Ag Today December 31, 2018

Trade wars cost U.S., China billions of dollars each in 2018 [Reuters]

The U.S.-China trade war resulted in billions of dollars of losses for both sides in 2018, hitting industries including autos, technology – and above all, agriculture. Broad pain from trade tariffs outlined by several economists shows that, while specialized industries including U.S. soybean crushing benefited from the dispute, it had an overall detrimental impact on both of the world’s two largest economies. The losses may give U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, motivation to resolve their trade differences before a March 2 deadline, although talks between the economic superpowers could still devolve. The U.S. and Chinese economies each lose about $2.9 billion annually due to Beijing’s tariffs on soybeans, corn, wheat and sorghum alone, said Purdue University agricultural economist Wally Tyner.


Farmers risk loss of federal payments, loans, from shutdown [Associated Press]

The end of 2018 seemed to signal good things to come for America’s farmers. Fresh off the passage of the farm bill, which reauthorized agriculture, conservation and safety net programs, the Agriculture Department last week announced a second round of direct payments to growers hardest hit by President Donald Trump’s trade war with China. Then parts of the government shut down. The USDA in a statement issued last week assured farmers that checks would continue to go out during the first week of the shutdown. But direct payments for farmers who haven’t certified production, as well as farm loans and disaster assistance programs, will be put on hold beginning next week, and won’t start up again until the government reopens. There is little chance of the government shutdown ending soon. Trump and Congress are no closer to reaching a deal over his demand for border wall money, and both sides say the impasse could drag well into January.


Large fire erupts at Hilmar Cheese Company, $2M in losses reported [Modesto Bee]

A large fire broke out Saturday at a plant operated by Hilmar Cheese Company — a business in Merced County that’s one of the largest cheese producers in the state. The fire erupted around noon and took firefighters nearly two hours to put out. The fire ignited inside one of the company’s three cheese plants. That building includes an assembly line that compresses cheese, according to Cal Fire Battalion Chief Baraka Carter. No injuries were reported. The company’s visitor center — which includes a cafe — at the cheese company were all evacuated. The plant that caught fire is located behind the visitor center, according to the company’s marketing director Gwen Bargetzi. She said the fire was contained to the rooftop and did not spread to other facilities.


Catastrophic fires are a reckoning for Californians and their ‘new normal.’ Has the state reached a tipping point? [Los Angeles Times]

…Since people first migrated across the Bering Sea and down the coast several thousand years ago, the destructive and formidable natural forces that have formed and shaped this state have been chronicled, recorded and woven into the stories, myths and practices of California’s inhabitants. And with each new wave of arrivals — Native Americans, Spaniards, Russians, American explorers, as well as modern-day transplants and migrants — Californians have striven to adapt to, live with, harness, prevent or subdue the environment, in an ever-evolving, and increasingly tenuous, relationship. But after this year’s devastating Camp and Woolsey fires, which came on the heels of the landslides in Montecito and Santa Barbara, just months after the Thomas, Tubbs and Atlas fires, it seems a ripe time to ask whether the precarious balance we’ve held onto for so long has finally been lost.