May 27, 2015

EPA Issues Finalized Waters Of The U.S. Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued it’s finalized Waters of the U.S. rule in a move they are calling “historic”.  The issuance of the rule brings to a close months of debate and discussion between the agency and the agricultural community, although some speculate that either Congress or the court system could step in delaying implementation.  By law, once the rule is finalized, the regulations will become effective 60 days after being published in the Federal Register, which will happen today.

According to EPA, the new rule is a rule of definition, not a change in regulation.  Administrator Gina McCarthy has iterated many times that this rule is a clarification of current law as decided by the Supreme Court and not an expansion of current powers.  Among the items highlighted in the EPA release, the rule will “provide certainty in how far safeguards extend to nearby waters” and “clearly defines and protects tributaries that impact the health of downstream waters”.    Administrator McCarthy has said the rule does not change the permitting process.

Reaction in the ag community has been tentative at best.  The American Soybean Association says the document, which totals more than 290 pages, will take time to review.  The National Cattleman’s Beef Association was more straightforward in their reaction, issuing a statement that says the “flawed rule comes from a flawed process” and added that EPA has effectively written of rural America.

EPA will be holding a press conference at 12:30 central time this afternoon.  We will update this story accordingly

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Wheat Conditions Remain Steady Despite Heavy Rains

Wheat FieldUSDA released its weekly Crop Progress report yesterday, delayed a day due to the Memorial Day holiday on Monday.  Regardless of the delay, the report confirmed what many involved in agriculture already knew: this year’s crop is off to a good start.  While some areas are seeing heavy rains and other areas are delayed in soybean planting, the overall crop still appears better than average.

Corn planting as of Sunday, May 24th is estimated at 92% complete, just ahead of the 88% average for the past five years.  Just as importantly, it seems a week of cold temperatures didn’t slow things down: 74% of the crop was reported emerged compared to the 62% average.  As can be surmised, the state furthest ahead is Minnesota, whose early planting pace ahead of some nice rains attracted headlines.  The state is reported at 88% emerged compared to their average of 51%.  The only other state further along was North Carolina, who, despite being almost done is lagging behind.  The advanced state of emergence also had USDA releasing it’s first condition rating of the year at 74% good to excellent.  The earliness of the crop means there are no comparables for this week, although the trade was expecting, on average, a 75% good to excellent rating.

When it comes to soybeans, things were a bit slower.  Rains the past few weeks came just as corn planting was finishing in many areas but before some producers were able to get in with soybeans.  This was especially true in Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska were moderate to heavy rainfall has helped winter wheat but kept soybeans from going in.  All three states were notably behind “normal” planting pace for this time of year.  However, the quick pace further north and east means the nation as a whole is 61% planted versus 55% on average with 32% of intended acres emerged.  No condition ratings this week, but some analysts believe we could see them next week given the warm temperatures and dry conditions to the east

The only major point of discussion following these weekly numbers came in terms of winter wheat.  The crop in Texas and Oklahoma has seen some tremendous damage but it would appear areas further north are benefitting more than Texas and Oklahoma are losing. The nation’s winter wheat crop as a whole is rated 45% good to excellent, which is steady with the week prior.  Spring wheat conditions improved by a very impressive 4% to 69% good to excellent with 80% of intended acres emerged.  Again, early spring dryness paid off; Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana are all running more than 25% ahead of average pace.

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U.S. Farmers Have One Week To Certify Conservation Compliance Or Lose Crop Insurance Subsidies

U.S. farmers have until Monday, June 1st to certify their compliance with conservation mandates and remain eligible for crop insurance subsidies for the 2016 season.  In order to do so, farmers must have a Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation Certification form, also known as an AD-1026 form, on file with their local USDA Service Center.

The majority of farmers who are already taking part in other government programs including marketing assistance loans, farm storage facility loans, and disaster assistance will have this form already completed.  However, as a condition placed in the 2014 farm bill, the compliance form will now also apply to those whose only relationship with USDA programs is through crop insurance.  This is especially notable for farmers of specialty crops like sugar beets, where many producers never needed to file forms for their joint ventures.

The Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation Certification form AD-1026 is available at local USDA Service Centers or online at www.fsa.usda.gov/AD1026form.When a farmer completes this form, USDA’s Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service staff will identify any additional actions that may be required for compliance with highly erodible land and wetland provisions. USDA’s Risk Management Agency, through the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, manages the federal crop insurance program.

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