The coming apocalypse in sight

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cuts of pork

Despite claims to the opposite, the increasing chances of Donald – “You’re fired!” – Trump changing to “I, Donald – do solemnly swear – Trump” is not a sign of the coming apocalypse.

Granted, the end could be closer than we think when any billionaire steps off his Boeing 757 airliner and declares, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

The apocalypse

It’s more likely, however, that the apocalypse will arrive in something far less breathtaking than a 757 and far more mundane like, say, a Land Grant University extension bulletin.

For example, here’s a Jan. 19 bulletin from Kansas State University that explains (I think) one of the many local options to 2016 federal farm program benefits this way: “ARC pays the difference between the (5-year Olympic average MYA Price (OAP) X 5-year Olympic average county yield (OACY) X 86%) – MYA price X actual county yield. For example, $6.70 wheat OAP X 35 bu. OACY X 86% = $201.67) – $5.00 MYA price X 38 bu. actual county yield = $190 =$11.67 per payment ac. X 100 base ac. X 85% = $991.95.”

And, as I’m sure you noted while reading the explanation, this analysis is not complete because, of course, all is “Subject to: Stop loss equal to 10% of gross guarantee or 10% X ($6.70 OAP X 35 bu. OACY) =$23.45 X 100 base ac. X 85% = $1,993.

FSA payments

In this example, the payment is less than the maximum payment of $1,993, so FSA would pay $991.95 to the farmer.”

No, I’m not making this up. Congress, however, did. Yes, it’s crazy and, yes, few on Capitol Hill — or any hill between there and your farm — know what this pretzel-bending really means. On second thought, this probably is more a sign of the times than a sign of the end-of-times.

Food labeling

One sign that the apocalypse is near is the near-perfect dissidence on what the non-profit Center for Food Integrity (CFI) says consumers want in food labeling and what farm groups say consumers will get in food labeling.

“It’s simple:” noted the very first sentence of a 2015 CFI report that compiled three years of detailed consumer research, “if you increase transparency, you will increase trust.”
The two groups most responsible for that transparency are “food manufacturers” and “(f)armers,” explained Charlie Arnot,

Farming and manufacturers

CFI’s chief executive officer, to members of the American Farm Bureau Federation at their mid-January convention in mid-January.

But while “consumers trust farmers,” Arnot told the AFBF crowd, “…they’re not sure they trust farming.” That’s not clever double-talk; it’s an insightful explanation to the ever growing disconnect between farming America and consuming America.

In short, eaters like farmers but, increasingly, they dislike how they farm.

COOL

That gap grew when farm and commodity groups successfully lobbied Congress last December to repeal Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for imported meat and poultry. No COOL means less transparency and, in turn, less trust of farmers by consumers.
It’s exactly what CFI’s Arnot told Farm Bureau conventioneers not to do.

Pork imports

Now, just weeks later, a new U.S Department of Agriculture’s Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook forecasts that U.S. consumers will see more imported, unlabeled pork in American stores because “COOL Repeal Likely Means a Slow Increase of Live Swine Imports.”

Interestingly, slow to USDA means that “Imports of Canadian live swine in 2016 are expected to increase about 9 percent, from 5.6 million head in 2015 to 6.2 million head this year.”

Hog prices

A 9 percent, 600,000-head increase in Canadian hog imports may not be apocalyptic to USDA, but the decrease it brings to domestic hog prices will trim U.S. farm profits while it pads global meatpacker profits.

That’s a terrible tradeoff —for farmers, consumers and the rural economy — now or in the best of times.

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Alan Guebert was raised on an 800-acre, 100-cow southern Illinois dairy farm. After graduation from the University of Illinois in 1980, he served as a writer and editor at Professional Farmers of America, Successful Farming magazine and Farm Journal magazine. His syndicated agricultural column, The Farm and Food File, began in June, 1993, and now appears weekly in more than 70 publications throughout the U.S. and Canada. He and spouse Catherine, a social worker, have two adult children. farmandfoodfile.com

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