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Soy Briefs

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A field near Granger received another round of heavy rain at the end of May. Farmers across the state have been forced to consider preventative planting as suitable days for planting have been few and far between the last two months. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

Washington, DC — A leading architect of the disaster aid bill that’s headed to President Trump’s desk says it was specifically designed to complement the administration’s trade assistance package. In an exclusive interview with Agri-Pulse, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said the prevented-planting provision was added to the disaster bill because USDA’s trade assistance excluded unplanted acres from being eligible

Hoeven, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, says USDA lawyers had taken the position that USDA’s legal authority didn’t allow for trade aid to be used for unplanted acres. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue seemed to waffle on that issue in recent days, but a source tells Agri-Pulse’sBill Tomson that the Office of General Counsel has confirmed its original position. 

Hoeven also disclosed that he’s pushing USDA to move up the date that farmers will be allowed to hay or graze cover crops on prevented-planted acreage. The normal date is Nov. 1. An earlier date would benefit cattle producers, Hoeven says. 

Des Moines, IA — Trade war, flooded fields leave Midwestern farmers considering skipping a year, thinking: 'What the heck am I doing farming?'

Thousands of Midwestern farmers are facing tough decisions as they endure a spring like no other. It started with poor corn and soybean prices falling even further as the U.S. and China imposed new tariffs, and was compounded by torrential rain and flooding that has made planting impossible and killed off crops that were just starting to emerge. They’re thinking about whether it's too late to plant this season, how much federal aid they might get if they do or whether to skip it altogether and opt for an insurance payment.

West Lafayette, IN — U.S. ag producer sentiment dropped to its lowest level since October 2016, erasing all improvements recorded following the November 2016 presidential election. The Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer, based on a mid-month survey of 400 agricultural producers across the United States, declined 14 points in May to a reading of 101, down from 115 in April.

The decline in the barometer came about because producers’ perspectives on both current and future economic conditions worsened considerably compared to a month earlier. The Index of Current Conditions fell to a reading of 84, down from 99, and the Index of Future Expectations fell to 108, down from 123.

“Ag producers are telling us the agricultural economy weakened considerably this spring as the barometer has fallen 42 points (29%) since the start of this year,” said James Mintert, the barometer’s principal investigator and director of Purdue University’s Center for Commercial Agriculture. “Farmers are facing tough decisions in the midst of a wet planting season and a lot of uncertainty surrounding trade discussions.”

Des Moines, IA — President Donald Trump's visit to Iowa next week will include a tour of a renewable energy facility in Council Bluffs, where Trump will highlight his administration's approval of year-round access to gasoline with higher blends of ethanol.

Trump will tour Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy on Tuesday, June 11, and give remarks on the year-round E15 announcement and his administration's farm policies, the White House said Tuesday.

Washington, DC — The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday advanced a $24.3 billion agriculture spending bill, readying the measure for a floor vote later this month. The bill, which passed 29-21 along party lines, rejected President Trump’s request to slash the budget by 15 percent, instead opting to add $1 billion to current discretionary spending levels.  

“I am proud our bill invests in America’s fundamental needs and rejects the Administration’s requests for drastic cuts,” said Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee on agriculture. 

Rep. Kay Granger (Texas), the committee’s top Republican, said the bill’s spending level was too high, stating, “I do not support this bill as currently drafted and will work with my colleagues to improve this legislation as it moves through the appropriations process so that it reflects more reasonable funding levels.”

New York, NY — Despite a half-decade of falling grain prices, Midwestern farmland has held much of its value, and has become the foundation for a borrowing boom. Farm debt across the US has risen to $427 billion, close to amounts that preceded the 1980s agricultural crash when adjusted for inflation.

Farmers remain creditworthy in the eyes of banks, even as their incomes fall, because the collateral value of land remains high. While farm income has halved form its peak in 2013, farm equity has fallen just 5 percent because of stable land values, according to Robert Johansson, chief economist at the US Department of Agriculture. But if prices were to collapse, farm bankruptcies would widen and leave lenders, many of them backed by the federal government — with big losses.

In May, the Rural Mainstreet Index(RMI) fell below growth neutral for the first time since November. The index hasn’t been below May’s rating of 48.5 since January of 2018. The monthly survey of bank CEOs in a 10-state Midwest region uses an index range between 0 and 100 with 50 representing growth neutral. The rural economy had grown for five months, until last month’s move below growth neutral. Bankers reported that on average they expect farm loan defaults to climb by 10.9%.

Washington, DC — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its rule to exempt livestock producers from reporting routine emissions to state and local authorities

In April 2017, a U.S. Court of Appeals rejected a 2008 EPA rule exempting farmers from routine farm emissions reporting under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). The EPA’s new rule means farmers will not need to report emissions from manure on farms to local and state first responders under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), an adjunct to CERCLA. 

Washington, DC — The U.S. and Mexico failed to reach a deal on immigration issues during their Wednesday meeting. President Donald Trump said talks will continue on Thursday and that if no deal is reached then a 5 percent tariff on all Mexican goods will begin on Monday. The U.S. agriculture sector has been “disappointed” over the tariff plans, U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney said on Wednesday, saying the sector would like trade to go back to normal after disputes with countries including Mexico and China. 

In more positive trade news, Japan and the United States will hold working-level talks on trade in the United States on June 10-11, Japan’s economy minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, said on Tuesday. During the talks, the two countries will discuss technical aspects of industrial and agricultural goods trade, Motegi told a news conference after a regular cabinet meeting.

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