Sec. Perdue: U.S. Farm Exports Hit 3rd Highest Level on Record

Climb Eight Percent in FY 2017 to $140.5 Billion

U.S. agricultural exports totaled $140.5 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2017, climbing nearly $10.9 billion from the previous year to the third-highest level on record, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced today. As it has done for well over 50 years, the U.S. agricultural sector once again posted an annual trade surplus, which reached $21.3 billion, up almost 30 percent from last year’s $16.6 billion.

“U.S. agriculture depends on trade. It is great to see an increase in exports and we hope to open additional markets to build on this success,” Perdue said.  “I’m a grow-it-and-sell-it kind of guy.  If American agricultural producers keep growing it, USDA will keep helping to sell it around the world.”

China finished the fiscal year as the United States’ largest export customer, with shipments valued at $22 billion, followed closely by Canada at $20.4 billion. U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico reached $18.6 billion, a six-percent gain from last year, while exports to Japan grew 12 percent, to $11.8 billion. Rounding out the top 10 markets were the European Union ($11.6 billion), South Korea ($6.9 billion), Hong Kong ($4 billion), Taiwan ($3.4 billion), Indonesia ($3 billion) and the Philippines ($2.6 billion).

U.S. bulk commodity exports set a volume record at 159 million metric tons, up 11 percent from FY 2016, while their value rose 16 percent to $51.4 billion. The surge was led by soybean exports, which reached a record 60 million metric tons, valued at $24 billion. Exports of corn, wheat and cotton all grew as well, with the value of cotton exports climbing 70 percent, to $5.9 billion, wheat exports up 21 percent, to $6.2 billion, and corn exports up six percent, to $9.7 billion.

A number of other products saw significant export increases as well. U.S. dairy exports grew 17 percent to $5.3 billion, beef exports were up 16 percent to $7.1 billion, and pork exports rose 14 percent to $6.4 billion. Overall, horticultural product exports increased three percent to nearly $33.9 billion, largely driven by an eight-percent increase in exports of tree nuts, which reached $8.1 billion, the second-highest total on record. Processed food and beverage exports rose two percent to $39.2 billion.

Exports are responsible for 20 percent of U.S. farm income, also driving rural economic activity and supporting more than one million American jobs both on and off the farm. USDA continues to work to boost export opportunities for U.S. agricultural products by opening new markets, pursuing new trade agreements, enforcing existing agreements, and breaking down barriers to trade.

Complete FY 2017 (Oct. 2016-Sept. 2017) agricultural export data are available from the Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS) database: https://apps.fas.usda.gov/gats/.

USDA Publishes School Meals Rule, Expands Options, Eases Challenges

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2017 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today provided local food service professionals the flexibility they need to serve wholesome, nutritious, and tasty meals in schools across the nation. The new School Meal Flexibility Rule, published today, makes targeted changes to standards for meals provided under USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, and asks customers to share their thoughts on those changes with the Department.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said the rule reflects USDA’s commitment, made in a May proclamation (PDF, 123 KB), to work with program operators, school nutrition professionals, industry, and other stakeholders to develop forward-thinking strategies to ensure school nutrition standards are both healthful and practical.

“Schools need flexibility in menu planning so they can serve nutritious and appealing meals,” Perdue said. “Based on the feedback we’ve gotten from students, schools, and food service professionals in local schools across America, it’s clear that many still face challenges incorporating some of the meal pattern requirements. Schools want to offer food that students actually want to eat. It doesn’t do any good to serve nutritious meals if they wind up in the trash can. These flexibilities give schools the local control they need to provide nutritious meals that school children find appetizing.”

This action reflects a key initiative of USDA’s Regulatory Reform Agenda, developed in response to the President’s Executive Order to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens. Other USDA initiatives of this kind will be reflected in the forthcoming Fall 2017 Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions.

The interim final rule published today gives schools the option to serve low-fat (1 percent) flavored milk. Currently, schools are permitted to serve low-fat and non-fat unflavored milk as well as non-fat flavored milk. The rule also would provide this milk flexibility to the Special Milk Program and Child and Adult Care Food Program operators serving children ages 6 and older. States will also be allowed to grant exemptions to schools experiencing hardship in obtaining whole grain-rich products acceptable to students during School Year (SY) 2018-2019.

