USDA approves state hemp production plans
For all its cachet as a potential money-making crop for American farmers, industrial hemp ranked midway between safflower and flaxseed in plantings, with an estimated 230,000 acres in 2019, and industry leaders disagree whether 2020 will be a year of expansion or retrenchment. But the USDA is approving state plans to regulate hemp production and offering crop insurance for hemp growers, steps that could help establish the crop.
U.S. and China to ease, but not end, trade war next week
President Trump says he and Chinese officials will sign a “phase one” trade agreement at the White House on Jan. 15 that will de-escalate the Sino-U.S. tariff war that began in earnest in mid-2018. The agreement obligates China to buy up to $50 billion a year in U.S. farm exports, more than four times the sales level forecast for this year, according to U.S. officials, but details have not been released.
TODAY’S QUICK HITS
Chocolate companies open door to regulation (Washington Post): Some of the world’s largest chocolate companies, acknowledging that voluntary efforts were ineffective, opened the door to EU regulation against the widespread use of child labor on cocoa farms in Africa.
EPA advisers fault EPA on science (New York Times): An EPA advisory panel of scientists, many of them appointed by the Trump administration, said that three wide-reaching EPA proposals, including its “waters of the United States” rule on the upstream reach of the clean-water law, are at odds with established science.
Coalition seeks ag-labor reform (DTN/Progressive Farmer): Pointing to a 6-percent increase in wages for guestworkers, the Agriculture Workforce Coalition called on the Senate to reform the H-2A guestworker visa to allow year-round employment of foreign agricultural workers.
Revised guideline on livestock claims (Federal Register): The Food Safety and Inspection Service updated its guideline on meat and poultry labels, with steps such as prohibiting feedlot beef from being sold as grass-fed and adding information about the use of “free range” to describe poultry and eggs.
U.S. hog herd expands (USDA): The hog inventory totaled 77.3 million head on Dec. 1, up 3 percent from a year earlier and part of an overall rise in hog numbers that began in 2013 when there were less than 63 million head on U.S. farms.
ON THE USDA CALENDAR
– House begins work for 2020 session, 2 p.m. ET. The Senate meets at 3 p.m. ET with Vice President Mike Pence to administer the oath of office to Kelly Loeffler, a Georgia Republican, at 5 p.m. ET as successor of Sen. Johnny Isakson, who resigned due to illness. A special election will be held in November to complete the final two years of Isakson’s term, says Ballotpedia. A wealthy businesswoman, Loeffler will serve on the Senate Agriculture, Health, and Veterans Affairs committees, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
– Senate Finance Committee meets on implementing legislation for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the successor to NAFTA, 9:30 a.m. ET, 215 Dirksen. For details, click here.
– Purdue University releases the monthly Ag Economy Barometer, which provides a sense of the agricultural economy’s health.
– USDA releases monthly Crop Production and WASDE reports, along with the quarterly Grain Stocks report, the annual Winter Wheat and Canola Seedings report and the Crop Production Annual report, noon ET. Analysts expect USDA to pare slightly its estimates of the 2019 corn crop, now 13.661 billion bushels, and the 2019 soybean crop, now 3.535 billion bushels, and to report smaller Dec. 1 stockpiles of corn, wheat and soybeans than a year earlier. According to analysts, winter wheat sowings will total roughly 30.5 million acres, the smallest since 1911, when USDA began tracking the total. Sowings have fallen annually since 2013; 31.159 million million acres were sown for harvest last year.
– Deadline for replies to USDA survey of organic farmers. Results will be released in October.