Times are tough for American farmers and ranchers. This year, net farm income is forecast to be just half of what it was four years ago, and the lowest it has been in well over a decade. This steep decline, which is not projected to improve any time soon, leaves many farming operations vulnerable and forces farmers to make difficult decisions.
In order to provide farmers with the resources and support needed to endure these tough economic conditions, NFU and Farmers Union state divisions have compiled resources, organized listening sessions, and initiated a national campaign to raise awareness for the current farm crisis, as announced in this NFU press release. As part of this effort, NFU launched a new online resource center earlier this week, the Farm Crisis Center, to help farmers find the information and services they need to get through financial and personal emergencies.
NFU is committed to bring the issue to the attention of policymakers and the media. Farmers Union state divisions are organizing listening sessions to bring together farmers to discuss the impacts of the depressed farm economy. NFU will bring these stories and information to the halls of Congress, the administration, and across multimedia platforms to raise awareness for the crisis currently confronting farming and rural communities.
More information on the farm crisis, farmer resources, and Farmers Union listening sessions can be found at https://farmcrisis.nfu.org/.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced plans to reorganize the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). He outlined the reorganization in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, which emphasized the importance of international exports to farmers and ranchers. The proposal would create a new Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, which is required by the 2014 Farm Bill and establishes a mission area focused solely on international trade. Furthermore, the plan would realign the Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency, and Natural Resources Conservation Service under the Farm Production and Conservation Mission Area. Additional details of the reorganization can be found in the USDA’s report to Congress.
However, the plan also calls for an elimination of the undersecretary of rural development. Instead the Rural Development division would report directly to the Secretary. To oppose the suggestion, The Campaign for Renewed Rural Development, of which NFU is a member, sent Congressional leadership a letter. In addition to urging Congress “to prevent any attempt to eliminate the Rural Development Mission Area (RD) and the Office of the Under Secretary for Rural Development,” the group affirmed the necessity of rural development and vibrant rural communities to food producers. “Family farmers and ranchers need vibrant rural communities because they provide desirable amenities and jobs,” NFU President Roger Johnson said of the issue in an NFU press release.
On Wednesday, Perdue further addressed the reorganization in testimony before the House Agriculture Committee. During the session, Perdue said that RD would instead be led by an assistant secretary who would directly report to the Office of the Secretary. This possibility was addressed in the letter, which noted that undersecretaries, unlike special assistants, are confirmed by the Senate and are accountable to Congress. By decreasing oversight of the position, RD’s leadership and accountability could suffer, thus decreasing our nation’s ability to serve rural communities.
America’s farmers and ranchers have the opportunity to strongly represent agriculture in their communities and industry by taking part in the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the census, to be mailed at the end of this year, is a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches, and those who operate them.
Producers who are new to farming or who did not receive a Census of Agriculture in 2012 still have time to sign up to receive the 2017 Census of Agriculture report form by visiting www.agcensus.usda.gov and clicking on the ‘Make Sure You Are Counted’ button through June. NASS defines a farm as any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year (2017).
New on the NFU Climate Column: Diversified Crop Rotations
In addition to its environmental advantages, the practice can offer economic benefits. It can both increase yields as well as reduce the need for herbicide and fertilizer, cutting costs for farmers. Additionally, emerging markets for oats and other grains may offer producers an effective way to diversify income.
New on the NFU Beginning Farmer Column: Why Media Matters in Agriculture
Why does media matter in agriculture? Because it is the platform by which farmers can grow and diversify the market for their products. In this guest post in the NFU Beginning Farmer Forum, Tommy Enright of Black Rabbit Farm describes his own experience with media coverage, saying that it has helped him reach more farmers market customers, restaurants, and butcher shops. He says that by diversifying his customer base, he has built resilience for his operation.
NFU Disappointed by House Vote for AHCA, Calls on Senate to Reject the Bill
WASHINGTON (May 4, 2017) – The U.S. House of Representatives today voted to approve the American Health Care Act (AHCA), a bill that would cause millions of Americans to lose their health insurance, lessen protections for those with preexisting conditions, and adversely affect family farmers and rural Americans.
National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson issued the following statement in response:
“NFU has long advocated for the right to affordable, high-quality health care for all Americans. Because AHCA would both hinder access to health insurance for millions of people as well as drastically impair the effectiveness and affordability of rural healthcare, we are deeply disappointed by today’s House vote to approve the bill. We urge the Senate to reject this legislation.”
WASHINGTON (May 1, 2017) – Continuing a long tradition of advocating for competitive marketplaces for family farmers and ranchers, National Farmers Union (NFU) today urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to oppose the proposed China National Chemical Corp’s (ChemChina) acquisition of Syngenta AG.
In public comments to FTC Secretary Donald S. Clark, NFU President Roger Johnson asserted that the deal further consolidates the highly globalized agricultural inputs sector. This decreases competition amongst the few companies that dominate the marketplace, limiting choice and raising prices for family farmers.