Schools and industry also need more time to reduce sodium levels in school meals, Perdue said. So instead of further restricting sodium levels for SY 2018-2019, schools that meet the current – “Target 1” – limit will be considered compliant with USDA’s sodium requirements. Perdue again lauded the efforts of school food professionals in serving healthful, appealing meals and underscored USDA’s commitment to helping them overcome remaining challenges they face in meeting the nutrition standards.

“We salute the efforts of America’s school food professionals,” Perdue said. “And we will continue to support them as they work to run successful school meals programs and feed our nation’s children.”

This rule will be in effect for SY 2018-2019. USDA will accept public comments on these flexibilities via www.regulations.govto inform the development of a final rule, which will address the availability of these three flexibilities in the long term.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that include the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and the Summer Food Service Program. Together, these programs comprise America’s nutrition safety net. For more information, visit www.fns.usda.gov.

Source: USDA

USDA Helps Rural Communities Restore Water Systems Damaged by Disasters

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2017 – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announced the award of two grants to help rural water and sewer utilities recover from recent and future natural disasters.

“USDA is a strong partner in the long-term recovery of rural communities after a season of devastating hurricanes,” Perdue said. “These grants will provide resources rural communities need to assess damage, develop rebuilding plans and get access to technical assistance and clean water. USDA is standing with these affected communities every step of the way.”

USDA is awarding the National Rural Water Association (NRWA) and the Rural Communities Assistance Partnership (RCAP) each a $500,000 grant. The funding is being provided through the Water and Waste Disposal Technical Assistance and Training Grant program in USDA Rural Development’s Water and Environmental Programs (WEP).

NRWA and RCAP will use the grants to provide training and technical assistance, onsite repairs, and utility management advice for rural water and sewer utilities impacted by disasters. These utilities serve communities that have 10,000 people or less. Many of them have very limited capacity after a catastrophic event to access immediate assistance for assessment and restoration. USDA’s assistance helps these small utilities recover faster and enables first responders, rural citizens and businesses to have access to clean water.

The grants also will be used to help rural utilities apply for Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) disaster programs, file insurance recovery claims, and strengthen operations and continuity of service plans in times of emergencies. Technical assistance will include assisting new and returning Rural Development WEP funding recipients to prepare applications for water and waste disposal loans and grants and other financing options to supplement their needs.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visitwww.rd.usda.gov.

U.S. Farm Exports Hit 3rd Highest Level on Record

Climb Eight Percent in FY 2017 to $140.5 Billion

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2017 – U.S. agricultural exports totaled $140.5 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2017, climbing nearly $10.9 billion from the previous year to the third-highest level on record, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced today. As it has done for well over 50 years, the U.S. agricultural sector once again posted an annual trade surplus, which reached $21.3 billion, up almost 30 percent from last year’s $16.6 billion.

“U.S. agriculture depends on trade. It is great to see an increase in exports and we hope to open additional markets to build on this success,” Perdue said.  “I’m a grow-it-and-sell-it kind of guy.  If American agricultural producers keep growing it, USDA will keep helping to sell it around the world.”

China finished the fiscal year as the United States’ largest export customer, with shipments valued at $22 billion, followed closely by Canada at $20.4 billion. U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico reached $18.6 billion, a six-percent gain from last year, while exports to Japan grew 12 percent, to $11.8 billion. Rounding out the top 10 markets were the European Union ($11.6 billion), South Korea ($6.9 billion), Hong Kong ($4 billion), Taiwan ($3.4 billion), Indonesia ($3 billion) and the Philippines ($2.6 billion).

U.S. bulk commodity exports set a volume record at 159 million metric tons, up 11 percent from FY 2016, while their value rose 16 percent to $51.4 billion. The surge was led by soybean exports, which reached a record 60 million metric tons, valued at $24 billion. Exports of corn, wheat, and cotton all grew as well, with the value of cotton exports climbing 70 percent, to $5.9 billion, wheat exports up 21 percent, to $6.2 billion, and corn exports up six percent, to $9.7 billion.

A number of other products saw significant export increases as well. U.S. dairy exports grew 17 percent to $5.3 billion, beef exports were up 16 percent to $7.1 billion, and pork exports rose 14 percent to $6.4 billion. Overall, horticultural product exports increased three percent to nearly $33.9 billion, largely driven by an eight-percent increase in exports of tree nuts, which reached $8.1 billion, the second-highest total on record. Processed food and beverage exports rose two percent to $39.2 billion.

