NATIONAL AG NEWS SPONSORED BY THE AMERICAN FARM BUREAU FEDERATION

U.S. Meat Production Slowing

Meat companies and union officials tell Reuters that rising COVID-19 infections among workers are forcing meat plants to slow production and the government to replace slaughter inspectors. Meatpacking was an early epicenter of COVID in 2020 and is now the latest sector to be disrupted by the Omicron variant. Cargill, one of the country’s top beef producers, operated a few of its plants at a lower slaughter capacity last week. A Cargill plant in Dodge City, Kansas, was getting by with a skeleton crew at one point. Less slaughter capacity means a smaller beef supply is available despite booming demand for the product. Farmers also have to keep cattle longer in feed yards or on ranches. USDA estimates beef producers killed 112,000 cattle last Friday, down six percent from 2021 and matching January third levels that were the lowest since October. Pig slaughter was down about five percent from last year on Friday as well.

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Farm Bureau Campaigning Against WOTUS Changes

American Farm Bureau successfully campaigned last year against changes to the stepped-up basis provision in estate tax law. Now, Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall asked members to put that same energy level into the Biden administration’s proposed changes to the Trump Waters of the United States rule. The administration wants to go back to an earlier rule that Farm Bureau says will bring the heavy hand of the federal government onto farmers’ lands. “We need that same energy and passion when it comes to WOTUS,” Duvall said during an address at the group’s annual convention. “It is critical that this administration understands that we shouldn’t need a team of lawyers and consultants just to farm our land.” Courtney Briggs, a senior director of congressional relations, says, “Farm Bureau liked the Trump rule because it created a clear line between what’s in and what’s out.” Members are urged to send comments to the EPA before February 6.

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Pork Exports May Top 2020’s Record Amount

Numbers from the U.S. Department of Commerce say exports of U.S. pork are on pace to top 2020’s record total of $7.7 billion. From January through November, the U.S. pork industry shipped more than $7.5 billion worth of products to foreign destinations, compared to just over $7 billion from the same period in 2020. The top five markets for American pork are China, Japan, Mexico, Canada, and South Korea, the same top five destinations from 2020. What helped boost the 2021’s numbers were countries like the Philippines, which imported 92 percent more pork in 2021 compared to 2020. U.S. pork exports also have greater access to Vietnam, which will cut its tariff on imported frozen pork on July 1. The National Pork Producers Council says it will continue to press the administration on increasing trade opportunities, including joining the 11-nation Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. NPPC also wants China to drop its tariffs on U.S. pork.

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USDA Offers Expanded Conservation Program

The USDA’s Natural Resources and Conservation Service announced several new and expanded opportunities for climate-smart agriculture in 2022. The updates include the nationwide availability of the Conservation Incentive Contracts Option under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Other opportunities include a new and streamlined EQIP Cover Crop Initiative and added flexibilities for producers to easily re-enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program. “America’s farmers are on the frontlines of climate change,” says NRCS Chief Terry Cosby. “We have to continue to support and expand the adoption of conservation approaches to support producers in their work to address the climate crisis and build more resilient operations.” NRCS is also announcing a new partnership with Farmers for Soil Health, a joint initiative of the United Soybean Board, the National Corn Growers Association, and the National  Pork Board. Farmers for Soil Health works to advance the use of soil health practices such as cover crops on corn and soybean farms.

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Groups Want Dicamba Lawsuit Revived

A group of environmental organizations led by the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity wants new life given to their lawsuit over dicamba registrations. DTN says the groups are asking a federal court to lift a stay and speed up their lawsuit demanding that the Environmental Protection Agency vacate the 2020 dicamba registrations of Engenia, Tavium, and XtendiMax. The groups filed a motion in U.S. District Court while showing a new report from the EPA that they say details continuing widespread alleged dicamba damage in 2021. George Kimbrell, legal director at the Center for Food Safety, says EPA is content to sit on smoking gun evidence that it was wrong to re-register dicamba. “Our farmers and the environment can’t wait through more delays, so we’re asking the court to allow our lawsuit to proceed so we can do the EPA’s job of ensuring over-the-top dicamba use doesn’t harm agriculture or the environment,” he says.

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Grain Weevil Company Wins Ag Innovation Challenge

Grain Weevil Corporation is the winner of the American Farm Bureau’s eighth annual Ag Innovation Challenge. The Grain Weevil is a grain bin management robot that improves quality and eliminates the need for farmers to enter grain bins. Grain Weevil wins $50,000 in prize money to help grow their business. Nebraska-based Birds Eye Robotics was the runner-up with its autonomous robot that helps maintain poultry houses and improves animal welfare by encouraging bird activity. Caravan Tech of Alabama won the People’s Choice Award with their real-time remote management solutions for ranchers and cattle breeders. The Ag Innovation Challenge is designed to help Farm Bureau members to showcase business innovations being developed for use in agriculture. “Start-up companies like those we’re honoring at the convention help to shape the future of agriculture,” says Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall. “It’s a pleasure to recognize these entrepreneurs for the innovative solutions they’ve developed that will help U.S. agriculture.”

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By Brian Allmer - The BARN

Tucker 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.