June 20 2017

Weekly AgNew - June 20, 2017

Secretary Perdue Announces Acting Under Secretaries

During a Senate Agriculture Appropriations hearing last week Secretary Perdue said he did not expect to have any nominees for posts requiring Senate confirmation to come before the Senate until after the congressional recess in August. Perdue said nominees for six positions that require Senate confirmation, including the deputy secretary, have been sent to the White House, but that he is “fearful” none of them will be ready for Senate confirmation before the summer recess mostly because of a backlog at the FBI as it conducts background checks on all Trump Administration nominees.

So on Friday, USDA announced that Dr. Robert Johansson will serve as the Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation, while also concurrently remaining USDA’s Chief Economist, a position he has held since July 2015. The Risk Management Agency reports to the Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation as well as the Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Also announced, Jason Hafemeister, will serve as the Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs and Dan Jiron will fill the role of Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. The three acting roles reflect the reorganization that USDA announced in May with the creation of an Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs and the NRCS reporting to the Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation.

Secretary Perdue Clarifies Crop Insurance Comments

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue testified last week before the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. Subcommittee Chair John Hoeven (R-ND) scheduled the hearing to review the President’s FY 2018 budget request. Senator Hoeven and Senator Tester (D-MT) questioned the Secretary about comments he made regarding crop insurance during a Montana Rural Agriculture Summit (the Rain and Hail Insurance Society was a sponsor of this Summit in early June).

Perdue sought to assure the Senators that he recognizes the importance of the farm safety net. He said: “We’ve got to understand that insurance is just that, when there’s a tragedy, when there’s a drought, when there’s a flood, when there’s hail, we need a safety net to call upon, but no longer can we think of insurance as an investment, we don’t invest a dollar in insurance and expect to get a $1.10 back every year in that area. I want insurance to be just like property or casualty insurance, otherwise, hopefully never using. Senator, I’ve never met a real farmer that would rather have to call on insurance rather than a good crop at a fair price. And that’s what we really want to do. 

House Agriculture Committee Announces Farm Bill Listening Session in Florida

Last week House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway and Ranking Member Peterson announced the first of several committee activities across the country intended to stimulate conversation and gather input from farmers, ranchers and stakeholders. “The Next Farm Bill, Conversations in the Field,” a committee listening session, will take place in Gainesville, Florida on June 24, 2017. The time and location in Gainesville have not been announced. 

RMA Expands, Changes Margin Protection Coverage

Last month the Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced changes to and an expansion of Margin Protection Coverage. The RMA is expanding margin protection for corn and soybeans to Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. The RMA also reevaluated how the liabilities and deductibles were identified and has increased the maximum coverage level available to 95 percent. In addition, the program was updated to add a harvest price option for all margin protection crops. Margin protection is area-based coverage and can be purchased by itself, or in conjunction with a Yield Protection or Revenue Protection policy. A producer may choose coverage from 70 percent to 95 percent of their expected margin. The last day to purchase a margin protection policy for corn, soybeans, and spring wheat is Sept. 30, 2017. The last day to purchase margin protection for rice is the same as the sales closing date for the underlying rice insurance policy, which varies by county.

Maps of Eligible Counties and Other Resources

Dow-Dupont Meger Gets Green Light From Justice Department

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2017 – DuPont and Dow Chemical say they’ve gotten approval from the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division for their merger, a combination that will create the world’s largest crop protection and seed company.

As part of the deal, Delaware-based DuPont will divest certain parts of its crop protection portfolio to resolve concerns that the deal would stifle competition and raise prices for consumers. In the same regard, Dow, headquartered in Midland, Michigan, also has agreed to sell off its global ethylene acrylic acid copolymers and ionomers business, the companies said in a joint release.

“We are very pleased that the DOJ has approved this transaction,” said Andrew Liveris, Dow’s chairman and chief executive officer. “With today’s DOJ clearance, we have taken a significant step forward in bringing together these two iconic enterprises, and in the subsequent intended separation into three leading, independent innovation-based science companies that will generate significant benefits for all stakeholders.”

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E15 Ethanol Debate Reaches Tipping Point in Congress

For gasoline retailers, it’s an annual tradition: Each summer, federal law requires them to swap out the higher-blend ethanol fuel E15 from their pumps to comply with EPA regulations that limit ground-level ozone.