Exports are responsible for 20 percent of U.S. farm income, also driving rural economic activity and supporting more than one million American jobs both on and off the farm. USDA continues to work to boost export opportunities for U.S. agricultural products by opening new markets, pursuing new trade agreements, enforcing existing agreements, and breaking down barriers to trade.

Complete FY 2017 (Oct. 2016-Sept. 2017) agricultural export data are available from the Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS) database: https://apps.fas.usda.gov/gats/.

 

Source: USDA

Montana FSA: USDA Announces Enrollment Period for Safety Net Coverage in 2018

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that starting Nov. 1, 2017, farmers and ranchers with base acres in the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) or Price Loss Coverage (PLC) safety net program may enroll for the 2018 crop year. The enrollment period will end on Aug. 1, 2018.

“Since shares and ownership of a farm can change year-to-year, producers must enroll by signing a contract each program year,” said Farm Service Agency (FSA) Acting Administrator Steve Peterson. “I encourage producers to contact their local FSA office to schedule an appointment to enroll.”

The producers on a farm that are not enrolled for the 2018 enrollment period will not be eligible for financial assistance from the ARC or PLC programs for the 2018 crop should crop prices or farm revenues fall below the historical price or revenue benchmarks established by the program. Producers who made their elections in previous years must still enroll during the 2018 enrollment period.

“This week FSA is issuing approximately $850 million in rice payments,” said Peterson. “These payments are part of the $8 billion in 2016 ARC and PLC payments that started in October to assist enrolled producers who suffered a loss of revenue or price, or both. Over half a million producers will receive ARC payments and over a quarter million producers will receive PLC payments for 2016 crops.”

The ARC and PLC programs were authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and offer a safety net to agricultural producers when there is a substantial drop in prices or revenues for covered commodities. Covered commodities include barley, canola, large and small chickpeas, corn, crambe, flaxseed, grain sorghum, lentils, mustard seed, oats, peanuts, dry peas, rapeseed, long grain rice, medium grain rice (which includes short grain and sweet rice), safflower seed, sesame, soybeans, sunflower seed and wheat. Upland cotton is no longer a covered commodity. For more details regarding these programs, go to www.fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc.

For more information, producers are encouraged to visit their local FSA office. To find a local FSA office, visit http://offices.usda.gov.

Beef councils gather to discuss Beef Checkoff Program

Representatives of 28 state beef councils gathered near Denver Oct. 16 to 18 to learn more about national 2018 Beef Checkoff Program efforts and share their thoughts on how those programs could be expanded or extended through their states. The Partnerships in Action Conference in the offices of the NCBA, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program. The checkoff 2018 fiscal year began Oct. 1.

Among items of discussion was the relaunch of the “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner” brand and website, with a “Rethink the Ranch” approach and new videos and promotion on social media platforms. The program went live Oct. 9 and showcases the people who raise beef, celebrates the nutritional benefits of beef for active lifestyles and provides culinary inspiration.

“This annual Federation of State Beef Councils event is a collaborative effort to kick off the checkoff program of work with enthusiasm,” according to Todd Johnson, NCBA senior vice president, Federation Services. “Our state team members and their boards of directors have come to appreciate the ways our partnership can enhance the value of the beef checkoff to those who pay into the program.”

According to George Quackenbush, executive director of the Michigan Beef Industry Commission, the conference helps communicate a seamless, coordinated state and national plan that can most effectively reach consumers with the same message in repeated ways. “The reason we put such value on this meeting as a state council is that this is where we learn what programs will be taking place at the national level, when we can expect those things to roll out and how we can extend those programs in our state,” he said. “We can really be the army that takes these programs to the audience on the local and state levels.”

Erin Beasley, executive vice president of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, agrees, saying the timing from their state perspective is perfect. “We’re actually about to get into our planning mode, so this gives us an opportunity to meet with the staff, bring all of those ideas back, then meet with our Checkoff Task Force Committee to start our planning and budgeting for the 2018 year,” she said. “The timing of this meeting, with the content and the involvement of the national staff, is absolutely integral to what we do at the state level.”

Another benefit of the conference, according to Jean O’Toole, executive director of the New York Beef Council, is the sharing that goes on between states. “You learn so much from other states and what they do,” she said. “We sometimes joke that we rip off and repurpose, but we have no hidden secrets between our councils. It’s share and collaborate based on your budgets and what you can do. It also gives you different insights. We’re all creative and have a variety of talents.”

