WASHINGTON, Sept. 2, 2016 - Farmers in the Southeast are bracing for the arrival of Hermine today. USDA meteorologist Mark Brusberg says that about 20 percent of the nation’s cotton crop lies in the path that the storm is expected to take through Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. 

Much of the cotton in the three states is particularly vulnerable to damage from severe weather right now as the plants begin opening up, Brusberg says. Bolls have opened on about 42 percent of the cotton in Georgia now. For South Carolina it’s about 25 percent, and for North Carolina about 32 percent.

Congress urged to move on farm bill next year. At least one major farm group is urging lawmakers to start moving a new farm bill to ensure it gets enacted ahead of the mid-term elections in 2018. 

Richard Wilkins, president of the American Soybean Association, said at the Farm Progress Show yesterday that it’s going to be “very difficult and challenging” to pass the bill if  Congress delays work on the legislation until 2018. ASA’s big concern is that delaying a new bill into the following Congress means that lawmakers are likely to have less money to spend on it. 

Because of the way spending was front-loaded in the 2014 farm bill, the budget baseline for the next bill shrinks the longer Congress waits to enact it. “We think that the earlier we get to work on this the better off we’re going to be,” Wilkins said.

House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway hasn’t said when he plans to mark up a new bill. The chairmanship of the Senate Agriculture Committee in the next Congress is up in the air at this point. The Senate could easily flip to Democratic control in the November elections. 

CSP revisions should enhance program, Weller says. The Natural Resources Conservation Service is previewing some of the key changes that will be included in an overhaul of the Conservation Stewardship Program. The full details won’t be released until this fall, but some groups were briefed on the revisions this week. 

NRCS Chief Jason Weller tells Agri-Pulse that he thinks the revisions will make the program even more popular with farmers than it already is while also making CSP easier for agency staff to administer. Weller says the overhaul will allow for greater local involvement in CSP and provide more ways for growers to qualify for the program.

In an announcement of the overhaul, the agency will nearly double the number of enhancements and conservation practices that participating farmers can use. For example, there will be four eligible enhancements using gypsum as a soil amendment. Gypsum can improve water quality by reducing dissolved phosphorus and preventing manure-borne pathogens from getting into ground and surface water. 

Weller says the program will continue to reward growers for their existing practices as well as new ones that they implement. There are fears that the agency will shift the program away from paying for existing practices. 

Look for more details on the new CSP in next week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter. 

NFU worried about fertilizer merger. The National Farmers Union says a potential merger between fertilizer firms Potash Corp. and Agrium Inc. could drive up production costs. 

“NFU is opposed to the merger and will continue to express concern about the outcomes of further industry consolidation,” the group said. “Family farmers, ranchers and consumers are the ones that lose out when we cripple competition, increase prices, and reduce innovation through industry mega-deals.” 

Good news on obesity: First state declines in past decade. Adult obesity rates declined in four states last year, the first such decreases in the past decade except for one recorded in Washington, D.C., in 2010. According to an annual report by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the declines occurred in Minnesota, Montana, New York and Ohio. 

Two states, Kansas and Kentucky, saw their obesity rates increase in 2015, but rates were stable everywhere else. Four states have rates of 35 percent or higher, led by Louisiana at 36.2 percent. The next three highest rates are in Alabama, West Virginia and Mississippi.

Dole endorses Marshall in Kansas House race. Former Sen. Bob Dole criticized Kansas Rep. Tim Huelksamp ahead of last month’s Republican primary. Now, Dole has endorsed the challenger who defeated Huelskamp, Roger Marshall. 

Marshall hardly needs the help at this point, since he has no Democratic opponent in November. But Dole says Marshall “knows when to work with his own party, and across the aisle.” That’s a clear reference to the maverick Huelskamp.

Dole joined Twitter in June and one of the first things he did was use it to attack Huelskamp. “I would suggest the current congressman focus on the issues rather than misleading attacks on his primary opponent,” Dole wrote. 

The Agri-Pulse team wishes you an enjoyable Labor Day weekend. Daybreak will return on Tuesday, as will Congress.

Bill Tomson and Spencer Chase contributed to this report. 



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