Weekly AgNews – September 12, 2017

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4 Factors Illustrating Today’s Farm Outlook

While U.S. farmer net income is forecast to rise this year for the first time since 2013, according to USDA’s forecast, expectations for farm profitability will remain subdued for the remainder 2017 and into 2018.

But, there are a few silver linings.

“We’ll have tight cash flows, tough decisions with lenders and continued interest in cutting costs,” says Gary Schnitkey, ag economist at the University of Illinois. “The good news is we’re going to have lower costs in 2017, and that will continue into 2018.”

These four charts from Schnitkey, Todd Kuethe, clinical assistant professor at the Unviersity of Illinois and David Klein, managing real estate broker for Soy Capital Bank & Trust Company, explain the current picture for the farm economy.

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WOTUS Stakeholder Sessions Begin Sept. 19

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of the Army will hold 11 stakeholder input sessions on the proposed revised definition of “waters of the United States.”

Nine sessions will be two-hour long teleconferences that will be tailored for specific sectors, one will be open to the general public and one will be an in-person session for small entities.

“EPA is committed to an open and transparent process for reviewing the definition of ‘waters of the United States,’” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Receiving input from across the country will help us make informed decisions as we move through our two-step process that will return power to the states and to provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses.”

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Washington Veteran Outlines Farm Bill Watch Points

Chuck Conner knows something about how things work in Congress and in Washington, D.C. The Benton County, Ind., native served as deputy secretary of agriculture during President George W. Bush’s second term. He has his eye on key ag issues right now, and shares his insights with farmers.

Today, Conner is chief executive officer of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. He took time for this exclusive interview with Farm Progress.

What should farmers be watching in terms of the farm bill debate? Key congressional leaders are aware that it took way too long to pass the last farm bill. It was two and a half years behind schedule. Agriculture was strong financially and it worked out, but it’s a different story this time. I’m expecting that ARC [Agriculture Risk Coverage] and PLC [Price Loss Coverage], the two main options in the current farm bill, will be continued. However, there will be adjustments. Right now most farmers are in the ARC program. The devil will be in the details, but when things shake out, PLC may be the most attractive option going forward.

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Irma Cuts Power to 6.4 Million, Shuts Ports, Imperils Crops

Hurricane Irma has knocked out power to at least 6.4 million customers, paralyzed tanker traffic, shuttered gasoline stations and suppressed demand for natural gas. As the storm headed up Florida’s west coast, it also threatened more than $1 billion worth of crops.

NextEra Energy Inc.’s Florida Power & Light utility warned Sunday that some customers may go without power for weeks, and parts of its system may need to be rebuilt “from the ground up.” The company took two reactors offline at a nuclear plant south of Miami, one for reasons unrelated to the storm. Ports critical to supplying the state with gasoline and diesel were also closed, and energy companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Kinder Morgan Inc. shut fuel terminals and pipelines.

“Fuel deliveries in Florida are virtually nonexistent,” Mansfield Oil, a Georgia-based energy supplier, said in a report. “Markets will take time to fully recover, particularly if Irma damages fueling infrastructure.”

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Wildfires Rage in the West Burning Nearly 1.5 Million Acres

Wildfires have burned wide swaths of the western U.S. the past week forcing evacuations of communities, cattle to move pastures and highway closures.

Fires are currently active in nine states throughout the West, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Here is a breakdown of the acreage burnt so far in active wildfires reported by the National Interagency Fire Center since
Aug. 28:

Arizona, 1 wildfire, burning 48,443 acres
California, 22 wildfires, burning 354,316 acres
Colorado, 1 wildfire, burning 1,405 acres
Idaho, 19 wildfires, burning 248,141 acres
Montana, 26 wildfires, burning 544,583 acres
Nevada, 7 wildfires, burning 111,379 acres
Oregon, 9 wildfires, burning 146,418 acres
Utah, 1 wildfire, burning 5,097 acres
Wyoming, 2 wildfires, burning 4,766 acres

For those active fires reported on since Aug. 28 it amounts to 1,464,548 acres actively burnt or burning.

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Texas Ranchers May Have Lost Millions Worth of Cattle in Storm

Texas agricultural officials fear thousands of cattle may have died in the aftermath of Harvey, resulting in losses to ranchers of tens of millions of dollars.

With more than 1.2 million head, the counties affected by Harvey are home to 1 in 4 of all beef cows in Texas, the nation’s largest producer.

Officials are still tallying the damages, but one report said that 250 cows were found in a pile after being washed down the Colorado River. Others found alive are often hungry, thirsty and worn out.

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This New Housing Complex Has A Bonus: A 23-Acre Farm

In the St. Clair neighborhood in Pittsburgh’s South Side–a community struggling with poverty and filled with vacant lots–it can be hard to attract new residents. A development in planning now will try something new to achieve that: a housing complex will come with its own 23-acre urban farm.

