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POLICY WATCH

Drought Conditions Creep into Nebraska

The drought conditions sweeping across large portions of the Pacific Northwest which stretch as far east as Colorado and Kansas have begun to creep into Southern Nebraska. This week’s national drought monitor shows 22 Nebraska counties as being “abnormally dry” including all counties along the state’s southern border except for Pawnee and Richardson Counties in Southeast Nebraska. The “abnormally dry” designation is made when rangeland conditions have declined. In comparison, only nine Nebraska counties were designated as “abnormally dry” two weeks ago. View the May 7 U.S. Drought Map here.

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COVID-19 Pushing Farm Bankruptcies Higher

Challenges to the farm economy in recent years, including COVID-19 have pushed farm bankruptcies higher. While well below the historical highs of the 1980s, Chapter 12 family farm bankruptcies for the 12-month period ending March 2020 totaled 627 filings, a 23 percent increase from the previous 12 months, according to recently released data from the U.S. Courts. During the previous 12 months, Chapter 12 farm bankruptcies were the highest in Wisconsin at 78 filings. Following Wisconsin, Nebraska had 41 Chapter 12 filings.

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Securing the Supply Chain

The American Farm Bureau was among the interests participating in a high-level meeting with Vice President Mike Pence in Iowa Friday. The gathering at the headquarters of the Hy-Vee supermarket chain in West Des Moines brought food supply chain CEOs, agriculture leaders, and government officials together to talk about steps needed to keep the U.S. food supply chain secure. At a meeting at the White House May 6, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told President Trump and Vice President Pence he believed the meat processing sector had “turned the corner” in terms of getting back online – predicting that in a week to 10 days plants would be fully back up and running.

USTR Talks “Phase One” Implementation with China

China Vice Premier Liu He, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer participated in a conference call Thursday, May 7. The parties shared updates on COVID-19 and their assessments of its effects on economic growth, as well as the ongoing process of implementing the Phase One agreement between the two countries that went into effect February 14. Both sides agreed that good progress is being made on creating the governmental infrastructures necessary to make the agreement a success. They also agreed that despite the current global health emergency, both countries fully expect to meet their obligations under the agreement in a timely manner. China has already taken steps to implement provisions of the deal such as removing restrictions on U.S. beef and pork. China has also made major purchases of U.S. corn, wheat, and other commodities to meet the goal of buying $36.5 billion worth of U.S. agriculture products this year. China has already doubled the amount of U.S. corn purchased in all of 2019. With that in mind, further implementation of the deal could be in question as President Trump continues to consider actions against China in retribution for China’s role in the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

Board Talks COVID-19 Impacts with Rep. Smith

The Nebraska Farm Bureau Board of Directors visited with Congressman Adrian Smith (NE-3rd) this week to discuss the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak to agriculture and rural communities. The discussion covered numerous topics ranging from challenges specific to younger producers with higher debt loads, difficulties for livestock producers surrounding meat processing closures, the importance of moving meat processing forward towards full capacity, concerns about the closure of ethanol plants and market impacts for corn producers, the loss of access to distillers grains for livestock producers, the need for expanded broadband across rural Nebraska, as well as a discussion about the long-term financial impact of the outbreak will likely have on Nebraska agriculture.

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