On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its annual Rural America at a Glance report, which summarizes the status of conditions and trends in rural areas. In addition, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis recently provided details of its third quarter Agricultural Credit Conditions Survey, which follows on the heels of recent third quarter agricultural reports from four other federal reserve districts. Together, the USDA report and Minneapolis Fed update, provide some interesting perspective on the state of non-metro America.
An update last week from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis ("The worst they've ever seen," by Ashwini Sankar) explored some of the lingering impacts of this summer's severe drought in Montana and the Dakotas. The article noted that, "Recent heavy rains have brought relief to drought-stricken parts of the Ninth District, but months of dryness have exacted a heavy toll on crops, cattle herds and natural resources that is likely to weigh upon regional and local economies for months to come."
Today's update takes a closer look at recent USDA agricultural trade export data for fiscal year 2017, and then proceeds to examine recent news items that provide perspective on NAFTA trade issues from lawmakers, the Secretary of Agriculture, farmers, and Mexico.
On Thursday, the Federal Reserve Banks of Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City each released updates regarding farm income, farmland values and agricultural credit conditions from the third quarter of this year.
Recent news articles have documented that lower crop prices for commodities such as corn and soybeans have caused some producers to make changes to their traditional crop rotation, or to consider organic crop production methods. More broadly, a recent Wall Street Journal article noted that larger operations may still be able to reap profits in times of lower prices, fueling "a cycle in which size begets size" and where, "smaller-scale farmers struggle to expand their operations to become profitable."
Last week, USDA updated portions of its monthly agricultural trade data. Despite some positive indications, news reports demonstrate that concerns over the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) persist in both Mexico and the U.S. agricultural sector.
A news release on Tuesday from the American Bankers Association (ABA) stated that, "Eighty-two percent of agricultural lenders reported a decline in farm profitability in the last 12 months, according to a joint survey by the [ABA] and the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation. Despite the continued decline, the survey of more than 580 agricultural lenders revealed that the agricultural loan approval rate is 84 percent."
Jacqui Fatka reported on Friday at Farm Futures Online that, "House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, said [on October 25th] that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has sped up its analysis of farm bill provisions that the committee is considering. He told reporters that the committee is still on track to bring out a bill before the end of the year or early 2018."
A report earlier this month from USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) ("Global Ethanol Mandates: Opportunities for U.S. Exports of Ethanol and DDGS," by Jayson Beckman and Getachew Nigatu) noted that, "The increased use of ethanol globally could provide strong and diverse export market opportunities for U.S. ethanol and ethanol byproducts." Parts of the ERS report are highlighted in this update.
A recent GAIN (Global Agricultural Information Network) report by USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) took a closer look at important variables regarding biofuels and China. Today's update includes some highlights from the report, which is available in its entirety here, "China- Biofuels Annual, 'Growing Interest for Ethanol Brightens Prospects.'"