TPP Trade Agreement Reached

Oct 5, 2015 295

 Trade ministers from a dozen Pacific nations meet in Atlanta. Photograph: Handout/ReutersTrade ministers from a dozen Pacific nations meet in Atlanta. Photograph: Handout/Reuters

An announcement was made on Monday morning that an agreement has been reached on the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal.  The 12-country trade agreement covers 40 per cent of the global economy and could reshape industries as well as influence everything from the price of cheese to the cost of cancer treatments. Japan’s prime minister said a dozen nations had reached “broad agreement” on the TPP, which aims to service the world’s largest free-trade zone. “It is a major outcome not just for Japan but also for the future of the Asia-Pacific,” Shinzo Abe told reporters. President Barack Obama said the agreement “levelled the playing field” for farmers and manufacturers “by eliminating more than 18,000 taxes that various countries put on our products.”

Most agriculture groups have been supportive of the treaty and are cautiously optimistic that the agreement will lead to greater trade opportunities for American farmers.  Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, in a statement, “Increased demand for American agricultural products and expanded agricultural exports as a result of this agreement will support stronger commodity prices and increase farm income. Increased exports under TPP will create more good paying export-related jobs, further strengthening the rural economy. Today, agricultural trade supports more than 1 million jobs here at home and contributes a trade surplus year after year to our nation’s economy. All of this activity benefits rural communities and keeps American agriculture on the cutting edge of global commerce. The TPP agreement will contribute to the future strength of American agriculture and helps to ensure that the historic agricultural trade gains achieved under President Obama since 2009 will continue.”

“NPPC played an active role throughout the five-plus years of negotiations,” said Pork Producers Association President Dr. Ron Prestage, “providing U.S. negotiators with key information on barriers we face in the 11 other TPP countries and offering guidance on outcomes that would ensure substantial new market access benefits for U.S. pork in those markets.”  National Cattlemen’s Beef Association president Phillip Ellis said, “While the full details of the partnership will not be released until the President presents it to Congress, cattle producers are assured this is a true 21st century agreement. The TPP will immediately reduce tariffs and level the playing field for U.S. beef exports to these growing markets. TPP is a major win not only for the beef industry, but for all U.S. export products, growing the economy while supporting jobs and investments in agriculture and technology.”  The National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council were pleased that an agreement had been reached but were anxious to see the details of the deal.   National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling also said corn growers will want to examine the details of the agreement, ”

We are hopeful that this agreement continues the tradition of past free trade agreements, which have had a positive impact for America’s farmers and ranchers. In the coming weeks, we will carefully examine the agreement to determine whether it is in the best interests of America’s corn farmers.”

The National Farmers Union, a long time skeptic of international trade agreements, expressed opposition to the TPP agreement. “Just as we feared, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is moving forward without any meaningful language addressing one of the chief tools used by our trade competitors to ensure the playing field is never fair: currency manipulation,” said NFU president Roger Johnson. “Because of this, NFU will continue to vigorously oppose this agreement and urge Congress to reject this deal as well. Gains that may have been made in the agreement to ensure fairness and equity in trade for America’s family farmers and ranchers are likely to be lost due to currency manipulation.”

The TPP agreement will likely face a long and contentious adoption process in Congress.  House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway said, in a statement, “We have long discussed the potential benefits of TPP for all of American agriculture. That being said, I have repeatedly expressed concerns to our negotiators about the lack of progress in several key areas that, if not adequately addressed, would make passage of this agreement incredibly difficult in the House.  Last week, I sent a letter along with 16 of my colleagues to USTR Ambassador Froman to express concern about lack of market access for rice and dairy and concern about a new carve-out proposal for tobacco, establishing a dangerous new precedent that could negatively impact agriculture going forward. The letter also expressed concern about market access for sugar, encouraging U.S. negotiators not to go beyond the parameters of what the U.S. had already offered after consultation with the U.S. industry. While I am encouraged to hear that U.S. livestock products such as beef and pork will see significant gains in market access, it will take a coalition of many to move TPP over the coming months. At this time, I am skeptical that these concerns were sufficiently addressed but will remain open-minded, and I look forward to studying the agreement.”

