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Twenty farm groups representing millions of U.S. farmers are publicly launching Farmers for a Sustainable Future, a coalition committed to environmental and economic sustainability. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

Twenty farm groups representing millions of U.S. farmers are publicly launching Farmers for a Sustainable Future (FSF), a coalition committed to environmental and economic sustainability. This coalition will serve as a primary resource for policymakers as they consider sustainability and climate policies important to agriculture.

The American Soybean Association (ASA) has been involved with FSF since its inception to play an active role in the direction of the new D.C.-based group.

ASA CEO Ryan Findlay explained, “Soybean farmers have an awesome story to tell, including their sustainability initiatives, so it’s great to be able to collaborate with like-minded organizations to facilitate sound policy and program decisions and have a platform to share our efforts.”

The coalition will share with elected officials, media and the public U.S. agriculture’s commitment to sustainability and the incredible strides already made to reduce agriculture’s environmental footprint. As policy proposals are developed and considered, the goal is for the coalition and its guiding principles to serve as a foundation to ensure the adoption of meaningful and constructive policies and programs affecting agriculture.

Farmers are committed stewards of the land, leading the way on climate-smart farming by promoting soil health, conserving water, enhancing wildlife, using nutrients efficiently and caring for their animals. For decades, they have pushed past the boundaries of innovation thanks to investments in agricultural research and the adoption of practices that improve productivity, provide clean and renewable energy, enhance sustainability, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon.

FSF’s guiding principles call for policies that support science-based research, voluntary incentive-based conservation programs, investment in infrastructure, and solutions that ensure vibrant rural communities and a healthy planet. More about the coalition members, guiding principles and sustainability achievements can be found at

The Agriculture Department expects farm exports to reach $139.5 billion this year, a $4 billion increase over 2019, driven by a “return to normal trade” and higher agricultural sales to China,said Chief Economist Robert Johansson at the department’s annual Agricultural Outlook Forum. He said there are “more hopeful signs” for the farm economy in 2020 after a challenging stretch for the industry amid President Donald Trump’s trade fight with Beijing and severe weather problems across the Midwest, Politico reports.

Johansson said agricultural exports to China are expected to rise from $10 billion in fiscal 2019 to $14 billion this year — but he acknowledged the trade and economic threat posed by the Chinese coronavirus outbreak, which is causing “many disruptions in shipping and supply chains.”

Canada is projected to import $21.5 billion, which would make it the largest market for U.S. farm goods in 2020, Johansson said, while sales to Mexico are forecast to increase to $19.8 billion.

“Going into 2020, the basic outlook for many farms looks better than it did last year,” he said. “We have expectations of better trade, expectations of better weather and continued low interest rates.”

Crop production is projected to rebound after historically wet weather in 2019 put a dent in corn and soybean planting. Acreage for those crops, Johansson said, is likely to hit 94 million and 85 million, respectively, up 5 percent from 2019 for corn and 12 percent for soybeans. Wheat production is expected to hold steady around 45 million acres, with cotton acreage dropping by 9 percent to 12.5 million.

Now that limited trade deals are in place with China, Japan and other partners, USDA projects that soybean prices will rise slightly, from $8.75 to $8.80 per bushel, Johansson said. Corn prices are forecast to decline by 6 percent or 25 cents per bushel, from $3.85 to $3.60.

The chief economist also warned of rising competition from South America, as Brazil continues to expand its corn and soybean production.

The U.S. House of Representatives today approved legislation that authorizes funding for 740 new agricultural inspectors at land, air and sea ports to prevent African swine fever (ASF) and other foreign animal diseases (FAD) from entering the United States. In October 2019, the Senate approved an identical version of the bill (S. 2107), which the House approved today. Providing additional agricultural inspectors represents a top priority for the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).

“For more than a year, NPPC has advocated for more agricultural inspectors at our borders,” said NPPC President David Herring, a hog farmer from Lillington, N.C. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection have done much to mitigate risk to animal disease, but we must remain vigilant. Today’s vote represents a tremendous victory for our farmers, consumers and the American economy. We thank Congressional leadership, led by Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas) and Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), for their strong leadership on this issue and look forward to the bill’s implementation,” he added.

The legislation also authorizes 600 new agricultural technicians and 60 new agricultural canine teams.

The most likely path for a FAD to enter the country would be through the illegal transport of contaminated products. An outbreak of certain FADs would immediately close U.S. pork export markets, causing significant damage to farmers and consumers. NPPC continues to advocate for other FAD preparedness measures, including quickly establishing a U.S. Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccine bank as provided for in the 2018 Farm Bill. The United States does not currently have access to enough vaccine to quickly contain and eradicate an FMD outbreak.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of $2.7 billion for State Revolving Funds (SRFs) that assists states, tribes and territories with infrastructure projects that help protect surface water and provide safe drinking water to communities across the country. Iowa has been allocated $38.95 million for 2020.

“EPA’s decades-long commitment to water infrastructure has helped provide $180 billion in project financing to over 41,000 water quality infrastructure projects and 15,000 drinking water projects across the country,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “In the past three years, the Trump Administration has accelerated EPA’s investment in infrastructure projects that modernize our nation’s water infrastructure and improve public health and the environment.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) laid out a series of goals Thursday to make the farming sector more environmentally friendly, part of an effort to cut the carbon footprint of agriculture in half.

“It’s a stretch goal, but it should be and we think we can get there,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said at the Annual Agricultural Outlook Forum.

The USDA wants to increase production by 40 percent while cutting pollution from multiple aspects of the industry. The vision relies heavily on public-private partnerships, outlining a series of targets the USDA wants the industry to hit: reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030, reducing water pollution from nutrient loss by 30 percent by 2050 and growing enough feedstock by 2050 to have biofuels constitute 30 percent of the nation’s fuel supply. The goals also ask the farm sector to sequester more carbon in soil and trees while adopting technology and practices that could reduce agriculture's overall carbon footprint. 

“It's going to take alignment to do that between the public sector and the private sector. That's how we define doing right and feeding everyone as we go forward,” Perdue said.

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