Four days after defeating the farm bill, the House quietly delayed Speaker Paul Ryan's attempt to revive the bill until June 22, with GOP leaders hoping that hardline Republicans will vote for it the second time. Members of the House Freedom Caucus provided the decisive votes against the farm bill to underline their demand for a roll call on immigration controls. (No paywall)
With a trade war looming, commodity prices swooning, and the dairy industry in full-blown crisis, a growing number of American farmers are embracing a controversial set of farm policies that would manage the country’s commodity production and stabilize crop prices. No paywall
The farm bill was the missing topic during a 45-minute session recently with farmers in southwestern Missouri, recalls Sen. Roy Blunt. "The farm bill never came up." Instead, growers talked about threats to farm exports, over-regulation and the need for rural broadband. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says low commodity prices, the slump in farm income, attacks on corn ethanol and, most of all, anxiety about a possible trade war are the top concerns in farm country. No paywall
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue drew a familiar picture of a fragile farm economy recently for lawmakers pondering the 2018 farm bill: income at half its 2013 level, high production costs, debt on the rise, and low commodity prices in the year ahead.
U.S. farm income has been in a rut since the collapse of the commodity boom in 2013, and it is likely to grow only slowly after a bump upward in 2019, estimated a University of Missouri think tank.
During the seven-year commodity boom that ended in 2013, U.S. farm income soared to record highs. Then commodity prices collapsed, and farm income plunged 50 percent in three years. It now appears to be bottoming out at rates seen a decade ago.
Many farmers will "face tight bottom lines, even negative returns in some cases," during 2018, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in describing the state of the rural economy as fragile. "We project continuing low commodity prices and trade challenges in the face of large global supplies and a relatively strong dollar in the coming year."
Farm income is stagnant at the same time that farmers and ranchers across the country are borrowing larger amounts of money and paying sharply higher interest rates on the loans, said the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank. "Large loans drove the increase in farm lending, which may heighten concerns about cash flow in 2018."
The first major agricultural flaw found in the new tax law has “got to be changed,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley. Grain companies are very concerned that Section 199A of the new law “would put them out of business if we don’t do something,” he said.
After a three-year plunge, U.S. farm income is stabilizing “at much lower levels than in previous years,” said the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, warning that “growing inventories and trade uncertainty remain the key risks to the outlook.”