#AgAlerts: Bailout; Mexico’s corn; climate, solar and farms

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A roundup of news, reports, and research on agribusiness and related issues.

President Donald Trump suggested on Twitter that he would give more bailout payments to farmers this year as they wait for trade deals to boost agricultural exports.

“If our formally targeted farmers need additional aid until such time as the trade deals with China, Mexico, Canada and others fully kick in, that aid will be provided by the federal government,” Trump tweeted in all-caps. He also added, erroneously, that the money for the aid would come from tariffs his administration has slapped on billions of dollars of imported goods. Economists have shown that U.S. businesses and consumers are paying those duties, rather than China.

TEHUACAN, Mexico (Reuters) - At least 9,000 years ago, humans began domesticating corn for the first time near Tehuacan, in the central Mexican state of Puebla, laying the foundation for permanent settlements in the Americas.

But in the past few years, more frequent and longer droughts have forced many farmers in the area to give up corn and other cereals in favor of alternatives requiring less water such as pistachio nuts or cactus.

Agricultural experts predict parts of Mexico will feel the effects of climate change more than many countries, not least because its location between two oceans and straddling the Tropic of Cancer expose it to weather volatility.

Representative Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) introduced legislation today that would set a national goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions from the U.S. agriculture sector by 2040. The Agriculture Resilience Act also introduces sweeping changes to federal conservation and agriculture programs to reach that goal.

“It’s definitely the biggest, most comprehensive climate and agriculture bill that’s been introduced, just in terms of its sheer scope, addressing everything from research to conservation to energy to food waste,” said Ferd Hoefner, senior strategic advisor to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC).

The bill’s approach overlaps significantly with Senator Cory Booker’s Climate Stewardship Act in its boosting of existing farm conservation programs, but instead of pairing agriculture with forestry and wetland conservation, it homes in on food production.

CONQUEST, N.Y. – Imagine every inch of the New York State Fair covered with solar panels. Now triple it. That’s the size of a solar farm that developers hope to build in Cayuga County.

The proposed facility in the rural town of Conquest would contain hundreds of thousands of solar panels spread across 2,000 acres, or more than three square miles. That’s an area the size of Otisco Lake. It’s as big as the entire village of Baldwinsville

The Conquest project would generate up to 200 megawatts. Over a year, it could supply enough electricity to power more than 30,000 average homes, assuming the solar panels produce at a typical capacity factor of 14%. That’s roughly enough power for every household in Cayuga County.. 

Based on a midyear survey, the USDA estimates there were 2.023 million farms in the nation in 2019, a tiny decline of 5,800 farms from the previous year. The change is more dramatic when the time frame is widened — there are 3% fewer farms now than there were in 2014, and the amount of farmland, 897.4 million acres, or 1.4 million square miles, fell by 1.3% during that five-year period.

The USDA says that five-year period saw an increase of 400 farms in the middle of its six-tier typology, for a total of 224,000 farms with sales of $100,000 to $500,000 a year. During the same period, the number of both small and larger farms declined. Since 1974, a farm has been defined as a place that produces crops or livestock worth at least $1,000 in sales, even if it doesn’t market them.