“ChemChina’s proposed takeover of Syngenta would disrupt trade flows and accelerate the international consolidation of food and agribusiness industries,” said Johnson. “We urge you to stand up for family farmers and ranchers and oppose the merger.”
NFU Statement on Sonny Perdue’s Confirmation as Agriculture Secretary
WASHINGTON (April 24, 2017) –
The U.S. Senate today confirmed former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue as the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson released the following statement in response to the announcement:
“Having endured months of the current farm crisis and drastic policy changes in Washington without a Secretary of Agriculture, family farmers and ranchers are relieved that Sonny Perdue has finally been confirmed to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture. We are hopeful Perdue will provide rural America with a strong voice in Washington. NFU stands ready to assist the new Secretary as he navigates the myriad issues facing family agriculture and rural communities.”
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 Consider Farmers Before Agribusiness Mergers
Extreme concentration in the agribusiness sector has long threatened the wellbeing of farmers and ranchers. A recent wave of consolidation in the agricultural inputs sector has farmers particularly on edge, with three major proposed mergers: Dow-Dupont, Bayer-Monsanto and ChemChina-Syngenta. If all three are approved, it would limit major players in the agrichemical and seed sectors to just four companies. The resulting reduction in concentration would decrease innovation, increase input costs, and limit choice for farmers.
In January, NFU was alarmed when then-President-elect Donald Trump met with Bayer AG, a German agricultural input company. During that meeting, the two parties struck a deal, committing Bayer to invest $8 billion towards research and development, should the company be permitted to acquire competitor Monsanto Co. This deal suggesed the administration’s tacit approval of the Bayer-Monsanto merger, which would occur at the expense of family farmers and ranchers. Additionally, the timing of this meeting was troublesome, as it occurred before the President-elect had selected his nominee for Secretary of Agriculture. This left many concerned that after inauguration, President Trump would continue to prioritize the needs of agribusiness over those of rural communities.
Similarly, NFU was worried by the approval of the proposed merger between Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co. by the European Union, and urged the Trump administration to block the deal. The merger of Dow and DuPont, the 4th and 5th largest firms, would give the resulting company about 41% of the market for corn seeds and 38% of the market for soybean seeds. If the Dow-DuPont and Bayer-Monsanto mergers were both approved, there would effectively be a duopoly in the corn and soybean seed markets.
In early April, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is responsible for eliminating and preventing anticompetitive business practices, approved ChemChina’s $43 billion acquisition of Syngenta, provided that it divest production of three pesticides. In the following days, the merger received the green light from the European Commission, the Comisión Federal de Competencia Económica in Mexico, and China’s Ministry of Commerce. Brazil’s Administrative Council for Economic Defense and Canada’s Competition Bureau had previously approved the deal, leaving India as the only holdout as of early May. In response, President Roger Johnson submitted public comments to FTC Secretary Donald S. Clark, asserting that the deal further consolidates the highly globalized agricultural inputs sector. Johnson also expressed concern that the deal would give the resulting conglomerate an unfair advantage in accessing Chinese markets, as ChemChina is owned by the Chinese government.
NFU Advocates for Science-Based Environmental Policy
In his first four months as president, Donald Trump has made a number of changes to U.S. environmental policy, including a reversal of Obama-era regulations intended to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. He has threatened to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, although it is currently unclear whether or not he will follow through.
In mid-April, NFU President Roger Johnson sent President Trump a letter, urging him to maintain the United States’ commitments under the Paris Agreement, an international framework to address climate change. Climate change, by severely altering average temperatures and weather patterns, jeopardizes American food security and the livelihoods of American family farmers, ranchers and rural residents. The Paris Agreement is vital to enhancing the climate resiliency of family farm operations and rural communities, and it allows family farmers and ranchers to join carbon sequestration efforts that stimulate economic growth in rural America.
On Earth Day, April 22, National Farmers Union joined the first-ever March for Science, organized to celebrate science, call for science that upholds the common good, and demand evidence-based policies in the public interest. NFU President Roger Johnson addressed the crowd at the flagship event in Washington, D.C., emphasizing the importance of science-based policy for the success of America’s farmers and ranchers. He also voiced support for publicly funded, independent, and peer-reviewed agricultural research to inform both farmers and policymakers.
The following weekend, on Trump’s 100th day in office, NFU joined 200,000 people at the People’s Climate March in the nation’s capital to show the world and U.S. leaders that we will resist attacks on our people, our communities, and our planet. The day before the march, Tom Driscoll, NFU’s Director of Conservation Policy, spoke at a climate science and solutions forum hosted by Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts. Driscoll discussed why farmers care about climate change, and presented many practices that farmers can implement to both mitigate and adapt to its effects.
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 use 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 released a statement in response, expressing dismay about the President’s stance 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: Burpee Seeds
Burpee seeds and plants are available for all growing zones and for all seasons and Burpee guarantees each and every product. In order to keep pace with the changing times, Burpee’s highly recognized catalog can now be viewed online. Burpee.com can be used as a one-stop-shop for gardening techniques, recipes, FAQs, etc. NFU members receive a 10% discount at checkout.
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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.