Good Morning. This is Bob Bragg with the March 5th edition of Farm News and Views.
There’s been a lot of trade chatter over the past few days. On Friday, President Trump tweeted that he had asked China to immediately remove all tariffs on agricultural products because the trade talks were going nicely. Recently, the USDA reported that sales of soybeans and other farm commodities had fallen from 20 billion dollars in 2017 to 16.3 billion in the fiscal year 2018, and are projected to decrease by 9 billion dollars in 2019. These statistics are concerning to grain farmers who are suffering through the sixth year of low commodity prices. When coupled with the Congressional Budget Office projections indicating that farmers will grow near-record crops this year in an attempt to generate revenue, while at the same time, slowly working down a soybean stockpile that is expected to approach a billion bushels this summer This is the largest soybean inventory ever. So farmers are hoping for a trade resolution sooner rather than later.
This week, European trade officials are scheduled to visit Washington to grease the skids for full fledged European Union trade talks. Agricultural trade has been excluded from prior talks because of the difference between the European agricultural production standards and the less stringent standards that farmers deal with when producing crops and livestock in the United States.
Agriculture may also be a sticking point in future trade negotiations with Great Britain according to British International Trade Secretary Liam Fox due to the gap in production standards. U.S. officials are calling for British citizens to accept the looser agricultural production standards rather than stick with the current European standards when Great Britain exits the European Union. The White House is also officially asking for market access for all agricultural goods, with greater alignment of U.S. and British food safety standards.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has recently criticized the “fear your food movement.” While at the same time, the USDA is proposing cuts to biotechnology regulations to speed up the approval process for new plants that allow farmers to plant more gene edited crops that may produce higher yields, be more resistant to pests and diseases, and have more resilience to climate change. However, Megan Westgate, founding director of the Non-GMO Project, stated that her organization believes gene-edited foods fall under the same umbrella as genetically modified organisms .
Cattle numbers on January 1st 2019 are up about 1% from January 1st 2018, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service report released on February 28th. The number of calves were reported to be 2% above a year ago, but beef replacement heifers, were down three percent from a year ago, which indicate that beef producers are being cautious about expanding the beef herd.
The Farm Credit Administration Board nominee, Rodney Brown, is facing opposition from more than two dozen farm groups. Brown, picked by the White House to serve on the three-member Farm Credit Administration board, is the former president and CEO of the California Bankers Association. This trade association, along with the American Bankers Association, represent commercial financial institutions that have lobbied to rein in the Farm Credit System, which provides loans to thousands of farmers and ranchers. Groups opposing Browns appointment include The American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and 24 other farm groups.
Today thought comes from Wendell Berry, who said “People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry, which pays no attention to food.”
Until next week. I’m Bob Bragg.