In this file:


·         Economists Lay Out Critical Issues Facing Farmers

·         CoBank: Continued struggles ahead for U.S. farm economy

·         What’s in store for ag in 2020



Economists Lay Out Critical Issues Facing Farmers

Farm Income and Finances Top The List.


By Brent Gloy & David Widmar, Successful Farming - 1/6/2020


For many of us, the new year is a time to reflect on the year (or decade) behind us and consider what may lie ahead of us. What will 2020 have in store?


Well, that is a daunting – if not impossible – question to answer in January. However, that doesn’t mean we are completely helpless in thinking about the significant issues ahead.


Here is a list of the 11 biggest issues facing agriculture in 2020.




From the trade war to MFP and commodity markets, farm income will have several moving pieces in 2020. It is no secret that ad hoc MFP payments in 2018 and 2019 have propped up farm incomes, but no such program is currently in play for 2020.




As we noted in 2019, the challenges in the farm economy go deeper than farm income. Specifically, the trends toward higher debt and lower working capital reveal an unfavorable trend on producers’ balance sheets. Will farm balance sheets stabilize in 2020?




Was 2019 the worst of African Swine Fever (ASF), or the tip of the iceberg? Conversations in 2020 will likely swing from opportunities (“Will U.S. exports surge to fill a void in the market?”) to risks (“What will happen to demand for grain if Europe and/or the U.S. face an outbreak?”).




There is, again, hope for a quick resolution to the trade war. Mark January 15 on your calendars as this is when China and the U.S. are set to sign the phase 1 agreement. At stake for agriculture appears to be a surge in China’s purchase of U.S. agricultural goods. It is hard to read what has been written/tweeted about the situation and not feel both optimistic and skeptical at times. Stay tuned.




USMCA. Impeachment. Tensions in the Middle East. Farm workforce modernization legislation. The EPA and RFS. Oh, and an election. There is a lot for lawmakers to get themselves distracted by in 2020. The biggest questions for agriculture – at least at this point – surround USMCA and the phase 1 trade deal getting across the finish line. We also would not be surprised if farm policy and MFP get attention during the plethora of upcoming political debates.


6. U.S. ECONOMY ...






9. 2020 WEATHER ...











CoBank: Continued struggles ahead for U.S. farm economy


By Carol Ryan Dumas, Capital Press (OR)

Jan 6, 2020


While the U.S. economy is on firm footing, the rural economy will continue to face headwinds in 2020, according to a new report from CoBank.


The U.S. farm economy has demonstrated its resiliency in the face of trade wars, extreme weather and other disruptive events. But without a meaningful trade deal with China, the U.S. agricultural economy will continue to struggle, authors of the report said.


“Our thinking is the U.S. economy continues to push ahead. That’s thanks to the strength of U.S. consumers,” Tanner Ehmke, manager of CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange, told Capital Press.


The U.S. economy and the global economy are slowing, in part because of the trade war, but there’s nothing to say a recession is imminent, he said.


But U.S. agriculture is trying to navigate in an uncertain trade environment and a global surplus of agricultural commodities, he said.


“The stress is still there; it’s not gone away,” he said.


Net farm income did rise in 2019 but only because of Market Facilitation Program payments. Without them, there would have been net losses. The question is whether  producers can rely on those payments in 2020 if there’s no resolution on the trade war, he said.


“So we really need to resolve the trade war,” he said.


China has promised to buy $40 billion in U.S. agricultural commodities, he said.


But “if we’re going to trust those numbers, we have to see actual sales,” he said.


That said, there are bright spots in the farm economy. Dairy farmers and cattle ranchers are headed into 2020 on improved footing and with a better outlook. Prices have recovered for both milk and cattle, supported by strong dairy and beef exports and strong domestic demand, he said.


Improved exports of all animal proteins are supported by rising global demand and pork production losses due to African swine fever in China and surrounding countries, he said...





What’s in store for ag in 2020


By Ryan McCrimmon, POLITICO



The presidential campaign is likely to dominate much of the attention, starting off with a bright spotlight on the Democratic primary contest in Iowa — one of the states most affected by Trump’s farm, trade and biofuel policies. This will also be a pivotal year for the ag industry after a challenging 2019 ended with several positive developments. Here are some of the top issues on our radar as the new decade (!) gets rolling:


Easing trade tension: The biggest weight on farmers and ranchers since early 2018 — Trump’s tariff war with key trading partners — appears to be winding down. The president said he’ll sign a “phase one” deal with China on Jan. 15, including promises by Beijing to import more U.S. farm goods over the next two years, before visiting China later this year for “phase two” negotiations.


An uptick in exports to China would be a big relief for producers who have seen sales plummet to one of their largest markets for soybeans, pork and other goods. But Chinese officials still haven’t publicly committed to a specific monetary value of U.S. ag imports, and some farmers are wary of getting their hopes up again.


The ag-trade picture could also improve in 2020 following several other recent wins: a partial trade agreement with Japan offering similar gains as the original Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Trump exited in 2017, and the new USMCA framework that’s on the path to ratification in Congress after the House finally signed off in December. On the other hand, Trump’s trade plans could still bring plenty of disruption, writes Pro Trade’s Doug Palmer this a.m.


Trade aid déjà vu? Despite positive trade news of late, USDA could soon announce another tranche of tariff relief payments to reimburse producers for last year’s financial losses. The department has promised up to $14.5 billion in direct aid for 2019 production (on top of $8.6 billion provided for 2018 losses), and officials haven’t ruled out an entirely new program for 2020.


Trade aid and other government payments were largely responsible for keeping net farm income afloat in 2019. The bailout has faced growing scrutiny from ag economists and lawmakers who have questioned the fairness of how the money is distributed across the industry. But there’s been little effort by Congress to interfere with the program, widely seen as a lifeline for farmers amid Trump’s trade storm. (Check out The Washington Post’s recent deep-dive on trade aid here.)


Watch the weather forecast...


More biofuels backlash...


Dietary guidelines on deck...




New FDA rules for food labeling took effect on Jan. 1, requiring more nutritional info on packaging...


Brazil is expected to displace the U.S. as the world’s top soybean producer during the 2019/2020 season...


Wisconsin saw 773 dairy farms close shop in 2019, an increase of more than 100 farms from the prior year...


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