Trump Executive Order Reverses Climate Change Progress
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on energy, reversing years of progress on climate change efforts. The order rolls back the Obama-era environmental policies, including the Clean Power Plan.
Climate change is already affecting food production at every level, by altering weather patterns, rainfall, average temperatures, and weather extremes. This not only jeopardizes American food security and national security, but also the livelihoods of American family farmers, ranchers, and rural communities. President Trump’s move to halt progress on environmental mitigation and adaptation is alarming, as it ignores the very real consequences of climate change for the American public at large. By disregarding climate change science and considerations, the President is putting our nation’s food system, and those that rely upon it, at risk
Since its introduction seven years ago, there have been numerous failed attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). During his presidential bid, Donald Trump promised to immediately dismantle and replace Obama’s signature legislation, once and for all.
A bill to do just that, called the American Healthcare Act (AHCA), was scheduled for a House vote late last week. However, once it was apparent that they lacked the necessary support, Congressional leadership withdrew the bill.
The AHCA would have had serious negative impacts on millions of people’s access to affordable health insurance coverage, particularly family farmers, ranchers and rural citizens. Of particular concern was a proposal to cap Medicaid, which is especially beneficial to rural communities. Rural enrollment in Medicaid is higher than in urban America, and rural hospitals are more dependent on Medicare and Medicaid payments than their urban counterparts.
Additionally, the bill’s structure of tax credits and premium subsidies would have been detrimental to both younger and older farmers. The subsidy system was based on a person’s age, rather than income, which would hurt younger farmers. The bill also would have eased restrictions on what insurance companies can charge older customers, allowing rates for older farmers to skyrocket.
NFU Urges Trump Administration to Oppose Dow-DuPont Merger
On Monday, the European Union approved the proposed merger between Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co. The merger, if approved by the U.S. Justice Department, would create the largest biotechnology and seed firm in the U.S.
This is one of three major proposed agribusiness mergers, the other two being the Syngenta-Chemchina merger and the Monsanto-Bayer merger. The agricultural input sector is already highly concentrated. If all three are approved, it would limit major players in the agrichemical and seed sectors to just four companies.
Consolidation on this scale essentially eliminates competition among agribusiness companies. This, in turn, decreases innovation, increases prices, and limits choices for farmers and ranchers.
Land access, agricultural land tenure and farm succession are top challenges for US agriculture. In cooperation with USDA, Land For Good is hosting Changing Lands, Changing Hands from June 13-15 in Denver, Colorado.
This conference will bring together practitioners, educators, policymakers and advocates who work with and on behalf of farmers and landowners of all types, commodities, scales and regions. While there, attendees will have the opportunity to exchange knowledge, information, and research findings, build professional skills and networks, and collect and disseminate the wealth of ideas, experiences and perspectives from all regions and sectors.
New on the NFU Beginning Farmer Column: SNAP & the Next Farm Bill
The United States farm bill, as one would expect, addresses agricultural issues such as trade, conservation, and crop insurance. Some would be surprised, however, to learn that food stamps and nutrition programs are also included in the bill.
In fact, the 2014 Farm Bill allocated $756 billion in spending over 10 years on food stamps and nutrition programs, claiming the largest fiscal component of the legislation. The bulk of this money is dedicated to one program: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), once known as food stamps. For more than 50 years, SNAP has served as the nation’s primary nutritional safety net. On average, each of the 4.7 million participants receive $134 to spend on food each month. The program allows families to meet one of their most basic needs – access to food.
Check out this post about SNAP on the NFU Beginning Farmer Column. You can also join the Beginning Farmer Forum for more on the conversation!
New on the NFU Climate Column: Tom Trantham’s Story
Tom Trantham owns and manages Happy Cow Creamery, a 90-cow, forage-based dairy farm and creamery located east of Greenville, South Carolina. The inventor of the Twelve Aprils grazing program, Tom transitioned his ninety-cow dairy from feed-based to pasture-based production in 1983, dramatically lowering his costs while improving both herd health and milk quality.
