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Monday, October 22, 2018
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  • CARMEL – Back home in Indiana some Hoosiers are dreaming that they may soon see the welcomed light of steel furnaces once again shining through the sycamores. But for many in the heartland that light is clouded by uncertainty because President Trump has promised to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.  Concern that those tariffs may trigger retaliatory tariffs on American products by key international trading partners is generating apprehension throughout Indiana’s agricultural community. The uncertainty faced by agriculture as farmers make their final planting decisions before the 2018 growing season are only exacerbated by the steel tariff proposal. Already bearing on those decisions are issues such as the outcome of the ongoing NAFTA renegotiation which hasn’t really focused on agriculture yet, the upshot of ongoing discussions in Congress regarding the renewable fuel standard (the requirement that gas for cars contain 10 per cent ethanol), the future of the federal farm bill and, as always, long-term weather predictions. What, they ask, will be the demand for American agricultural products if the United States finds itself in trade battles with traditional buyers by the time of this fall’s harvest?
  • CARMEL – As Americans we have morphed our right to free speech into a national inclination to grumble about our government and the ineptitude of bureaucrats who are charged with regulating industries that they know nothing about.  Rarely do we agree, at least out loud, with any government action that affects us directly. But that is exactly what consumers should be doing in the wake of a recent Food and Drug Administration decision to change a proposed rule that addressed the packaging, processing and handling requirements for any human food by-products consumed by animals.  Significantly, the proposed rule would have placed severe restrictions on the use of leftover grain by brewers and distillers as animal feed.
        
  • CARMEL - In late March most of the United States pretty much ignored the 100th anniversary of the birth of Norman Borlaug, the man most responsible for the current phenomenon of engineered food in the world’s diet. The one notable exception to the general indifference to Borlaug’s centennial was that of his native state of Iowa, which used the occasion to enshrine him as one of that state’s two honorees in the National Statuary Hall in the U. S. Capitol.  To do so, Iowa had to remove the statue of James Harlan, a college president, U.S. senator and secretary of the interior in the Andrew Johnson administration. (For the record, Indiana’s two honorees are Civil War Gov. Oliver P. Morton and Civil War general and Ben Hur author Lew Wallace). Dr. Norman Borlaug, born and raised on an Iowa farm, was a plant scientist and innovator who is widely known as the father of the Green Revolution.
  • CARMEL - A few years ago I became convinced that industrial hemp was inappropriately banned because of its reprobate cousin marijuana and that its legalization represented a growth opportunity for Indiana agriculture.  Since my retirement from Indiana Farm Bureau in October, I have assumed a greater level of involvement in the effort to legalize industrial hemp’s production in Indiana. What is industrial hemp?  The bill currently being considered by the legislature (SB 357) defines industrial hemp as a variety of the cannabis sativa plant that contains less than 0.3% tetrarahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration.  THC is the chemical that induces the drug effect of marijuana where its concentration levels generally range between 5% and 20%, although higher concentrations occasionally occur.
  • CARMEL – On Friday this week, President Obama will travel to the campus of Michigan State University to sign a bill titled the Agricultural Act of 2014 but almost universally known as the 2014 Farm Bill. Both of these titles are misleading because they imply the bill deals primarily, if not exclusively, with farming or agriculture. While it’s true that the bill is the single most important piece of federal legislation addressing agriculture, it is significantly more than that. The final bill took over two years of congressional negotiations and left both liberals and conservatives frustrated that the eventual compromise failed to address some of their primary concerns. The most expensive, and therefore most confrontational, among the bill’s dozen titles is that entitled simply “Nutrition.”
  • INDIANAPOLIS - My first reaction to President Barak Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday evening was to wonder why agriculture received no mention whatsoever. With our dysfunctional Congress congratulating itself on finally reaching a compromise on a farm bill earlier in the day, it seems the President could have used that as a timely example of the bipartisan cooperation he has been demanding. But no, I heard no mention of it whatsoever. Since my mind wandered occasionally during the evening, I thought I may have missed at least a passing reference to ag, so I downloaded a copy of the speech and ran a word search. Neither “farm” nor “agriculture” made it into an hour long discourse by our nation’s chief executive on the state of our union.
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  • Trump wanted to shut down U.S. border with Mexico
    “Close the whole thing!” - President Trump in a stormy Oval Office meeting about immigration. The Washington Post reported that aides talked Trump out of shutting down the U.S.-Mexican border, telling him it would curtail $600 billion in annual trade. Chief of Staff John Kelly and national security adviser John Bolton reportedly had a “profane” argument that prompted Kelly to storm out of the White House. Meanwhile, an immigrant caravan coursing through Mexico is becoming a late mid-term campaign issue. Trump said in rally in Mesa, Arizona Friday night, "Democrats produce mobs, Republicans produce jobs."
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  • It's Oct. 20 and it's weirdly green in Brown County
    In another year of Category 4 hurricanes ravaging the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts, wildfires devouring hundreds of thousands of acres in the American west, and a landmark United Nations report painting dire consequences of climate change coming as early as 2040, this has been a strange, strange autumn down here in Brown County.

    It’s Oct. 20, and it’s still green. There is very little color here in what should be the heart of what locals call “leaf looker” season. The golds, yellows and reds are mostly missing. And most of the leaves are still on the trees (though today’s high winds will change that a bit). Looks like peak color will come next weekend. No matter the color, c'mon down! 
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher.
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