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US farm debt soars to levels seen during 1980s farm crisis: Agriculture secretary

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The amount of debt held by America’s farmers has risen rapidly to 1980s-levels at $409 billion from $385 billion last year, with loan demand remaining “historically high,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Wednesday.

The figures reflect a level of strain on the U.S. farm belt that is comparable to the agricultural crisis of three decades ago, this time driven by lingering weakness in commodity prices, storms damaging crops and loss of key export markets such as China due to President Donald Trump’s trade disputes.

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“Farm debt has been rising more rapidly over the last five years, increasing by 30 percent since 2013 – up from $315 billion to $409 billion, according to USDA data, and up from $385 billion in just the last year – to levels seen in the 1980s,” Perdue said in his testimony to the House Agriculture Committee.

But he added: “Relatively firm land values have kept farmer debt-to-asset levels low by historical standards at 13.5 percent, and continued low interest rates have kept the cost of borrowing relatively affordable.”

“But those average values mask areas of greater vulnerability,” he said.

In the 1980s, thousands of farm operations financially collapsed after producers dealing with low crop prices fell behind on high-interest land and equipment loans.

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USDA chief economist Robert Johansson said late last week that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is concerned about a potential future decline in farmland real estate prices, a key pillar of equity for the U.S. agricultural heartland, but has seen no sign of that happening so far.

Farm incomes and agrarian credit conditions continued to erode in the second half of 2018 and for bankers one key concern has been the amount of farmland that could come up for sale in the coming months and whether that could trigger an across-the-board drop in land prices.

“I get more phone calls from bankers these days than farmers,” Austin Scott, Congressman from Georgia, said at the hearing.

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The Trump administration has pledged up to $12 billion in aid for farmers to offset their losses from the trade fights. Perdue said more than $8 billion has been paid as part of those programs to date. USDA has said there will not be an aid package for 2019.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; writing by Richard Valdmanis; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Phil Berlowitz


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Eric Trump bashes the children of politicians profiting off their family name to enrich themselves: ‘It is sickening’

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President Donald Trump third child blasted children of politicians profiting from their relationship during a Saturday night appearance on Fox News with Jeanine Pirro.

"So where does Joe Biden get off been so pompous and above it all?" Pirro asked.

"If I was doing the same thing that that family was doing I’d be in jail," Eric Trump said.

"Why is it that every family in politics enriches themselves?" he asked. "It is sickening."

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Trump is ‘feeling threatened and running scared’ to cancel G-7 at Doral: ‘Art of the Deal’ co-author

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President Donald Trump announced late on Saturday evening that he was reversing his administration's decision to hold the G-7 Summit at his Trump National Doral Miami golf club.

Trump had received harsh criticism for the selection violating the constitution’s domestic and foreign emolument clauses.

Tony Schwartz, who co-wrote The Art of the Deal with Trump, said the announcement was a sign Trump is feeling threatened.

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Trump announces G-7 won’t be held at Doral after widespread criticism for it violating the Constitution

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President Donald Trump announced Saturday evening that the G-7 Summit will not be held at his Trump National Doral Miami golf club.

The selection of Doral had been widely condemned as a clear violation of both the constitution's domestic and foreign emolument clauses.

"I thought I was doing something very good for our country by using Trump National Doral, in Miami, for hosting the G-7 leaders," Trump claimed.

"I announced that I would be willing to do it at no profit or, if legally permissible, at zero cost to the USA. But, as usual, the hostile media and their Democrat partners went crazy!" Trump argued.

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