NATIONAL AG NEWS SPONSORED BY THE AMERICAN FARM BUREAU FEDERATION

National Ag News for January 20, 2023

Groups File Legal Challenges to New WOTUS Rule

Groups representing agriculture, infrastructure, housing, and petroleum filed a legal challenge to the new Waters of the U.S. Rule. “The Biden Administration’s WOTUS definition is an attack on farmers and ranchers, and we’ll be fighting back in court,” says Mary-Thomas Hart, chief counsel for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “The rule removes longstanding exclusions for small and isolated water features on farms and ranches and adds to the regulatory burden farmers already face.” Non-agriculture groups in the lawsuit include the American Petroleum Institute, the Associated General Contractors of America, and many others. “The new rule creates uncertainty for farmers and ranchers even if they’re miles from the nearest navigable water,” says Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall. “We believe a judge will see these regulations exceed the scope of the Clean Water Act.” A Supreme Court decision in Sackett v. EPA could require the EPA to start over again on defining WOTUS.

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Rebound Continues in Farm Lending

Farm lending activity continued to gradually increase along with further growth in loan sizes. The Kansas City Federal Reserve says the average size of non-real estate farm loans was about 20 percent higher than a year ago and drove an increase in lending volumes for the fourth straight quarter. Average interest rates on farm loans rose sharply alongside higher benchmark rates and reached a ten-year high, putting additional upward pressure on financing costs. The outlook for farm finances remained favorable alongside elevated commodity prices, but increased interest rates, challenging weather, and high production costs remain key concerns. Higher expenses contributed to a rebound in lending last year, but strong income and liquidity likely limited the financing needs of many producers. Looking ahead, elevated operating expenses could put additional upward pressure on loan demand. Lending activity was seven percent higher than last year. Production expenses have increased by 15 percent since 2020.  

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NCBA Statement on USDA’s Proposed Traceability Rule

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President-Elect Todd Wilkinson released a statement on the USDA’s proposed rule on electronic identification for transporting cattle over state lines. “As USDA has worked toward a nationally significant traceability program, NCBA has engaged with industry stakeholders and USDA to ensure that cattle producers are represented and protected,” says Wilkinson, who also chairs the NCBA Traceability Working Group. “Any program must allow maximum flexibility and privacy while minimizing costs for producers and any industry disruptions.” NCBA also says foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks around the world continue to result in disruptions to commerce and depopulate livestock. That means immediate action is needed. “NCBA is committed to working with USDA to ensure workable solutions are identified and implemented,” Wilkinson says. The organization also says that cattle producers can be confident that any finished product will protect the nation’s livestock herd. The NCBA is continuing to review the proposed rule in its entirety.

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USDA Investing Funds to Reduce Wildfire Risk

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack announced his agency is expanding efforts to reduce the risk of wildfires in the western U.S. Funds will be invested to directly protect at-risk communities and critical infrastructure in 11 additional landscapes in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. “It’s no longer a matter of if a wildfire will threaten many western communities, it’s a matter of when,” Vilsack says. “This announcement means over $490 million will be used to restore national forests, including the restoration of resilient old-growth forest conditions.” The Forest Service announced its original ten landscape project areas last year. Combined with the additional announcement this week, that represents a total USDA investment of $930 million across 45 million acres. The work spans 134 of the 250 highest-risk fire sheds identified in the Wildfire Crisis Strategy and will mitigate the wildfire risk for around 200 communities in the western United States.

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January Beige Book Contains Observations on the Ag Economy

The Federal Reserve Board released its January 2023 Beige Book Update, which summarizes current economic conditions in each district. The summary includes agricultural conditions in several districts. The Fed in Atlanta said ag conditions were little changed from the previous report but did note Florida citrus yields were down notably due to Hurricane Ian. The Chicago Fed says after a strong year in the district, agricultural income will be lower in 2023 but still see solid returns. The St. Louis branch says inflation-adjusted farm incomes are near a 50-year high and leading to optimism for this year despite rising input costs. The Minneapolis Fed says ag conditions were stable as farm incomes and working capital remained strong heading into this year. Ag conditions in the San Francisco district remained in generally weak condition. Dollar sales were up but down in volume. Rainfall continued to improve soil moisture in the Dallas Fed’s district.  

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Avoiding Antibiotic Resistance on the Dairy Farm

Antibiotic use in dairy animals is just to help the animal overcome illness. Mark van der List, a vet with Boehringer-Ingelheim, says the challenge is to help them overcome the sickness without furthering resistance and allowing antibiotic residue into food products. He says it’s important to work with a veterinarian who knows your herd as well as they do. Other tips include following label directions carefully. Producers need to mark and separate all treated animals. Every employee should be easily able to identify any treated animals. Make sure to keep detailed records of all treatments given to each animal in the herd. It’s also important to remove all doubt by making the protocol for treating animals as airtight as possible. “Dairy producers take the responsibility for antibiotic stewardship seriously,” van der List says. “While many already have strong measures in place, it’s always a good idea to fine-tune existing protocols.”

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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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