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Articles from 2019 In April

DFP-USHouse-Delegation.jpg U.S. House Ag Committee
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota led a bipartisan Congressional delegation to Brazil and Argentina last week to discuss ag trade relations.

Delegation to South, Central America examines U.S. trade policy impacts

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota and a bipartisan delegation of Members of Congress met last week with President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and President Mauricio Macri of Argentina as part of a trip to review the agricultural trading relationships between the United States and those nations, as well as what downstream effects of changes in U.S. trade policy is having on competing producers in South America. The delegation also met with U.S. armed forces personnel stationed at Joint Task Force Bravo and Soto Cano Air Force Base in Honduras.

“Brazil and Argentina have been both strategic allies in Western Hemisphere politics and strong competitors in ag markets,” said Peterson. “I wanted to see firsthand the state of our relationship with these countries, as well as the state of their agriculture industries to determine what openings the Administration’s trade policy has created for our competition.”

In Brazil, the delegation toured corn, cotton, and soybean producing regions, and reviewed the infrastructure capacity of industry to meet export demand.

“We were fortunate to see a lot of Brazilian agriculture and one thing that stood out was the quality of the crop there,” said Peterson. “These guys are double cropping corn and cotton and getting fantastic yield on both, with a good-looking crop. They’ve got in many cases better access to new traits and new technologies than our guys, and they’re right on our heels. Right now it costs the Brazilians as much as twice what it costs us to ship soybeans to China, so we’ve still got an advantage, but we’ve got to invest in our own infrastructure—things like locks and dams and ports—if we want to stay ahead of them.”

During meetings with President Bolsonaro, the delegation learned that the country is looking to attract billions in private investment to improve the country’s infrastructure, and in particular the capacity of its agricultural supply chain.

“President Bolsonaro is actively looking to close that gap, and there are plenty of investors in places that demand the products that our countries produce who are willing to step in and provide the funding to do it,” Peterson said.

In Argentina, the delegation spoke with President Macri, as well as members of the biodiesel processing and soybean industries, on the landscape facing Argentinian agriculture.

“We also heard a lot about biodiesel in Argentina,” said Peterson. “The folks in Argentina face a strange situation: because of the government’s tax structure, at times it has been cheaper for them to produce and export biodiesel to the U.S. than it is to sell it there in Argentina,” Peterson said. “In 2018, our Commerce Department put anti-dumping duties on Argentine biodiesel which lowered how much they sold to the U.S. Then, their government raised their export tax from 8 to 15 percent to match the 15 percent export tax on whole soybeans. What’s helping to relieve the pressure is that the export taxes on whole soybeans and soybean meal are now even so they are exporting more beans to the Chinese. What’s unfortunate for our farmers is that some of those sales are beans the Chinese used to buy from us.”

“Overall, my takeaway from the trip is that as competitive as the South Americans are, they will only become stronger with time, and our missteps on trade policy are only helping them along in that effort,” added Peterson. “It’s only a matter of time before investments to improve infrastructure cut in to our competitive advantage, and the Chinese are happy to buy everything the South Americans can grow until we figure our trade mess out. That doesn’t fill me with a lot of confidence.”

Source: U.S. House Agriculture Committee, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.
Dan Kowalski Farm Foundation Forum.jpg Jacqui Fatka
Dan Kowalski, economist and vice president of CoBank's Knowledge Exchange Division, speaks at Farm Foundation forum, titled, Agricultural Trade in a Time of Uncertainty.

New round of farm trade aid possible

Overall, the U.S. economy is strong, but the latest report from the U.S. Department of Commerce reveals ongoing economic stress for farmers. As such, it may warrant another round of trade aid, according to statements from White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow.

"We have allocated $12 billion, some such, to farm assistance, and we stand ready to do more, if necessary," Kudlow told reporters, according to wire reports.

Kudlow made the statements in light of the latest numbers, which showed that the first round of trade aid was buoyed by the trade aid issued in the last quarter. However, earnings plunged by an annualized $11.8 billion in the January to March period, according to seasonally adjusted data.

As of April 29, 2019, $8.43 billion had been paid to producers under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market Facilitation Program (MFP). USDA received nearly 600,000 applications. MFP provided up to $10.2 billion for payments to corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, wheat, fresh sweet cherries and shelled almonds. Previously, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue indicated that there would not be another round of trade aid in 2019, as farmers could make planting decisions in 2019 to account for the current market situation. 

While speaking at a Farm Foundation trade forum in Washington, D.C., on April 30, Dan Kowalski, economist and vice president of CoBank's Knowledge Exchange Division, said although farmers represent only 1-2% of the total U.S. population, the latest report reveals that their hurt has hit the mainstream.

