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Government

“Two years ago, in February 2017 in Manhattan, Kans., the journey began toward a new farm bill,” said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kans.). “It started the way we should legislate. We listened to more than 90 witnesses that day from around the country.” 

Thousands of public comments followed as the Senate process continued, and Roberts traveled across the country “to hear directly from growers.” 

Roberts commented, “My good friend Barry Flinchbaugh from Kansas State University told me, ‘You just sit on the wagon tongue with farmers and listen to what we need or don’t need,’ and that’s what we did.”

During a Feb. 5 forum, hosted by The Farm Foundation, Roberts was a member of a panel discussing implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill, called the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018.

“The 2018 Farm Bill provides much certainty and predictability to all farmers in all regions and all crops, as promised,” he added. “This was not the time for a revolutionary farm bill. This is the time – given the period that we’re in, the uncertainties we face and the prices we see – to provide certainty and predictability.” 

With the primary goal to get a bill that provided certainty done on time, the conference committee resolved the conflicts between the House and Senate while maintaining as many provisions as possible.

“That inclusive approach is why that bill got stronger bipartisan support in the conference, and 87 aye votes is the most ever seen for a farm bill in the U.S. Senate,” Roberts added. “This farm bill meets the needs of producers in all region and all crops.”

Commodity titles

Roberts noted in the commodity titles, the bill makes improvements to both Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) programs, while providing opportunities to change those decisions.

“The farm bill also requires a nationwide PLC update and nationwide crop insurance data as the primary source for ARC county yields,” he said. 

Base acres and future program eligibility are maintained, as well, he continued.

“The ability to plan for the market, not the government, is still one of the remaining components of Freedom to Farm from the 1996 bill,” Roberts commented. “Additionally, this farm bill strengthens and improves the crop insurance program and directs the Risk Management Agency to further crop insurance by researching and developing policies for quality loss, grain sorghum, limited irrigation and efficient irrigation practices.”

Other titles

“The conservation title maintained the core voluntary conservation programs farmers and ranchers use to improve their productivity and address natural resources concern,” Roberts said. 

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) principles were maintained after the Senate committee heard continued support for the program, which also increased funding to over $2 billion annually. 

At the same time, the bill focuses on program integrity and common-sense investments to strengthen nutrition programs and ensure the long-term success of people who need assistance. 

“I know there was a lot of talk about the nutrition title,” Roberts noted. “In the Senate version, we took a comprehensive approach, came in the back door and used different language. We thought the food title was a real improvement. We ended with a program that was favorable.” 

Trade promotion and research programs were also promoted in the bill, and Roberts commented feeding the U.S. is a national security issue, which means producers must be empowered to grow and produce more with fewer resources. 

“That takes the government providing tools and getting out of producers’ way,” he said.  “The 2018 Farm Bill signed by the president accomplishes what we set out to do – provide certainty and predictability.”

Next steps

With a farm bill in place, Roberts noted the next steps involve implementation of the bill. 

“We are going to continue working closely together to implement the bill,” he said.

USDA Deputy Secretary Steve Censky noted USDA provides a vital role in implementing the farm bill.

“We’re really excited to be implementing a new farm bill and a farm bill that really does provide the certainty and predictability farmers need, the investment in research that keeps agriculture a global leader,” Censky said. “From our standpoint at USDA, we’re going to be moving as quickly as prudently as we can to implement it.”

The agriculture industry, said Censky, who really depend on a farm bill, are anxiously awaiting implementation to serve the farmers and ranchers who utilize the bill.

He continued, “We have created a Farm Bill Implementation Working Group at USDA that includes representative from each of our mission areas and agencies to look to see how we can best implement the bill.” 

Tracking progress

USDA is utilizing a Farm Bill Implementation Tracker, which breaks every farm bill provision into steps necessary for implementation anda timeline to achieve their goals. 

Tasks included in implementation are wide-ranging and may require technology developments, public notices and more. 

“Some provisions of the farm bill are almost self-implementing because the provisions are very clear and there are almost no decisions that have to be made surrounding those,” Censky explained. “Other provisions, however, Congress has authorized us to take certain action, but there are certain policy divisions that have to be made to implement that.” 

He added, “We have really a big job to do as we move forward.”

Public input

To continue a trend of public involvement, Censky said USDA will look for input from producers through a series of listening sessions.

“We want to hear from stakeholders as we implement the farm bill,” he explained. “We have charged each of our mission areas to hold a listening session and invite various stakeholders in so we can hear from them.” 

Though implementation of the farm bill came to an abrupt halt during government shutdown, Censky said, “We don’t plan on using the shutdown as an excuse on why we aren’t able to implement the farm bill on a timely basis because we know how important it is to all of our constituents.” 

