More trade aid coming to farmers, Senate holds climate change hearing and slow planting season continues.
Missed some ag news this week? Here’s seven ag stories to catch you up.
1. USDA released details of its latest round of trade aid on Thursday. The package includes $14.5 billion for direct payments to farmers across the country, it also offers $1.4 billion for the food purchase and distribution program and $100 million for the Agricultural Trade Promotion Program. – Farm Futures
2. The wettest year on record is raising costs for the nation’s biggest agricultural companies, stalling farmers’ fieldwork and slowing shipments across the Farm Belt. – The Wall Street Journal
3. A cold, wet spring that caused record slow corn planting has the 2019 crop squarely behind the 8-ball. While the slow start doesn’t doom the crop, the unusual political and economic environment of 2019 could make recovery more difficult than in other years with major delays. – Farm Futures
4. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, says agriculture has an opportunity to lead on climate change. The committee held a hearing on climate change and agriculture on May 21. – Wallaces Farmer
5. An Iowa farmer and soil scientist says soil carbon storage is not the silver bullet she thought it was, despite the attention from researchers, advocates and policymakers. – Iowa Public Radio
6. The Dairy Together campaign presented both short- and long-term options to curb the loss of small and midsized dairy farms during a stop in St. Johns, Michigan. The campaign was started by Wisconsin Farmers Union, National Farmers Organization and Holstein Association USA. The heart of the campaign is a different way to price milk that would discourage expansion of milk production and create price stability. – Michigan Farmer
7. Summit Utilities is proposing to construct an anaerobic digestion facility in Clinton, Maine, that will receive dairy manure from multiple farms. Once in the digester, the manure will be heated and decomposed, creating biogas. The gas will be injected in Summit’s system and used for cooking, heating and other processes. Summit anticipates the digester will supply about 45% of the company’s annual Maine residential gas demand. – Lewiston Sun Journal
And your bonus.
Monday is Memorial Day. Take some time this holiday weekend to honor the sacrifices of those who served. The Des Moines Register features the story of two Vietnam War veterans: Ronald Langel and James Lalley.
Trump announces $16-billion farm bailout, Perdue says more possible
President Trump announced a $16-billion aid package on Thursday to buffer the impact of the trade war on farmers and ranchers this year. Speaking separately to reporters, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said billions of dollars of additional aid may flow in the future
Senate passes long-delayed disaster bill with ag relief money
On Thursday, with President Trump giving his support, the Senate passed a $19.1-billion disaster bill that includes $3 billion for farmers hit by flooding and severe wet weather this spring along with aid to producers pounded last year by hurricanes in the South, wildfires in the West, and volcanoes in Hawaii.
TODAY’S QUICK HITS
DowDuPont’s donations to lawmakers (Fast Co.): Congressional lawmakers who are either opposed to or declining to co-sponsor legislation to ban chlorpyrifos, a brain-damaging pesticide, are seeing a windfall in campaign contributions from manufacturer DowDuPont.
Drowning in giveaway milk (New Food Economy): A lesser-known part of trade-war mitigation for farmers is the donation of thousands of gallons of milk to food banks, which have to give it away before it spoils.
Perdue likes church-run food aid (Salt Lake Tribune): After touring a massive food production facility run by the Mormon Church, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said, “Government can’t do it all” in providing food aid. “The USDA could learn some lessons … on how to help people.”
Mario Batali charged (New York Times): The one-time star chef has been charged with indecent assault and battery stemming from an allegation that he groped and kissed a woman at a Boston restaurant in 2017.
Slowest growth rate for organic food sales since 2009
Organic food is everywhere, from nationwide retailers to the local corner store, and facing increased price competition that slowed sales growth to its lowest rate since 2009, said the Organic Trade Association in an annual report on Wednesday.
House panel to vote on blocking relocation of two USDA agencies
If a House Appropriations subcommittee has its way, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue would be barred from moving two USDA research agencies out of Washington.
TODAY’S QUICK HITS
White House downplays trade in Japan trip (Ag Insider): President Trump will “promote bilateral, free, and fair trade” during a trip to Japan this weekend, said a senior administration official. “I don’t think that the purpose of this trip is to focus on trade,” said the official when asked if a U.S.-Japan trade agreement was expected during the visit.
