NATIONAL AG NEWS SPONSORED BY THE AMERICAN FARM BUREAU FEDERATION

USDA Announces Conservation Reserve Program Signups for 2022

Agricultural producers and landowners can sign up soon for the Conservation Reserve Program. The Department of Agriculture calls CRP a key tool in the Biden-Harris Administration effort to address climate change and achieve other natural resource benefits. The General CRP signup begins January 31 and remains open through March 11, and the Grassland CRP signup runs from April 4 to May 13. Producers and landowners enrolled 4.6 million acres into CRP signups in 2021, including 2.5 million acres in the largest Grassland CRP signup in history. There are currently 22.1 million acres enrolled, and FSA aims to reach the 25.5-million-acre cap statutorily set for fiscal year 2022. General CRP helps producers and landowners establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat.  Farmers and landowners interested in CRP should contact their local USDA Service Center to learn more or apply for the program.

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Report: Concentration Not Affecting Pork Prices

A new report shows pork prices increased because of demand, higher input costs and labor shortages throughout the supply chain, not concentration in the meatpacking industry. Economists with Iowa State University, North Carolina State University and the National Pork Producers Council released the report Wednesday. The report also says pork prices in the United States are still lower than in many other countries. The pork packing industry is made up of fewer and larger plants than it was 50 years ago. Still, the industry’s structure has changed little in recent decades, the report stated. Concentration levels today are about seven percent lower than they were five years ago because of new packing plants that opened from 2017 to 2020. National Pork Producers Council President Jen Sorenson adds, “This report shows the concentration level in the pork packing industry is not significantly higher than it was 15 years ago.”

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USDA: COVID-19 Impact on Pork Processing Short-lived

USDA’s Economic Research Service says the impact of COVID-19 on processing rates was short-lived in the largest pork-producing region. Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska compose the largest hog processing region in the United States, where more than 40 percent of all U.S. hogs are processed. The region is also home to more large and medium-sized processing plants than other regions. In the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic, March-May 2020, the region experienced a 40 percent decline in hog slaughter compared with rates during the same period in 2019. Labor shortages attributed to COVID-19 infections among workers resulted in slow production and temporary shutdowns at large processing plants for about ten weeks. However, when looking at hog slaughter and reported COVID-19 cases for the entire year, slaughter increased even as cases of infection also increased. From June 2020 through the end of December 2020, weekly slaughter rates were generally on par with 2019 levels.

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USDA Invests $1 Billion to Improve Community Infrastructure in Rural Towns

The Department of Agriculture Wednesday announced a $1 billion investment to improve critical community facilities in 48 states, Puerto Rico and Guam. USDA says the infrastructure funding will increase access to health care, education and public safety while spurring community development and building sound infrastructure for people living in rural communities. USDA Deputy Secretary Jewel Bronaugh (Bro-NAW) says, “These loans and grants will help rural communities invest in facilities and services that are vital to all communities.” Bronaugh highlighted 731 projects that USDA is making in five programs that will fund essential community services. These programs include Community Facilities Direct Loans and Grants, Community Facilities Loan Guarantees, Community Facilities Technical Assistance Training Grants, Community Facilities Disaster Grants, and Economic Impact Initiative Grants. More than 100 types of projects are eligible for funding. Eligible applicants include municipalities, public bodies, nonprofit organizations and federally recognized Native American tribes. Projects must be in rural areas with a population of 20,000 or less.

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Grazing Loss Assistance Application Deadline Nears

Ranchers and livestock producers may be eligible for financial assistance through the Livestock Forage Disaster Program for 2021 grazing losses due to a qualifying drought or fire. Farm Service Agency Administrator Zach Ducheneaux (DOO-shah-no) says, “FSA is here to help offset these economic hardships and help producers rebuild with resilience.” The deadline to apply for the program is coming up on January 31, 2022. For the 2021 program year, 901 counties in 26 states and territories met drought severity levels that trigger eligibility. More than $473.1 million has been paid, to date, to livestock producers eligible for 2021 funding. For the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, qualifying drought triggers are determined using the U.S. Drought Monitor. The program provides payments to eligible livestock producers and contract growers who also produce forage crops for grazing and suffered losses due to a qualifying drought or fire during the normal grazing period for the county. Additional disaster assistance information can be found on farmers.gov.

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USDA To Conduct First-Ever National Agroforestry Survey

The Department of Agriculture will conduct the first-ever National Agroforestry Survey. The National Agricultural Statistics Service is mailing the survey to 11,000 farmers and ranchers next week to gather information on agroforestry practices used for climate, conservation and production. NASS Agricultural Statistics Board Chair Joe Parsons says, “The results of this survey could catalyze important change by helping policymakers and farm groups more fully understand and support this aspect of agriculture.” The survey is conducted cooperatively with the USDA National Agroforestry Center, a partnership between USDA’s Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service. The center will release the data in studies and publications. Highlights will give an overview of how agroforestry practices are used in regions across the United States. Producers can respond to the survey securely online at agcounts.usda.gov or by mail. The survey will take no longer than 50 minutes to complete if producers have all five agroforestry practices on their operations.

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By Tucker 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.