Radio Script 10-1-19

Many folks in the farming community are wondering if the Trump impeachment inquiry will sidetrack the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal and other farm country legislation. At an Agriculture Committee hearing last Wednesday, farm groups called for speedy passage of the trade Agreement. Then on Friday, corn industry groups sent a letter to the President warning him that “frustration in the countryside is growing” over the President’s biofuel policies, which they said are intensifying the already difficult financial situation for many farmers. Some observers believe that Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi must show that the House can still govern, so she’ll bring the trade deal to a vote later this year, while others think that politics will come into play, and the Democratic party will hold up the vote, rather than give the President something he wants.

The Japan- U.S. trade agreement that was signed last week, has been promoted as a great deal for U. S. Agricultural producers, because it will drop Japanese duties on $7.2 billion in U.S. products, but it’s unclear how much exports will increase because of the lower tariffs. Observers point out that the agreement offers almost the same benefits as the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement would have provided. President Trump pulled the U. S out of that trade pact when he entered office in 2018. Earlier this year, Purdue University projected that rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership would boost U. S. ag exports by $2.9 billion. So far in the 2019 fiscal year, which ended yesterday, U. S. agricultural sales were off several billion dollars, with sales to China down by $7.7 billion.

The controversial decision to move the USDA’s Economic Research Service and sister agency National Institute of Food and Agriculture from Washington D. C. to Kansas City this fall may have some important unintended consequences. A leaked USDA internal memo indicates that 38 Agricultural publications produced by the two offices may be postponed or discontinued because of decreased staffing levels at these agencies. The American Federation of Government Employees, estimates 78 percent of employees will leave these agencies rather than move. The Economic Research Service reports are especially important to agricultural producers, commodity traders, and those who develop food and agricultural policies.

Last spring, farmers were unsure about how the USDA would compensate them for electing to either not plant crops into wet fields or to plant with the uncertainty of whether crops would grow or mature by the end of the growing season. The question was whether farmers who couldn’t plant would be eligible for Trade Mitigation Payments. It was finally made clear in early June that no plant, no Trade Mitigation. Farmers who were concerned that crop insurance payments wouldn’t be adequate to cover their expenses, mudded crops into wet fields. Recently, University of Illinois economist Scott Irwin said that the payment to no planters “is more generous than he expected.” He estimates that farmers who decided not to plant, will get the same amount of federal aid as a farmer who planted and therefore qualified for the administration’s second trade relief package. But based on his calculations, many Illinois farmers who didn’t plant will gross between $500 and $600, per acre, while saving the expenses associated with planting, cultivating and harvesting crops, which is making farmers who planted unhappy.

An anonymous quote caught my attention this week. “Ethics is about what is right, not about who is right.

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