Built on the site of a housing project that was demolished in 2009, the mixed income development Hilltop Farm will include an orchard, incubator farm plots for aspiring farmers, community gardens and shared plots, a youth farm, greenhouses, a farmers’ market, and fields devoted to growing produce to deliver to people living in the townhomes on the property and to others in the city.

“When you work in distressed markets that need some driver for new residents, one thing that we’ve seen is a real desire to live near well-managed green space assets,” says Aaron Sukenik, executive director of the Hilltop Alliance, a local nonprofit community advocacy group that is coordinating the plan for the farm. “That can manifest as a greenway, or public park, or a trail network, but what really hasn’t been borne out locally . . . is an urban agriculture hub.”

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Bayer, Monsanto Likely to Extend Merger Deadline

The Bayer–Monsanto mega merger is taking more time than earlier envisaged.

The deal, announced a year ago, was to achieve closure by 2017 end. However regulators in key markets such as EU, US, Brazil and India are yet to approve the $66 billion merger. Industry sources say both companies are likely to meet at an appropriate time to extend the closure date beyond the end of the current year. According to the terms of the deal announced in September last year, Bayer pledged to pay Monsanto $2 billion if regulators blocked the deal. However, sources say both companies are optimistic about the approvals coming through, though they may be delayed slightly and hence the two firms will agree on extending the time for the merger to close.

Because of the two companies’ far-flung operations and markets, the deal would require approval from about 30 regulatory agencies across the globe, including anti-trust enforcers. Another reason for both companies to agree on the extension is that last week Dow DuPont announced the successful completion of the merger between Dow Chemical Company and E.I. du Pont de Nemours Company (“DuPont”), effective August 31, 2017. Chemical giants Dow Chemical (DOW) and DuPont (DD) had announced the merger intention in 2015.

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Deere Acquires Blue River Technology

Deere & Company has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Blue River Technology.

Deere said it will invest $305 million to fully acquire Blue River Technology, which is based in Sunnyvale, California. The companies have been in discussion about their business relationship since October 2016.

Known for its “See and Spray” technology, Blue River has designed and integrated computer vision and machine learning technology that will enable growers to reduce the use of herbicides by spraying only where weeds are present, optimizing the use of inputs in farming.

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Perdue Announces New Steps in USDA Reorganization

Building on a controversial USDA reorganization rolled out in May, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced further steps to realign “a number of offices within the U.S. Department of Agriculture in order to improve customer service and maximize efficiency.”

Among several steps, the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) will be merged into the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). Currently, both GIPSA and AMS carry out grading activities and work to ensure fair trade practices, the USDA said. Grain inspection activities will become a separate area within AMS; the Packers and Stockyards Program will be merged into a new structure that is part of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act.

The National Grain and Feed Association, along with the North American Export Grain Association, applauded moving the grain inspection service into AMS. “We strongly support this much-needed realignment … which we believe will help the agency better fulfill its statutory obligation to provide reliable, accurate, timely, impartial, and cost-effective services,” said NGFA President Randy Gordon and NAEGA President and CEO Gary Martin.

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2017 Education Foundation Auction

Thank you to everyone who has already donated an item to the 2017 Education Foundation Auction! We need you to make the Auction a success again this year!

Make your tax deductible donation to the Education Foundation Auction today by simply completing the donation form. Return the completed form directly to Hope Evans via e-mail at: hevans@asfmra.org or fax at: 303.758.0190.

Mark your calendar now – November 16, 2017 in Savannah, Georgia and be part of this special event. Plans are being made and we need you to make the Auction a success again this year! We need your donations. The Education Foundation Auction’s success depends on you – ASFMRA members, Chapters, sponsors, exhibitors, and nonmember supporters.

Make your commitment for Auction items by October 23, 2017. Auction items should be shipped directly to the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa to arrive no later than Tuesday, November 14, 2017. Please do not send your Auction items to arrive at the hotel more than three (3) days in advance – not to arrive before November 10, 2017 – due to the cost the hotel charges for storage.

Since we have already received some great items let’s start the fun early and begin the bidding now! Brian Gatzke, ARA has donated a Golf Foursome in Savannah Georgia with Stephen Frerichs. The lucky winner will play at The Club at Savannah Harbor and receive $100 to enjoy snacks and/or beverages at the Club House!

Let the bidding begin! This on-line opportunity ends on October 23, 2017 so the winner will have time to make plans to go to Savannah and enjoy golfing with Stephen Frerichs!

Step 1: Click on the link below
Step 2: Log-in or Create Your Account
Step 3: Confirm your information
Step 4: Enter your credit card
Step 5: Enter your winning bid!

Bid Now

If you have any questions concerning donations, contact Hope Evans directly at: 303.692.1216 or hevans@asfmra.org. THANK YOU for your generous donations and continued support.