Ag Secretary Visits Nebraska
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was in Nebraska Sept. 4 to take part in a Shared Stewardship Agreement signing between the State of Nebraska and the USDA Forest Service. Perdue also participated in a University of Nebraska-Lincoln tour and discussion panel, as well as making stops at a Certified Piedmontese facility and a visit to the Food Bank for the Heartland.
FB Engages with U.S. Chief Agriculture Negotiator
The Chief Agriculture Negotiator for the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Ambassador Gregg Doud was also in Nebraska Sept. 4. Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) President Steve Nelson and NEFB First Vice President Mark McHargue took part in a small group listening session hosted by Ambassador Doud at the Nebraska State Fair. Expanding market access for Nebraska agriculture products remains a Nebraska Farm Bureau priority.
New NDA Program Promotes NE Agriculture Companies
Governor Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Steve Wellman rolled out a new campaign this week to promote Nebraska agriculture companies to foreign countries. The “Nebraska Straight from the Good Life” campaign will be managed by the department allowing Nebraska agriculture companies to participate for free in the new branding program. One of the features of the program is a new Nebraska export catalog allowing companies to promote themselves and their products to international customers.
Increased China Sales Remain Off Pace
The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week shared updated trade data tracking export sales to China. While China has increased purchases of U.S. farm products, it is not on pace to reach commitments made in the Phase 1 trade agreement. According to American Farm Bureau Economist Veronica Nigh, China has picked up the pace on purchases as expected, but there is still a long way to go before they’re on pace to meet their goal. So far, sales to China are nearly $8 billion, for January through July 2020. But unfortunately, that’s still 44 percent below the pace needed for them to reach Phase 1 targets.
Conservation Compliance Rule Falls Short
A new Nebraska Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation compliance rule falls short of farmers’ needs, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). The “Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation Final Rule” rule does not address unfair treatment of farmers and fails to remedy unfair enforcement by the NRCS. Farm Bureau has been pushing for improvements citing numerous cases where farmers have been mistreated. One of the more egregious cases involved a 17-year saga of unfair treatment by NRCS staff of an Indiana farm family where the family removed nine trees on 2.8 acres and NRCS demanded they plant 300 trees per acre as compensation. Despite a court finding that NRCS wrongly accused the family of harming a non-existent wetland on their property, NRCS made no effort to correct the record even after the accusations were shown to be groundless. The NRCS judgement made the farm ineligible for a wide variety of government programs, creating a roadblock for the family to obtain loans and crop insurance necessary to stay in operation. “After decades without a finalized rule in this area, we finally have one, but unfortunately it falls short,” said Zippy Duvall, AFBF president. “Farmers deserve a fair process and clarity, including an understanding of the exemptions authorized by Congress. They deserve to be protected from repeated, unjustified, costly decisions by NRCS. Although we appreciate recent actions by USDA to rectify historic wrongs, this was a missed opportunity to ensure fairness going forward.” AFBF will continue to examine the rule and options to address shortcomings.