National Affairs Coordinator, Ben Rowe
This year you have heard a lot from us about international trade and water quality. These are important issues that impact your ability to farm and your ability to market your products and receive a fair price for your efforts. This week we saw both positive and negative movement on trade with Mexico, as well as an important court decision regarding the legality of the Water of the United States (WOTUS) rule. This article will review that movement and explain what it could mean for your farm.
Federal Court Strikes 2015 Water Rule
This week a federal court invalidated the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers’ 2015 expansion of federal jurisdiction over small and isolated waters. After years of litigation in suits filed by dozens of state governments and trade groups, this is the first court to reach a final decision on the lawfulness of the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. Several court decisions have preliminarily blocked the rule in many states while the litigation progressed.
A workshop on integrated predator management will be held June 4 from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Randolph Farm Pavilion, 4415 River Road, Petersburg, Va. A diverse panel of speakers from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the USDA Wildlife Services Program will discuss the biology and management practices for wildlife species that affect agriculture in central Virginia. Presentations will include information on geese, vultures, and feral swine; coyote and furbearer biology; bear management in Virginia; and livestock protection methods.
First responders will soon get the chance to learn about handling livestock during natural or man-made disasters.
The Virginia State Animal Response Team is offering two days of training geared toward animal control officers, police and fire professionals, veterinary professionals and Virginia Cooperative Extension agents. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Training will be held June 22 and 23 at the Alphin Stuart Livestock Arena at Virginia Tech. Attendees are eligible for professional continuing education credits. The seminars are co-sponsored by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation and Extension.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has announced that USDA will take several actions to assist farmers in response to trade damage from retaliation and trade disruptions. Up to $16 billion will be available for direct payments to farmers, commodity purchases and promotion programs. $14.5 billion will be spent on direct payments, with $1.4 billion being used for food purchase programs and $100 million for new export market promotion programs. Foreign donations of commodities are not part of this effort. Funds for this program will come from the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC).
During the next several weeks, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will conduct two major mid-year surveys, the June Agricultural Survey and the June Area Survey. The agency will survey 2,000 farms across Virginia to determine crop production and supplies levels in 2019.
“Due to the widespread and significant impact of its results, these are two of the most important and well-known surveys NASS conducts,” said Herman Ellison, Virginia State Statistician. “When growers respond, they provide essential information that helps determine the prospective production and supply of major commodities in the United States for 2019. Everyone who relies on agriculture for their livelihoods is interested in the results.”
Virginia farmers earned $4 billion from the sale of all agriculture products in 2017, and half of that income was generated in the state’s top 10 ag counties, according to recently released findings from the 2017 Census of Agriculture.
“If California has Silicon Valley for tech companies, Virginia has the Shenandoah Valley for agriculture,” commented Tony Banks, commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Augusta and Rockingham counties were heads and shoulders above most other counties in the state for farm income. And the Valley’s Page and Shenandoah counties also are among the top 10.”
Two in five rural adults say stress and mental health have become more of a problem in their communities in the past five years, according to a recent Morning Consult poll sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Results were released at the beginning of May to kick off National Mental Health Month. The poll surveyed rural adults, farmers and farm employees to better understand factors affecting their mental health.
The recent escalation in the trade war between China and the U.S. will make things even more difficult for struggling farmers.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall sent a letter to President Trump asking that trade negotiators make a deal as soon as possible to end recent tariffs. Duvall wrote that the tariffs “are slashing our exports, destroying a once-promising market for agriculture, worsening the farm economy and contributing to high levels of stress and uncertainty for many farm and ranch families.”