Because she is from a state with a higher population and lower cattle numbers, O’Toole values different types of input. “Sometimes you get support financially, sometimes you just get support through information, but either way you can’t beat it,” she said. “I haven’t seen an organization like this in all my years and it’s phenomenal fun.”

“It’s great to see that we’re all singing from the same songbook,” said Chris Freland, executive director of the Iowa Beef Industry Council. “When you’re united you’re so much stronger than if you’re separated and going in your own direction. It also validates that you’re doing the right thing within your state, as well as making sure your state board and farmers and ranchers are represented nationally. In addition, it provides our state staff an opportunity to collaborate with those in other states who are serving in the same roles.”

According to Ann Wittmann, executive director of the Wyoming Beef Council, states with low populations and small staffs value the kind of teamwork the conference provides. “The state and national coordination are what makes the beef industry so special and so workable, especially from the perspective of a small staff state,” she said. “We have programs of our own. But what we don’t have is the beautiful imagery, the fantastic story-telling, the video images, the larger-than-life programs and programs that reach out beyond what we can do as a small state. It’s the best investment that we can make so that we all work together as a team.”

Wittmann said bonding together through an event like the Partnerships in Action Conference makes the program stronger. “The partnership between the Federation of State Beef Councils, the Federation staff, and the individual beef councils is powerful and incredibly efficient,” she said.

The Federation of State Beef Councils is a division of NCBA, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program. The Beef Checkoff Program is administered by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, with oversight provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Montana FSA: USDA issues safety-net payments to Montana farmers

USDA Montana Farm Service Agency (FSA) Acting State Executive Director (SED) Amy Webbink announced that approximately 19,010 Montana farms that enrolled in safety-net programs established by the 2014 Farm Bill will receive financial assistance for the 2016 crop year. The programs, known as Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC), are designed to protect against unexpected drops in crop prices or revenues due to market downturns.

“These safety-net programs provide help when price and revenue fall below normal,” said Acting SED Webbink. “Payments to barley, canola, corn, lentils, oats, dry peas, grain sorghum, soybeans and wheat producers are helping provide reassurance to our Montana farm families who are standing strong against low commodity prices compounded by unfavorable growing conditions.”

Producers in 55 Montana counties have experienced a significant drop in prices or revenues below the benchmark established by the ARC or PLC program and thus, will receive payments totaling $212.7 million.  Payments related to wheat crops made up much of those payments.  There were also payments for oats, corn, grain sorghum and canola crops.  Cash flow from these payments is particularly helpful to farmers and ranchers in counties impacted by natural disasters.

“Payments by county for an eligible commodity can vary because average county yields will differ,” said Acting SED Webbink.

Statewide, over 3,237 farms participated in ARC-County and nearly 15,773 farms participated in PLC.  More details on the price and yield information used to calculate the financing assistance from the safety-net programs are available on the FSA website at www.fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc and www.fsa.usda.gov/mt.

Source: USDA

USDA Issues Farm Safety Net and Conservation Payments

Total Exceeds $9.6 Billion

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that over $9.6 billion in payments will be made, beginning this week, to producers through the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC), Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Conservation Reserve (CRP) programs.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is issuing approximately $8 billion in payments under the ARC and PLC programs for the 2016 crop year, and $1.6 billion under CRP for 2017.

“Many of these payments will be made to landowners and producers in rural communities that have recently been ravaged by drought, wildfires, and deadly hurricanes,” Perdue said.  “I am hopeful this financial assistance will help those experiencing losses with immediate cash flow needs as we head toward the end of the year.”

The ARC and PLC programs were authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and offer a safety net to agricultural producers when there is a substantial drop in revenue or prices for covered commodities. Over half a million producers will receive ARC payments and over a quarter million producers will receive PLC payments for 2016 crops, starting this week and continuing over the next several months.

Payments are being made to producers who enrolled base acres of barley, corn, grain sorghum, lentils, oats, peanuts, dry peas, soybeans, wheat, and canola. In the upcoming months, payments will be announced after marketing year average prices are published by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service for the remaining covered commodities. Those include long and medium grain rice (except for temperate Japonica rice), which will be announced in November; remaining oilseeds and chickpeas, which will be announced in December; and temperate Japonica rice, which will be announced in early February 2017.  The estimated payments are before application of sequestration and other reductions and limits, including adjusted gross income limits and payment limitations.