Although farmers continue to say they want “trade, not aid,” Kowalski said until the many trade issues are resolved, they still need aid, too.

“Many farmers are thankful for a bridge, if necessary, and it is necessary right now,” Kowalski said of the trade aid. He noted that the payments in the fourth quarter helped many farmers get through 2018. “The severity of pain was masked down right now because of the payments,” he said.

Joanna Lidback, a small dairy farmer from Vermont, noted that the trade aid offered under MFP in dairy amounted to less than one month’s electricity bill, or 6 cents/cwt. “We will take any help we can get, but what we want is a fair price through trade,” Lidback said.

Pete Kappelman, Land O’Lakes senior vice president, member and government relations, said the trade situation and retaliatory tariffs have made the downturn in the agricultural economy even tougher. When farm prices are positive, farmers are good at spending that money locally.

Often, the agriculture industry is termed the “point of the spear” in the trade war. Kappelman said in order to win in spear warfare, there’s going to be blood on the tip of spear; “I think that’s what we’re seeing.”

Kowalski added that policy-makers need to remember that these payments are not sustainable going forward. However, when speaking earlier, he also outlined the many issues that have arisen from the trade skirmishes. The top five markets for U.S. agricultural goods are also the same ones that the Trump Administration has targeted in its trade focus.

“The reality is that as long as we are disrupting markets, and really, as we’ve encouraged China to put a tariff on some of our products, there is all the incentive in the world to expand soybean acres. I foresee that happening for several years,” Kowalski said. The direct and indirect impacts on the health of the agricultural economy and ability to compete will only become more important going forward.

“The playing board just got a little bit more competitive for all the players,” Kowalski noted.

Kowalski added that while the U.S. is wrestling with China and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the European Union continues to be on the offensive and has also reached free trade agreements with major trading partners Mexico, Japan and Canada. “They will continue to look for more opportunities and have the opportunity to fill the gap that we left,” he said.

Richard Crowder, former chief agricultural negotiator, added that since the last U.S. free trade agreement (with Panama) entered into force, the EU has entered into seven new agreements and has a handful more in the works.

“If you look at top Asian markets that USDA identified in 2017, which accounted for 30% of our exports, all of these markets have free trade agreements with a competitor of ours,” Crowder said. “We’re losing market share and profits because of our global free trade agreement position.”

The Grazier's Gazette
Natural cow at ease in her environment Alan Newport
The idea of a "natural cow" from former Colorado rancher Chip Hines is an idea worth examining.

Reiterating the idea of a "natural cow"

Chip Hines, a retired Colorado rancher, has written a very good article he titles “The natural cow.” His ideas are sound.

In his brief, Hines spells out a lot of what is wrong with the cattle business today and how we can go about making improvements. He does not recommend any of the exotic fixes – gene splicing, intensive single-trait selection with EPDs, or even the whole range of pesticides, growth promoters and medications deemed absolutely necessary by conventional management wisdom.

He holds the strange belief that many, perhaps most, of the problems such as poor profitability, internal and external parasites, sickness, poor reproductive performance, which are tormenting cattle and cattle people can be alleviated simply by selecting for the traits that contribute to animals being healthy, productive and low-cost to produce.

He would have us believe the cow that offers the most benefit to an operation that must turn a profit is one that has not been “improved” by selective breeding to fix traits seen as desirable today. Things like heavy milking, scant body fat, heavy weaning weights, and high dressing percentages (read that fish-bellied) are not in the description of a natural cow.

Cattle evolved over long periods of time to be well suited to survive in the environment they inhabited. Likewise their preferred habitat, grasslands, evolved along with cattle and other grazing animals in an interdependent and mutually beneficial partnership. All this took place without the benefit of 2-4,D or fly tags.

It happened through natural selection of both animals and members of the plant community. The organisms best suited to the conditions present produced the most and the healthiest offspring. The animals less suited – the cow that dropped her calf in a snow bank in January or the bull that couldn’t stack on body fat for winter use – didn’t leave a lot of offspring. Extreme types of all sorts do not fare well in nature. Only after humans became powerful could things like the suitcase cattle of the 1950s or the race horse cattle of the 1970s come into being. We got more powerful but not necessarily smarter.

Hines ventures deeper into heresy by suggesting that the time, labor and money spent putting up and feeding out hay would yield much greater rewards if spent improving the ability to practice good rest-rotation grazing management. This sort of thinking flies in the face of current recommendations from university for cattle production and is based on the rather old-fashioned notion that a cow can, quite cheaply, fill most (all) of her nutritional needs by grazing. This is true provided the cow is the natural, unaltered type. It is not true for the oversized, gutless wonders preferred by the feedlots.