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

On Oct. 31, the Farm Foundation debuted an analysis of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and its impact on the agricultural economy.

“As the landscape of global trade has changed in recent months, there have been a lot of questions about what it really means for U.S. agriculture,” said Constance Cullman, Farm Foundation president. “We commissioned from Purdue University Center for Global Trade analysis what the impact of retaliatory tariffs in USMCA will have on U.S. ag.” 

Dominique van der Mensbrugghe, the director of the Center for Global Trade Analysis at Purdue University, was the lead author of the report, titled How U.S. Agriculture will Fare Under the USMCA and Retaliatory Tariffs. Van der Mensbrugghe partnered with Wallace Tyner, Ph.D. and Maksym Chepeliev, Ph.D. in writing the report.

Overview

“I think we can all be grateful that USMCA was agreed to,” van der Mensbrugghe said. “We will see if it will be ratified. It certainly consolidated significant gains from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).”

Looking back, van der Mensbrugghe says the U.S. has been on a path towards markets that are increasingly open since World War II.  

“Today, Canada and Mexico are some of the top exporting markets for U.S. agriculture, and the share has increased from 13-plus percent to more than 30 percent,” he described. “We’ve seen more than a doubling since the NAFTA.” 

Mexico’s share in the U.S. market has also increased, from 11 to 18 percent, and Canada’s market share has stayed moderately steady over time.

“These are two very important markets for U.S. farmers, accounting for roughly one-third of U.S. exports,” he commented.

Inside the agreement.

Firstly, the USMCA agreement consolidates the first NAFTA agreement, with some exceptions. 

“There have been some market access changes, most notably in the auto sector, which will have implications in terms of the supply chain and other things,” van der Mensbrugghe explained. “Perhaps even more significant is 45 percent of parts must come from factories where workers earn $16 or more an hour, which will cost us.” 

In the agriculture sector, the most significant impacts have include the expansion of import quotas in Canada for U.S. dairy and poultry products. 

“There are a lot of other changes in the agreement, which is over 1,800 pages long,” he said. 

Some who have analyzed the agreement called USMCA a renovation in NAFTA that addresses modernization in markets that have occurred since the 1970s.

Dairy and poultry

After looking at industries in-depth, van der Mensbrugghe said increased market access in dairy will lead to a 106 percent increase in export of dairy products from the U.S.

Under NAFTA, the total quota for fluid milk was roughly 65,000 metric tons, a rather small amount, and actual exports was about 55,000. A five percent increase in dairy product exports is expected. 

Other meat product exports will increase by 1.6 percent.

“That’s a small number as a percentage of U.S. dairy exports,” he explained. “In terms of other sectors, we have a 12 percent increase for poultry and pigs.” 

van der Mensbrugghe said, converted to dollars, the impact is $450 million, which is “not a huge amount given the size of the U.S. economy or even U.S. agriculture, but for dairy producers it is something.”

At the same time, given the size of the agreement, “We see very small impacts on the farm economy,” van der Mensbrugghe mentioned. “We also get a little bit of improvement in prices.” 

Retaliation

“But that’s not the end of the story,” van der Mensbrugghe said. “USMCA is good, and it consolidates NAFTA and improves things for dairy and poultry producers.” 

While an increase in market access is predicted, van der Mensbrugghe adds, however that retaliatory measures from the USMCA countries “will cause U.S. agricultural exports to decline by $1.8 billion.”

Retaliatory tariffs have been imposed to combat aluminum and steel products. 

“Countries around the world are not targeting U.S. steel or aluminum, they’re targeting products that are sensitive, like agriculture products,” he said. “They’re going after more sensitive products hoping that the United States feel some political pain.” 

Estimates of retaliatory measures from Iowa State University were used as the basis for the Purdue estimates. 

“Canada has imposed tariffs of roughly two percent on poultry and pig products, four percent on sugar and 3.5 on average for other food products, which is a really big category,” he said. “Mexico has been a big more aggressive, with poultry and pigs, 10 percent, fruits and vegetables at four percent and 3.5 percent on other food.”

Export numbers decline by about $1.8 billion, which “largely negates whatever gains would come out of USMCA.”

Bigger pictures

“We looked at all retaliatory measures in another simulation, not just ones focused on Canadian and Mexican agriculture, but all from all products,” van der Mensbrugghe said. “The total decline in agriculture and food exports is $8 billion.”

Much of the impact is seen in oilseeds, including soybeans, poultry and pigs, as well as other foods, take a hit from the impact. 

“If we look at the farm income impacts, we see a loss of 45,000 jobs in the food and agriculture sector,” he said. “We’re not sure if it would show up in U.S. labor statistics, but that’s quite a number of jobs.”

