Daily Ag News Summary 12/05/2017

Purdue Says Producer Sentiment Slips Following Harvest

Producers expressed lower sentiment toward the agricultural economy in November on the heels of fall harvest, according to the Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer. The November barometer read 128, a 7-point decline from October’s 135 and the second-lowest reading of 2017. The barometer is based on a monthly survey of 400 agricultural producers from across the country.

“The November slide in sentiment was primarily driven by reduced optimism about the future,” said Dr. James Mintert, the barometer’s principal investigator and director of Purdue University’s Center for Commercial Agriculture. “We saw the Index of Future Expectations fall by 10 points, while the barometer’s other sub-index, the Index of Current Conditions, held steady at 129.”

In one of the survey questions, producers were asked whether they thought the next 12 months would be good times or bad times financially for the agricultural economy as a whole. Sixty-two percent said they thought the next 12 months will be bad times financially in U.S. agriculture. The percentage of producers expecting bad times in agriculture has been increasing since July when 50 percent of survey respondents said they were expecting bad times. Throughout 2017, survey respondents have been asked about agricultural trade in an effort to understand how proposed policy changes might be impacting producer sentiment. When asked about the importance of agricultural exports to the overall U.S. agricultural economy, 96 percent rated them as important.

$20 Million Investment in Soil Health

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a nonprofit established in the 2014 Farm Bill, today announced a $9.4 million grant to the Soil Health Institute, the Soil Health Partnership and The Nature Conservancy to improve soil health and support positive economic and environmental outcomes for American farmers. The grant will be matched by corporations and private donors for a total investment of nearly $20 million.

The goal of this project is to support collaborative research and education that accelerates adoption and benefits of soil health management systems nationally. Soil health is a critical component of a productive and sustainable agricultural system. Farming practices that improve soil health can increase profitability while protecting natural resources like air and water for communities.

However, there is no standardized measurement for soil health in the United States; instead, different sets of measurements and methods can conflict and confuse farmers and field conservationists. Furthermore, many landowners of rented farmland are not aware of the benefits soil health improvements can deliver. This project will help the industry adopt standardized measurements to evaluate and improve soil health while expanding education and tools for local farmers, agronomists, and landowners.

Group Questions Texas Governor Over Biofuels

In a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asked the agency to waive Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) for the state to no more than 9.7% for the conventional biofuel requirement, suggesting the RFS threatens to severely harm the state’s economy. In response, Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen had the following statement:

“Gov. Abbott’s waiver request doesn’t come anywhere close to meeting the very high threshold required by the statute for proving ‘severe harm.’ The truth is, the RFS is helping—not harming—the Texas economy by offering greater consumer choice, lower cost fuels, and thousands of jobs in ethanol production and agriculture. While Texas is always labeled as a big oil and gas state, the RFS has supported a burgeoning renewable fuels industry in the Lone Star state as well. Not only is the state home to four large ethanol plants, it is also home to 199 stations offering E85 and other flex fuels, dozens of stations selling E15, and one of the largest populations of flex fuel vehicles in the nation. Gov. Abbott’s waiver request ignores this critical Texas industry and would undermine the significant economic benefits it offers each and every day.

“In any case, EPA’s threshold for action specifically notes that an impact on any particular industry would not trigger a waiver. Rather, the agency will look at the impact on the economy as a whole and with ethanol today being less expensive than gasoline, and providing consumers significant savings at the pump, that is a threshold that simply is not met today.

“The waiver request also overlooks a number of important realities regarding RIN credits and the gasoline market. Just two weeks ago, an analysis from Wells Fargo corroborated studies from Harvard University, MIT, the University of Michigan, Iowa State University, and other institutions showing that merchant refiners recoup their RIN costs through higher refining margins. When these facts are properly taken into consideration, it is clear that EPA has no choice but to deny Gov. Abbott’s request for a waiver of the RFS requirements.”