But the debate over whether E15 — gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol, an increasingly popular alternative to the common E10 fuel at gas stations nationwide — should be available year-round has reached a tipping point, and a bipartisan coalition of senators is pushing legislation to lift the federal restrictions that ethanol proponents say are outdated, unnecessary, and actually result in more pollution, not less.

The bill would waive rules that prevent E15, now available in 29 states, from being sold between June and September, a regulatory structure initially put in place to curb ozone that causes increased levels of smog during hot summer months. The battle has split both political parties and pits environmentalists, small-engine makers and others against the ethanol sector and its backers in Congress.

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Will Your Corn, Soybean Prices be Above or Below Average?

For 2017, economists at the University of Missouri’s Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) forecast a national average corn price of $3.60 and a national average soybean price of $9.57.

Large supplies of grain have pushed prices down over the last few years. Since the 2012 drought, world average yields for grains and oilseeds have exceeded the long-term trend for four straight years, the FAPRI economists report in their March 2017 U.S. Baseline Briefing Book.

In 2016, world production exceeded the 2010-2012 average by 20% for corn and 31% for soybeans. Consumption has also increased, but by a slightly smaller proportion.

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Weedy Rice is Growing Problem for California Farmers

California rice growers are discovering a challenge in their fields that some thought was merely herbicide-resistant watergrass.

Last year, newly-hired University of California (UC) Cooperative Extension Rice Advisor Whitney Brim-DeForest began receiving calls from rice growers about a weed they couldn’t kill. This led to the quick discovery that watergrass wasn’t the problem.

Since the beginning of the 2016 growing season, at least 10,000 acres of rice ground in California has been identified with weedy rice, one of the most damaging weeds of rice worldwide.

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Chinese Beef Buyers Race to Get Hands on American Steak

BEIJING, June 19 (Reuters) – Chinese meat importers are racing to get their hands on the first shipments of beef from the U.S. in 14 years, as strong demand for premium steaks continues to grow in the $2.6 billion beef import market.

China and the U.S. last week settled the conditions for American beef exports after the two sides agreed in May to resume the trade. Pent-up demand for U.S. meat could erode sales of Australian beef, China’s current top supplier of premium steaks.

“We have ordered 56 to 58 tonnes of whole carcasses, which are expected to arrive by the end of July,” said Chen Fugang, owner of Aoyang International, a Shanghai-based trading company.

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Ohio Chapter Hosts Young Professionals Event

This past Tuesday night the Ohio YPN group gathered to network and catch up with fellow members. A few updates were given about upcoming ASFMRA events and Lisa Shumaker spoke to the group about taking that extra step and becoming accredited. She went over the requirements, benefits, and gave some extra tips. Throughout the night snacks were ate, cornhole was played, clay birds were shot, and members socialized. It was a great evening of coming together to network and make new bonds and memories.

The Chapter would like to thank the Education Foundation for their sponsorship of this event and Monsanto for sponsoring the Early Career Award, which helps support YPN activities at the local level. 

Volunteers Needed

ASFMRA is successful due to the passion and expertise provided by our many volunteers.  Our volunteers help us produce The ASFMRA Journal, they help us create and update education and ensure that our members are meeting our high ethical standards.  They raise money for the Education Foundation, get our younger members engaged and involved and really keep ASFMRA moving forward to meet the demands of the Society now and into the future.  We need your passion, your expertise and your willingness to serve.  Please volunteer for a National committee – not only will it help the Society, but it will provide you with rewarding career and professional development and perhaps some fun too!

July 8 is the Last Day to Volunteer for a National Committee!  Apply Today 

Nominate a Deserving Colleague

Each year at the ASFMRA Annual Conference, we celebrate excellence and our colleagues at our annual Awards ceremony.  Now is the time to nominate a colleague for their service to the profession, the ag industry and the ag community.   ASFMRA has a number of awards; the Early Career Award sponsored by Monsanto, the D. Howard Doane Award for outstanding contributions to the profession, the Appraisal Professional of the Year award sponsored by Rabo AgriFinance Inc.,  the Carl F. Hertz Distinguished Service in Agriculture Award and many more.  Nominations for these outstanding contributions to our community are due by July 15th.

Nominate a Colleague