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Agriculture News

If it doesn't come from a hoofed animal, you can't call it 'milk,' NC bill says

The Sacamento Bee | Posted on June 9, 2018

If a drink doesn't come from an animal with hooves, North Carolina legislators don't want you to call it "milk." Part of the General Assembly's 2018 Farm Billwould ban the marketing of milks made from plants, including almond, coconut and soy, from being labeled "milk" in North Carolina after Jan. 1. The products could still be sold, they just couldn't legally be labeled "milk" under the proposed law. That distinction would be reserved for dairy products like milk from animals, including cows and goats.

Stung by critics, amendments made to proposed NYS beekeeping bill | Posted on June 9, 2018

Following criticism from commercial and recreational beekeepers in upstate New York, the New York Senate Agriculture Committee plans to amend a proposed beekeeper registry bill.  After the committee voted 11-0 earlier this week in favor of mandatory state registration of beekeepers and their hives, industry members criticized the bill, citing a lack of public awareness of the proposal prior to the vote.  On Thursday, Sen. Patty Ritchie (R-Heuvelton) said the committee would amend the legislation before reintroducing it to the full Senate floor, proposing a "free, voluntary" registration instead. Ritchie defended the bill's intent but said she sympathized with public hesitation about government involvement in the beekeeping industry. "The bill is not about regulation and never was," Ritchie said. "This is only about getting information out."  Despite planned changes to the bill, some upstate beekeepers said they still aren't convinced.

Trump aims to split up NAFTA negotiations, deal with Canada and Mexico separately

The Washington Post | Posted on June 9, 2018

President Trump wants to end the three-party talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, aiming instead to deal separately with Canada and Mexico to restructure the trade accord, a senior adviser said Tuesday. Trump does not intend to withdraw from NAFTA, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said on “Fox & Friends.” But after more than one year of multilateral discussions, he feels the current approach hasn’t been fruitful and a new one is needed, Kudlow said. “His preference now — and he asked me to convey this — is to actually negotiate with Mexico and Canada separately,” Kudlow said. “He prefers bilateral negotiations.”  It wasn’t immediately clear how such an arrangement would work. The United States, Mexico and Canada agreed to NAFTA in the 1990s, and all three countries have worked to renegotiate the deal since Trump became president. Changes would have to be agreed to by all sides.

America's largest private company - Cargill- reboots a 153-year-old strategy

Bloomberg | Posted on June 9, 2018

William Wallace Cargill pioneered the modern agricultural trading industry in 1865 when he established a string of grain warehouses across the American Midwest. Having a deep-pocketed buyer that could take delivery locally gave farmers an easy way to quickly get cash for their crops, lest they rot in the field waiting on a sale or transport to a faraway market. The ability to store huge amounts of grain also gave Cargill the flexibility to time his own sales to maximize the spread between what he paid farmers and what he could get from distant food processors or exporters. That business model of playing the middleman between farmers and their ultimate customers has enjoyed a lucrative 153-year run, turning Cargill Inc. into the largest privately held company in the U.S. It had revenue of $109.7 billion in 2017 and employed about 155,000 workers—more than the population of Dayton—in offices across 70 countries. And the roughly 100 members of the founding Cargill and MacMillan families who still own the company have become fabulously wealthy, with 14 billionaires among the ruling clan, one of the largest concentrations of wealth in any family-controlled business anywhere in the world. Yet Minnesota-based Cargill’s business is falling victim to a scourge that’s already upended media, retailing, and other venerable industries: digital disruption. Cargill long made fat profits by having far more information about global commodity prices than the local farmers it negotiated with or the food companies it sold to. But today, even a small Iowa farmer with a smartphone or a tablet can get real-time data about weather conditions and prices facing his Brazilian counterparts. This change has decreased farmers’ dependence on the middlemen and lowered the spread that Cargill and other big buyers used to make on such deals. American farmers have also expanded their in-house storage by almost 25 percent over the past 15 years, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, giving them some of the timing flexibility that only middlemen previously had. “The days of ‘Hey, we’re going to buy your crops, we’re going to store it, we’re going to play the carry’—you know, sell it at a profit—it’s over,” says Cargill Chief Executive Officer David MacLennan.  That’s pushing MacLennan to remake Cargill into less of a trading operation and more of an integrated food company betting on growing global demand for proteins. Already the world’s No. 1 supplier of ground beef and the second-largest beef packer in the U.S., trailing only Tyson Foods Inc., Cargill is expanding aggressively into aquaculture. The company is also spending heavily on technology services that will tie today’s internet-connected farmers more closely to Cargill’s slimmed-down trading business or the new farm productivity apps it’s rolling out.

New tax law changes how farm losses treated

DTN | Posted on June 9, 2018

The ag economy isn't great and many producers are struggling to break even. In the past, farmers accepted losses and even looked at them as opportunities. Having good and bad years is just part of the rollercoaster called farming. However, the new tax law changed how we look at farm losses. Under the old tax law and the 2014 Farm Bill, taxpayers who received a Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) loan were restricted in the deductibility of a farm loss (this rule didn't apply to C corporations). The disallowed portion of the loss was carried to the following year, tested again for limitation purposes and claimed on Schedule F (Form 1040). Under the new tax law, the old excess farm loss rule does not apply; losses are now subject to "excess business loss" limitations. Excess business losses are carried forward as part of the taxpayer's net operating loss (NOL) instead of claiming the loss on Schedule F. So why does this matter? Under the old rules, excess farm losses offset farm income without limitation. Because it went on Schedule F, it also offset income subject to self-employment tax. That was a win-win!  Under the new tax law, an excess business loss is NOT deducted on the Schedule F and does NOT offset self-employment income. Also, post-2017 NOLs can only offset 80% of pre-NOL taxable income. That is, even if you have a substantial loss in 2018 followed by a substantial profit in 2019, you could offset no more than 80% of the 2019 taxable income. Farmers are allowed to carry back farm NOLs two years, giving some flexibility. However, due to the dynamics of the excess business loss rules, the farm NOL will be limited to $250,000 ($500,000 for married filing joint).