The people who have resisted the call to increase production per head and instead focused on profit per acre and/or profit per dollar invested find that their costs of production are a fraction of the “average” costs bandied about by industry spokespeople. With this alternate way of thinking, it is true that dollars per individual calf will be less, but profitability of the operation will increase dramatically.

I have mentioned it before, but in my misguided youth I spent a lot of time and effort transforming a set of rather small but profitable cows into a set of large unprofitable cows. I was doing it right, according to the experts, but I almost broke the ranch before I woke up to the fact that to be sustainable, production must be profitable.

The amount of money coming in is not nearly as important as the difference between what is coming in and what is going out. The easiest way to gain profitability is to reduce costs in ways that have little or no negative effects on income. There are many ways to do this but one of the best is to select for Hines’s natural cow and then copy nature’s management plan. Match forage demand to forage supply by timing periods of heavy demand, such as calving or rapid growth of yearlings, to occur during periods of forage abundance. Look for ways not to reduce the cost of a practice, but rather for ways to do away with the need for the practice.

You can read the whole of Hines's natural cow essay on my website, He also has three other books worth reading if you have any interest in making money in the cattle business on Amazon: How did we get it so wrong, Time to change, and A slantwise guide to prosperity. They are all valuable. While you are on Amazon, check out the new book from Tony Winslett and myself: Do your strawberries taste red?

concrete being poured at HHD site

Husker Harvest Days to add International Visitors Center

Husker Harvest Days and Nebraska’s Gov. Pete Ricketts, Department of Economic Development and Department of Agriculture have joined forces to expand awareness and significance of the state’s agriculture and related economic opportunities among international businesses and visitors. A multi-year plan for increased global engagement is in place that includes a new International Visitors Center to be unveiled during 2019 Husker Harvest Days, Sept. 10-12, near Grand Island, Nebraska.

As a premier national agricultural event, HHD already attracts exhibitors and visitors from around the world. Its major site upgrades in 2018 including paved streets, upgraded buildings and many additional visitor and exhibitor comfort features, position it as the nation’s most modern outdoor ag event facility. The show is to be used as a central hosting platform to help accelerate the state’s plans for expanding international business investment. HHD is a Farm Progress event.

“We are excited and pleased to work with the state of Nebraska on this international business and visitor program,” said Matt Jungmann, Farm Progress events director. “We had an exceptional show in 2018 to unveil the extensive facility upgrades for HHD and this year we look forward to hosting farmers and ranchers from across the state, nation and world with the state’s new international business development program. With the new site upgrades, exhibitors and events already planned, 2019 is shaping-up to be an exceptional event.”

The increased international engagement effort at HHD is part of a larger effort outlined by the Governor’s Council for International Relations in Nebraska, which was detailed by the state in last year’s Strategic Plan for International Engagement. This is not only reflected in Farm Progress’ increased participation in trade missions including Agritechnica this fall, but also their support of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development as it is set to unveil and host the new International Visitors Center at the upcoming HHD.

“Husker Harvest Days presents a unique opportunity to showcase the productivity and innovation of Nebraska agriculture to the global ag community,” Ricketts said. “We have been successfully growing Nebraska by pursuing new export opportunities for our farmers and ranchers abroad, and this event will bring some of our customers right to our door step. We look forward to welcoming our international guests to Wood River for Husker Harvest Days.”

More show details are available at Companies interested in participating or becoming an international guest should contact Adrienne Cavill,

Practical peanut planting tips not to forget in 2019

Southeast peanut farmers started easing planters into fields last week or bit before, but it will be game on over the next month to get the 2019 peanut crop in the ground.

As of April 29, about 9 percent of Georgia's peanut crop had been planted, according to the USDA Georgia Crop and Conditions Report, and that pace is right on par with the five-year average rate.

Dr. Scott Tubbs, cropping systems agronomist with the University of Georgia, provides in the 2019 UGA Peanut Production Quick Reference Guide practical tips to help growers get their 2019 peanut crops off on the best foot. After last year’s late-season devastation by Hurricane Michael across a major part of the U.S. peanut belt, growers need all the advantages and luck they can get all season long this year.

The UGA Peanut Team is charged with providing growers with useable, science-backed recommendations all season long and their efforts can be followed at

farm workers Getty Getty Images
A survey of California farmers and ranchers finds they continue to encounter shortages in workers.

