National Ag News for February 21, 2023

Mexican Ban on Some Biotech Corn Underway

Last week, Mexican officials issued a decree calling for a ban on imports of some biotech corn used for certain purposes. That ban began last Friday. The Mexican government also decreed it would continue to allow imports of biotech corn used as animal feed while exploring substitutes. The National Corn Growers Association expressed serious concerns with the accelerated timeline, noting that the administration has been more than patient with Mexico. “Our U.S. officials are seeking to enforce a rules-based trading system and stand up for farmers,” says NCGA President Tom Haag (HAYG). “The integrity of the USMCA, signed by Mexican President Obrador himself, is at stake.” He also says singling out corn, the number one U.S. ag export to Mexico, and hastening an import ban on numerous food-grade uses makes USMCA a dead letter unless it’s enforced. NCGA says Mexico appears to be doubling down on its original intended ban in 2024.

EPA Proposes New Rule for Pesticide Exposure Protection

The Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposed rule that would improve and modernize the pesticide Application Exclusion Zone requirements. Those requirements are part of the 2015 Agricultural Worker Protection Standard, and the agency is proposing to reinstate several provisions from that standard. Among the changes, the revised standard includes a new provision requiring agricultural employers to keep workers and all others out of an area called the Application Exclusion Zone. The AEZ is an area surrounding an ongoing pesticide application. A previous rule change limited the AEZ to 25 feet in 2020. However, the proposed rule will change that to 100 feet for fine sprays. The distances will stay at 25 feet for medium or larger sprays when sprayed from a height greater than 12 inches from the soil surface. The rule change would also apply the AEZ beyond an establishment’s boundaries, and when individuals are within easements on a producer’s land.

EPA Changes Some Dicamba Cutoff Dates for This Spring

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed new restrictions on using over-the-top dicamba herbicides in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, and South Dakota. The label changes say no spraying on dicamba-tolerant soybeans in Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana after June 12 or the V4 growth stage, whichever comes first. No spraying on DT cotton in Iowa, Illinois, or Indiana after June 12 or first square, whichever happens first. No spraying on DT crops after June 20 in South Dakota. The EPA also said Minnesota’s label requirements remain the same as in 2022. The reaction to the change has not been positive in the soybean industry. Aaron Hager, a University of Illinois weed scientist, told DTN the timing couldn’t have been worse for soybean growers who intend to plant certain varieties. “Most or all seed decisions have been made, and now we have to contend with new cutoffs in the largest soybean states in the U.S.,” he says.

State Attorneys General File Lawsuit Over WOTUS

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen (kuh-NOOD-sen) and attorneys general from 23 other states filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration’s Waters of the U.S. Rule. The group says the EPA’s WOTUS rule “goes beyond the power Congress delegated in the Clean Water Act, raises serious constitutional concerns, and runs roughshod over the Administrative Procedures Act.” Knudsen says, “The administration’s water rule limits the use of land and violates the law and U.S. Constitution. The EPA greatly overstepped its authority by trying to claim jurisdiction over land and water not connected to any navigable water.” The attorneys general say they’re fighting to protect farm and ranching operations, mining and energy workers, and infrastructure and housing projects across Montana and the entire country that will be harmed if this overreaching and unconstitutional rule takes effect. Montana and the other states will motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the rule while it’s under litigation.  

The Fertilizer Institute Releases Sustainability Report

The Fertilizer Institute released new data highlighting industry improvements in sustainability performance in key priority areas, including workforce safety, energy, the environment, and innovation. “The industry is continuously working towards more sustainable operations, including efforts to decarbonize and mitigate environmental impacts,” says TFI President and CEO Corey Rosenbusch. Report highlights include survey participants investing an average of more than $1 billion every year in capital investments to help the industry meet sustainability goals. In 2021, the industry captured 31 percent of all CO2 generated per ton of nutrient produced, an increase of 368 percent over emissions captured in 2013. To reduce the industry’s energy footprint, 39 percent of all energy consumed is generated using waste heat rather than pulling from the electrical grid. Nitrogen producers recycled enough water to fill 1.6 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. “Each step of the supply chain is focused on doing more with fewer resources,” Rosenbusch adds.

Growth in Farmland Values Continues

Growth in farm real estate values remained strong but showed some signs of easing alongside higher interest rates. The Kansas City Federal Reserve says the average interest rates on farm loans increased from record lows at the beginning of last year to decade highs by December of 2022. Despite the rapid rise in rates, the value of farmland continued to increase, but at a more tempered pace than earlier in the year. The growth in farmland values has softened most for lower-priced land and in states most heavily affected by drought. Looking ahead, a majority of bankers expect higher interest rates to have a negative effect on farm real estate, and some anticipate a decline in values. Farm finances and credit conditions were supported by strong commodity prices in 2022, and the outlook for 2023 remained positive despite some persistent risks. Higher expenses and adverse weather continue to be concerning.


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.