Also, as part of an ongoing effort to protect sensitive lands and improve water quality and wildlife habitat, USDA will begin issuing 2017 CRP payments this week to over 375,000 Americans.

“American farmers and ranchers are among our most committed conservationists,” said Perdue. “We all share a responsibility to leave the land in better shape than we found it for the benefit of the next generation of farmers. This program helps landowners provide responsible stewardship on land that should be taken out of production.”

Signed into law by President Reagan in 1985, CRP is one of the largest private-lands conservation program in the United States. Thanks to voluntary participation by farmers and landowners, CRP has improved water quality, reduced soil erosion and increased habitat for endangered and threatened species. In return for enrolling in CRP, USDA, through the Farm Service Agency (FSA) on behalf of the Commodity Credit Corporation, provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. Participants enter into contracts that last between 10 and 15 years. CRP payments are made to participants who remove sensitive lands from production and plant certain grasses, shrubs and trees that improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and increase wildlife habitat.

For more details regarding ARC and PLC programs, go to www.fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc. For more information about CRP, contact your local FSA office or visit www.fsa.usda.gov/crp. To locate your local FSA office, visit https://offices.usda.gov.

Senate Confirms Censky and McKinney for USDA

By  Jerry Hagstrom, DTN Political Correspondent

The Senate late Tuesday confirmed President Donald Trump’s nominations of Stephen Censky as Agriculture deputy secretary and Ted McKinney as Agriculture undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs.

Censky has been the CEO of American Soybean Association in St. Louis and McKinney has been the Indiana agriculture director.

Until now Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has been the only Senate-confirmed political appointee at the Agriculture Department, and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said in a news release he was pleased to provide Perdue some help.

“I am pleased that the U.S. Senate was able to work in a bipartisan and swift manner to confirm Stephen Censky and Ted McKinney,” Roberts said. “Secretary Perdue, help is on the way.”

Perdue commended the Senate for confirming Censky and McKinney, and said they will provide “the steady leadership we need at USDA.”

“Steve Censky will help us be responsive to producers reeling from the effects of multiple hurricanes and also offer prudent counsel as Congress continues work on the 2018 farm bill,” Perdue said.

“Ted McKinney will take charge of the newly-created mission area focused on trade, and wake up every morning seeking to sell more American agricultural products in foreign markets,” Perdue said.

“We eagerly await their arrival at USDA, and urge the Senate to continue to act on other nominees who are awaiting confirmation.”

The National Biodiesel Board was the first farm group to issue congratulations to Censky, noting that the American Soybean Association is a member of the National Biodiesel Board.

“Congratulations to Steve on his confirmation to be deputy secretary of agriculture,” said Donnell Rehagen, chief executive officer at the National Biodiesel Board.

“Steve’s decades of experience in soybeans and biodiesel will serve the agency well. He’s a proven, successful executive, known for providing a clear vision for the agricultural industry and being a tireless advocate for America’s farmers. We wish him the best in this new endeavor.”

A hearing in the Senate Agriculture Committee is set for Thursday for the nominations of Greg Ibach and Bill Northey and their respective undersecretary positions at USDA.

USDA Makes Disaster Resources Available to Rural Development Borrowers

Source: USDA

The United States Department of Agriculture, Rural Development is providing tools and resources to help rural communities recover from the devastation brought by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue highlighted today. The emergency procedures will provide additional flexibility for Rural Development borrowers and community partners to help them recover as quickly as possible and ensure they have what they need to rebuild their homes, businesses, and communities.

“Our team at Rural Development is devoted to supporting rural communities ravaged by the recent hurricanes,” said Secretary Perdue. “We are committed each day to the recovery effort, collaborating with federal, state and local partners to begin to rebuild.”

USDA Rural Development has provided disaster recovery assistance by coordinating with private partners to restore utilities to rural communities in hurricane-affected regions.

Rural Development is helping businesses and utilities that are current USDA borrowers by considering requests to defer principal and/or interest payments and to provide additional temporary loans. Current USDA single-family home loan customers may also qualify for assistance. Borrowers can contact their local Rural Development office to obtain information on potential assistance. Additional information may be found at https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/services/rural-development-disaster-assistance.

USDA Rural Development is partnering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is taking the lead to provide emergency housing for people who need it in these affected areas.

To find the nearest USDA Rural Development office, visit https://www.rd.usda.gov/contact-us.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; homeownership; community services such as schools, public safety, and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.