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Farm News & Views for the week of January 22, 2024

While congress has passed a third budget extension, many legislators in Congress say there is a growing sense that new farm bill legislation is still a long way off. Under the new proposal, the Agriculture Department and Food and Drug Administration will run out of cash on March 1st . A number of other agencies would be funded through March 8th , but without a stopgap or a full-year spending bill signed into law, USDA and FDA will shut down on Saturday, March 9th. Also, the Continuation Resolution doesn’t include additional funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, which pushes the issue of an imminent funding shortfall for this program down the road.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, D- Mich., sent a memo to committee colleagues last week spelling out five key principles that she believes will modernize the farm bill safety net, which include targeting programs to active farmers, giving farmers more choice and flexibility, providing assistance in a timely manner, expanding the reach of programs to help more farmers and addressing the risks that emerging farmers face. Stabenow stated that crop insurance is a key tool to meaningfully advance each of those goals.

Last week, the American Farm Bureau Federation wrapped up their annual convention in Salt Lake City. Among the key issues that were discussed included getting Congress to pass a new farm bill that includes a stronger financial safety net, as well as passing immigration ag labor reforms. Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall pointed out that a safety net for farmers is critical for Americans to ensure they have a secure food supply. The organization also continues to pressure Congress on immigration reforms that would allow more foreign guest workers into the country on a full-time basis, and in a way that reduces the wages farmers pay for those workers now. Duvall contends that “fixing agriculture's labor challenges is the biggest limiting factor that American agriculture has."

Deere and Company has been involved in agriculture since 1837, when the founder, John Deere, began manufacturing and selling plows to farmers who were breaking out new land in the western frontier. . Now the company, the largest agriculture machinery manufacturer in the world, has announced that it is partnering with Elon Musk’s Starlink, to provide satellite-based high-speed internet for its machines on farms that have internet connectivity issues.

Over the past several months, shipments of agricultural products from Gulf of New Mexico ports to the west have been hampered by a drought that has reduced the number of ships that can traverse the Panama Canal both east and west bound. Currently, the backlog of shipments is up to 26 days. To help alleviate this slowdown of traffic, the Mexican Government has invested about $62 million into upgrading a railway that will divert traffic away from the Panama Canal through a new logistics corridor that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The project upgraded the existing railway, buying land for industrial parks, and acquiring new machinery and equipment . Transit on this railway is expected to take about three hours, and is reported to begin service in the near future.

Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Wisdom is knowing what to do next, skill is knowing how to do it. Virtue is doing it.”

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.