August 1, 2014

Bill to Tax Sugar Sweetened Beverages Introduced in Congress

Democratic Representative Rosa Delauro of Connecticut introduced a federal sweetener tax bill to congress Wednesday.  The bill would impose a one cent federal tax per teaspoon of caloric sweetener such, such as sugar or high-fructose corn syrup in sweetened beverages, according to the Hagstrom report.  Deluaro said people want to be healthy but we are in the midst of an epidemic with obesity and diabetes afflicting our nation and the related health care cost. She stated there is a clear relationship between “sugar-sweetened beverages and a host of other health conditions.”  The bill is called the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax Act, or the SWEET bill.

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Ag Organizations Concerned About PNW Grain Inspection Services

Agricultural groups are pushing USDA to reinstate grain inspection services in Vancouver, Washington after state inspectors stopped inspecting grain because of a labor dispute. The groups expressed concern that a bad precedent is being set if a labor dispute can slow U.S. exports. Specifically, the dispute relates to shipments out of the United Grain terminal where only one shipment has left in the past month.

Several national, regional and state agricultural producer, commodity and agribusiness organizations met with USDA GIPSA Administrator Larry Mitchell and other USDA officials last fall to urge preparation of contingency plans to ensure an immediate and effective program to continue official services at the Port of Vancouver after previous service interruptions due to inspectors ordered to cease inspections. A July 1st notice by the Washington State Department of Agriculture stated it no longer would fulfill its obligation to provide official grain inspection and weighing services at the port, with the governor saying the replacements were meant to be temporary, not a long term solution in a labor dispute that’s gone on for months.

More than 20 organizations – including the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association and U.S. Grains Council – are urging USDA to take immediate action to restore services at the port. They say the latest announcement by WSDA is unprecedented and create an extremely troubling precedent that will cause irreparable damage to the integrity and reliability of the U.S. official grain inspection system. Until now – they say confidence that the U.S. official grain inspection system will function in a continuous and consistent manner has been instrumental in facilitating the ability of U.S. farmers and agribusinesses to reliably serve foreign customers and remain competitive in world markets. WSDA’s recent decision sends a dangerous signal to any third-party that might wish to disrupt U.S. grain export trade.

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Crop Conditions Fall From Highs, Remain Strong

USDA released its weekly Crop Progress report yesterday afternoon with national ratings for both corn and soybeans falling off of recent highs.  Still, overall conditions remain the best in years.

For the week ending July 27th, U.S. corn conditions were rated 75% good excellent, down 1% from the week before as rains were minimal in growing areas.  The western cornbelt saw the most prevalent declines with North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas all falling.  Heat early in the week was also attributed for part of the decline  The result in other states was mixed, although Kentucky was the most notable decline at 9%. Still, U.S. corn conditions remained the highest for this date since 2004. Accordingly, private yield estimates from various firms have continued to creep higher.  The crop was also reported at 78% silked, ahead of the 75% average.

As for soybeans, conditions declined slightly more, with ratings down 2% on the week to 71% good to excellent.  Again, the bulk of declines were located in the western cornbelt were soils were drier although losses were slightly higher than in corn.  Of the major production states, Minnesota and Iowa were unchanged while Illinois was up 1% and Indiana was down 1%.  Again, Kentucky was the hardest hit, down 11%.  All that said, weather forecast are basically non threatening in the coming week with temperatures average to below although rains remain sparse at least over the next few days.  With the crop 38% setting pods, soybeans conditions were the best since 1997.

As for wheat, conditions were unchanged for spring wheat and in line with the five year average for this date.  The hard red spring crop is nearly complete in terms of heading progress with weather cool and basically dry, although the western plains will see more rain than the east. Winter wheat harvest is moving into South Dakota and reported at 83% complete compared to 80% on average.  South Dakota remains behind at 27% complete compared to 55% on average.  There have been some limited reports of scab in the state, but overall the outlook remains favorable.

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