Ag Chat with Scott Schultz - August 22

ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU)- The Renewable Fuels Association leadership is pushing back on a federal Environmental Protection Agency assessment that continued renewable fuel exemptions going to small refineries isn't affecting the ethanol market. Renewable Fuels Association president and chief executive officer Geoff Cooper said the assessment was as insulting as it is absurd. He said the two more ethanol plants closed while the EPA assessment was being issued, and that they're eroding corn demand with the USDA recently cutting its estimate of corn use for ethanol by 225 million bushels. That 225 million bushels is equivalent to Michigan's entire corn crop, Cooper said. He said "Farm bankruptcies and debt are on the rise, and farm income is plunging - yet the EPA pretends nothing is wrong. Rome is burning while EPA plays Nero's fiddle."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency is expanding its payment options to accept debit cards and automated clearing house debit. Federal officials said this week the paperless payment options are designed to enable FSA customers to pay farm loan payments, measurement service fees, farm program debt repayments and administrative service fees, and to purchase aerial maps. Collection methods such as cash and paper checks will continue. In 2017, the average cost to manually process checks cost the USDA more than $4.6 million. Information provided by the USDA said the expanded payment options will cut the time employees take processing payments by 75 percent.

Anger from some corners of agriculture has led to threats that resulted in the USDA pulling its employees from a major farm tour. USDA officials said yesterday that all its staff had been pulled from the annual Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour, with sources telling Reuters that a telephoned threat was made from an angry farmer who was among those who believe the season's revised crop estimates issued Aug. 12 showed a higher anticipated harvest - that report depressing crop-market prices. USDA officials said the threat was taken very seriously.
Clark County continues to look for a host farm for the 2022 Farm Technology Days. Any farmer or group of farmers in Clark interested in hosting the annual event is asked to contact the Clark County University of Wisconsin-Extension office in Neillsville. The 2020 Farm Technology Days show will be in July at Huntsinger Farms in Eau Claire County