From distillers to farmers, trade war would cause casualties

Associated Press | Posted on June 9, 2018

If a trade war is coming, the cheesemakers of Wisconsin are standing in the line of fire. So are the farmers of the Great Plains and the distillers of Kentucky. And the employees of iconic American brands like Harley-Davidson and Levi Strauss. The likelihood of a trade conflagration leapt closer to reality this week after the United States imposed tariff on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union. Infuriated, the jilted U.S. allies vowed to retaliate with tariffs of their own. And in a separate dispute, China is poised to penalize $50 billion in U.S. goods — many of them produced by supporters of President Donald Trump in the America’s agricultural heartland.  “They’re going to hit the farmers,” said Bryan Klabunde, a farmer in northwestern Minnesota. “We want things fair for all industries, but we’re going to take the brunt of the punishment if other countries retaliate.’”  President Donald Trump, who entered office promising to rip up trade deals and crack down on unfair trading practices, is clashing with trading partners on all sides. To the north, he’s battling Canada; to the south, Mexico; to the east, Europe; across the Pacific Ocean to the west, China and Japan.  “The president seems to be creating trade (and other) disputes with everyone — allies and adversaries alike -- and it’s difficult to discern any coherent strategy,” said Rod Hunter, a former National Security Council staffer under President George W. Bush. “The impacts of the disputes have been limited so far, but the economic and political costs will go up as retaliation by trading partners begins in earnest.”  Mexico, for instance, plans to retaliate against the steel and aluminum tariffs by targeting U.S. cheese, among other products. “It’s our second-largest market,” Jeff Schwager, president of Sartori, a cheese company in Plymouth, Wisconsin, said of Mexico. Retaliatory tariffs “will reduce sales — there’s no question.”  “The hard-earned sales we’ve secured in Mexico could be at risk given the potential for retaliation,” the National Milk Producers Federation warned in a statement. The EU is threatening to penalize Kentucky bourbon and the motorcycles of Wisconsin-based Harley-Davidson. The potential tariffs pack a political punch: They’d hurt constituents of House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.


Replacing Petrochemicals with Biochemicals made from Corn

Illinois NPR | Posted on June 8, 2018

The Corn Utilization and Technology Conference is organized by NCGA or the National Corn Growers Association. It happens every two years and is dedicated to exploring future uses of corn. Vijay Singh is a regular. He works for the agricultural college at the University of Illinois and specializes in engineering ethanol processing plants. Singh sees them expanding to include biochemical production in the near future, “That’s the big thing right now and for that, we need large amounts of sugar. The U.S. is at a major advantage in terms of producing sugars from corn and that comes from the corn processing industry.” The corn processing industry has long focused on creating food products, high fructose corn syrup, ethanol and some other co-products. However, now that sugar, rather than crude oil, has become the preferred feedstock for producing high-value biochemicals that are used to create consumer products, things like polymers, there is a place for corn in that pipeline.

Federal judge dismisses meat country-of-origin lawsuit

Capital Press | Posted on June 8, 2018

A federal judge in Washington state has dismissed a lawsuit to reinstate country-of-origin labeling on beef and pork products from other countries. U.S. District Court Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson of Spokane agreed with ranchers in her Tuesday dismissal that the government’s decision has caused them financial harm. But she ultimately sided with the government, saying the legal clock had run out for the producers to challenge the underlying 1989 federal law, and that Congress had clearly intended to have the labeling end.

Technology used to track premium Wyoming beef on blockchain

Medium | Posted on June 8, 2018

The goal of the pilot made by Wyoming Certified Beef, LLC and Germany-based traceability solution provider TE-FOOD International is to showcase the premium living conditions of the cattle (grass-fed on an open range throughout their entire lives) thereby producing much higher quality cuts of beef to lucrative foreign markets. The verified ranch-to-table traceability of the cattle through RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) ear tags and anchored by blockchain technology has never been done before. What began as quiet rumblings out of the Wyoming legislature about amendments to an outdated Money Transmitter law that prohibited digital currency exchanges from operating within its borders has snowballed into a blockchain regulation revolution in the Equality State. Last week, inspired by a bipartisan coalition led by Representative Tyler Lindholm, Wyoming passed, and signed into law, a total of five pro-blockchain bills, with some passing through its House unanimously.

Washington Ecology defends dairy rules as hearing ends

Capital Press | Posted on June 8, 2018

An eight-day hearing on the Washington Department of Ecology’s new manure-management rules ended Thursday with the agency defending itself against varied attacks by the dairy industry and environmental groups. Ecology’s attorney, Phyllis Barney, asked the Pollution Control Hearings Board to uphold rules that will require dairies with more than 200 cows to obtain pollution-control permits from Ecology. The Washington State Dairy Federation and Washington Farm Bureau, and a coalition of environmental groups are appealing aspects of Ecology’s rules. The board is the first stop to challenge Ecology decisions.Farm groups allege some rules are unnecessary and burdensome, particularly one that would prohibit manure lagoons built to federal standards. Environmental groups say Ecology’s faults include failing to require synthetic liners in lagoons and on-farm wells to monitor whether manure is polluting groundwater. The hearing continued the long-running and high-stakes battle between dairies and environmental groups in Washington.