Weekly livestock news for December 9: SNAP, trade, farmer shortage

USDA announces food stamp changes

The Trump administration formalized work requirements for recipients of food stamps, which means that come April 1, hundreds of thousands of people will lose access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), NBC reports. The rule change affects people between the ages of 18 and 49 who are childless and not disabled. Current rules require these individuals to work at least 20 hours a week for more than three months over a 36-month period to qualify for food stamps, but states have been able to create waivers for areas with high unemployment. The rule change would limit the waivers, restricting them to areas with a 6% unemployment rate or higher. The national unemployment rate in October was 3.6%. USDA estimates that about 688,000 people will lose access to food stamps due to the change.

Japan government ratifies U.S. trade deal; EU lawmakers clear more U.S. beef imports

The Japanese parliament’s upper house on December 4 approved the U.S.-Japan trade agreement signed in October by U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Through the agreement, Japan has committed to provide substantial market access to U.S. food and agricultural products by eliminating tariffs, enacting meaningful tariff reductions, or allowing a specific quantity of imports at a low duty (generally zero). The tariff treatment for the products covered in this agreement will match the tariffs Japan provides preferentially to countries in the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, Meat + Poultry reports. And in other trade news, European Union lawmakers approved an increase in U.S. beef imports to the EU, which will likely ease transatlantic tensions, CNBC reports. The vote in the European Parliament to allow U.S. farmers a larger share of an existing 45,000 metric ton quota beginning in 2020 came with a resolution urging the removal of U.S. tariffs on EU steel and aluminum, and the withdrawal of President Donald Trump’s threat to raise tariffs on EU cars. U.S. farmers will gain an initial 18,500 metric tons of the beef quota, rising to 35,000 metric tons after seven years.

Dean Foods bankruptcy highlights value of co-ops, report says

The recent bankruptcy announcement from Dean Foods has caused some dairy farmers to worry about disruptions in their operations, including missed milk checks. This development demonstrates the benefits of cooperatives both for farmers and consumers, according to the National Milk Producers Federation. “With the strength of the co-op backing them up, farmers know they have expertise and networks they can rely upon to help handle the unexpected,” NMPF said in its latest “Dairy Defined” report. “Even in temporary situations when milk deliveries exceed processing capacity, co-op members still have steady, predictable access to markets for their milk.” When processors struggle, co-ops help protect farmers and consumers and allow farmers to become processors themselves. “This all comes down to the essence of what a cooperative is: a self-help organization in which farmers stick together in good times and bad—sharing in profits and navigating through difficulties,” the report said. Feedstuffs has the full story.

Hemp industry cleared to do business with banks

Federal and state bank regulators announced December 3 that they were scrapping a requirement for banks to file reports of suspicious activity on hemp customers. The rule, which required banks to report each interaction to anti-money-laundering authorities, was burdensome, and many banks said it kept them away from the hemp business. This could provide a boost for hemp, which was legalized by Congress as a crop last year, Emily Flitter writes in The New York Times. The announcement, from the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Company and other state and federal regulators, informs banks they can now treat hemp producers like other customers, as long as the companies can prove they’re following licensing requirements. This development doesn’t affect the marijuana business, which is dealing with the same problems getting loans that the hemp industry has dealt with. Currently, banks have joined together to support a bill in Congress, the SAFE Banking Act, which would legalize marijuana banking by stipulating that the proceeds of a state-sanctioned marijuana business would not be considered illegal under federal anti-money-laundering laws.

USDA awards $24M to test conservation practices

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is awarding more than $24 million in grants designed to help partners implement and evaluate innovative approaches that have demonstrated conservation benefits on farmland. The funding is provided through On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials, a new component of the Conservation Innovation Grants first authorized in the 2018 farm bill, according to the announcement. Awardees include the Soil and Water Conservation Society, which proposed to work with producers on comprehensive zone nutrient management and precision cover crop strategies. Other recipients include the Water Resources Monitoring Group, which proposed to work with organizations on trials of innovative cover crop approaches, and Clemson University, which proposed to work with farmers to implement a specialized water system that uses sensors and other technology to make water application information available in real time. Thirteen other projects are receiving funding.

China’s mutant pigs could help save nation from pork apocalypse

Amid the devastating outbreak of African swine fever, researchers in China are using gene therapy to create “super pigs,” Kristine Servando writes in Bloomberg. “The most burning question for scientists is how to make the pig more healthy,” said Jianguo Zhao, who runs a research group at the Chinese Academy of Sciences that inserted a gene into pigs to regulate their heat and protect them from China’s dangerously cold winters. The effort doesn’t just involve farm animals: Scientists throughout the country are competing with other researchers, including in the United States, to develop superior foods and fiber crops. Others are working toward medical goals through gene therapy, like protecting people from HIV. China is second only to the United States in research and development spending, and as ASF destroys the country’s pig herd, the government is sending researchers abroad to learn before they return to advance their work in China. China’s rise causes concern for some U.S. officials.

No easy fix for the shortage of vets to serve rural Missouri

Low wages and increased student debt are leading to a shortage of large animal veterinarians in Missouri, but some institutions, like the University of Missouri, are trying to change that. The college focuses on large animal medicine, giving students six to eight weeks of hands-on experience in the subject, including on-farm and in-hospital care. The program also offers a loan forgiveness program, awarded to qualifying applicants, which provides $20,000 in loan forgiveness for each year of service to students who practice large animal medicine in a designated area of need in Missouri. Even given these incentives, students aren’t necessarily motivated to practice large animal medicine. “It’s not only an industry that provides people with jobs, but it’s a lifestyle,” one student said. “If you didn’t come from that lifestyle, sometimes it can be hard to understand. And then it’s hard to attract people to this particular field.” The story appears in the Missourian.