The heart of Tom’s Twelve Aprils system is the successive, no-till planting of short-lived, seasonally adapted annual forages into a permanent Bermuda grass pasture. This keeps his soils covered and provides his cows with high-quality grazing every month of the year. The forages he uses include grazing maize, sudangrass, millet, small grains, alfalfa, and clover. Variables such as weather, forage needs, and field-specific conditions mean that no two years are exactly alike, but on average, Tom makes five to seven no-till plantings a year. Tom’s Holsteins consistently top a 23,000-pound herd average, and many of them are still producing well at ten to fourteen years of age.
NFU Urges Swift Confirmation of Perdue as Ag Secretary
WASHINGTON (March 23, 2017) –
Former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue appeared before the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee for the confirmation hearing on his nomination to be U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Urging a speedy confirmation vote of Mr. Perdue, National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson issued the following statement:
“If confirmed, Sonny Perdue will be stepping into a position of great importance within this administration. To this point, agriculture and rural America have not had a seat at the table in this administration.
“NFU is encouraged by the secretary-nominee’s focus on trade, particularly on being a strong advocate for agriculture and easing restrictions on trade with Cuba. Ensuring the administration goes about trade deal renegotiations in a way that both deals with our country’s overall trade deficit and does not adversely affect agriculture’s strong footing in international trade will be very important.
“NFU is also pleased that Mr. Perdue intends on finding an immediate solution for family dairy producers who are struggling amidst years of depressed milk prices. We’re thankful for the Committee’s attention and Mr. Perdue’s commitment to explore options advocated for by NFU and other industry partners.
“We urge the Senate to swiftly confirm Sonny Perdue so that he can get to work on behalf of American family farmers and ranchers.”
NFU Salutes Family Farmers, Ranchers on National Ag Day
WASHINGTON (March 21, 2017) – Highlighting the important roles family farmers and ranchers play in ensuring food security, National Farmers Union (NFU) joined the agriculture community in celebrating National Ag Day.
“Family farmers and ranchers play a critical role in providing food, fuel, feed and fiber to both our country and the global population,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “In order to ensure our food security for future generations, we need to be fostering the next generation of family farmers and ranchers today.”
The average age of the American farmer is 58 years old, and, according to the 2012 Ag Census, 57 percent of the nation’s farmers are within 10 years of retirement age or older. The good news is that the number of young people who said farming was their primary occupation increased by 11 percent between 2007 and 2012.
NFU Urges Administration to Keep COOL as a Priority for Trade Agenda
WASHINGTON (March 22, 2017) – The Trump Administration this week released a list of 24 trade practices, including Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL), that trade negotiators should prioritize in future negotiations. National Farmers Union (NFU) is urging the administration to keep COOL on the list, and to ensure a reinstatement of COOL would be allowable under any renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
“For thirty years, NFU has championed Country-of-Origin Labeling, and we strongly believe the issue is important to American producers and consumers alike,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “American producers raise the best beef and pork in the world, and they believe consumers should be able to know where the meat at the grocery store came from. The President should stick up for American consumers and producers by ensuring COOL is a priority for his administration’s trade negotiations.”
Mandatory COOL, first passed in 2002 and then again in 2008, required that muscle cuts of meat and some vegetables, nuts and fruits sold at retail must contain a label informing consumers about the country where the product was sourced. A May 2013 opinion poll showed more than 90 percent of consumers supported the law.
“COOL provided consumers with information they care about, and it allowed American family farmers and ranchers to differentiate their product,” noted Johnson.
The NFU Beginning Farmer Forum is a community of farmers, ranchers, educators, policy makers, and the general public that share common knowledge and interest in helping beginning farmers and ranchers overcome the challenges to starting and sustaining a farming operation in the U.S. It hopes to spread awareness about these challenges, provide insight into how they can be addressed at local, state and national policy levels, and share current resources and tools that benefit.
Join the Beginning Farmer Forum on Facebook to connect with hundreds of other farmers and contribute to the conversation.
