Farm Bill Negotiations
Congress may have missed the September 30 deadline for a new farm bill, but most farmers likely won’t feel the impacts, provided a farm bill gets finished by the end of the year. The four lead farm bill negotiators, Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS), House Ag Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX), Senate Ag Committee member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and House Ag Committee member Collin Peterson (D-MN), have been meeting in recent weeks and have indicated they are committed to getting a deal done by the end of the year. Reports indicate the group has reached agreement on a few of the 12 farm bill titles, including trade, credit, and energy.
EPA to Act on Year-Round E15 Sales
On October 9, President Donald Trump announced he had instructed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to move forward with a rulemaking that would allow for the year-round sale of E15 ethanol. In a statement, Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson thanked President Trump for his actions as Nebraska Farm Bureau has been a proponent for allowing year-round E15 sales to expand market opportunities for Nebraska grown corn and Nebraska produced ethanol. Nebraska is the second largest ethanol producing state in both nameplate capacity and in production. Nebraska ethanol plants produce roughly 2.2 billion gallons of ethanol annually, roughly 14 percent of the 15.8 billion gallons produced nationally. Both Sen. Deb Fischer and Congressman Adrian Smith had introduced legislation to address the issue, but the EPA is expected to move quickly to beat the June 1, 2019 deadline when the next four-month long summertime E15 restriction goes into place. News reports indicate the action may draw lawsuits from petroleum interests.
U.S. Japan Trade Talks
The United States (U.S.) and Japan agreed to enter trade talks on a bilateral trade deal at the end of September. The move was welcomed by the Nebraska Farm Bureau which has been urging the administration to follow through on its promise of developing bilateral free trade agreements with Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) member countries, since the U.S. pulled out of the TPP agreement. Japan is Nebraska’s largest trading partner for Nebraska beef, and a major purchaser of Nebraska agricultural commodities including pork, corn, soybeans, wheat, grain sorghum, and dairy products. A bilateral agreement with Japan would be a major win for Nebraska farmers and ranchers if the U.S. is able to reach an agreement with terms like those previously negotiated under the TPP, specifically as it relates to tariff reduction on agricultural products. TPP was projected to increase Nebraska agricultural cash receipts by more than $378 million per year when fully implemented, with much of that gain attributed to increased trade with Japan. If the U.S. could lower Japan’s existing 38.5 percent tariff on U.S. beef which was slated to gradually decline to 9 percent under TPP, that would be a major victory for Nebraska beef producers.
KORUS Deal Gets Done
The modernized United States-Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) signed by the President in late September will help continue critical market access for agricultural commodities. South Korea has been a tremendous trading partner and consumer of Nebraska beef, pork, corn, soybeans, as well as other agricultural commodities. Nebraska Farm Bureau’s own economic analysis shows the previous KORUS agreement was worth roughly $340 million to Nebraska agriculture in terms of total exports in 2016. On an individual basis, the analysis shows the KORUS agreement is worth $34.35 per-head to Nebraska beef producers and $11.52 per-head for Nebraska pork producers.
Farm Bureau Backs Dicamba
The Nebraska Farm Bureau is encouraging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to allow for the continued use of Dicamba by moving forward with the re-registration of Dicamba for over-the-top application for the 2019 crop year and beyond. In a letter sent to the EPA in early October, Farm Bureau reminded the agency that Dicamba is an important crop protection tool and losing access to Dicamba could result in substantial economic loss for Nebraska farmers. In 2018, approximately 3.5 to 4 million acres of dicamba-resistant soybeans were planted in Nebraska, an increase from its introduction in 2017.
Extremist Groups Sue Over Agriculture Exemption
The Humane Society of the United States, Sierra Club, and Waterkeeper Alliance, are among several groups that have filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the agency’s action to exempt livestock and poultry operations from having to report air emissions from livestock manure under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). EPCRA regulations require state and local officials to be notified of air releases of hazardous substances. The EPA issued guidance in April exempting the agriculture operations following Congressional passage of provisions of the Fair Agricultural Reporting Methods (FARM) Act. That legislation exempted farmers from having to comply with Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) reporting which had the practical effect of also excluding livestock operations from reporting requirements under EPCRA. Nebraska Farm Bureau was a strong supporter of the FARM Act legislation introduced by Senator Deb Fischer.
The Nebraska Rural Broadband Task Force met for the first time, September 24. Charged with reviewing the availability, adoption, and affordability of broadband services in rural areas of Nebraska, the Task Force is slated to meet throughout the next year and present its initial findings in a report to the Legislature by Nov. 1, 2019. Zach Hunnicutt, Hamilton County Farm Bureau member, was tapped by Gov. Ricketts to represent Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) on the Task Force. To aid in that effort, NEFB is continuing to encourage members to share information on the status of their local broadband service. Members are encouraged to report challenges with broadband access by downloading the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) app and taking the FCC’s speed test to demonstrate slow service. Members who live in areas where the lack of hi-speed internet prevents them from even downloading the FCC app, are encouraged to share that information Nebraska Farm Bureau as well. All broadband service information should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Nebraska Farm Bureau will use the information gathered to promote broadband expansion in the state.