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Thursday 3/12/20 Farm News

Coronavirus Closes Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

One of the largest agricultural-based events of the year closed Wednesday for public safety reasons, amid the spread of the new coronavirus. In a statement, organizers of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo said, “In the interest of public health, the City of Houston and the Houston Health Department have ordered the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to close.” The statement continues, saying, “Having to close early is extremely difficult as guests, volunteers, exhibitors, rodeo athletes and entertainers look forward to the 20 days of the Rodeo each year. In 2019, there were more than 2.5 million visitors to the event from 75 countries. The World Health Organization declared a pandemic Wednesday, sparking a chain reaction of events getting postponed or canceled because of the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The American Farm Bureau Federation also announced the cancellation of its Young Farmer And Ranchers conference set for this weekend in Louisville, Kentucky.

NPPC Seeks Labor Solutions for Potential COVID-19 Impact

The fallout from an ongoing labor shortage facing the U.S. pork industry and other agriculture sectors could significantly worsen due to the impact of COVID-19, according to the National Pork Producers Council. A letter sent to government officials this week outlines NPPC’s labor specific concerns regarding the outbreak. There is no evidence that pigs can contract the virus. However, NPPC called for expedited solutions addressing the need for more workers on hog farms and in pork plants. It also called on federal, state and local governments to work together to develop a response to COVID-19 that protects public health and, whenever possible, supports animal care and minimizes disruptions to the U.S. pork supply chain. NPPC also called on the administration to develop support plans for hog farmers if labor-related bottlenecks in the supply chain prevent hogs from being marketed. Even without the additional challenge presented by COVID-19, NPPC says the labor shortage threatens to increase production costs and food prices for consumers.

Dairy Farmers Descend on Capitol Hill

Dairy farmers from the National Milk Producers Federation are in Washington, D.C., this week visiting with lawmakers. The visits are part of a fly-in calling for an agricultural labor bill that could be reconciled with a plan the House approved last year, providing the stable, secure labor force U.S. dairy producers need. U.S. dairy producers face labor shortages that are more intense than those felt in agriculture as a whole because they cannot use the H-2A farmworker program, which only provides for seasonal labor rather than the year-round workers dairy needs. With domestic workers in short supply and foreign labor difficult to employ under current policies, dairy farmers are urging lawmakers to find solutions. of NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern says, “The situation is dire,” adding “uncertainty on the farm harms individuals and rural communities that rely on those farms to generate jobs.” The House of Representatives in December passed bipartisan legislation allowing for year-round visas in dairy as part of the first ag-labor bill to pass that chamber since 1986.

Farm Groups Disappointed Over Potential SRE Appeal

A group of farm organizations expresses disappointment over the Trump Administration contemplating an appeal to a court ruling striking down three small refinery waivers. The petitioners in the case—the Renewable Fuels Association, National Corn Growers Association, American Coalition for Ethanol, and National Farmers Union, say, “the Administration has opted to kick the can on deciding whether to appeal the court decision.” Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit approved requests by the Department of Justice for an extension of the deadline to file motions asking for a rehearing. The new deadline for requesting a rehearing is March 24. The Court found the Environmental Protection Agency vastly exceeded its authority in granting compliance exemptions to three refineries from 2016 and 2018 Renewable Fuel Standard obligations. The farm groups say the delay “just prolongs uncertainty in the marketplace and stokes more angst and frustration in farm country.” They say rural America would view an appeal by the Administration as a “senseless poke in the eye.”

Farm Debt Just Short of Record Levels

A new analysis shows total farm debt is near record levels and farm real estate debt is at an all-time high. Agricultural Economic Insights found that today, total debt stands at $425 billion, just short of the 1981 peak of $440 billion. However, the annual increase from 2000 to 2020 has been achieved through the relatively consistent small increases in debt, as opposed to a rapid run-up. Meanwhile, at $264 billion, real estate debt is well beyond any levels seen in history. Since 2000, real estate debt has grown at an average annual rate of four percent per year. This has caused real estate debt to more than double over that time period. The analysis says at present, it would seem that the current levels are sustainable, but with little room for further growth, adding, that while it is quite likely that the sector will navigate through this territory with few problems, it also removes some of the room for error.

Pet Food Manufacturers Feed America’s Pets and Agricultural Economy

New research finds that U.S. pet food manufacturers provide balanced, safe meals for America’s dogs and cats, and also stimulate the overall agricultural economy. The Institute for Feed Education and Research, North American Renderers Association, and Pet Food Institute released a new the jointly funded report Wednesday. The research found that through the purchase of ingredients, labor and services from related industries, the $30 billion pet food industry gives back to the agricultural economy by using 8.65 million tons of animal- and plant-based ingredients for dog and cat food to provide the nutrition that pets need, at a value of $6.9 billion. The data shows that pet food manufacturers use an estimated 3.8 million tons of animal-based products, such as rendered products or meat and poultry. Pet food manufacturers also use 4 million tons of farm and farm-product processor ingredients, such as grains, soy products and fruits and vegetables, and approximately 200,000 tons of seafood products. Many of these ingredients are left over from making food for people.


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