NFU Farm Safety Video Series
NFU released a series of farm safety videos in 2016. Through these 10 short videos, we hope to build mass awareness to farm safety issues and contribute to reducing the number of annual farm-related accidents.
Visit our website (http://nfu.org/farmsafety) to find all of the videos that pertain to your operation, and share with your friends, family and neighbors to help prevent farm-related accidents and casualties! You can also order them here on DVD or USB.
NFU Urges Trump Administration to Avoid Changes that Undermine RFS
In the past couple of months, there have been reports of a pending executive order to change the point of obligation for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), from refiners to gasoline retailers. NFU urged the Trump Administration to avoid these changes that would undermine the success of the nation’s strongest biofuel policy, which has been a boon to rural economies, energy independence, and the environment.
In the past, President Trump has expressed support for renewable biofuels and the RFS, and his administration has stated it’s intent to administer the program as written by Congress. Any attempt by the administration to change the point of obligation through an executive order would unnecessarily complicate compliance and undermine the underpinnings of the RFS.
Craig Watts, North Carolina Poultry Grower
NFU Stands with Contract Growers
Contract farmers raise 97% of the chicken consumed in the United States, but they face unfair challenges and hidden risks under the production contracts that are commonly offered by large corporate firms today.
In December, USDA published the Farmer Fair Practices Rules, also known as the GIPSA rules, as an interim final rule and two proposed rules to help balance the relationships between producers and meat packers in the concentrated livestock and poultry industries. NFU was pleased that the long-awaited rules were finally released.
However, the Trump Administration delayed the effective date and comment periods for the three Farmer Fair Practices Rules. In response, NFU President Roger Johnson said, “Family farmers and ranchers have been waiting on the protections provided by the Farmer Fair Practices Rules for far too long, enduring heavily concentrated markets and the unfair practices associated with lack of competition. After having been delayed and obstructed for the past seven years, it’s time to end the unnecessary delays to the Farmer Fair Practices Rules and allow these basic protections to be finalized.”
There is a common misconception that the Farmer Fair Practices Rules were a “midnight rule” of the Obama Administration. In fact, they are the culmination of nearly a decade of work, having been provided for in the 2008 Farm Bill and undergone the full regulatory process. The USDA went to extensive lengths to ensure public comment was considered and Congress’s intent was realized, only to be blocked by riders stuck on appropriations bills in the middle of the night. Though some have disagreed on the policy, both producers and consumers will benefit from the competitive, transparent markets that these rules will help protect. Consequently, in March, NFU President Roger Johnson submitted testimony to the U.S. House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture, advocating for the expedient adoption of the Farmer Fair Practices Rules.
Trump Administration Neglects Rural Communities
In mid-March, President Trump issued his fiscal year 2018 federal budget blueprint, calling for a drastic reduction in spending on agriculture- and rural-related agencies and programs.
Among his recommendations is a $4.7 billion cut to USDA, which equates to a 21 percent drop for programs that serve rural and farming communities across the U.S. This huge cut to discretionary spending puts rural development, food safety, conservation and research programs on the chopping block. Additionally, the blueprint provides for a $2.6 billion cut to EPA funding. This 31 percent drop guts the agency’s ability to provide essential environmental services and pesticide approval.
Family farmers and ranchers are currently enduring the worst farm economy in well over a decade as well as an inadequate safety net that is hamstrung by $23 billion in budget cuts. Further cuts to agencies and programs that provide support to agriculture and rural communities will compound the difficulties farmers endure, particularly during the current farm crisis. These cuts and the message they send to rural America are deeply disappointing.
To compound these concerns, President Donald Trump failed to mention the words ‘rural,’ ‘farm,’ or ‘agriculture’ in his address to a joint session of Congress in February, even though he touched on a number of subjects that will both directly and indirectly affect American farmers and ranchers. NFU expressed dismay about the President’s statements on trade, immigration, and healthcare.
The President’s plans to replace the “current system of lower-skilled immigration” has many farmers and ranchers on edge, as it neglects the unique and important contribution of immigrant laborers to our national food system and rural economies. Farmers are similarly concerned about the proposed changes in national health insurance policy. Notably, motions to cut support to Medicaid would disproportionately affect farmers and ranchers, a population that is older than average.
