Ag Today October 25, 2018

U.S. dairy farmers get little help from Canada trade deal [Reuters]

Minnesota farmer Paul Fritsche can no longer afford health insurance as he struggles to sustain a dairy farm that has been in his family for nearly a century. With U.S. milk prices in the fourth year of a slump due to chronic oversupply, Fritsche, 58, is unsure whether he will be able to pass his 30-cow farm onto his sons and grandsons. “Do you pull the plug? We’ve been at it for 90 years,” he said. “I’d hate to lose that.” The dairy industry was a sticking point in the contentious renegotiations of the free trade deal between the U.S., Canada and Mexico that concluded last month….But Canada opened less than 4 percent of its dairy market to U.S. farmers – a concessions unlikely to make much of a dent in U.S. oversupply or improve the lot of farmers such as Fritsche, producers on both sides of the border say.


High-speed rail authority settles suit in Central Valley [Associated Press]

California’s high-speed rail authority settled a lawsuit Wednesday with a small Central Valley city the train is expected to run through. The settlement with Shafter, California, doesn’t offer a dollar figure but says the rail authority must reimburse the city for up to $200,000 worth of staff time. The city of roughly 19,000 people filed the lawsuit under the California Environmental Quality Act, arguing the rail authority didn’t do enough to mitigate environmental or other effects in its proposed route through the city. It brings an end to one of seven environmental lawsuits filed against the ambitious project to build a high-speed train between San Francisco and Los Angeles. One is still pending.


Fed report sees optimism about growth, but growing concerns about tariffs [Wall Street Journal]

Businesses said they were still optimistic about the economy’s growth trajectory, but indicated concerns that tariffs would continue to push up costs, according to a Federal Reserve report released Wednesday. The majority of the Fed’s 12 districts reported modest to moderate economic growth at the beginning of fall, the Fed said in its latest roundup of anecdotal information about regional economic conditions known as the beige book. The report was based on data collected on or before Oct. 15 and highlighted uncertainties, particularly among manufacturers, regarding the impact of labor shortages and trade disputes. The Trump administration has imposed tariffs on billions of dollars worth of imports, leading to retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods. For one trucking contact in the Cleveland Fed district, tariffs have meant price increases for pallet jacks, tires, and packaging material. Many businesses have or expect to pass along tariff-related price increases to customers, but in some cases, are unable to, the report said.


Drought forces Canadian ranchers to cull cattle herds [Bloomberg News]

It can be brutal raising cattle in Canada’s heartland. In the winter, you battle arctic winds and frigid temperatures. And in the summer, there can be scorching heat. But at least then there’s usually rain to cool things down and make the grasslands green. This year, there was barely a drop. For Larry Maxwell, the unrelenting drought fried his pasture, leaving brown, brittle grass in its wake – useless for grazing. In order to feed his 150-cow herd, he’s been trucking in feed from 60 miles away that’s nearly twice the price it was last year. Maxwell had planned to keep his herd size stable this year, but the surging costs have already forced him to cull 30 of his animals, bringing him down to 120, and he’s probably going to have sell as many as 10 more to raise the funds he needs to feed the rest during the winter freeze….Canada’s cattle industry has suffered one blow after another, starting with an outbreak of mad cow disease more than a decade ago. That’s been followed by drought, floods and labor shortages, driving the national herd down to 12.4 million cattle as of July, the smallest since 1988, government data show.


You’ll get a deal on walnuts this year. Farmers won’t. [Sacramento Bee]

The USDA estimated in a recent report that California will produce 690,000 tons of walnuts this year — up 10 percent from last year. That means you’ll save money at the grocery store. California walnut farmers, however, won’t be as fortunate. With steep pricing declines and record-high supply, the industry is already in store for some short-term struggles. And as countries like China raise tariffs on U.S. agricultural exports in response to the Trump administration’s escalating trade war, farmers worry more pain is on the horizon. President Donald Trump has responded to the concerns by directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide walnut growers $34.6 million in tariff relief — which pales in comparison to the $1.5 billion California walnut producers generate each year. “It’s a Band-Aid,” said Pat Mecklenburg, a Rio Oso walnut grower. “But if you cut your main artery, it’s not really going to help.”


California politics are hella NorCal. Will voters shake that up this year? [CALMATTERS]

California is politically lopsided: Most of the people live in the south, but most of the political power is based in the north. For the last several years, the majority of politicians elected statewide have been northern Californians—including the governor, lieutenant governor, schools superintendent and both U.S. senators. That could change after November’s election, because a striking number of statewide races this year pit a NorCal candidate against SoCal candidate, testing the political power and competing priorities of the Golden State’s two most populous regions. But don’t count on it.