Senators move to block ag mergers (Booker): Democratic Sens. Cory Booker and Jon Tester filed an updated bill calling for a moratorium on mergers and acquisitions in the food and ag sector while Congress addresses the issue of market concentration. A similar bill is pending in the House.
USDA withholds wildfire money from California (Los Angeles Times): The Trump administration has accused California of overbilling and is withholding $9 million of the $72 million that the state says it is owed for fighting wildfires on federal land in 2018.
FCA chairman dies (The Hagstrom Report): Dallas Tonsager, chairman of the Farm Credit Administration since 2016 and an agriculture undersecretary during President Obama’s first term, died on Tuesday of cancer.
U.S. and Canada offer swine fever plan (USDA): U.S. and Canadian livestock officials agreed that in the event of an outbreak of African swine fever in either country, they will continue “safe trade” in hogs and pork products by allowing shipments from disease-free zones while combating the highly contagious viral disease in control zones.
Trade war expands government role in agriculture, despite decades of free-market reforms
The multibillion-dollar Trump tariff payments to farmers are expanding the government role in agriculture despite decades of free-market reforms that told farmers to pursue profits rather than subsidies.
Come here, ERS and NIFA, say Kansas and Missouri lawmakers
With a USDA decision on relocating ERS and NIFA expected soon, Missouri and Kansas lawmakers said that Kansas City “is ideally located” to be the new home of the two research agencies.
TODAY’S QUICK HITS
A water crisis in the Central Valley (New York Times): Many farmworkers who pick the produce that feeds the country live in unincorporated towns with polluted water, a chronic problem that the state has not yet figured out how to solve.
Perdue hits 50 (Ag Insider): In office for slightly more than two years, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue will visit his 50th state, Utah, on Wednesday to sign a forest management agreement with Gov. Gary Herbert.
ASF vaccine will take years (The Hagstrom Report): Agriculture Undersecretary Greg Ibach told a House Agriculture subcommittee that scientists estimate it will take eight years to find an effective vaccine against African swine fever.
Gottlieb skeptical of CDB efficacy (STAT): Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb says there is no evidence to support putting the hemp derivative into the food supply but there may be a “pharmaceutical opportunity here.”
Trump puts USMCA ahead of infrastructure (Ag Insider): In a letter aimed at pressuring skeptical Democratic leaders in Congress, President Trump says: “Before we get to infrastructure, it is my strong view that Congress should first pass the important and popular USMCA trade deal.”
Farmers in Plains lean heavily on Trump tariff payments
Due to the trade war, more than a third of net farm income for Kansas farmers comes from Trump tariff payments, but that won’t make up for lost export sales, said Republican Sen. Jerry Moran on Monday.
Bill would require USDA to buy American with trade bailout funds
A new bill from Connecticut Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro would require that a subset of tariff bailout funds be allocated to American producers only.
Rain delays may pull down U.S. corn yield
Corn and soybean planting is running roughly 30 percentage points behind normal in a cold and rainy spring, said the weekly Crop Progress report on Monday.
TODAY’S QUICK HITS
Hot April, less sea ice (NOAA): Last month was the warmest April in 140 years of record-keeping, 1.67 degrees F above the 20th century average, and Arctic sea ice coverage was the smallest ever.
Big Plastic Bag takes on environmentalists (Wall Street Journal): The plastics industry is fighting back against bans and other restrictions on single-use plastic bags, straws, and containers, arguing alternatives may be worse for the environment.
EPA changes its math on pollution (New York Times): The EPA plans to roll out a new modeling method that would predict thousands fewer deaths from air pollution—a model experts say is not scientifically sound.
Impossible Burger now with GM soy (Medium) – The founder and CEO of Impossible Foods writes that the plant-based meat company is switching to genetically modified U.S. grown soy because it “meets the highest global standards for health, safety and sustainability.”
Sriracha suit continues (Los Angeles Times): The manufacturer of the popular hot sauce has been locked in a legal battle with its primary pepper supplier for nearly three years; the parties were scheduled to appear in court yesterday.
Vilsack to receive biotech award (BIO): In recognition of his advocacy of the “bio-based economy,” former agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack will receive the biotechnology industry’s George Washington Carver Award at a July conference on industrial and agricultural biotechnology.
