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Dairy Crisis
Current NFU News
New Study: Economic Downturn and Other Factors, Not COOL, Caused Decline in Live Cattle Imports to the U.S.; Canadian Claims of Economic Damage Without Merit PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Jan. 22, 2015)

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106 
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WASHINGTON (Jan. 22, 2015) – Contrary to arguments made by America’s trade competitors to the World Trade Organization (WTO), an economic downturn that sapped consumer demand — not Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) — caused decreased demand for cattle imports into to the U.S., according to a new study released today.

“COOL did not cause the declines in livestock exports to the United States, which largely coincided with a substantial global economic downturn that sapped demand for more expensive meat products,” notes the study, authored by C. Robert Taylor, Ph.D., an Auburn University Alfa Eminent Scholar and Professor.

Canada and Mexico challenged COOL provisions related to muscle cuts ofbeef at the WTO in 2008, alleging the widely popular labeling law was a trade barrier that compromised their export opportunities and market access to the United States for live cattle and hogs. The cost of implementing COOL, they argued, discouraged U.S. meatpacking and processing companies from purchasing livestock of non-U.S. origin and, as a result, reduced the prices of these livestock exports.

But after close examination of more robust data sources to assess the impact of COOL on market access, the study found:

  • COOL has not had a significant negative effect on the price paid for imported slaughter cattle relative to comparable domestic cattle. In fact, the fed cattle price basis declined after the law went into effect. “The price basis is lower in the six years since implementation of COOL than it was the preceding four years,” the study notes;
  • COOL did not negatively impact imports of slaughter cattle. “Qualitative and econometric analysis of Mandatory Price Reporting (MPR) and monthly trade and price data cast considerable doubt on assertions that COOL negatively affected imports of slaughter cattle,” says the study.  Failure to recognize the effects of imported and domestic captive supplies of slaughter cattle and beef demand uncertainty, along with other factors, played a larger role in reduced import demand than acknowledged in previous studies.
  • COOL did not significantly affect imports of feeder cattle. “USDA monthly data on imports of 400-700 lb. cattle did not show COOL having a significant negative effect of imports of feeder cattle from either Canada or Mexico relative to placements in U.S. feedlots,” the study points out. 

Taylor’s study differs greatly from previous studies conducted on behalf of Canadian interests in a number of ways: first, it is more detailed and exhaustive than its Canadian counterparts; second, it is based on detailed Mandatory Price Reporting (MPR) data as reported by U.S. beef packers to the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), data the Canadian studies failed to consider.

“MPR data are highly detailed, including origin, import or domestic, of cattle slaughtered in the U.S. and is thus a statistically rich and robust data set for analyzing COOL,” the study notes. “Since the MPR information comes directly from the beef packers, the MPR price and basis trends reflect actual operational slaughter costs and offer a distinct perspective from which to assess beef packers’ statements about the costs of COOL to the U.S. packing industry.”

Previous findings were submitted to WTO by Canadian interests that are “adamantly opposed to COOL and is a plaintiff in a COOL lawsuit against the USDA.” Moreover, data provided to the Canadian consultants was not publicly available.

The study concludes that cattle exports to the U.S. are subject to a number of variables that are completely independent of the implementation of COOL. “In light of this reasoning, neither Congress nor USDA should undertake any changes to COOL based on arguments that COOL has limited Canadian and Mexican access to the U.S. market.”

“COOL is popular with consumers because they want to know where their food comes from, and it’s popular with farmers and ranchers because they’re proud to put the American label on their products,” noted National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson. “Congress needs to stay the course on COOL,” he said.

A powerpoint to accompany the study’s findings can be found here.

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NFU Women’s Conference Provides Skills, Guidance to Participants PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jan. 21, 2015

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106
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CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 21, 2015) – National Farmers Union’s (NFU) 2015 Women’s Conference will conclude today in Clearwater Beach, Fla. The conference, designed for farm and rural women, is based on the well-respected Annie's Project education program. The event was held Jan. 17-21, 2015, and provided participants with tools and information to confidently manage risks in their farm or ranch operations and develop leadership skills. 

"This conference built on NFU’s experience in offering adult education classes specifically designed for women in agriculture and provided participants with important leadership and management skills, as well as networking opportunities," said NFU President Roger Johnson. “Family farm operations and communities benefit when each person understands strategic planning, business analysis, risk management, and transferring operations from one generation to the next.”

Highlights of the agenda included: a screening of “Terra Firma,” an award-winning film about veteran women farmers; breakouts on leadership training, financial planning and Farm Bill programs; and special guests such as Althea Raiford, one of the women starring in “Terra Firma;” Lilia McFarland, coordinator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s New and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program; and Gary Matteson, Farm Credit’s vice president for young, beginning, small farmer programs and outreach. 

The conference was sponsored by Agribility, American Farmland Trust, CHS Foundation, CoBank, Farm Credit, FUI Foundation, Montana Farmers Union, NFU Foundation and USDA’s Risk Management Agency.