Hoosier Farmers Appreciate In-state Research

Oct 5, 2015 384

Indiana research important

This summer DuPont Pioneer expanded its Tipton County, Indiana research location in Windfall to include another 15,000 square feet of indoor work space, 9,600 square feet of equipment and machinery storage and three new breeding programs. Windfall is a prime product development research location for the company, and Senior Research Scientist at Windfall, Murt McLeod says Indiana farmers understand the important work going on there.

“They’re excited that we are expanding our facilities and the work that we do and the resources, because ultimately for them they understand that that brings to them better products for their farms,” he told HAT. “I think they do get it and they’re excited that in Indiana, DuPont Pioneer is making significant investment.”

He explains why doing research in Indiana specifically is important to growers in the state.

“Geography is very important. Developing products, we know that there are geographical differences in terms of how some of the products work. We have hybrids that are most suited for eastern growing environments vs. western growing environments. It’s a telling need for research programs across the country, but local growers also are very interested in products that have been developed and tested widely in their growing environment. That’s a natural thing for growers to want.”

Qrome from DuPont PioneerAnd McLeod says one of the products soon to come from the Indiana research is called Qrome.

“It’s a multi mode of action, above and below ground integrated refuge, single bag solution for our customers, and it brings with it the ability to really open up the genetic potential of our germplasm. So our corn breeders now are able to work with an expanded germplasm base with this particular product.”

He says the focus is on corn rootworm with very high yield potential. According to the company DuPont Pioneer will advance its new line-up of corn offerings, Pioneer® brand Qrome™ products, to stewarded on-farm trials in 2016.

Taking Animal Activist Threats More Seriously

Oct 5, 2015 565
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Taking Animal Activist Threats More Seriously

AAA apLast week, an alert was issued to warn livestock producers about possible local activity by a radical animal rights group. The Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM), a radical fringe group, had planned attacks and protests against American agriculture on Friday. This prompted a warning from the Animal Ag Alliance. Hannah Thompson, with the Alliance, reported there were no major incidents on Friday, but producers need to be vigilant on the activities of these groups, “Every year on October 2nd the group FARM ramps up their activities to try and draw attention to their cause.” She added that the group had planned protests at several food processing plants and that the AAA had feared some producer operations could be targeted.  The group also stepped up their anti-meat, vegan rhetoric on social media channels. No major incidents, however, were reported.

To help producers prepare, the Alliance has created a special animal security app for mobile devices. “It has a lot of the resources we have developed for producers and puts them within easy reach and quick access,” said Thompson. The app houses all of the Alliance’s farm and facility security resources, hiring advice and sample forms, and crisis management resources in one location accessible with desktop and mobile devices. It will also include text message and email alerts to disseminate time-sensitive, security information.

AAA_logo 2Thompson said, with animal rights groups becoming more and more aggressive, security is an issue producers and the industry need to take seriously. According to Alliance CEO Kay Johnson Smith, “Animal rights activist groups are using pressure campaigns to target retailers and restaurants to push for incremental changes towards a society in which animals are not used for food or fiber. The animal rights movement leaders may claim that they are concerned about animal welfare; but, in reality, they do not want humans to use animals for any purpose regardless of how well they are treated.”

Likely House Speaker Says Highway Bill Will Get Done

Oct 5, 2015 210
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House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, who is likely the successor to outgoing House Speaker John Boehner, said Friday “we’re going to get the highway bill done.” McCarthy is currently the GOP majority leader and says the House will consider a transportation bill this month. The current surface transportation authorization expires at the end of October, meaning the House has limited time to tackle a bill. The Senate in June passed a six-year bill known as the DRIVE Act. However, the Senate bill only included enough funding to pay for three years of programs, according to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

McCarthy pledged a six-year transportation funding bill that would not increase the federal gas tax. His comments come as Representative Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, urged Transportation Committee members to pass a highway funding bill on to the full chamber.

