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The Number One Agriculture Story of 2016 — Record crops and low prices were a reality this past year. The Red River Farm Network is ranking this combination at the top of its list of the top ten agriculture stories of 2016. After an early start to spring planting, farmers finished the year with big bushels. Oklee, Minnesota farmer J.J. Johnson offered his perspective on yields when we visited with him in October. “We had bean yields 25 percent higher than the best crop we ever had. You get 65 or 70 bushel beans and the farm average is in the 50s.” Sugarbeet yields were also high, with many farmers lifting 30-plus ton beets. With the big crop, commodity prices are down. U.S. farm income is down 17 percent from last year. LDP’s were back in vogue in winter wheat country. In addition to large crops, the U.S. dealt with record meat supplies. Cattle futures dropped to a four-year low.

#2: Rural Vote Makes a Difference — Ranking second in the list of top agriculture news stories of 2016 is the election of Donald Trump. Rural voters are credited for helping Trump defeat Hillary Clinton in the race for the White House. Trump won the rural vote with a 62-to-34 percent margin. Clinton had the popular vote, but Trump overwhelmingly won the electorial vote. The U.S. House and Senate maintained a GOP majority.

#3: Merger Mania — The number three story was the merger mania that swept through agriculture this past year. At the top of the heap, Bayer made a successful $66 billion bid for Monsanto. Earlier in the year, Monsanto offered $47 billion for Syngenta, which was rejected and Syngenta accepted a $43 billion bid from ChemChina. The Dow/DuPont merger is moving forward and is expected to be finalized in the year ahead. A hint about the regulatory review process may be found with the Justice Department decision to challenge the deal between Deere and Precision Planting

#4: GMO Labeling — The controversial GMO labeling law is the number four story of the year for the Red River Farm Network. In late July, President Barack Obama signed a compromise bill that requires food companies to disclose biotech ingredients. The federal law preempted Vermont and other states from implementing state-specific labeling laws. USDA now has two years to develop the rules for this labeling effort.

#5: New Weed Control Tools Registered — With weed resistance becoming a bigger concern, farmers will have new technologies to utilize in 2017. The approval of these new tools is the number five story for the Red River Farm Network in our review of the past year. XtendiMax herbicide, which is a low-volatility dicamba from Monsanto, has been approved for Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans. The Dow AgroSciences product called Enlist is a 2,4-D product and it has approval for use in corn and soybeans. After nearly four years of delays, the latest technology to be registered is Engenia from BASF.

#6: Regulatory Pressure — In the top ten list of the top agriculture stories, the issue of regulations is ranked number six. The Waters of the United States rule made headlines throughout the year. Congress passed a resolution of disapproval for WOTUS, but it was vetoed by President Obama. WOTUS is now in the courts. Other regulatory-related stories this year include the Renewable Fuel Standard, which is back up to statutory levels. EPA also proposed the reduced use of atrazine. The federal government studied the relationship between glyphosate and cancer and OSHA’s anhydrous rule was stopped by the courts.

#7: Trade Policy — Despite a full-court press from agriculture, the Trans-Pacific Partnership went south in 2016, ranking as the number seven ag-related story. A protectionist stance was taken by both presidential candidates this past year and TPP was not ratified by Congress. National Corn Growers Association chief executive officer Chris Novak is worried about the impact for agriculture. “The next trade agreement that we see is one that doesn’t include the United States. It will be China or the European Union making a trade deal with these same countries and the U.S. will be fighting for access and losing jobs and economic activity.”  In addition, the U.S. has challenged Chinese wheat, corn and rice subsidies; the U.S. renegotiated the sugar suspension agreement with Mexico and USDA opened the U.S. market to Brazilian beef imports.

An Option for Beginning Farmers — USDA is making it easier to transfer land to the next generation of farmers and ranchers. Beginning January 9, USDA will offer an early termination opportunity for certain CRP contracts, making it easier to transfer property to the next generation. The land that is eligible for the early termination is among the least environmentally sensitive land in the CRP. USDA Deputy Secretary Lanon Baccam says this will make room for more highly erodible land in the CRP. “A lot of new, beginning farmers are looking for ways to get into the ag business, but are having challenges finding access to land. This early termination allows us to free up more CRP acres for us to cover some of the higher conservation value land elsewhere.” The normal fee for terminating CRP contracts early is waived with this program.

Farmworker Rules Take Effect — The federal government’s farmworker protection rules have taken effect as scheduled, despite pleas from the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and the American Farm Bureau Federation. With this rule, farmworkers can choose a third party to receive pesticide records from a farm. Farm Bureau says anti-agriculture groups could gain access to those records with that provision. NASDA says the states do not have the materials or resources to implement the new rules on a timely basis.


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Source: Red River Farm Network