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Farmers and Ranchers Need Government Support, Not Opposition, Farm Bureau Tells Congress

Washington, D.C, – Low commodity prices, tightening credit, expensive land and rising costs for expenses such as seed and fertilizer will lead to financial losses for many farmers and ranchers this year, Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert, Jr. told a House subcommittee today.

Testifying on behalf of the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Illinois Farm Bureau, Guebert encouraged Congress to help farm and ranch families endure what observers agree will be a difficult year. He said Illinois farmers who produce row crops have been hit hard along with the rest of the farm economy.

Labor Visa Backlogs Threaten 2016 Crops, Farm Bureau Calls for Action

WASHINGTON, D.C., – Agency delays in processing visas for workers who tend and harvest America’s food crops are fast approaching crisis proportions, all but guaranteeing that crops will rot in the field on many farms this year, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said today.

Communications with state Farm Bureaus across the nation have revealed worker shortages in more than 20 states.

“Many farmer members have called us and state Farm Bureaus asking for help,” Duvall said. “They face serious hurdles in getting visas for workers in time to tend and harvest this year’s crops. Paperwork delays have created a backlog of 30 days or more in processing H-2A applications at both the Department of Labor and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.”

Farms Face Increased Financial Pressure, Farm Bureau President Tells Agriculture Subcommittee

WASHINGTON, D.C., – Farmers are feeling the pain of the continued slump in commodity prices, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall told Congress today. Lower prices will affect income for all farmers and ranchers, but will have an even greater impact on new and young farmers who have not built up equity, are renting a significant portion of their land or are paying off equipment.

“The bottom line is that farmers and ranchers are being forced to tighten their belts and pay much closer attention to their financial situation,” Duvall told the House Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management. “They will be in greater need of safety net and risk management programs than has been the case for some time—for some, since they started farming.”

USDA Prospective Plantings Report Bearish for Many Row-Crop Farmers

WASHINGTON, D.C., - The Agriculture Department’s Prospective Plantings Report released today suggests low prices for corn and rice will continue, extending the current, two-year farm downturn through the end of 2016, if not beyond.

“The report really highlights how challenging the market is right now for major crops,” said John Anderson, deputy chief economist of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “We currently have adequate supplies both in the U.S. and globally in these commodities. It doesn’t look as though that will change. If we have normal yields, that supply side pressure will not ease up much.”

The 93.6 million acre prospective plantings figure for corn is up from 88.6 million acres planted last year, or close to three times the expected increase of 2 million acres.

Farm Bureau calls for permanent rail maintenance tax credit

With the Railroad Track Maintenance Tax Credit set to again expire at the end of this year, farmers and ranchers are urging Congress to approve the Building Rail Access for Customers and the Economy (BRACE) Act (S. 2595, H.R. 4626), which would permanently extend the 50 percent railroad track maintenance credit for short line railroads.

"Short line railroads are first- and last-mile carriers that connect small towns, farms and factories to the national network, creating jobs and stimulating economic growth in thousands of local communities. Short line railroads operate 50,000 miles of track or nearly 40 percent of the national railroad network and handle in origin or destination one out of every four rail cars moving on the national system," American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall wrote in a letter urging House and Senate lawmakers to cosponsor the BRACE Act.

Farm Bureau Pleased by USDA Checkoff Decision for Cuba

WASHINGTON, D.C., - The Agriculture Department's announcement that commodity checkoff funds can be used to help market U.S. farm products in Cuba lets America's farmers invest directly in the growth in trade between the two nations, according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall.

"American-grown foods hold a clear competitive advantage in the Cuban marketplace, and the use of farmer- and rancher-generated funds to promote and market U.S. farm goods fits the checkoff mission perfectly," Duvall said.

AFBF and other farm groups have been working closely with USDA in hopes of lifting the prohibition against using agricultural checkoff funds in Cuba.

Farm Bureau and Allies Ask Federal Court to Stop Federal Overreach on Greater Sage Grouse

WASHINGTON, D.C., -The American Farm Bureau Federation and Idaho Farm Bureau Federation have asked a federal court to stop federal land use management plans aimed at excluding grazing from millions of acres of federal lands to provide habitat for the greater sage grouse. The Public Lands Council, National Cattlemen's Beef Association and Idaho Cattle Association joined with the Farm Bureau in filing their friend of the court brief in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on March 8. The brief lends support to a lawsuit brought by Idaho Governor Butch Otter challenging revised federal land management plans issued in November 2015, by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service for federal lands in Idaho. Other states have brought similar lawsuits challenging the revised plans as applied to federal lands within their borders.

According to the Farm Bureau, BLM and the Forest Service violated key laws directing how the federal government must manage federal lands and the process by which land management plans are promulgated. The revised plans largely ignore the congressional mandate that federal lands be managed for multiple uses. Instead, the plans manage millions of acres in Idaho for a single use, and a single species - the greater sage grouse.

AFBF Joins Initiative To Give Farmers Control of Data They Collect

WASHINGTON, D.C., -- The American Farm Bureau Federation and a host of other agricultural stakeholders today revealed a ground-breaking data repository that supporters say will give farmers ultimate control over the ever-increasing business data gathered and transmitted by high-tech farm machinery.

Tractors, tilling equipment, planters, sprayers, harvesters and agricultural drones are increasingly connected to the Internet. Farmers don’t always have the ability to precisely control where that data goes, nor transfer it from one data processor to another. The newly formed Agricultural Data Coalition (ADC) will empower farmers to better control, manage and maximize the value of the data they collect every day in the fields.

“Farmers must retain ownership and control of the private agricultural data that originates from the work they do in their fields,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said. “Harnessing that proprietary information for field-level efficiency and effectiveness is the key that will unlock more profitability and the greater adoption of precision agriculture. That’s good for business and the environment, too.”

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