The Endangered Species Act May Be Endangered

Oct 5, 2015 251

It was 1973. Tony Orlando was urging us to “Tie A Yellow Ribbon” around that old oak tree; Marvin Gaye wanted us to “Get It On,” and Paul McCartney just wanted us to “Live and Let Die.” In December of that year, President Nixon signed into law the Endangered Species Act.  The intent of the law “was to halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost.” The Act is administered by two federal agencies: the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Act has been the source of lawsuits and political skullduggery, and has undergone several revisions over the years. Now there are efforts in Congress to overhaul one of the pillars of US conservation policy.

The basic concept is that plant and animal species that are facing extinction would be placed on a list and receive federal protection from being hunted or otherwise killed and their habitat or ecosystem would also receive protection.  The first such list was created in 1967 as part of the ESA’s predecessor the Endangered Species Preservation Act and consisted of 14 mammals, 36 birds, 6 reptiles and amphibians, and 22 fish. Over the years, the list has grown. By 2015, the list had grown to 1,583 species just in the US.

Like so many big government programs, the intentions are laudable but the consequences are catastrophic. While the ESA has some notable successful stories, its overall success rate is dismal. Bald eagle numbers increased from 417 to 11,040 pairs between 1963 and 2007 and were removed from list in 2007. But, of the thousands of species on the list, only 28 have been delisted due to species recovery. This gives the ESA about a 2% success rate.

One of the primary reasons for the failure of the program is that farmers, ranchers, and other landowners were not involved in the creation of the program and are often penalized for participating in it. When it comes to protecting species and preserving their habitat, it is the people on the land who are on the front lines of conservation. Rather than incentivizing landowners to help preserve wildlife habitat, the federal government has taken the approach of putting large tracts of land under government management and “protecting” the endangered species in these preserves. American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman stated, “Today, many landowners hesitate to establish habitat that would help endangered species. That’s so because the law itself makes it impractical for them to use their land once they have made the effort to help in the first place. The ESA can and must be modernized to protect endangered species and respect private property rights. Neither agriculture nor the endangered species have time to wait.”

Farm Bureau released a survey that shows Americans also want changes made to the ESA. The survey showed that 63% of Americans support modernizing the ESA, 62% of Americans believe the act should help with species recovery (as opposed to merely cataloguing changes in their populations), 69% of Americans want the federal government to offer resources to third parties to help species recovery, and 49% of Americans believe that state or local authorities (rather than the federal government), should lead in recovery of endangered and threatened species. Only 31 percent of Americans favor the federal government taking the lead.

Yet, any changes to the ESA will be difficult. Many environmental groups staunchly support the status quo. The Huffington Post recently quoted a different public opinion survey that they says shows strong public support for leaving the ESA alone, “The poll results show that support for endangered species conservation remains strong and that the public just doesn’t buy the argument that we have to choose between jobs and conservation.” Recent efforts by Congress to make changes in ESA have been met with veto threats by the White House.

Meanwhile, landowners fear taking any action to preserve wildlife for fear they will lose control of their land if an endangered species is found on it or it is determined to be a habitat for species on the list. In many western states, the shoot, shovel, and shut up philosophy is practiced.  Protecting wildlife is important for our environment and our future, but so is feeding people. A policy that provides incentives — not penalties or red tape — for protecting species is needed.

A program with only a 2% success rate over 40 years needs to be revised. However, science and practical land use need to be the foundation of any revision, not political posturing or environmental ideology. Conservationists should not fear the overhaul of the ESA, and landowners should be involved in the process to craft revisions that are workable and actually help manage wildlife populations and habitat.

By Gary Truitt

Profits Predicted for Pork, but Dangers Lurk

Oct 1, 2015 551
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Profits Predicted for Pork, but Dangers Lurk

Chris HurtChris Hurt

Unlike corn and soybean producers, pork producers can expect profits in 2015; but there may be some risks awaiting in 2016.  Overall pork production is expected to be 7% higher in 2015 than in 2014. Hog prices are forecast to average about $51 on a live weight basis, with pork production forecast to increase only 1% in 2016.  Purdue economist Chris Hurt says supply and demand should be in balance for the next 12 months, “But this also serves as a warning to the industry that any expansion plans should be modest.”

