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America’s Twin Deficits since 1980

Farm Doc Daily | Posted on February 4, 2019

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, reduced business and personal taxes with anticipated economic stimulus effects.  However, this Act may worsen the trade deficit by stimulating imports, and the Congressional Budget Office forecasts it will increase the Federal fiscal budget deficit.  This article reviews what is often called “America’s twin deficits” using data from the US National Income and Product Accounts, (see first Data Note and Source).  The review starts with 1980, when President Ronald Reagan’s election launched the US on a fiscal policy path dominated by tax cuts.


Lawyers appeal dismissal of lawsuit filed on horse's behalf

Capital Press | Posted on January 29, 2019

Attorneys for a once-neglected horse are filling an appeal after an Oregon judge dismissed their lawsuit last year, finding that animals don't have a right to sue. The Oregonian/OregonLive reports lawyers from the Animal Legal Defense Fund sued the horse's former owner for lifelong costs of medical care.The horse named Justice was discovered in March 2017 covered in lice, 300 pounds underweight and with frostbitten genitals.Washington County Pro Tem Judge John Knowles tossed the lawsuit in September, saying "non-human animals are incapable of accepting legal responsibilities."He said granting legal standing to animals could result in a "flood of lawsuits."


Idaho to pay legal fees after losing 'dairy spying' lawsuit

The Seattle Times | Posted on January 29, 2019

A panel of Idaho officials will meet next week to consider paying $260,000 for attorney fees and other costs after losing a lawsuit over an unconstitutional law that sought to criminalize surreptitious filming at agricultural operations. The law was dubbed the “ag-gag” law by critics. It was passed by the Legislature in 2012 after an undercover investigator for a group called Mercy for Animals filmed workers abusing cows at an Idaho dairy.


Agriculture disaster spending bill socializes risks while privatizing profits

Des Moines Register | Posted on January 27, 2019

The latest agriculture disaster spending bill provides further proof that despite all rhetoric, lawmakers are not concerned with helping farmers and ranchers protect themselves from risks they cannot manage on their own. Instead, it’s the latest instance of tapping the Treasury to socialize risks while privatizing profits. The result shovels more federal dollars to powerful interests who can – and should – do a better job of managing predictable risks in their chosen line of work.


Farmers, enviros alarmed by USDA’s new wetlands rules

Agri-Pulse | Posted on January 27, 2019

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is likely to receive a decidedly mixed bag of comments on a rule it issued last month that seeks to clarify when producers have wetlands on their farms. Wetland advocates are concerned that NRCS is trying to weaken its highly erodible land protections by allowing faulty maps to be used to determine whether wetlands exist on the landscape. Enacted in the 1985 farm bill, the so-called "Swampbuster" language prohibits farmers who have converted wetlands to cropland from receiving USDA program benefits.The American Farm Bureau Federation, on the other hand, is worried NRCS may be giving itself too much leeway to determine when wetlands exist on the landscape.For its part, NRCS says it is simply trying to make everything clearer for producers trying to figure out what’s on their lands.


Study: Tariffs on metals will cost U.S. agriculture billions

UPI | Posted on January 27, 2019

United States tariffs on steel and aluminum will cost the nation nearly $2 billion in agricultural exports each year -- even if a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada is ratified, according to a study from Purdue University. Purdue economists said the trade deal would increase food exports to those countries by about $454 million annually. But if the U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum -- and the associated retaliatory tariffs on American agricultural products -- remain in place, exports to those countries will decrease by $1.8 billion."In terms of exports, it is relatively sizable when compared to the relative benefits we would get from the new trade deal," said Maksym Chepeliev, a research economist at Purdue, who was one of the authors. In the face of those losses, dozens of national agricultural groups joined together to ask the Trump administration to lift the tariffs on steel and aluminum."For many farmers, ranchers and manufacturers, the damage from the reciprocal trade actions in the steel dispute far outweighs any benefit that may accrue for them from USMCA," the groups wrote in a letter to the Department of Commerce and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.The letter was signed by representatives from 46 groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Corn Growers Association and the National Pork Producers Council.The Trump administration levied a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum from Canada and Mexico on June 1. Canada and Mexico responded with a tariffs on U.S. products, including pork and corn.The USMCA was signed by leaders of the three nations Nov. 30, but it awaits Congress' approval for the U.S. to formally enter into the agreement.


Are Large Farms Less Risky to Insure than Small Farms?

Choices Magazine | Posted on January 24, 2019

In fact, a commonly proposed cut to crop insurance is a cap on crop insurance subsidies per recipient per year. For example, the President’s budget proposal for 2019 includes a $500,000 adjusted gross income crop insurance subsidy cap. The implication of an effective premium cap would be to fully subsidize small farms while subsidizing larger farms up to a point, after which all premiums would be unsubsidized. Since subsidy is a function of risk, coverage levels, unit structure, and insurance plan chosen, subsidies per acre across all crops vary (Figure 2). Some have suggested that capping subsidies may either cause producers to evade the cap or that a cap will cause large producers to leave the crop insurance program. A further assertion is that larger farms are potentially less risky.


USDA updates wetland determination guidance to increase consistency, timeliness

Farm Forum | Posted on January 24, 2019

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is improving the process by which it makes wetland determinations, updating guidance to improve consistency and timeliness as well as to responding to feedback from farmers and other stakeholders. The updates do not change the definition of a wetland for USDA program participation purposes, but rather provide greater clarity and uniformity in how NRCS makes determinations nationwide.Updates to the conservation compliance provisions include:Identifying that determinations will rely on precipitation data from 1971-2000. Though data and average rainfall have varied over time, using this specific dataset makes determinations more predictable.Clarifying the certification status of previously completed wetland determinations, including those completed 1990-1996.Adding definitions for playas, potholes and pocosins. These terms are found in current policy, but they are added to the regulation for transparency.Clarifying that determinations do not have to cover the entire farm tract, but only the area of the farm on which a producer is planning to make changes.Establishing that NRCS can now assess offsite, impacts on neighboring wetlands when producers request minimal effects exemptions. For those neighboring wetlands, NRCS can now do the evaluations off-site using aerial photography and other resources.


Smithfield's plans to cover hog lagoon to spur biogas industry

Daily Yonder | Posted on January 24, 2019

Smithfield announced last year that it will use covered lagoons and digesters on 90 percent of its hog finishing farms within 10 years, a move that could reduce greenhouse gasses, create renewable energy and open opportunities in the biogas sector.


What will California's new animal housing law do to veal?

Meating Place (free registration required) | Posted on January 23, 2019

The future availability and price for veal in the state of California is cloudy following the passage of a law mandating space requirements for raising food animals, according to the American Veal Association (AVA).The organization is warning that the passage of Proposition 12 in California last year will force farmers in the Golden State to raise about 66 calves in a barn that was designed to hold 200 calves because of the act’s space requirements. Starting Jan. 1, 2020, veal intended for sale in California will need to come from barns that offer 43 square feet per calf, regardless of size or age of the calf.AVA President Dale Bakke called the regulations “unnecessary … and excessive” and notes that “no milk-fed veal raised anywhere in the world” meets the new floor space requirements. He also notes that AVA members already provide between 16 and 20 square feet of space per calf depending on the size of the animal.


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