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
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NFU Applauds President’s Leadership on Climate Change, Tax Reform, Opening of Cuba; Urges Administration to Reconsider Massive Trade Agreements PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Jan. 20, 2015)

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106
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WASHINGTON (Jan. 20, 2015) – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson applauded President Obama’s leadership on climate change, tax reform and reopening trade with Cuba, while encouraging the president to reconsider his support for trade agreements that export U.S. jobs and add to our deficits.

“Clearly, climate change is happening right before our very eyes, increasing the occurrence and severity of volatile weather events, requiring better risk management tools for farmers today and legislative action by the federal government to address this issue,” said Johnson. “Farmers are in a position to help mitigate many aspects of climate change.” According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, approximately six percent of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions originating in the United States come from agricultural activities, although carbon sequestration by forests and agricultural lands offsets approximately 12 percent of annual GHG emissions with the capacity to offset 20 percent of GHG emissions from all sectors of the economy.  “Family farmers are ready to do our part to address climate change,” he said.

Johnson also applauded the president’s vow to revisit the tax code, making it more fair for all and easier to understand. “NFU has always supported a more progressive tax code, and the need to retain tax provisions that make it possible for American family farmers to continue to produce the best, most abundant and most plentiful food, fuel, fiber and feed on the planet,” he added.

Johnson also praised the Administration’s move to reopen relations with Cuba, noting that it had been a major goal of NFU for years. “The trade embargo has failed for decades to bring about meaningful change in Cuba,” said Johnson.  “Lifting the embargo not only opens new markets for U.S. agriculture products but also gives new hope of economic prosperity to the good people of Cuba.”

Johnson also urged the president to reconsider moving forward with the massive trade agreements currently moving in Congress, noting that free trade agreements have historically been a very lopsided proposal for the United States.  “Free trade agreements are not only exporting American jobs, they are contributing to an increasing trade deficit that has become a major drag on the economy,” he said.  “For 2014, the U.S. trade deficit is expected to total about $500 billion and these agreements are likely to add to that number,” he said. “The US government needs to clearly direct our trade negotiators to conclude trade agreements that will erase our trade deficit and lead to more balanced trade in the future.”

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
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NFU Supports Innovative NRCS Conservation Program, Offers Suggestions to Focus Program More Heavily on Conservation Outcomes PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jan. 20, 2015

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106
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WASHINGTON (Jan. 20, 2015) – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson submitted comments today to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on an interim rule regarding the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), commending NRCS for their promotion of conservation in agriculture and offering suggestions to focus the program more heavily on conservation outcomes.

“Family farmers and ranchers are the original conservationists,” said Johnson. “NFU members understand that stewardship of our natural resources is crucial to long-term farm viability and the integrity of the food supply.”

Johnson pointed out that NFU policy, enacted annually by delegates to the organization’s national convention, states, “Conservation programs should be fully funded to benefit the environment, reward stewardship of land and water resources and marine habitat, discourage speculative development of fragile land resources, strengthen family farming, and enhance rural communities.”

“CSP is a very innovative attempt at rewarding producers for enhanced conservation practices and NFU supports a robust and unrestricted program,” said Johnson. “CSP rewards farmers for adopting and managing conservation systems to address priority resource concerns, including soil, air and habitat quality, water quality and quantity, and energy conservation.”

Johnson also noted that CSP currently ranks new conservation practices disproportionally higher than existing conservation practices for both ranking and payment amount decisions. The interim rule reaffirms NRCS’ prioritization of new conservation practices in section 1470.24 (a) that, “A split-rate annual payment structure is used to provide separate payments for additional and existing conservation activities in order to place emphasis on implementing additional conservation.”

“NFU strongly recommends that NRCS focus on conservation outcomes and, therefore, give equal weight in both the ranking and payment systems to the active management of existing conservation activities and the adoption of new conservation practices,” said Johnson. “Annual payments should be fair and based on costs incurred, income forgone, and the degree to which the practices address priority resource concerns.”

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
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NFU Calls Enthusiastic Signup for Dairy Program “Great News,” Underscores Need for Risk Management Tools for Family-Run Dairies PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jan. 12, 2015

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106
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WASHINGTON (Jan. 12, 2015) – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson said the strong signup for the new Margin Protection Plan (MPP) for dairy was “great news,” and noted the warm reception the new program was receiving from family farmers was clear evidence that they need good risk management tools in hand. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said that enrollment in the program – which already exceeds half the nation’s dairy farms – exceeded expectations.

“Family-run dairy farms across the country embraced this program in large numbers, because farmers need risk management tools to handle situations beyond their control,” said Johnson. “I applaud USDA’s aggressive education campaign that demonstrated the value of this tool to producers, ultimately resulting in robust enrollment numbers.”

The Margin Protection Program, created in the 2014 Farm Bill, replaced the Milk Income Loss Contract program and gives participating dairy producers the flexibility to select coverage levels best for their operation. NFU successfully obtained a provision during Farm Bill drafting to ensure that family farmers received reduced price premiums for this new product.

“The volatility of dairy prices continues to increase year over year and is having a significant impact on the family farmer,” said Johnson. “We’re very pleased that family-run dairy farms were willing to purchase coverage even after a very profitable year,” said Johnson. “Dairy prices are cyclical and we have learned that good years often give way to bad years. Under this new framework dairy producers can be confident that they have some protection,” he added.

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
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