Land prices, particularly for those producing soybeans, would decline approximately 18 percent. 

“This is not good news for farmers,” van der Mensbrugghe commented.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Washington, D.C. – During the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Public Lands Council Annual Legislative Fly-in, held during the first week of April 2018, cattlemen and women from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C. to network with agency officials and Congressional delegations to develop relationships and help both parties gain insight into the other’s lives. 

As one aspect of that effort, Steve Solomon, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), overviewed his role at FDA and provided insight on the importance of FDA in food animal production. 

“We have an office of management and administration functions, an office that evaluates drugs to get new products on the market, an office in charge of surveillance of compliance and an office of research that develops new products, particularly for minor species,” Solomon explained, emphasizing that FDA’s CVM is multi-faceted and provides a variety of roles. “At CVM, we have a lot of different scientific disciplines, and we have expertise in many areas because we want to make sure our decisions are sound.” 

ADUFA

One important aspect of CVM is oversight of ADUFA, or the Animal Drug User Fee Act, which provides significant impact to animal agriculture producers. 

“Prior to the authorization of user fees, it took an average of 500 days to get approval for new drugs,” Solomon explained. “We’ve reduced that time with the addition of those fees, and those resources are critical to evaluating new drugs.”

The act is reauthorized every five years, and Solomon noted, without reauthorization by October 2018, they will be forced to “stand by” on approval and review of new animal drugs, which could be detrimental to the animal drug industry.

As an example of a new drug that has emerged after testing at CVM, Solomon looked at the first pain relieving drugs for food-producing animals. 

“We all know there are more animal welfare concerns, and to have a drugs approved for use in food-producing animals is a significant advantage,” he explained.

The process of approving such a drug was innovative and required researchers to understand how much pain animals are in to provide adequate treatment for animals.

“This took a very innovative approach to work with sponsors and put products in the hands of people,” he explained.

Technology

Another area Solomon highlighted was the area of new discoveries in animal biotechnology.

“We have new technology for gene editing, and we have drugs for humans that are biopharmaceuticals,” he said, listing several examples. “We have goats that produce drugs in their milk, which is harvested and given to humans to treat certain blood conditions. We have drugs produced by chickens, whose eggs are processed and fed to humans.”

CVM is responsible for oversight on these new products to ensure animals are safe and the gene editing does not result in negative effects for animals. 

“My colleagues in FDA look at the human components, but we prove these technologies are safe for animals,” Solomon said.

He added, “These are innovative products and innovative solutions to big problems.”

Resistance

Another area CVM takes responsibility over is antimicrobial resistance, which has become a buzzword in the U.S. today.

“The Centers for Disease Control reports that 2 million illnesses annually are from bacteria resistant to antibiotics, and 22,000 deaths are from antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” Solomon said. “Antimicrobial resistance results in an estimated cost of $25 to $35 billion.”

Solomon added the livestock industry is working to slow the spread of antimicrobial resistance. 

“This isn’t just a U.S. problem, and it isn’t just an animal health problem,” he commented. “This is an international problem, and we’re addressing it from multiple aspects.”

Solomon said CVM is part of a broad effort to look at both human and animal aspects of antimicrobial resistance, through improved tests for better diagnostics and better international collaboration.

“Different parts of the world are addressing the world differently,” he said. “We’re advocating for a process that we think makes sense because some parts of the world address the problem very differently. This can be challenging.”

Solomon added, “Our understanding of science continues to evolve, and we continue to learn more about antimicrobial resistance. This is a complex issue that too many people try to simplify into simple answers. That is not the case.”

CVM is working as part of a team to implement measures and show concern to make sure antimicrobials are available for treatment, control and prevention with good stewardship. 

“Our role is to slow the role in which resistance occurs by judiciously using antimicrobials,” Solomon said. “We have to work together to address this issue.”

Solomon also looked at the importance of a vaccine bank for foot and mouth disease (FMD). Look for more on FMD in next week’s Roundup. 

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Washington, D.C. – The lame duck Congress pushed forward on the 2019 Farm Bill, despite challenges at the onset. On Dec. 12, the House of Representatives sent an $867 billion, 807-page farm bill to President Trump’s desk on a 369-47 vote just one day after the legislation passed in the Senate 87-13.

“The passage of the 2019 Farm Bill is good news because it provides a strong safety net for farmers and ranchers, who need the dependability and certainty this legislation affords,” commented U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “This Farm Bill will help producers make decisions about the future, while also investing in important agricultural research and supporting trade programs to bolster exports.”
Perdue, House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas), Wyoming’s congressional delegation and agriculture industry organizations alike all praised the passage of the bills, noting it offers opportunities for farmers and ranchers. 

