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Delayed USDA report reveals 'shocking' level of butter stocks

Leader Telegram | Posted on March 7, 2019

The Dec. 31, 2018, butter stocks totaled a surprising 179.3 million pounds, up a whopping 16.6 percent from November and 6.2 percent above December 2017, according to the delayed U.S. Department of Agriculture Cold Storage report issued Feb. 22. FC Stone dairy broker Dave Kurzawski says that’s a shocking 42 million pounds heavier than pre-report expectations and over 1,000 truckloads but adds the caveat that “these numbers are more than 60 days old. If the number was incredibly burdensome, we think the markets would have felt it already. This leads us to think revisions following a government shut-down are likely.” The January Cold Storage report will be issued March 7.The U.S. had less cheese on hand than expected. American cheese stocks were up 7 percent from a year ago and Kurzawski says, “What’s a little odd is that the usual build from November to December was nonexistent.”

Trump moves to scrap trade privilege for India

Reuters | Posted on March 7, 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump looked set to open a new front in his trade wars with a plan to end preferential trade treatment for India that allows duty-free entry for up to $5.6 billion worth of its exports to the United States. The move comes as trade tensions between the United States and India mount. The United States is trying to rework pacts with a number of other countries as well, including China. Trump has said weak deals have cost millions of American jobs and has vowed to cut U.S. trade deficits.

U.S. Trade Deficit Exploded In 2018

Forbes | Posted on March 7, 2019

In 2018, the trade records came tumbling down, including the highest-ever imports from China, though President Trump's trade war did seem to put a damper on U.S. exports to China.For the first time in 12 years, the United States set a record for total trade, total exports, total imports and total deficit all in one year, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released today.The U.S. trade deficit exploded in 2018, reaching $878.68 billion. It had not topped $800 billion since 2008, though it has increased seven of the last nine years. The previous record year was 2006. Somewhat surprisingly, the reason for the 12-year drought for a record for total trade, total exports, total imports and trade deficit in one year was, in fact, the much-maligned trade deficit.

Under Trump, the EPA’s enforcement efforts fall to a 40-year low in this one key area

Market Watch | Posted on March 4, 2019

As the Trump administration draws flak for how it’s running the Environmental Protection Agency, one critic is putting out charts like the one above to make his case. The Environmental Data & Governance Initiative’s Chris Sellers provided the above graphic and others to a Democratic-controlled House subcommittee that held a hearing last week on a drop in the EPA’s enforcement efforts. The chart shows how “civil judicial referrals” have slumped to a level last seen in 1976. Such cases refer to “the most egregious offenses” that the EPA refers to the Justice Department, Sellers said at the Tuesday hearing.“Over the past two years, EPA enforcement has declined significantly,” he told the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s panel on oversight and investigation. “Most of the available measures of the agency’s performance are registering 10- or 15-year lows at the very least.”

United States Wins WTO Dispute Finding China Provides Excessive Government Support to its Grain Producers

Office of the US Trade Representative | Posted on February 28, 2019

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced today that a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement panel found that China has provided trade distorting domestic support to its grain producers well in excess of its commitments under WTO rules.  China’s market price support policy artificially raises Chinese prices for grains above market levels, creating incentives for increased Chinese production of agricultural products and reduced imports. This panel report is a significant victory for U.S. agriculture that will help American farmers compete on a more level playing field. This dispute is the first to challenge China’s agricultural policies that disregard WTO rules and shows that the United States will take whatever steps are necessary to enforce the rules and ensure free and fair trade for U.S. farmers, ranchers, workers, and businesses.

US farmers fear Trump’s assault on WTO hurts them

Bloomberg | Posted on February 28, 2019

Donald Trump’s attack on the World Trade Organization has U.S. farmers worried that the president’s ‘America first’ foreign policy approach will hamstring efforts to defend their interests. The U.S. is strangling the ability of the WTO, which oversees the rules for nearly $23 trillion in commerce every year, to resolve disputes among its 164 members. But when the WTO’s appellate body becomes incapacitated later this year, even the U.S. cases, of which there are at least two pending meant to protect American agriculture, would be derailed.

SNAP proposal means more hunger, not jobs, Democrats tell Perdue

Food & Environment Reporting Network | Posted on February 28, 2019

The Trump administration will shift able-bodied Americans into better-paying jobs through stricter enforcement of a 90-day limit on food stamps, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told skeptical House lawmakers on Wednesday. Democrats such as Rep. Jim McGovern demanded proof that the plan would work and warned of litigation to stop the proposal, which could end SNAP benefits to more than 700,000 people. Congress rejected stricter SNAP work requirements in the 2018 farm law. All the same, President Trump announced “immediate action on welfare reform” as he signed the farm bill. “It’s called work rules, and Sonny is able under this bill to implement them through regulation.”The proposal would restrict state use of waivers that allow so-called able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) aged 18 to 49 to receive food stamps for more than the usual limit of 90 days in a three-year period unless they work at least 20 hours a week or spend equivalent time in job training. The 90-day limit was set as part of welfare reform in 1996.

New Farm Bill includes crop insurance updates

Wisconsin State Farmer | Posted on February 28, 2019

With the 2019 sign-up deadline arriving on March 15, refinements in federal crop insurance from the new Farm Bill were outlined for farmers at the 2019 series of update meetings sponsored by Premier Insurance Solutions LLC.  A policy change for 2019 allows insured farmers to change their elections on the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Risk Coverage (PLC) indemnities for both this year and 2020 and then be able to switch between them in each following year.  Those who choose PLC may be able to update their crop base acres and yields.The fee for catastrophic insurance has been raised from $300 to $655 per policy but “it is not worth it,” Craig Ladwig remarked. He pointed out that any payment would cover only 50 percent of the affected acres at 55 percent of the guaranteed price for the crop.One new provision is the offering of multi-county (they need to be adjacent) enterprise unit policies which serve to reduce the farmer premiums.Although the late 2018 Farm Bill classified industrial hemp as an agricultural product, enabling its commercial production, it is not one of the 130 different crops eligible for crop insurance in 2019.

The 2019 Outlook for U.S. Agriculture From USDA’s Chief Economist

Farm Policy News | Posted on February 27, 2019

Speaking on Thursday at USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum in Arlington, Virginia, USDA Chief Economist Robert C. Johansson provided a broad outlook for U.S. agriculture.  Today’s update provides an overview of key aspects of Dr. Johansson’s presentation. In his speech Dr. Johansson noted that, “A growing U.S. economy helps farm household income, but falling commodity prices in recent years for a host of reasons have weighed on farm income. Over the past couple of years the dramatic fall in net farm income in 2015 and 2016 seems to be leveling out at a lower level.

The 2018 Farm Bill: Refinancing the Rural Community, Reinvigorating Growth

NYC Food Policy | Posted on February 27, 2019

Called in full the Rural Infrastructure and Economic Development title, Title VI of the Bill covers rural development policies and programs across the U.S. Broadly, these policies are intended to support rural growth and economic sustainability for food suppliers and distributors in non-urban areas. Its two primary policies are: The Rural Development Act (RDA), which provides grants and loans to rural businesses and organizations that are trying to improve their health, community, and economy. Funding is directed towards a wide range projects, including but not limited to building a sustainable infrastructure, supporting rural businesses, expanding rural health care services, and encouraging community development.The Rural Electrification Act (REA), which specifically provides credit, loans, and grants to expand access to telecommunications services in rural areas.