News Briefs

Farm Bill Introduced

In mid-April, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-Texas) introduced the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 — legislation to address the economic challenges facing the nation’s farmers and ranchers, while making historic investments in opportunities for SNAP recipients.

Upon introducing the bill, Chairman Conaway said, “Rural America is hurting. Over the last five years, net farm income has been cut in half. Natural disasters and global markets distorted by predatory trade practices of foreign countries, including high and rising foreign subsidies, tariffs and non-tariff barriers, have resulted in huge production losses and chronically depressed prices that are today jeopardizing the future of America’s farm and ranch families.

“The Farm Bill keeps faith with our nation’s farmers and ranchers through the current agriculture recession by providing certainty and helping producers manage the enormous risks that are inherent in agriculture. The Farm Bill also remains faithful to the American taxpayer and consumer. Under the bill, consumers will continue to enjoy the safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world, and taxpayers will reap the more than $112 billion in budget savings projected under the current law.

Conaway also address the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which accounts for the greatest percentage of the Farm Bill and is also the most contested portion.

“SNAP, which is reauthorized under the Farm Bill, is essential to helping many Americans feed themselves and their families.

The bill also keeps faith with these families by not only maintaining SNAP benefits but by offering SNAP beneficiaries a springboard out of poverty to a good paying job, and opportunity for a better way of life for themselves and their families.”

Conaway said he was looking forward to quickly moving the Farm Bill through the House and working with the Senate to deliver it to the president’s desk.

For more information on the bill, visit agriculture.house.gov/farmbill.

Minority Farm Bill Statement

House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson made a statement after Chairman Conaway’s release of the Farm Bill.

“It makes no sense to put the farmers and rural communities who rely on the Farm Bill’s safety net programs at risk in pursuit of partisan ideology on SNAP. Between record low farm incomes and the escalating threat of a trade war and other market disruptions, farmers have enough to worry about. Breaking up the long-standing, bipartisan, urban-rural Farm Bill alliance is a dangerous and unproductive step that will only sow division and jeopardize both this and future Farm Bills.

Peterson also said, “This bill attempts to change SNAP from a feeding program to a work program.”

He further said, “The bill also fails to make needed improvements to the farm safety net. American farmers are suffering from the largest drop in farm income since the Great Depression but the farm safety net in this bill is inadequate and won’t help farmers. Our farmers need a safety net that will address their current reality.”

Statement From Sec. Perdue

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued the following statement on the release of the 2018 Farm Bill:

“I applaud Chairman Conaway and the House Agriculture Committee for their diligence and hard work in crafting the 2018 Farm Bill. The trend of low commodity prices over recent years and headlines about trade disputes have caused anxiety among agricultural producers these days, so this legislation is critically important to give them some much-needed reassurance. In my travels across the country, I have found that farmers have confidence in President Trump’s ability to negotiate strong trade deals with other nations, but they also want a strong, bipartisan Farm Bill that puts their needs above Washington, D.C. politics.

“While there is still much work to be done, I am pleased that this Farm Bill aligns with many of the principles USDA released in January. I look forward to working with the Agriculture Committees and members of Congress from both sides to pass a comprehensive Farm Bill in a timely fashion to provide the needed support and certainty to our farmers. The Trump Administration has made rural prosperity a priority for the country, and a Farm Bill that works for agriculture is a key component of the agenda.”

Peanuts Not On Tariff List, Yet

Peanuts were not included on a list of products that will be tariffed by China in retaliation for the United States imposition of steel and aluminum tariffs from China. However, tree nuts are included and will be subject to an additional 15 percent tariff.

The United States has said it will levy another $50 to $60 billion in tariffs on other Chinese goods because of alleged theft of intellectual property. This will likely trigger another list of U.S. products for retaliation. The American Peanut Council is monitoring the situation closely.

More Funds To Promote Exports

The peanut industry is supporting efforts in Congress to increase funding for the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development Program (FMD) in the new Farm Bill. USDA export development programs like MAP and FMD have helped American farmers create, expand and maintain access to foreign markets.

This successful public-private partnership has cultivated hundreds of billions of dollars in exports and created millions of American jobs, both in the agriculture sector and in support industries. Funds have been eroded because of inflation and administrative costs. Private contributions, which in some years amounts up to 70 percent, shows the private sector’s resolve to support export programs.

Even so, the United States is being outspent nearly 4 to 1 by European Union countries and the EU central government. While other governments are investing more in global food and agricultural markets, inflation, sequestration and administrative costs are chipping away at U.S. funding.

The peanut export promotion program is managed by the American Peanut Council with matching funds from growers and shellers. The total amounts to $3.1 million from public and private funds to promote U.S. peanuts abroad.

GPC Increases Research Funding

The Georgia Peanut Commission (GPC) board of directors has approved $581,896 in research project funding for the 2018-19 research budget year. The research projects approved include 34 proposals submitted from the University of Georgia and USDA Agricultural Research Service.

Donald Chase, GPC Research Committee chairman, says he is proud to invest in the future of the peanut industry by supporting research that continues to demonstrate a return on our investment.

“We are proud of our partnership with research institutions in the state and are excited about the potential benefits of these projects for farmers in the state and the entire peanut industry.”

Georgia’s peanut growers invest $2 per ton annually toward GPC programs, which includes research, promotion and education. The research programs primarily focus on peanut breeding, conservation methods, irrigation and water management, as well as, pests, weed and disease management. Additionally, GPC manages the Southeastern Peanut Research Initiative—research funding of $1,238,996 for projects in Alabama, Florida and Georgia. These projects are funded through the National Peanut Board.

For a complete list of the research projects funded by the commission, visit www.gapeanuts.com.

Former NPB Chairman Honored At Food Allergy Center

Former National Peanut Board chairman and Texas member Bob White, who passed away in October 2016, was honored recently at a ceremony establishing the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Emory Food Allergy Center. The NPB made a donation to the center in White’s memory.

“There’s a huge gap in the Southern United States in that it is without a world-class food allergy and treatment center. Georgia being the largest producer of peanuts, it’s fitting that a world-class university like Emory has started this program and brought in solid leadership in Dr. Brian Vickery,” said NPB President and CEO Bob Parker.

“Like other peanut farmers, Bob White took great pride in growing a nutritious and wholesome food. That anyone could be harmed by eating the product he grew bothered him. During his NPB tenure, Bob embraced efforts to prevent, treat and find a cure for peanut allergy. He would have been excited to know that NPB played a role in bringing a food allergy research center to a prestigious institution like Emory University,” he said.

Many NPB staff, former board members and Texas peanut leaders attended the event along with White’s wife Pat and daughter Mandi Gay.

Cold Temps Delay Planting

The University of Georgia Agricultural Climatologist, Pam Knox, says that in terms of heat, February in the Southeastern United States set records, so the swing to lower-than-normal temperatures in March and early April came as a shock to many.

“That colder March air slowed the growth of some crops and delayed planting of others due to low soil temperatures,” she says. “Dry soils also contributed to planting delays in some parts of the state.”

Precipitation in most of the state was also below normal, which led to an increase in drought, particularly in the southeastern part of the state. Overall, 50 percent of the state was in drought by the end of March.

For more information, visit the Climate and Agriculture in the South East blog at https://site.extension.uga.edu/climate/, the Southeast Ag Climate Facebook page or @SE_AgClimate on Twitter.