There are some clouds on the horizon says Hurt, one being a recent jump in Fed Cattle Prices, “Lower finished cattle prices should begin to translate rather quickly into lower retail beef prices.” He admitted those beef prices will still be higher than pork, but they will provide another source of competition for pork in the meat case. He added beef supplies will continue to increase over the next few years and poultry supplies will also continue to grow.

Hurt says pork exports may also be down in 2016 which could put more meat into the US meat case next year, “And this is a result of the slowing world economic growth that we are in at this time. This is resulting in a strong US dollar which raises the cost of US pork products on the world market.”

He urges pork producers to take advantage of low grain prices this fall and not to assume that grain prices will remain at current levels for 2016.

On-Farm Safety Training Made Easier

Oct 1, 2015 945

New OSHA Safety Training

Don-Tyler-Good days workWhatever the reason might be for a lack of safety training on the farm, it’s now easier with an online tool that meets compliance requirements under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Good Day’s Work is a new web-based business that combines an expanding library of employee safety-training videos .

President, Don Tyler, says the program was designed with convenience and usability in mind.

“Our videos are just very short, it’s fully mobile. You can access them anywhere there’s an online platform. You can send out an e-mail, the employee clicks on the e-mail, watches the video, takes the quiz, it takes about 15 minutes and they’ve passed the requirements for their training.”

“Studies show that every dollar invested in a safety program returns four to six dollars in reduced insurance premiums, medical expenses and labor downtime,” says Don Tyler, the president and co-founder of Good Day’s Work. “And that’s before the potential cost of OSHA fines even enters the equation.”

Good days work logoYet, according to Tyler, Good Day’s Work isn’t only for agribusinesses struggling to cost-justify a safety investment. The robust program also adds value for agribusinesses with safety programs and personnel already in place. The compliance features alone, he says, lighten the paperwork burden to the degree that safety personnel can finally focus on developing that elusive safety culture they’ve always wanted.

Beyond the training, Tyler says there is a system in place to hold each employee accountable while taking that busy work away from management.

“Quiz comes up at the end, you answer some multiple choice questions and it’s done and the system captures all the results, all the questions and how well they’ve done on that platform and set of quizzes. It tracks that, we accumulate it so we can track it for whether it’s a location or a department or however we want to differentiate our employees.”

Once a business sets up an account inside the Good Day’s Work platform, that business’ account administrator can instantly register employees for classes, track all training activity, access management-level compliance information, submit OSHA accident reports, gather necessary documentation in the event of an OSHA inspection, and conduct a wide range of other safety-program management activities—all from the convenience of any Web-enabled device, including mobile applications.

OSHA says there are ten categories that every business should teach their employees. Tyler says they’ve also broken off content specific to agriculture with a big focus on grain bin entrapment.

“In 2010, we had a high mark on that; 57 entrapments across the country in 2010. Half of those ended in fatalities. It’s one of those things that, quite frankly, is putting us on OSHA’s radar.”

Building on an industry-wide, if not formally spoken, ambition among agribusiness professionals to advance the cause of safety, Tyler has a higher-level goal as well.

“We believe that, through our efforts, we can be instrumental in moving agriculture from the number-one spot on OSHA’s ‘Most Dangerous Industries’ list, to completely out of the top ten. We’re really looking forward to working with our customers and peers toward that end.”

Court Nixes Activists’ Attempt to Get Farm Data

Oct 1, 2015 417
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In a victory for U.S. farmers and ranchers in their ongoing fight to protect private and sensitive personal and financial records, a U.S. District Court judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by animal-rights and environmental activists against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The lawsuit was over the agency’s withdrawal of a proposed Clean Water Act rule that would have required livestock and poultry operations to report information about their operations. In their lawsuit, the activist groups claimed EPA’s withdrawal of the reporting rule was “arbitrary” because it lacked clear reasoning.

Judge Randolph Moss of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit in Washington, D.C., who dismissed the suit, disagreed with the activist groups, saying the agency’s explanation for the withdrawal was “plain and coherent” and that it “adequately explained the basis for its decision.”

