The Obama administration’s increase in food stamp benefits during the Great Recession “had a positive average impact on county-level employment” in rural areas, says a USDA report.
On Thursday, hours before the second-largest U.S. farm group said producers “are in desperate need of a lifeboat to keep them afloat,” the House Agriculture chairman said that fiscal constraints would preclude Congress from a multibillion-dollar bailout for farmers.
Farm income weakened in much of the Midwest and Plains during the opening months of this year, said reports from regional Federal Reserve banks on Thursday, with ag bankers telling the St. Louis Fed that an adverse trade outcome is clearly the most significant threat to agriculture in 2019. On Friday, the Trump administration increased the tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.
Fundamental change in U.S. agricultural and rural policy is "an absolute necessity," said Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday in calling for Teddy "Roosevelt-style trust-busting laws to stop monopolization of markets and break up massive agribusinesses." In a position paper, Sanders, pursuing the Democratic nomination for president, endorsed supply management — federal control over farm production — higher minimum prices for major commodities such as grain and milk and a return to a government-owned grain reserve "to alleviate the need for government subsidies and ensure we have a food supply in case of extreme weather events."
The USDA forecast net farm income of $69.4 billion this year. If accurate, the total would be the third year of net income below $70 billion since 2015. “We’re starting to see ... a new average coming out here,” said USDA economist Carrie Litkowski on Wednesday.
After hitting a pothole in 2018, U.S. net farm income will recover this year under the combined effects of financial belt-tightening and rising crop prices, said the USDA on Thursday. It projected net farm income of $77.6 billion in 2019, which would be the highest total since the commodity boom collapsed in 2014.
Ag bankers in the Midwest say farmland values were steady overall in 2018 and rose by 1 percent in the final three months of the year, reported the Chicago Federal Reserve on Thursday in its quarterly AgLetter.
Ag bankers are charging higher interest rates and asking farmers to pledge more collateral in the face of a rising demand for loans, the Federal Reserve said Thursday in its quarterly Agricultural Finance Databook.
Federal meat inspectors would report to work as usual and the SNAP and WIC programs would stay in operation if there is a partial government shutdown at the end of this week, according to a USDA plan developed for the brief shutdown early this year. Offices running the farm program would be closed, which probably would mean that Trump tariff payments would be delayed until the government opened again.