Mired by a rainy and chilly spring, U.S. farmers may soon give up on planting corn in rain-soaked parts of the Farm Belt because it is getting too late for money-making yields, said economist Scott Irwin of the University of Illinois. “I truly believe we are in ‘black swan’ territory as far as late corn planting is concerned,” he said over the weekend, using a term popularized during the financial crisis a decade ago.
China a factor as U.S., Mexico, Canada agree to remove tariffs
The three largest countries in North America announced an end to the 11-month battle of tariff and retaliatory tariff that pinched U.S. farm exports to Canada and Mexico, the two largest customers in the world for the goods. The agreement, which took effect over the weekend, improved the prospects for ratification of the new NAFTA and altered the dynamics of the Sino-U.S. trade war.
TODAY’S QUICK HITS
Japan removes barrier to U.S. beef (USDA): Japan agreed, effective immediately, to remove mad-cow restrictions dating from 2003 on imported U.S. beef, creating the possibility of a $200-million-a-year increase in U.S. sales.
Amazon looks to expand food delivery (Verge): Amazon led a $575-million investment round for UK food delivery service Deliveroo, causing some to speculate that the company is planning to challenge Uber Eats in the food-delivery market.
Processed food may cause overeating (Science): A diet of ultra-processed food may cause us to eat more overall as compared to a diet of less-processed foods, a “landmark” study finds.
De Blasio goes to Iowa (Politico): New York City mayor and presidential candidate Bill de Blasio toured an ethanol facility with former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in Iowa during his first campaign stop.
Canadian pork goes to Japan (Financial Post): In the first months of the TPP-11 pact, pork exports from Canada to Japan nearly match those from the U.S.
Trump’s winning offer to farmers (AP): Farmers are politically loyal to President Trump in the trade war because of this calculation: Trump will benefit if the United States wins concessions and also gains by providing trade aid to farmers in the meantime.
ON THE CALENDAR
– Organic Trade Association holds Organic Week, through Thursday, Today is Member Day; Tuesday is Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill, Wednesday is Conference Day and Thursday is OTA board meeting day.
– World Farmers Organization general assembly, through Thursday, Luxembourg.
– Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, “Climate change and the agriculture sector,” 9:30 a.m. ET, 328A Russell. Witnesses include former agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack and professor Frank Mitloehner of UC-Davis.
– House Agriculture subcommittee hearing, “To review animal pest and disease prevention and response capabilities,” 11 a.m. ET, 1300 Longworth.
– Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is lead witness as Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the White House’s proposed fiscal 2020 budget for the department, 9:30 a.m. ET, 124 Dirksen.
– House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing, “Enforcement in the new NAFTA,” 10 a.m. ET, 1100 Longworth.
– House Appropriations Committee votes on the fiscal 2020 Interior, environment and related agencies bill, 10:30 a.m. ET, 2359 Rayburn.
– U.S. Meat Export Federation holds 2019 spring conference, through Friday, Kansas City.
– Innovation Forum holds “Future of food” conference to help businesses “identify the main areas of opportunity and innovation within the food and beverage industry, through Thursday, Deerfield, Illinois.
– Activists deliver petition to EPA to ban use of glyphosate as a drying agent before harvest of grain, noon ET, Freedom Plaza.
– USDA releases annual Floriculture Crops report, delayed from May 8 because of the partial government shutdown, and annual Poultry Production and Valuesreport, delayed from April 30 by the shutdown, 3 p.m.
– USDA releases monthly Food Price Outlook, 9 a.m. ET. At present, USDA forecasts retail food inflation of 2 percent this year, below the average increase of 2.3 percent annually. Grocery prices are forecast to rise 1 percent in 2019, the fourth year in a row of lower-than-average prices increases.
– President and Melania Trump take part in a state visit to Japan that includes meeting the newly enthroned emperor, through May 28. President Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will hold a bilateral meeting during the visit, which has raised hopes of a U.S.-Japan trade agreement. “The state visit will deepen the close bonds between the American and Japanese people and will highlight the continued importance of our alliance and partnership,” says the White House.
– Memorial Day, honoring men and women who died while serving in the armed forces. Observed originally as Decoration Day following the Civil War, Memorial Day became a federal holiday in 1971. Waterloo, New York, is credited as the birthplace of Memorial Day because it hosted an annual community-wide observance in which businesses close and residents put flowers and flags at the graves of soldiers, says History.com. In 1868, former General John Logan of Illinois proposed a nationwide day of remembrance of the war dead.
– UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Fund for Agriculture Development sponsor the global launch of the “UN decade of family farming,” through May 29, Rome. “Building on the success of the international Year of Family Farming of 2014 and on the improved knowledge about the multiple contribution of family farmers to sustainable rural life, the Decade will aim at focusing systematically on cross-cutting and multi-dimensional issues which are of concern to family farmers,” says FAO.
Busy in the field? Here are seven agricultural stories you might have missed this week.
1. J.P. Morgan analyst Ann Duignan said the state of American agriculture is “rapidly deteriorating” into crisis due to declining exports, a poor crop of corn and soybeans and the trade war with China. – CNBC
2. USDA will be looking to offset the trade disruption to farmers in the range of $15 billion to $20 billion, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said. USDA continues to work on finalizing how the aid will be constructed. – Farm Futures
3. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, warned the European Union that excluding agriculture from any trade deal will undermine talks before they begin. Congress will not consider a deal that doesn’t address farm subsidies, Grassley said. – Washington Examiner
4. North Dakota soybean farmer Josh Gackle says soybean shipments from the state to China are down 80% from a typical year and the prices he’s receiving for soybeans are 20% to 25% lower than pre-tariff levels. – NPR
5. Bayer plans to appeal a third verdict, issued Monday, that awards $2 billion to Alva and Alberta Pilliod. The California couple sued Bayer, alleging they contracted non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma because of their use of Roundup. Bayer says the verdict issued Monday “conflicts directly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s interim registration review decision.” – Farm Futures
6. Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, says he has secured a commitment from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer that there will be an exclusion process for the new round of tariffs. The rules will be rolled out in the coming weeks. Under the exclusion process, businesses that are negatively impacted by tariffs on products they import may apply for an exclusion, which the USTR will either award or deny. – Kansas Farmer
7. The North Dakota Grain Growers Association has withdrawn from the National Association of Wheat Growers. In a statement, the NDGGA said, “we believe we’re no longer seeing an adequate return on investment and have decided not to renew our contract that expires on June 30, 2019.” – Dakota Farmer
And if you need a drink, an Iowa distillery has you covered.
Foundry Distilling Co. is launching Okoboji vodka made from corn, the majority of which is grown in Iowa. Okoboji vodka will be available at retailers in the Lake Okoboji area as well as central Iowa. – Des Moines Register
Shorthanded, U.S. agriculture hopes for a role in immigration debate
President Trump proposed a “points-based” system on Thursday that would put younger, highly trained, and well-paid workers at the front of the line for legal immigration to the United States. The plan was silent on agricultural labor, but farm groups hope to be part of “a broader dialogue” on immigration.
Missouri bill that would end local control of CAFOs heads to governor’s desk
A bill in Missouri that would eliminate local regulation of CAFOs has passed in the state Senate and House and is headed to the desk of Gov. Mike Parson, who is expected to sign it into law. Opponents of the bill say it favors the interests of the largest livestock farms while exposing communities to greater health and environmental risks.
USDA to test sick or dead hogs for evidence of African swine fever
The highly contagious African swine fever, rampant in China, has never been found in the United States, but the USDA said on Thursday that it will step up its surveillance efforts against the viral disease, which kills pigs but does not harm people.
TODAY’S QUICK HITS
Glyphosate lawsuits spread to Canada (Western Producer): Bayer faces more than 13,000 lawsuits in U.S. courts alleging its weedkiller glyphosate causes cancer. Now a farmer in Saskatchewan is leading a class action suit against Bayer in Canada.
Did EPA change the rules before court decision? (Reuters): The EPA told an oil refiner that “we are changing our approach” to exempt small-volume refineries from the biofuel mandate at least four months before the August 2017 court decision the EPA says forced it to issue the waivers, claims a biofuels group.
Tariffs boost price of canned food (Bloomberg): U.S. tariffs on imported steel and aluminum are adding to the supermarket price of canned fruits and vegetables, says Del Monte chief executive Greg Longstreet. The company says it will produce more products that don’t come in a can.
Seeking country-of-origin labels on menus (New Food Economy):Louisiana legislators are considering a bill that would require the state’s restaurants to disclose on their menus the origin of the seafood they serve.
Federal leases for Boundary Waters mining (MinnPost): The Interior Department renewed mineral leases held by Twin Metals Minnesota, moving the company closer to developing a controversial copper-nickel mine near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and inside Superior National Forest.