Indiana Corn Farmers Named to National Leadership Positions

Oct 1, 2015 311

Seven Indiana farmer leaders from the Indiana Corn Marketing Council and Indiana Corn Growers Association have been named to National Corn Growers Association committees to build corn markets, conduct research and analyze policy to support market development for the national organization in the upcoming year. “Indiana corn farmers have a tremendous track record of engagement on critical issues impacting the corn market, and we’re proud of these seven leaders will make on the national level,” said Herb Ringel, ICGA President and a farmer from Wabash. “I look forward to their contributions and know they’ll continue to represent our state well.”

The following Indiana corn farmers received appointments:

Ronnie Mohr, Greenfield – Mohr, a farmer from Hancock County, was named Vice Chairman of NCGA’s Production & Stewardship Action Team. The team is charged with addressing issues related to corn production, environmental stewardship, transportation and livestock. Mohr serves on the Indiana Corn Growers Association and Indiana Corn Marketing Council Board of Directors.

Dennis Maple, Greentown – Maple, a farmer from Howard County, was named Vice Chairman of the Research & Business Development Action Team. The team is responsible for business development opportunities, including research in corn processing, bio-renewable products, new uses, nanotechnology, genomics and phenotyping. Maple serves as President of the Indiana Corn Marketing Council.

Mike Beard, Frankfort – Beard, a farmer from Clinton County, was named to the Trade Policy & Biotechnology Action Team, which supports biotechnology availability, marketability, education and acceptance around the world while protecting the integrity of U.S. corn. Beard is a member of the Indiana Corn Growers Association and Indiana Corn Marketing Council Board of Directors.

David Gottbrath, New Pekin – Gottbrath will serve on the NCGA Ethanol Committee. A farmer from Washington County, Gottbrath will work on the committee charged with ensuring production, utilization, and promotion of corn-based biofuels; and to advocate for increased production and consumption of domestic renewable energy resources. He serves on the Indiana Corn Marketing Council Board of Directors and as an ex-officio member of the Indiana Corn Growers Association Board of Directors.

Sarah Delbecq, Auburn – Delbecq, who farms in DeKalb County, will serve on the NCGA Public Policy Action Team. The committee is responsible for federal agriculture policy and regulatory matters, farm and risk management programs, rural economic development and tax policy reform. Delbecq serves on the Indiana Corn Growers Association Board of Directors

Mike Buis, Martinsville – Buis will serve on the committee overseeing NCGA’s Corn Political Action Committee. As part of the CornPAC Board, the farmer from Putnam County will work to promote the public policy goals of corn producers and their related agricultural interests. Buis serves on the Indiana Corn Marketing Council and as an ex-officio member of the Indiana Corn Growers Association Board.


Mark Bacon, Milroy –
The Rush County farmer was named to the NCGA Bylaws Committee. One of NCGA’s standing committees, members of the Bylaws committee focus on internal policies and governance. Bacon is a member of the Indiana Corn Marketing Council Board of Directors.

In addition to seven farmers, four Indiana Corn staff were named to advisory roles on NCGA committees. COO Greg Noble will advise the NASCAR committee, while Director of Biofuels Ken Parrent will advise the Ethanol Committee. Public Affairs Manager Patrick Pfingsten will advise the Trade Policy & Biotechnology Action Team and Industry Relations Program Manager Katie Thomas Glick will advise the Grower Services Action Team.

The one year appointments are effective October 1.

Senate Banking Committee Rejects Anti Ethanol Bill

Oct 1, 2015 214
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On Thursday the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs took a step in the right direction in the quest to move our nation away from foreign sources of oil and invest in home-grown energy by rejecting by a vote of 7–15 an amendment offered by Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.) to eliminate corn ethanol from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Bob Dinneen released the following statement in response to the vote.

“Consumers can breathe a sigh of relief when they fill up at the gas pump because today’s vote by the committee ensures that ethanol will remain the number one source of renewable fuel in the world,” said Dinneen. “The committee understood the writing is on the wall when it comes to the RFS, and that legislative proposals that seek to purportedly ‘fix’ the statute are nothing more than political gamesmanship. When Congress passed the RFS it did so with the intention of stabilizing and growing the biofuels market. The committee rightly rejected the amendment by Senator Toomey because it would have done nothing more than squelched investment and created uncertainty in the market, and would thereby have had a detrimental impact on the energy and economic future of generations to come.”