House Ag Committee Hearing with Sec. Perdue: Trade Issues

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue testified before the House Agriculture Committee on Tuesday morning  at a hearing on the “State of the Rural Economy.”  Recall that back in May, shortly after his confirmation, Sec. Perdue also provided lawmakers on the Committee with an update on rural economic issues.  Trade issues with China and the ongoing renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) were among the key concerns that emerged on Tuesday.
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Kansas City Fed: Ag Lending and Interest Expenses Increase for Farmers

An update on Friday from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City ("Agricultural Lending Increases, As Do Interest Expenses for Farmers," by Cortney Cowley  and John McCoy) stated that, "Lending at agricultural banks increased sharply in the fourth quarter, after appearing to stabilize in previous quarters. Large loans drove the increase in farm lending, which may heighten concerns about cash flow in 2018 as interest rates have continued to rise steadily."
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Focus on SNAP, the Largest Farm Bill Program

Today's update looks briefly at the SNAP (food stamps) program within the Farm Bill.  The USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) released a report on Thursday that examined the program in detail.  This update looks at core points from the ERS report with particular focus on issues relating to "block granting" the program to States, and program work requirements.
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Trade Update: Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), China, and NAFTA

Jacob M. Schlesinger reported on Tuesday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, "Eleven Pacific Rim nations agreed to forge a new trade bloc [TPP] that excludes the U.S. on Tuesday, as President Donald Trump signed an order to block certain cheap Asian imports [Chinese makers of solar panels and South Korean producers of washing machines], illustrating the battle lines of a new global trade climate."
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Ag Economy: 2018 Outlook from CoBank; and Farmland Values

CoBank recently released a new report that explored a variety of issues that will impact the U.S. rural economy in 2018.  In addition, recent newspaper articles have discussed reports relating to the value of U.S. farmland.  This update briefly highlights core points from the CoBank report, and also looks at the new information on farmland values.
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Farm Bill: Budget Impasse Could Impact Congressional To-Do List

Los Angeles Times writer Lisa Mascaro reported late last week that, "The federal government began shutting down early Saturday after a flurry of dramatic, last-minute negotiations failed to end the congressional deadlock over a spending bill before a midnight deadline." However, a New York Times article from Sunday noted that, "The government shutdown will enter its third day. Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, delayed a procedural vote on a stopgap spending bill until noon on Monday, as a bipartisan group of senators appeared to be inching toward a compromise." The ongoing budget standoff could create increased uncertainty with respect to the Congressional to-do list, including the Farm Bill.
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Kansas City Fed Ag Outlook- Robust Corn, Soybean Production Make Exports Increasingly Important

Cortney Cowley, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, indicated in an update last week ("As Winter Looms, Key Risks Keep Ag Outlook Cool") that, "Following steep declines for three consecutive years, farm income was expected to stabilize in 2017 and beyond. In inflation-adjusted dollars, real net farm income was forecast to be relatively unchanged from 2016."
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