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National Ag News for December 29, 2022

USDA Economist Not Worried About Potential Ag Trade Deficit

USDA is forecasting an agricultural trade deficit in 2023. While deficits have happened in the past, the agency has never forecast one in advance until this year. The agency says ag exports are projected to reach $190 billion next year, but imports are projected to rise to $199 billion. Seth Meyer, chief economist with USDA, says an ag trade deficit isn’t a major cause for concern. “I’m of the opinion that having both rising exports and imports is a good thing,’ he says. “Farmers can sell their products at a good price while consumers can shop for what they want.” Ag exports are forecast to set another record during the fiscal year 2022 at $196.4 billion. If realized, that number would top the previous record of $177 billion in 2021. American exports currently face major pressure from the strong dollar value making U.S. products more expensive in the world’s markets.  

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Egg Prices Double During the Past Year

Eggs are more expensive than they were last year. Marketplace says the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the price of a dozen Grade A eggs jumped from $1.82 last year to almost $3.60 in 2022. While part of the increase is due to the rising price of chicken feed, the real culprit is highly pathogenic avian influenza. It’s infected more than 57 million hens this year, starting in the spring and continuing to flare up through the rest of 2022. “Spring was the first time we had egg prices spike,” says Daniel Sumer, an ag economics professor at the University of California-Davis. He says eggs are a staple for many people and can’t be cut back on when the price rises. When prices go up, people tend to buy them anyway. “That drives the price higher and higher,” he says. “And that has to happen because the supplies are more limited.”

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Omnibus Bill Included Pesticide Registration Improvement Act

The recently-passed omnibus spending legislation contained the reauthorization of the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act, something important to CropLife America. The organization says it will strengthen and improve the Environmental Protection Agency’s pesticide registration process. The EPA’s scientists work diligently to comply with the multiple laws that govern pesticide registration, but, in recent years, the agency has fewer available scientists to do that work,” says Chris Novak, President of CLA. “The reauthorization of PRIA is a first step in improving the efficiency of the pesticide registration process and in providing more certainty for farmers, consumers, and CropLife’s member companies that EPA will meet its statutory obligations.” PRIA provides critically needed resources for the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs. The increased funding coupled with a variety of process and technology improvements, will allow EPA to increase staffing and better meet pesticide registration timeframes to give farmers the tools they need to manage pests.

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Pork Leadership Institute Announces Class of 2023

The National Pork Producers Council and the National Pork Board are proud to announce that 19 pork producers from across the country have been selected for the Pork Leadership Institute’s class of 2023. Each year, the organizations select a leading group of producers to participate in the PLI program. Staff in both the NPPC and NPB work together with state pork association executives and field reps to identify key individuals from across America. The comprehensive, year-long process consists of five sessions that include learning about the federal legislative and regulatory processes, the importance of international trade, the roles of the national and state pork associations, and modern-day issues facing producers. “PLI is vital to the success of pork producers because it develops knowledgeable industry ambassadors and future leaders,” says NPPC CEO Bryan Humphreys. They also go through comprehensive media and communications training to become effective grassroots advocates for the pork industry.

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CFTC Fines CHS Hedging $6.5 million in Fraud Case

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission fined CHS Hedging of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, $6.5 million for anti-money laundering, risk management, recordkeeping, and supervision violations. The company also has to undertake certain remedial measures relating to the violations. CHS reportedly accepted millions of dollars in margin payments from a rancher in Washington without adequately investigating the customer’s source of funds or reporting suspicious activity. The scheme ran from 2017 through 2020. The Washington rancher involved in the case pled guilty to criminal fraud charges and was sentenced to 11 years in prison. A CFTC report says the violations are primarily the result of failing to implement an adequate anti-money laundering program, particularly as it applied to the futures and options trading account controlled by the Washington rancher. “The Commodity Exchange Act requires companies like CHS Hedging to have and actually implement adequate money laundering and risk management procedures,” says Acting Enforcement Director Gretchen Lowe.

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USDA Says Seasonal Worker Numbers Jumped in 2021

It’s well known that American agricultural employers who anticipate a shortage of domestic workers can fill seasonal farm jobs with temporary foreign workers through the H-2A Visa Program. The Department of Labor officially certified approximately 317,000 temporary jobs in fiscal year 2021 under the H-2A program. That number was more than six times the number of jobs certified in 2005. Only about 80 percent of the certified jobs in 2021 resulted in the issuance of a visa. The program has grown partly in response to current U.S. domestic workers finding jobs outside of American agriculture and a drop in newly arrived immigrants looking for farm jobs in the U.S. Six states accounted for about half of the H-2A jobs that were filled in 2021, including Florida, Georgia, Washington, California, North Carolina, and Louisiana. Nationally, the average H-2A contract offered 24 weeks of employment and 39.3 hours per week at $13 per hour.  

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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.

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