115th Congress Starts Farm Bill Discussions by Focusing on the Farm Economy

The House Agriculture Committee of the 115th Congress began laying the ground work for the next Farm Bill yesterday by holding a hearing to "review the economic challenges facing rural America." Although the majority of federal agricultural appropriations are related to nutrition issues, yesterday's hearing signaled that the rural and farm economy are priorities for the Committee and current economic conditions in the heartland "must be front and center" as the Farm Bill process begins.
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Fed Reports Show Declining Farmland Values, Tighter Credit Conditions

On Thursday, the Federal Reserve Banks of Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City each released updates regarding farmland values and agricultural credit conditions from the fourth quarter of last year. The Fed reports, which contained concerning news for farmers, came on the heels of USDA's forecast that U.S. farm incomes will drop 8.7% in 2017, and on the same day that The Wall Street Journal ran a front page story titled, "The Next Farm Bust is Coming."
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Trade Policy Uncertainty: Lingering Concern for Farmers

Recent news items suggest that anxiety in the agricultural community over Trump administration trade policy is not going away. After promising to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), floating the the idea of a 20% border tax adjustment or a tariff on Mexican imports, and pulling out of the Trans-PacifcPartnership (TPP), farmers are on edge about disruptions in export markets. In the past couple of days, from California specialty crops, to the U.S. livestock sector, to row crop growers in Nebraska and Illinois, agricultural reporters have scrutinized the potential impact of obstacles in agricultural trade flows. Other articles have shown that the future outcomes of trade policy remain uncertain.
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Farm Economy Variables – A Checkup

A complex mix of agricultural economic variables help form the basis of what farmers and ranchers consider essential policy priorities. As Farm Bill conversations have already begun, today's update looks very briefly at several issues such as farm lending, production costs, commodity stock levels, and biofuels that have gained recent attention in the news.
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Trade Policy with Mexico- Farmer Apprehension

Reuters writers Tom Polansek and Mark Weinraub reported on Tuesday that, "U.S. food producers and shippers are trying to speed up exports to Mexico and line up alternative markets as concerns rise that this lucrative business could be at risk if clashes over trade and immigration between the Trump administration and Mexico City escalate."
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Water Quality– Iowa Case Resolves One Issue, Clean Water Act Permitting Issue Remains Open

Nutrient-impacted water runoff from farm fields can have environmental consequences. A case filed by Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) involving financial damages from treatment of this water recently made its way to the Iowa Supreme Court. On Friday, January 27, the Iowa Supreme Court resolved one issue associated with the DMWW case; however, non-point source permitting issues under the Clean Water Act will still be considered by a trial court in June.
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