ASFMRA Weekly News January 24, 2017

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Interest Rates Will Play Big Role in 2017 Land Values

Several factors will come into play in 2017 that will determine the direction of land values, according to the latest reports from Farmers National Co. Randy Dickhut, senior vice president of real estate operations for the company, said that in the past 3 years, agricultural landowners in many regions across the country have seen a decline in profits, which also pushed land values lower.

“This winter, questions abound as to the direction of commodity prices, interest rates, inflation, challenges in the world economy, weather and U.S. tax law,” Dickhut said. “Buyers of ag land are asking if it is an opportune time to make a purchase of a farm or ranch, while sellers are asking if the market dynamics are indicating that it is good time to sell land. Depending on location, quality of land and other factors, our agents report seeing regions and local areas where land prices are stable to somewhat strengthening post-2016 harvest. Then there are other areas where land values have continued to decline.” Full article.

Top 16 Ag Questions for 2017

One of our most popular and favorite posts to write is the annual look at key questions facing production agriculture in the coming year.

There are always a number of important issues to consider ahead of any year, but 2017 seems to have lots of unknowns. More importantly, the questions facing production agriculture in 2017 seem to be more critical than in years earlier. With that said, here is our list of the 16 key questions facing production agriculture in 2017.

1. ARE FARM FINANCIAL CONDITIONS STABILIZING – OR JUST GETTING SERIOUS?

Thinking about the challenges facing the agricultural economy explicitly, this lingering question is the 10-ton elephant in the room. While the agricultural economy started the downturn in a strong financial condition, conditions have begun to deteriorate. Read more.

Bankers: Weak Farm Prices Biggest Threat to Rural Economy

Bankers across Middle America say depressed farm commodity prices are the biggest threat to the economy this year in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states.

The overall economic index in a monthly survey of bankers for the region remained in negative territory at 42.8 in January, down slightly from December’s 42.9. Survey officials say any score below 50 suggests an economic decline.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says livestock commodity prices have tumbled by 7.3 percent and grain commodity prices by 11.7 percent in the last year. Find out why.

Clovis Takes Lead in Installing Trump Team at USDA

Sam Clovis, Donald Trump’s top farm policy adviser during the presidential campaign, will be leading the transition group installing his team and policy at the Agriculture Department.

Clovis, a co-chair of the Trump campaign, confirmed to Agri-Pulse that he would be leading the USDA transition team starting Friday.

Clovis served as a surrogate for Trump during the campaign, speaking to farm groups and also representing Trump in an October debate with Kathleen Merrigan, a former deputy agriculture secretary representing Hillary Clinton.

A former economics professor at Morningside College in Iowa, Clovis espoused views that sometimes broke with the GOP platform as well as conservative views in Congress.

During the October debate with Merrigan, Clovis said that nutrition programs should stay in the farm bill and that the way to reduce the cost of the nutrition assistance initiatives is to promote economic growth that will put more people to work, rather than cutting programs. Learn more.

Dairy Export Council Makes it Official – Vilsack in as Next CEO

The U.S. Dairy Export Council made it official today – announcing that former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will take over leadership of the group on Feb. 1. Agri-Pulse reported on Vilsack’s plans on Jan. 3.

In an interview today, Vilsack, who stepped down from the USDA post last week, said he’s optimistic he can help boost dairy exports, which are widely expected to rebound this year after a slump in 2016.

“If we can work hard to make sure we have a supply chain that’s close enough to the customer to be able to be flexible enough to respond to changes, I think we’ll continue to see what we’ve seen over the past 10 to 15 years – an expansion of export opportunities,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack acknowledged there are obstacles to expansion. Russia still bans U.S. dairy products, the European Union continues to try to protect its products with “geographic indications,” and Canada is threatening new policies to minimize its imports from the U.S. Full article.

Robotic Crop Pickers Limit Loss of Farm Workers to Trump Wall

Robotic devices like lettuce thinners and grape-leaf pullers have replaced so many human hands on US farms in recent years that many jobs now held by illegal workers may not exist by the time Donald Trump builds his promised wall.

For many American farmers, the automation push isn’t just about the President-elect’s goal to seal the border with Mexico, the traditional source of cheap migrant labour for the world’s largest agricultural exporter. There just aren’t enough crop pickers around as immigration slows, deportations rise and the prospects of congressional reform look remote.

That’s what prompted Steve Tennnes, a fruit and vegetable grower in Charlotte, Michigan, to buy a $138,000 machine that can collect up to three times as many apples per hour than workers who currently use ladders and buckets, and do so more safely. He will be able to harvest more with fewer workers, and the benefits will expand as he replants his orchard over the next decade to make it easier for the device to operate among the trees. Read more.

Shimkus Vows to Use Subcommittee Chairmanship to Work for WOTUS Repeal

Illinois Republican John Shimkus will once again chair the House Environment Subcommittee, and he says he’ll use all options to kill the Waters of the U.S. rule. Listen to interview.

California Drought Continues to Shrink, Federal Government Says

With major reservoirs nearly full, the Sierra Nevada snowpack well above average and flood warnings in place for some rivers, federal scientists on Thursday reported a continued weakening of California’s drought.

Overall, 44 percent of the state remains in severe drought or worse, down from 49 percent a week ago, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. The improved area, roughly 5.1 million acres, or nearly seven times the size of Yosemite National Park, is mostly in the central Sierra Nevada, which has been hit with major snowstorms in recent weeks. Learn more.

Monsanto, California Battle Over Listing Glyphosate as a Carcinogen

Next week, Monsanto and California’s Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) will face off over the agency’s plan to list the herbicide glyphosate as a carcinogen. The outcome of this legal battle could have major ramifications to California’s long-established regulatory program.

It all started back in Sept. 2015 when the OEHHA issued a notice of intent to list the chemical as known to the state to cause cancer under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, commonly known as Proposition 65. The OEHHA determined that glyphosate met the criteria under the “Labor Code” listing mechanism, which directs the office to add a chemical or substance to the Prop 65 list of known carcinogens if it meets certain classifications by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The France-based IARC concluded that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A)” in March 2015. Read more.

ChemChina Files for U.S. Antitrust Approval on Sygenta Deal

China National Chemical Corp. said it filed for U.S. antitrust approval with the Federal Trade Commission for its proposed $43 billion takeover of Swiss agrochemical company Syngenta AG.

ChemChina has submitted documentation required by the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act and expects the U.S. antitrust process to be “on track,” the company said in an e-mail. The FTC, which oversees merger reviews along with the Justice Department, generally has 30 days to clear the proposed tie-up or issue a second request, seeking more information and a longer review period. When it’s a cash tender offer, the FTC has 15 days to review.

The proposed transaction already has been cleared by a U.S. national security panel and won antitrust approval in Australia, where there are overlapping products between Syngenta and ChemChina’s Israeli-based generic agrochemical maker Adama. Full article.

California Chapter, ASFMRA Member, Randy Edwards, ARA Rode in Inaugural Parade with Merced County Sheriff’s Posse

The horses left early on the morning of Sunday, January 15th to be followed by their 14 riders who flew out on Tuesday. Their destination…Washington, D.C.

The Merced County Sheriff’s Posse represented the state of California in the Presidential Inaugural Parade on Friday, January 20th. Among the riders was California Chapter, ASFMRA member, Randy Edwards, ARA. Randy said that the group had applied just before the election to be a participant in this historic event and was selected by the Inaugural Parade Committee several weeks following the election. In Randy’s words, “It is my patriotic honor to represent our community, county, region and state in this historical event.” See images.