CFBF: Farms face continuing worker shortages

Despite taking a variety of steps to alleviate chronic shortages of agricultural employees, the Golden State's farmers and ranchers continue to report problems in hiring enough people for on-farm jobs, according to a new survey.

The survey released today shows 56 percent of participating farmers had been unable to hire all the employees they needed at some point during the previous five years.

The voluntary survey of 1,071 farmers and ranchers, conducted by the California Farm Bureau Federation in collaboration with the University of California-Davis, also indicated worsening problems the past two years. Of those farmers reporting employee shortages, at least 70 percent said they had more trouble hiring employees in 2017 and 2018.

“The survey shows farmers have tried and are trying all the tactics available to them, such as increased wages, changes in farming and cropping patterns, use of the existing H-2A visa program and automation where appropriate,” CFBF President Jamie Johansson said. “The missing element is an improved agricultural immigration system, to match willing employees with farm employers.”

The great majority of California farmers responding to the survey—86 percent—said they had raised wages in efforts to hire enough people. Sixty-one percent reported they had hired a farm labor contractor to recruit employees. More than half reported they have started using mechanization and of those, 56 percent said it was due to employee shortages.

Thirty-seven percent said they had adjusted cultivation practices, for example by reducing or delaying weeding and pruning. About one-third, 31 percent, said they are switching acreage.

Some interest in H-2A

More farmers have also sought to hire people via the H-2A agricultural visa program, but only about 6 percent of surveyed farmers said they had enrolled in it.

“Through the years, the H-2A program has proven inadequate for farms in California and throughout the nation,” Johansson said. “Farm Bureau will continue to work with Congress to create a secure, flexible, market-based immigration program that works better for both farmers and farm employees.”

In terms of the proportion of farmers reporting employee shortages, the 2019 results are similar to a CFBF survey in 2017, which showed 55 percent of farmers experiencing shortages.

A full survey report is available on the CFBF website at

The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of nearly 36,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of nearly 5.6 million Farm Bureau members.

Source: California Farm Bureau Federation, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.
Irrigation canal Tim Hearden
An irrigation canal brings water to citrus and other crops in and around the University of California’s Lindcove Research and Extension Center near Visalia, Calif.., in August 2018. Water shortages in the area have led to an overreliance on wells.

State water board issues SGMA fact sheets

The State Water Resources Control Board has released new fact sheets on the following topics to assist with implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act:

  • Probationary Designation and Groundwater Regulation by the State Water Board
  • Stakeholder Inclusion
  • State and Regional Water Boards basics
  • Funding Opportunities for Groundwater Sustainability Agencies
  • Beneficial Use and Underground Water Storage Projects

These fact sheets, as well as a cover letter transmitting this information to the groundwater sustainability agencies, are available at the following website:

Source: California Citrus Mutual, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.
NAFTA and the beef industry AlexLMX / Thinkstock

Mulvaney talks NAFTA, USMCA

by Justin Sink and Jenny Leonard

White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney raised the possibility that the existing NAFTA trade agreement could remain in effect if Democrats reject a replacement that the Trump administration negotiated with Canada and Mexico.

“You could stay status quo," Mulvaney said Tuesday at the Milken Institute’s conference in Los Angeles. “You could withdraw from NAFTA, which the president has talked about many, many times. Or you could go all the way back to the beginning and renegotiate from scratch with the Canadians and the Mexicans. I can assure you -- I think it’s fair to say that last thing is unlikely to happen.”

“Your real two Plan Bs are either NAFTA or withdraw from NAFTA,” he said.

The U.S., Canada and Mexico signed the successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement in November, after a year of negotiations to rewrite the 25-year-old pact. The president, however, has said for months that the existing NAFTA will be killed, either by Congress passing his USMCA deal or because Trump will withdraw the U.S. from the old agreement if Congress fails to approve the new deal.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has stressed that putting lawmakers in such a bind is “not a good idea.”

The White House hasn’t submitted legislation to Congress yet to implement the USMCA. The Democrat-controlled House would have to approve such legislation, and Pelosi and her caucus have signaled that multiple roadblocks -- including labor enforcement as well as drug pricing provisions -- need to be addressed within the deal before the administration can send the bill up for a vote.

Lawmakers in Canada and Mexico also still need to ratify the pact.

To contact the reporters on this story:

Justin Sink in Washington at;

Jenny Leonard in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story:

Alex Wayne at

Justin Blum, Andrew Mayeda

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Shasta College students learning to vaccinate cows Tim Hearden
Students at Shasta College in Redding, Calif., learn to vaccinate cows. The University of California is offering scholarships to college students learning about agriculture.

