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Farm News & Views - March 21, 2023

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) continues to affect poultry in the U.S. So far, the USDA has spent more than $670 million to contain the disease, which includes $414 million to indemnify owners for their losses. Thirteen outbreaks have been confirmed in early March, three in commercial flocks and 10 in backyard flocks, and the price of eggs is still being affected. The USDA reported that the retail price of a dozen large white eggs in New York rose by 35 cents, while the price of a dozen eggs delivered to warehouses in the Midwest rose by 16 cents.

Last week, farmers, agriculture groups, and climate advocates have been demonstrating in Washington D.C. requesting that Congress do more to address climate change in the next farm bill. This demonstration was a part of a much larger conversation about climate change and agriculture, and how to encourage farmers to adopt sustainable practices.

Corn is the world's 94th most traded product, and the U.S. has been the number one exporter of this yellow grain for a decade or more. But the USDA recently forecast that Brazil will export more corn than the United States in 2023. Brazil exported more corn than the U.S. only once before, in the drought year of 2012/13. If Brazil comes out as the largest corn exporting nation this year, its front-runner status might not be temporary, since Brazil is in the Southern Hemisphere, and farmers can plant two crops each year, while just one crop is planted in the U.S. Corn Belt. Brazilian farmers usually plant soybeans from October to December, and harvest in March through June. Farmers can then plant what is known as safrinha or second season corn. Brazil is also expected to exceed the U. S. planted acres dedicated to corn in the coming years. In the last 20 years, corn acreage in Brazil has risen 72%, from 31.6 million acres in 2003 to 54.5 million acres in 2022. In the same period, planted acres in the United States rose 12%, from almost 71 million acres to 79.2 million acres, according to the USDA.

Currently, shoppers who wish to support U.S. ag producers by purchasing beef, lamb, poultry and eggs with labels stating “Product of the USA", are often mislead, since these products can come from outside of the U.S., but are only packaged in this country. The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a proposed rule,“Voluntary Labeling of FSIS-Regulated Products with U.S.-Origin Claims.” The proposed rule allows the voluntary “Product of USA” or “Made in the USA” label claim to be used on meat, poultry and egg products only when they are derived from animals born, raised, slaughtered and processed in the U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated that “American consumers expect that when they buy a meat product at the grocery store, the claims they see on the label mean what it says, and these proposed changes are intended to provide consumers with accurate information to make informed purchasing decisions.” While one would think that groups like National Cattleman's Beef Association, and R-Calf USA would support this rule change, both groups suggest that there are too many loop holes that will allow imported meat products to get around the intent of the rule.

Mark Twain wrote: “The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.”

Bob has been an agricultural educator and farm and ranch management consultant for over 40 years in southwest Colorado. He writes about agricultural issues from his farm near Cortez, and has helped to produce farm reports on KSJD for more than a dozen years.