Year In Review: What challenges and victories did 2022 bring to producers?

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As we prepare for the new year, let’s take some time to look back on the year. 2022 brought many challenges to producers, but there were also some victories sprinkled in there.

Russia/Ukraine War

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Adobe Stock

In February, Russia launched a full invasion of Ukraine, causing the markets to completely tumble. A month later, Russia claimed a key Ukrainian port city on the Black Sea, and major oil companies started to pull out of Russia, despite a lack of U.S. sanctions. Days following, Ukraine announced the country was starting to target agriculture, bombing warehouses full of farming equipment, including millions of dollars worth of John Deere.

In April, the military started to intentionally block food aid for Ukrainian citizens trapped in the city. U.S. lawmakers included $13.6 billion of aid for Ukraine in the recent spending package, but leaders criticized the red tape that came with it.

After months of endless attacks, Russia and Ukraine signed a grain deal, which was considered to be a breakthrough that could have eased a global food crisis. A day later, a Russian missile hit the Odesa harbor.

It was only until late fall, in November, that Russia rejoined the grain-export deal after receiving written guarantees from Ukraine that the shipping corridor would not be used for military action.

Hurricane Ian

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Hurricane Ian was a destructive Category 4 storm that was the deadliest hurricane to strike Florida since 1935. It caused widespread damage across the Southeast, specifically North and South Carolina.

It was first a tropical wave in Africa, it brought heavy winds to Jamaica, and then eventually ended up in Florida in September.

It not only affected Florida’s citrus industry but its cattle as well. There was no specific number of cattle lost.

Surging Gas Prices

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Following the invasion of Ukraine, oil prices started to spike.

In May, for the first time ever, every state in the country averaged in the $4 range. Diesel reached a new all-time high at $5.57 per gallon. Californians were paying the highest at $6.05 for regular and $6.57 for diesel.

The crisis was not only hurting farmers but everyone that did business with them. Farmers say between input costs for hay and the cattle it feeds, it was a tough year.

In August, farmers and consumers finally started to see gas prices fall. They have been falling since.

Rail Crisis

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In August, Class 1 railroads and their unions were in discussions over pay, benefits, and other issues like one-person crews. Leaders warned unless there was government intervention, a strike or lockout would happen as soon as mid-September.

On September 15th, The White House announced labor unions and rail carriers reached an agreement to avoid a national rail strike.

The tentative agreement provides 24 percent pay increases over five years from 2020 through 2024. That includes immediate payouts of $11,000 upon signing the deal.

In early December, the Senate and House quickly voted to pass a rail labor agreement. Not even a week later, President Biden signed legislation to officially avert a rail strike.

Prop 12

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In January, A California judge halted the implementation of the strict housing standards for livestock, saying the state ag department has been two years late in creating the regulations. He said that Prop 12 will be delayed until six months after the state sets the final rules. Farm groups applauded his decision to delay.

In June, The National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau submitted a brief to the Supreme Court challenging California’s Prop-12. The case made its way to the Supreme Court after a circuit court ruled against it last July.

Also, The Supreme Court formally set a date to take up the challenge to Prop-12 in early October.

In August, A judge in Iowa tossed the latest lawsuit to fight California’s Prop 12.

SCOTUS heard the Prop 12 case in October. According to Roger McEowen, he believed it survived a motion to dismiss.

Shipping Container Shortage

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Adobe Stock

In February, =nearly 62,000 empty shipping containers were sitting at terminals in the Port of LA, delaying products leaving the U.S. Later, The Department of Agriculture partnered with the Port of Oakland to set up a new 25-acre “pop-up” site to make it easier for agricultural companies to fill empty shipping containers with commodities.

In March, a survey was taken to show the impact the crisis has had on agriculture. 20 percent of confirmed ag export sales were lost and the value of lost sales for a single company ranged anywhere from $120,000 dollars to $65 million.

A month later, the Senate voted to unanimously pass the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, ffter months of negotiations and bipartisan work. It gives more authority to the Federal Maritime Commission and prohibits carriers from unreasonably denying cargo. Farm groups applauded this decision.

In August, Congestion returned to North American shipping ports. Ships were held up in the East Coast and Gulf ports. More than 150 ships were stuck in queues in North American waters, and the wait increased by nearly 66 percent in the last seven weeks.

Mississippi River Low Levels

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In late September, concerns started to arise related to the diminishing water levels along the inland waterway system that it will affect barge transportation.

At the start of October, Southbound barge tonnages on the Mississippi River were reduced by more than 20 percent, and the number of barges per tow was reduced by 17-38 percent. Barge shipping rates were up 40 percent year on year. A few weeks later, The Mississippi River hit a record low of -11.1 feet at Memphis, Tennessee. During this time, commercial activities such as barge traffic and riverboats were experiencing difficulty navigating portions of the river. Shipping costs jumped nearly 400 percent on the year. Some shippers turned to Pacific Northwest ports.

In November, USDA worked with grain elevators along the Mississippi River to create temporary storage space. Also, The Soy Transportation Coalition found an alternative shipping route for some of this year’s harvest. The group partnered with the St. Lawrence Seaway to get grains out to the market. Then, they started to finally see some improvements. Week-over-week, 35 percent more barges were unloaded in New Orleans, meaning more goods are making their way down to ports.

That same month, he Army Corps of Engineers announced the Upper Mississippi River was officially in hibernation for the winter. The last barge of the year, the Ashley Danielson, left the area and the Corps is moving ahead with scheduled maintenance on several locks.

Record-Breaking HPAI

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In January, High Pathogenic Avian Influenza killed hit South Carolina, the first discovery in six years.

As of May, the virus killed more than 37 million birds in our domestic flock. That same month, USDA announced they saw the smallest amount of losses so far this year.

In November, officials confirmed 50,000 birds died after an outbreak of High Pathogenic Avian Influenza in South Dakota, sending the total number of bird deaths this year to more than 50.5 million. This broke the record set in 2015.

Loretta Lynn

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Photo via Official Facebook page

In early October, Loretta Lynn, also known as “Country Music’s First Girl Singer,” “the Queen of Country Music,” and “The Coal Miner’s Daughter,” passed away at the age of 90 in her Tennessee home. Her songs reflected her pride in her rural Kentucky background and made her a Country Music Hall of Famer.

The entire country music industry paid homage to her as she left a mark on the world that will be remembered forever.

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