Yesterday's Wall Street Journal included a special section on agricultural issues. The section included several articles that covered a variety of different topics ranging from urban farming, to creative new uses for crops, to export shipping issues. Today's update highlights articles in yesterday's paper that focused on farmer's adaptation to weather changes, the use of big data, and the ultrafiltered milk trade dispute with Canada.
Donnelle Eller reported on the front page of Friday's Des Moines Register that, "Opening markets for U.S. corn, soybeans and other farm goods would get more attention under a major reorganization proposal Thursday from U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue, who wants to create a new undersecretary for trade. With the farm downturn entering a fourth year, ag groups lauded the move."
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 first quarter of this year. Today's update provides a brief overview of yesterday's reports.
The Senate Ag Committee held its second Farm Bill hearing on Saturday in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Chairman Pat Roberts (R., Kans.) pointed out that, unlike when the last Farm Bill was drafted, the U.S. agricultural economy is struggling right now. At a press briefing at the conclusion of the hearing, he indicated that trade was an important variable in assisting with the current low price environment. A variety of important issues were discussed by witnesses on Saturday, in two separate panels; today's update highlights remarks that were made on trade, crop insurance, the Conservation Reserve Program, the dairy program, and the SNAP program.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue visited an Iowa farm on Friday and took questions from producers. In his remarks, Secretary Perdue addressed a number of issues; today's update focuses more narrowly on his comments relating to trade and biofuels. Also, Secretary Perdue was in Arkansas on Sunday to survey flood damage with Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson.
Today's update looks briefly at the U.S. agricultural economy from a variety of perspectives. A recent news report has shown that some Corn Belt producers may be losing money from farming this year, while a survey of agricultural lenders this month demonstrates that many are concerned about commodity prices, liquidity and farm income. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has stated that U.S. farmers won't be worse off if NAFTA is renegotiated, and adverse weather conditions continue to adversely impact farmers and ranchers in the Nation's midsection.
A deal reached on Sunday to fund the federal government through September, did not include assistance for programs sought by cotton and dairy producers. House Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R., Tex.) expressed disappointment with this result and reassured farmers and ranchers that he and many of his colleagues "are fully committed to correcting this wrong and seeing them through their current economic challenges.”
During last week's tumultuous developments on trade, news reports indicated that Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue was providing President Trump with data driven advice with respect to NAFTA and agriculture, and urged him not to trigger a U.S. withdrawal from the trade accord. Nonetheless, recent remarks from a Senator from Mexico regarding corn imports, and potential NAFTA renegotiation issues means trade policy will likely remain an ongoing concern for Illinois producers and farmers throughout the U.S.
A recent article from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis discussed the downward economic trajectory that has impacted the U.S. farm economy in recent years. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, in remarks this week to USDA employees, noted that trade is an area that could help provide relief for surplus stocks. News reports yesterday indicated that President Trump could sign an executive action withdrawing the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement; since NAFTA's implementation, U.S. agricultural trade has grown significantly. However, subsequent news developments explained that Trump had decided not to pull out of NAFTA. Many in the agricultural sector are already anxious about U.S. trade policy, yesterday's executive branch actions on trade may not alleviate ongoing concerns.
After a two week break, lawmakers returned to Washington, D.C. this week to face a variety of issues, including a Senate confirmation vote for Sonny Perdue to be the new Secretary of Agriculture, as well as a looming federal budget deadline on Friday. While on Easter recess, several lawmakers had the opportunity to discuss the next Farm Bill and agricultural policy issues with constituents. Topics included: cotton support, dairy, trade, crop insurance, and conservation policy.