A bill co-sponsored by Maine's independent senator that promises to help bring high-speed internet to farms has passed Congress as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. Sen. Angus King in May co-sponsored the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018, which he says is designed to promote precision agriculture and deployment of rural broadband. The bill directs the Federal Communications Commission to start a task force to find gaps in high-speed internet connectivity in agricultural areas.Congress sent the 2018 Farm Bill to Republican President Trump last week.Amanda Beal of Maine Farmland Trust previously said greater connectivity would improve access to markets for farmers in Maine and beyond.The proposal cites a goal of reaching 95 percent of agricultural land with fixed and mobile high-speed broadband by 2025.
The new farm bill, which passed through both houses of Congress last week and is waiting on Donald Trump’s signature, nearly triples funding for the only two programs specifically designed to support beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers; in other words, farmers outside the current dominant—and aging—demographic. The two grant programs—the Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program, often known as the 2501 Program after its original section number, and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program—will exist within one new initiative, called the Farmer Opportunity Training and Outreach (foto) Program.
The Trump administration called on farmers to throw their support behind a proposal to withdraw federal protections for many of the country’s waterways and wetlands. Environmental Protection Agency acting administrator Andrew Wheeler and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue on Tuesday traveled to middle Tennessee to drum up support among the state’s agricultural community in their pursuit to replace the Obama-era water protections.Environmental groups have warned the proposed overhaul will be a grave assault on the aims of the 1972 Clean Water Act, the foundational U.S. water protection law. The changes would affect what waterways and wetlands fall under jurisdiction of the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Trump administration would remove federal protections for wetlands nationally unless they are connected to another federally protected waterway.Groundwater, stormwater, most farm ditches, wastewater treatment systems and land already converted for crops would also no longer be regulated under the Clean Water Act.The Clean Water Act bans polluting any “water of the United States” without a permit. However, pinning down a definition of such water has been the subject of legal scrutiny for decades.
President Donald Trump in a closed-door meeting with House Republican leaders on Thursday reiterated that he would not sign a short-term spending bill passed by the Senate to keep the government open past the midnight Friday deadline if it does not include funding for his proposed border wall. Trump's hastly called meeting with outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy came amid backlash by conservatives, who urged the president to oppose the Senate's spending bill because it did not fully fund the president $5 billion request.McCarthy, speaking to reporters after the White House meeting, said he believed "there is still time" to negotiate a spending agreement that would provide increased funding for "border security.""We want to keep the government open," Ryan said, distancing House Republicans from Trump's earlier calls for a government shutdown if his $5 billion request was not approved.
After reports last week that the White House was delaying additional payments to farmers to mitigate lost trade due to retaliatory tariffs, USDA announced on Monday a second and final round of assistance. Farm groups were quick to weigh in on the announcement, saying in press statements that while they appreciate the assistance, it falls short of actual damages and getting trade back on track is critical.The American Farm Bureau Federation said farmers and ranchers continue to feel price pressure and very real economic damage due to the trade actions other nations have taken.“While this assistance package will help a number of our farm families during this year of economic challenges, the best way to provide lasting relief is to continue pushing for trade and tariff reform from trading partners like China, Canada, Mexico, India, Turkey and the European Union,” Zippy Duvall, AFBF president, said.National Farmers Union said that while the assistance is appreciated, it falls woefully short of the support required to blunt current and future damages of the administration’s trade wars.“We’ve lost markets that took decades to build,” Roger Johnson, NFU president, said.
Just like the former Margin Insurance Program (which we always referred to as being ill-fated and poorly conceived), the new program, if it does what it is supposed to do, it will leave over 50 per cent of the cost of production unaddressed. However, we want to thank Congressman Collin Peterson and others for giving the average dairy farmer much consideration.Right now you have two choices. 1) Tell everyone not to participate in the program or 2) you should sign up for the program and receive some needed financial help.If I was still an active dairy farmer, I would sign up for at least the 5 million pound provision, and maybe more.
The second quarter 2018 issue of Choices focused on the current trade war between the United States and China. The authors of this theme explained the state of the conflict at the time of publication (May 2018) and detailed some of the likely impacts of Chinese tariffs on U.S. agricultural exports levied in response to U.S. tariffs on Chinese exports to the United States. Zheng et al. (2018); Taheripour and Tyner (2018); Hansen et al. (2018); Liu, Robinson, and Shurley (2018); and Countryman and Muhammad (2018) predicted dramatic effects for U.S. production and trade of commodities such as soybeans, corn, sorghum, and other food and feed grains; cotton; and wine. The first exchange of tariffs between the United States and China occurred in early 2018 and was followed by a second round in April. It appears that corn, sorghum, and soybean producers who meet all the requirements for receiving MFP payments will be more than compensated for any losses caused by the Chinese tariffs. The actual per acre revenue will differ for each producer based on actual yield, marketing strategies pursued, and many other factors. Very large producers with output sufficient to trigger the $125,000 payment cap will receive lower per acre payments than similar producers not subject to the cap, but their compensation will still more than offset the hypothetical losses from the Chinese tariff.
President Trump announced that embattled Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke will be leaving at the end of the year.
Farmers in North America generally did well in the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). But there is one nasty surprise buried in the agreement that should unite all Canadian farmers—intellectual property rules that prevent circumvention of digital locks on electronics including sophisticated farm equipment like tractors and combines that will apply to Canadian, but not to American, farmers. Currently, in the middle of critical harvest time, a farmer in Emerson, Man., can look across the border to Pembina, N.D., and see a farmer there hack her tractor to fix a problem without consequence. But should the Manitoba farmer try this she would face serious sanction. Or more starkly, the Manitoba farmer could drive their tractor across the border to hack the software without problem or sanction, but should she drive the tractor back into Canada she would be driving into trouble.The problem succinctly is that the modern tractor or combine contains more lines of code than was on any American lunar mission. In the past, when a tractor would break down a farmer would grab a wrench or call any local mechanic. But now when software stops a tractor—God forbid in the middle of harvest with a year’s income on the line—the farmer must wait for an authorized manufacturer’s service technician to drive out, “unlock” the software, diagnose and hopefully fix the problem; a problem that the farmer or local mechanic could have fixed if they could unlock the software. But digital locks now embedded within the tractor’s software mean that accessing this software is against the law for anyone other than a manufacturer-authorized repair person—anyone including the farmer who owns the equipment.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced details of actions the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will take to assist farmers in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliation by foreign nations. President Donald J. Trump directed Secretary Perdue to craft a short-term relief strategy to protect agricultural producers while the Administration works on free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals to open more markets in the long run to help American farmers compete globally. As announced last month, USDA will authorize up to $12 billion in programs, consistent with our World Trade Organization obligations.