UC offers scholarships to study agriculture

Three scholarships are being offered by the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources for college students majoring in agriculture. The scholarships will be awarded for the 2019-20 academic year. The deadline to apply or nominate for the scholarships is May 6, 2019.


Amount:  $2500 – two awarded each year, one each at UC Berkeley and UC Davis

The Knowles A. Ryerson Award in Agriculture is awarded annually to a foreign undergraduate student in a college of agriculture at UC Berkeley and UC Davis, in any curriculum, preferably after completion of the junior year. Students must be nominated by UC faculty or academic advisors. The $2,500 award is made on the basis of high scholarship, outstanding character and promise of leadership. One recipient will be selected from the Berkeley campus and one from the Davis campus.


Amount:  $5,000 – one awarded each year

The Howard Walton Clark Prize in Plant Breeding and Soil Building is given to a senior student in a college of agriculture at UC Berkeley, UC Davis or UC Riverside who seems to show the greatest promise. Students must be a senior at some point during the 2018-19 academic year and nominated by UC faculty or academic advisors. Selection for the $5,000 scholarship is based on high scholastic achievement, talent for independent research and other characteristics, with particular reference to either plant breeding (leading to new/improved crops and new/improved varieties using appropriate tools) or soil building (leading to improving soil quality related to soil productivity and sustainability as a resource).


Amount: $1,000 – one awarded each year

The $1,000 Bill and Jane Fischer Vegetation Management Scholarship will be given to promising students with demonstrated interest in vegetation management (weed control) careers. Students from any accredited California university are eligible, with preference given to graduate students. The recipient will have an academic major and emphasis in one of the following areas (listed in order of preference): 

  • Vegetation management in agricultural crop production;
  • Plant science with emphasis on vegetation management in horticultural crops, agronomic or vegetable crops;
  • Soils and plant nutrition with emphasis on field, vegetable crop relationships;
  • Agricultural engineering with emphasis on developing tools for vegetation management;
  • Agricultural botany with emphasis on weed biology and weed ecology;
  • Plant pathology with emphasis on integrated vegetation management;
  • Plant protection and pest management with emphasis on field, vegetable, or horticultural crop relationships; or
  • Agricultural economics with emphasis on vegetation management in field, vegetable or horticultural crops.

For more information about the scholarships and nomination and application processes, visit

Source: University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.
Mick Mulvaney, Assistant to the President and Acting Chief of Staff, The White House, participates in a panel discussion during the annual Milken Institute Global Conference Michael Kovac/Contributor/Getty Images Entertainment
Mick Mulvaney, Assistant to the President and Acting Chief of Staff, The White House, participates in a panel discussion during the annual Milken Institute Global Conference at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on April 30, 2019, in Beverly Hills, California.

Mulvaney says U.S. ready to walk if no China trade deal soon

by Saleha Mohsin and Andrew Mayeda

The White House is ramping up pressure to reach a trade deal with China in the next two weeks, warning that the U.S. is prepared to walk away from the negotiations.

“It won’t go on forever,” Mick Mulvaney, President Donald Trump’s acting chief of staff, said Tuesday at an event in Los Angeles. “At some point in any negotiation you go, ‘we’re close to getting something done so we’re going to keep going.’ On the other hand, at some point you throw up your hands and say ‘this is never going anywhere.’”

“You’ll know one way or the other in the next couple of weeks,” Mulvaney said, speaking at the Milken Institute Global Conference. There’s no “fever” on the part of the White House to finalize an accord, he added.

After four months of intense negotiations, the Trump administration is making its impatience known, in a shift from mostly optimistic messaging about the prospect of a deal to end their trade war that’s resulted in tariffs on $360 billion of each other’s goods. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are in Beijing this week for the latest round of talks, with Vice Premier Liu He expected to visit Washington next week.

Mnuchin has said that there’s a strong desire from both sides to wrap up the talks or move on. Following the next two rounds, U.S. officials hope to “either recommend to the president we have a deal or make a recommendation that we don’t,” Mnuchin said in a taped interview broadcast Monday on the Fox program “Mornings with Maria.”

A collapse of negotiations might reverse momentum in the world’s two-largest economies, dousing hopes that the world economy might be able to shake off trade-war risks. The conflict has weighed on confidence and dented shipments, with nine of the 10 gauges tracked by Bloomberg to assess the health of global trade below their average midpoint.

--With assistance from Justin Sink and Sonali Basak.

To contact the reporters on this story:

Saleha Mohsin in Washington at;

Andrew Mayeda in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story:

Brendan Murray at

Sarah McGregor, Joshua Gallu

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.