Wait a bit before irrigating (UC-Davis): University researchers say one way growers can stretch water supplies for perennial crops is to delay the first irrigation of the season so the plants can soak up more of the moisture stored in the soil from rainfall.
USDA looking at $15-$20 billion for new Trump bailout
As it did with the Trump tariff payments on 2018 crops, the administration is likely to send money directly to producers in the upcoming round of aid, which may total $15-$20 billion, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Wednesday. That total would be a larger package than the president himself has suggested.
Peterson challenges USDA on land stewardship offers
Almost as soon as the USDA offered to admit land in need of high-priority stewardship practices into the long-term Conservation Reserve Program, the House Agriculture chairman threatened on Thursday to void the offer. “I am going to stop it somehow or other,” chairman Collin Peterson told two USDA officials.
TODAY’S QUICK HITS
EU ends anti-dumping duties on U.S. ethanol (Argus Media): The European Commission revoked the duties, saying the U.S. market share of 0.1 percent was too small to be a risk to European producers. But Epure, an ethanol trade group, said the Sino-U.S. trade war and rising protectionism in other markets could mean more U.S. ethanol will land on the continent.
First wheat imports in Australia since 2007 (Sydney Morning Herald): The country, normally the largest wheat exporter in the Southern Hemisphere, will see its first large wheat imports in more than a decade, due to a punishing drought.
Will almond prices rise? (Sacramento Bee): A California almond-processing plant owned by Blue Diamond, the world’s largest almond producer, was significantly damaged by fire. The cooperative owns two other plants.
Vaccinations can reduce salmonella (The Poultry Site): Poultry producers can reduce salmonella levels in broiler chickens by 30 to 60 percent by vaccinating the birds, although doing so adds to production costs, since two doses are needed.
Regal prices for king salmon (San Francisco Chronicle): Prices for king salmon reached as high as $40 a pound following the May 1 opening of the season along the California coast. A catch of 380,000 fish is expected this year, up significantly from the catch of 224,000 last year.
Receding floods leave a ‘mountain of sand’ (AP): Specialists from the USDA and the University of Nebraska are racing to solve a problem created by this spring’s floods: What to do with tons of sand, sediment, and other debris — some of it too deep to be mixed into crop-producing soil — deposited on farms and ranches in the eastern two-thirds of the state.
U.S. vote on the new NAFTA could slip to late 2020, says Grassley
The Sino-U.S.trade war has pushed the new NAFTA, a pact between Canada, Mexico and the United States, into the shadows on Capitol Hill.
Sec. Perdue is open to carbon markets for farmers, Pingree says
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue expressed support for carbon markets for farmers during a meeting, Rep. Chellie Pingree said on Monday. An upcoming agriculture appropriations bill will likely include language that urges USDA to research the possibility of such markets, added the Maine Democrat, speaking at a Food and Environment Reporting Network event.
Three USDA nominations advance to Senate floor
On a voice vote, the Senate Agriculture Committee cleared for a floor vote three administration nominations for senior posts at USDA. It was the second time in five months the committee approved the nominations.
TODAY’S QUICK HITS
Another blow to Bayer (Wall Street Journal): A jury awarded an elderly couple $2 billion in their litigation against Monsanto. The couple alleged that years of applying the weedkiller Roundup had caused them both to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Delivery wars continue (CNBC): Walmart is rolling out next-day delivery in an effort to compete with Amazon. The company says it will deliver overnight to 75 percent of customers by the end of 2019.
Soda tax slashes sugary beverage sales in Philadelphia (philly.com): The city’s 1.5-cent-an-ounce tax on soda and sweetened beverages led to an overall 38-percent reduction in soda sales in Philadelphia, according to research published a week before primary elections in which Mayor Jim Kenney faces two Democratic challengers who oppose the levy.
Beetles vs. grizzlies (InsideClimate News): Pine beetles are destroying the forests of Yellowstone National Park and prompting grizzly bears to roam out of the park, where almost 250 of them have been killed in the past four years because of the threat they pose to people or livestock.
Fishery consolidation brings vulnerability (SeafoodSource): There are fewer commercial fishermen in Alaska than three decades ago and they are specializing more and more on what they catch, leaving them more vulnerable to environmental, political and economic pressures.