“I commend Congress for bringing the farm bill across the finish line and am encouraging President Trump to sign it,” Perdue added.

“There is no piece of federal legislation that affects the psyche of rural America more than the farm bill,” Conaway commented, “House Republicans refused to stop fighting for rural America, and we’ve approved a bill that sets us on a better path – for farmers and ranchers, for rural communities and for the American consumer.”

Inside the bill

Conaway commented that the bill strengthens farm safety nets, improves conservation initiatives, expands exports and enhances the integrity of nutrition programs.

“I’ve maintained from the beginning that this farm bill ought to be about standing up for America’s farm and ranch families who are going through some very hard times,” he explained. “And we have kept faith with that commitment. Farm country and rural America will be better off under this farm bill than they were before.”

In comments on the floor of the House, Conaway noted the bill maintains federal crop insurance programs and strengthens the farm bill safety net. 

“We strengthened key conservation initiatives, specially the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP),” he said. “These highly successful conservation initiatives serve as a prime example of how voluntary, incentive-based conservation beats burdensome, arbitrary, and costly Washington regulations every time.”

Trade promotion incentives, including full funding of the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program, will help the U.S. to be competitive around the world, and Conaway said in-kind food assistance programs were also maintained. 

“We make some extremely important investments elsewhere in this farm bill,” he continued. “We increase individual Farm Service Agency loan limits which have not been updated in 16 years. We increase agricultural research funding. We provide Secretary Perdue with the tools to effectively combat the opioid epidemic and to expand high quality broadband service to all of rural America. We increase investment in new crop uses and in specialty crops, including fruits and vegetables.”

Finally, the bill also introduces new measures to strengthen animal disease prevention by introducing a foot-and-mouth disease vaccine bank. 

Not perfect

With all its positive aspects, Perdue noted there were several “missed opportunities” for the agriculture industry in the bill.

“While I feel there were missed opportunities in forest management and in improving work requirements for certain Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients, this bill does include several helpful provisions and we will continue to build upon these through our authorities.”

Because of sharp disagreement between Republicans and Democrats on SNAP work requirements, those provisions were largely abandoned in the conference version. 

Conaway noted the House made the adjustments they could while also maintaining support from Democrats.

“We make commonsense reforms that improve program integrity and work requirements under SNAP, including involving governors in work requirement waivers so there is political accountability and by reducing state allowances for able-bodied adults without dependents,” he described. “We require states to adopt case management practices to help move SNAP beneficiaries from welfare to work, and we eliminate $480 million in bonuses we pay to states for simply doing their job.” 

Conaway commented, “These and other reforms will build on the success we have had in moving more than 9 million people off of SNAP rolls and into work over the past five years.”

In the realm of forest management, insect and disease categorical exclusions to remove hazardous fuel loads have been expanded, and states, local and tribal authorities have been empowered to remove timber. 

“These reforms are important, but they are only a start in what needs to be done,” Conaway emphasized. “Ultimately, I had to make a decision between making as many inroads on reform in these areas as I could or allowing farmers and ranchers to be held hostage. Faced with that choice, I chose the route of getting this farm bill done.”

Saige Albert, managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, compiled this article from numerous press releases, House of Representatives transcripts and farm bill resources online. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

On March 13, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue applauded Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao for her announcement of an additional 90-day extension of the agriculture exemption from the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate. 

Agricultural compliance with the mandate would have been problematic for the agriculture industry because the devices do not accurately account for the agricultural exemptions currently provided in the law. 

The ELD rule went into effect in December 2017, with the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) granting the agriculture industry an initial exemption that was set to expire on March 18. With the granting of another extension, the agriculture industry will now have additional time to comply.

  Perdue said, “The ELD mandate imposes restrictions upon the agriculture industry that lack flexibility necessary for the unique realities of hauling agriculture commodities. If the agriculture industry had been forced to comply by the March 18 deadline, live agricultural commodities, including plants and animals, would have been at risk of perishing before they reached their destination.”

He further noted the 90-day extension is critical to give DOT additional time to issue guidance on hours-of-service and other ELD exemptions that are troubling for agriculture haulers.

“Current ELD technologies do not recognize the hours-of-service exemptions for agriculture that are in federal law. This is a classic example of a one-size-fits-all federal regulation that ignores common sense to the detriment of sectors like agriculture,” Perdue added. “I applaud Secretary Chao for recognizing these obstacles and giving extra time for compliance while DOT issues guidance. While public safety is a critical concern for all of trucking, the safety of living agricultural commodities in transport must also be considered.”