that they can’t get anywhere else to meet rising consumer demand.

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White House Delaying Biofuel Mandates

The White House is delaying the annual process that decides how much ethanol and other biofuels will get blended into the nation’s fuel supply each year. Two sources told Reuters that the administration is looking for a solution to the issue which pits refineries against corn farmers. Lawmakers on both sides of the disagreement have pushed the Biden Administration for months to decide the issue. Refiners want low volumes of biofuels to keep their production costs down, while U.S. farmers want higher volumes to pump up sales of corn-based ethanol and other products. Sources say the White House has largely stayed out of the matter until now, but the administration is looking to take control of the situation. Both the refining and corn-based industries have waited anxiously for the Environmental Protection Agency to announce proposals for the level of biofuels that refiners must blend in 2021 and 2022. The 2021 amount is over half a year late due to the economic fallout from COVID-19. Many expected the proposals in June, which didn’t happen. A series of court rulings on the issues related to the Renewable Fuel Standard has only amplified confusion for both industries.

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Vilsack Defends Farmworker Changes

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack discussed proposed migrant farmworker programs during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The hearing was set to talk about an earned pathway to citizenship for migrant farmworkers. Roll Call Dot Com says several Republicans on the committee said they won’t support such legislation without first improving security on the southern border. South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham said, “You don’t give amnesty and hope people won’t keep coming. You secure the border, then you provide legal status. We’re doing it completely backward.” In March, the House passed legislation that would allow migrant workers who had already worked a certain number of years to apply for legal status. Vilsack defended the bill, saying he doesn’t believe its passage would cause an influx of immigrants at the border. The debate over citizenship for migrant farmworkers comes soon after a federal judge ruled that the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is illegal. The program was designed to protect certain undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

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NIFA Announces $7 Million in Ag Research Grants

The USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture announced more than $7 million in research grants to non-land-grant colleges and universities. “These grants aim to increase research, education, and outreach capacity at non-land-grant institutions to support the development of the innovations and workforce needed to sustain the agriculture industry in the future,” NIFA said in a news release. Carrie Castille, director of NIFA, says, “The National Institute of Food and Agriculture awards research, education, and extension grants to solve the grand challenges before all of us. These efforts will help improve rural economies, increase food production and agricultural profitability and sustainability, address climate change and related issues, ensure food and nutrition security, and train the next generation of the agricultural workforce.” Among the 24 funded projects, Texas A&M will study how pollinator-friendly perennials in ornamental landscapes can provide a solution to decades of major declines in pollinator populations. Other grants will help train networks of scientists and educators who will work on climate-ready and sustainable agricultural practices, as well as other studies on soil and water quality.

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Ethanol Production Drops to a Five-Week Low

Ethanol output during the week ending on July 16 dropped to the lowest level in five weeks while inventories climbed higher. The Energy Information Administration says production of the biofuel dropped to an average of 1.028 million barrels a day. That’s down from 1.041 million barrels a day, on average, the previous week and the lowest production level since the week ending on June 11. In the Midwest, which produces the most ethanol of any region in the country, output averaged 980,000 barrels a day, also a five-week low. The Midwest decline accounted for the entirety of the losses for the week as production in the Gulf Coast rose to an average of 18,000 barrels per day last week. East Coast output was unchanged at 12,000 barrels a day, Rocky Mountain production stayed around 10,000 barrels a day, and the West Coast production level stayed at 9,000 barrels a day. Ethanol stockpiles jumped to their highest level in almost five months during the week ending on July 16. Inventories rose to 22.51 million barrels last week, up from 21.1 million during the previous week and the highest level since the week ending on February 19.

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Consumer Demand for Lamb Protein Keeps Rising

Consumer demand for lamb increased considerably during 2020. While all meat sales grew during the year as more meals were eaten at home, lamb sales grew at a larger percentage than total meat sales overall. That’s according to the U.S. Retail Sales report commissioned by the American Lamb Board. First-quarter sales in 2020 increased by almost 25 percent from 2019 to 2020, and the pounds of lamb meat sold increased by 17.7 percent during that same time. Sales of rack of lamb exploded in the third and fourth quarters of 2020. Compared to the previous year, rack sales increased almost 53 percent in terms of pounds sold. Sales of ground lamb also saw significant growth, increasing by 23.7 percent. California has seen the most growth since 2019, thanks to a 30 percent increase in dollar sales and a 29.6 percent increase in pounds sold. The Northeast U.S. remains the highest-selling region by a significant margin, accounting for 29 percent of all lamb sales in the U.S. Lamb retail sales remained strong into the first quarter of 2021. Compared to the first quarter of 2020, dollar sales grew by almost 20 percent, and volume sales climbed almost 12 percent higher.

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.