To this point, the president has put the needs of rural America and agriculture on the backburner, and, in many cases, on the chopping block. If the President intends to be a champion for all Americans, he must consider the real and lasting impacts of his policy agenda and budget on rural America and family farmers and ranchers.
Member Benefit Highlight: DripWorks
NFU members receive a 10%discount on retail purchases. For discounts up to 25%, NFU members are invited to take advantage of DripWorks’ one-step signup process for wholesale pricing. DripWorks provides quality drip irrigation supplies and equipment to people wanting to reap the savings and benefits of using drip irrigation.
Visit nfu.org/join to become a member and start saving today.
Have you heard the term “telemedicine” recently and wondered what it is? Wonder no more! Telemedicine is a convenient new way to talk to a doctor 24 hours a day 7 days a week when you’re having non-emergency medical issues at home or anywhere else not close to a doctor’s office.
So how does it work? You get telemedicine when you sign up for the Wellness Access Card for a low $99 yearly fee for the entire family. You will then get access to a 24-hour physician phone line that lets you speak to a real doctor, who will make treatment recommendations and even write prescriptions over the phone for common sickness such as flu, sinus infections, respiratory infections, pink eye and more.
Telemedicine is a great option for those who live in rural areas far away from a doctor’s office. You don’t need to wait until the morning to visit the doctor if you’re feeling under the weather at night.
There are no age restrictions, and there are even pediatricians available for when your children get sick. On average we see 97% member satisfaction and 97% physician satisfaction. On average members receive a call back from the physician in 22 minutes and a guarantee call back within three hours.
All you have to do is sign up for the Wellness Access Card and choose whether you want a monthly or annual membership. Once enrolled you will receive your membership kit, which comes with the telemedicine phone number and specific instructions on how to use it. That’s it. No long forms to fill out. Simply call the number and get medical assistance.
Farmers Union Insurance has always been a community-based insurance provider. Founded by Farmers Union leaders in 1945, the company offers personalized, relationship-based service to farmers and rural residents across the Rocky Mountain and upper Midwest states. Last year alone Farmers Union Insurance provided more than 90,000 policies.
In 2005 Farmers Union Insurance was integrated into the Americas division of the international QBE Insurance Group. As part of the QBE family, Farmers Union Insurance continues to offer quality care and protection to policyholders. Together, QBE and Farmers Union work to maintain the Farmers Union brand to ensure that America’s farmers, ranchers and rural residents know that Farmers Union respects and supports their economic needs and livelihoods.
It is an exciting time for Farmers Union Insurance. By working with QBE, Farmers Union Insurance is poised to expand its offerings to new regions and enhance its product line. New products are ready to be rolled out under the Farmers Union brand that will allow family farmers, ranchers and rural residents to choose a policy that is better tailored for their needs. There are imminent plans to expand the geographic offering of Farmers Union Insurance beyond the current footprint and to further support our Nation’s rural communities.
Looking to get the most out of your insurance policy or know a farmer who is? Remember that by choosing a Farmers Union Insurance product you are supporting your state Farmers Union as well as National Farmers Union’s 114 year old effort to advocate on behalf of the American family farm.
Farmers Union members join for lots of different reasons, but a very fundamental reason is a business reason. They want to get added-value from their membership for their farming operation. In the states where Hasting Mutual Insurance Company operates, the added-value is a very high-quality health insurance partnership that provides many of the insurance products farmers across the country need.
Hastings Mutual provides members top farm insurance products as well as other great coverages including home, auto and commercial insurance. The company operates in six Midwestern states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. Last year alone, the partnership garnered over 500 new memberships in those states.
Know a farmer in one of these six states? Tell them to contact their state farmers union or a Hastings insurance agent in their area to receive discounts on their farm owners policy premium.
Watch the Hastings Mutual/NFU partnership video here.
Visit our website to learn more about your state farmers union. Call Hastings Mutual at 1-800-442-8277 to find an agent near you.