On Thursday, the Senate Agriculture Committee held a Farm Bill hearing that focused on nutrition programs and the 2018 Farm Bill. This was the Committee's eighth Farm Bill hearing, and followed field hearings in both Kansas and Michigan, as well as Committee meetings on the farm economy, agricultural research, conservation issues and commodity, credit, and crop insurance programs. The hearing focused on fraud in the SNAP program (food stamps), and specifically highlighted program payment error rates and misreporting of program costs by some states.
Cole Epley and Barbara Soderlin reported on the front page of the Money section in Friday's Omaha World-Herald that, "Farmers heading into harvest season have reason to believe the nation’s struggling agriculture economy won’t get much worse. Still, there is only faint hope that it will get much better anytime soon."
Last month, the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) at the University of Missouri released its latest baseline update for U.S. agricultural markets. Recall that in its March baseline report, FAPRI indicated that, "The latest analysis of national and global agricultural trends from the University of Missouri indicates continued financial pressure on United States farm sector." Today's post summarizes highlights from the August FAPRI baseline report, which noted that, "the outlook now is more nuanced."
On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve Board released its August 2017 Beige Book update, a summary of commentary on current economic conditions by Federal Reserve District. The report included several observations pertaining to the U.S. agricultural economy.
The U.S., Mexico and Canada concluded a second round of NAFTA discussions yesterday as President Trump has continued to criticize the trade measure. Meanwhile, concerns surfaced over the weekend about the possibility of a U.S. withdrawal from the South Korean trade pact that went into force in 2012. However, subsequent remarks from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer yesterday appeared to mitigate the likelihood of that happening. President Tump's recent trade activity was strongly criticized in an opinion column today by Robert B. Zoellick, a former World Bank president, U.S. trade representative and deputy secretary of state. Today's update provides an overview of recent news articles highlighting these trade issues, which have important implications for U.S. agricultural producers.
Yesterday, the USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) released its August 2017 Farm Income Forecast. This was the first revision of the initial net farm income forecast released by ERS in February. Today's update provides a recap of highlights from the farm income forecast. As the discussion over the next Farm Bill continues, the ERS update provides an important reference point regarding the current status of the U.S. farm economy.
Today's update continues the focus on news items highlighting the attention Representatives and Senators placed on Farm Bill issues during the August recess. As lawmakers get set to return to Washington, D.C. next week, today's update provides an overview of some of this summer's Farm Bill constituent engagements, and also looks briefly at news articles describing the current state of the agricultural economy.
Earlier this month, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report titled, "Farm Safety-Net Payments Under the 2014 Farm Bill: Comparison by Program Crop," which stated in part that, "Through the first three years of the 2014 farm bill (2014 through 2016), USDA has spent over $38 billion on commodity-specific farm program outlays. Annually, commodity-specific outlays are estimated at $12.7 billion per year, including $7.5 billion for CCC [Commodity Credit Corporation] programs and $5.2 billion in FCIC [Federal Crop Insurance Corporation] crop insurance premium subsidies." Today's update focuses on several highlights of the CRS report.
Sara Schaefer-Munoz and Bob Davis reported in Monday's Wall Street Journal that, "[In the opening-round of talks to remake the North American Free Trade Agreement] which concluded Sunday, the [U.S., Mexico, and Canada] said in a trilateral statement they had made 'detailed conceptual presentations' of their positions and were working toward 'an ambitious outcome' through a fast-paced schedule of negotiations. Early tensions over areas such as the so-called rules of origin—a major issue for the automotive industry—signaled the tough bargaining that lies ahead as the three nations try to wrap up a deal by early next year."
Today's update discusses rural broadband issues and federal regulatory action that was taken this month to help close the digital divide in Rural America. The update also touches on a couple of legislative proposals regarding broadband expansion, and highlights a recent USDA survey that documents how many farmers are using the Internet and how they are currently connecting.