House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) was a guest yesterday on the AgriTalk radio program with Mike Adams, where the conversation focused on the Farm Bill. An unofficial FarmPolicy.comtranscript of yesterday’s discussion is available here.
Chairman Lucas indicated that, “I think my colleague Chairwoman Stabenow said so, so I’ll repeat it again, we have another principals meeting tomorrow [Wednesday]—Senator Stabenow, Senator Cochran, Congressman and Ranking Member Peterson and myself. I look forward to see what the Senate will put on the table tomorrow. But we’re at the point in time where it should be possible to conclude this process.
“But as you and I have discussed many times, Mike, there are some very philosophical differences. The House perspective on how many dollars in the nutrition savings, reforms to have, the difference between the House and Senate perspective on what kind of a safety net we have in the commodity title.”
Ed O’Keefe reported in today’s Washington Post that, “House and Senate negotiators plan to meet again this week in hopes of finishing another complicated piece of legislation before a critical, fast-approaching deadline.
“In this case it is the farm bill, an omnibus measure that sets federal agricultural policy and spending on food aid.”
Janet Hook and Kristina Peterson reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “Congress is heading into the final stretch of its legislative session with a pile of year-end policy decisions before it and little time to address them.
“Lawmakers are struggling to negotiate deals on farm programs and food stamps, and on the budget for a fiscal year that began two months ago…[T]he window for joint congressional action is narrow. The House returns from Thanksgiving recess Monday, while the Senate reconvenes Dec. 9. If the House adjourns for the year as planned on Dec. 13, the two chambers will be in session simultaneously for only one week in December.”
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was a guest on Wednesday’s AgriTalk radio program with Mike Adams where the conversation focused on Farm Bill issues. An unofficial FarmPolicy.comtranscript of the conversation with Sec. Vilsack and Mike Adams is available here.
Sec. Vilsack pointed out that, “Well, I think we have to be realistic about this. If there is no appearance that there’s going to be a deal or if things break down and folks continue to be sort of in their corners and there isn’t a middle ground to be had, then obviously we’re going to have to start working towards and triggering permanent law.
“Some people have suggested that’s going to take a while to implement, but the reality is it’s not that we haven’t been thinking about this at USDA, we have been. We have a pretty good sense of what we would need to do. We’ve reached out to some of the folks, particularly in the dairy industry, to get their views about this. So we would be in a position, in short order—I don’t want to put a timeline on it—but in short order to get something done on the permanent law side.
“But boy, I tell you, that’s not something that I want to do, I’m reasonably certain that’s not anything that anybody in Congress would want to have happen, and I’m sure that no consumer is anxious to see that happen. So hopefully we continue to see progress.”
Sec. Vilsack also noted that, “It’s not just the permanent law issue, it’s also the Brazilian cotton issue, which is a trade dispute that we lost in the WTO, and there are consequences for inaction there. They can begin assessing retaliatory tariffs against many of our products, including exposing some of our intellectual property and destroying the protections that intellectual property has, which would be a first, frankly, in trade discussions, as I understand it.”
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “Maybe it’s time to admit that whatever comes out of the great Farm Bill Wars in Congress will be — an experiment.
“Indeed, it’s a whole new world already compared to the last enacted bill in 2008, which passed by veto-proof margins and was helped along then by added money for nutrition and continued direct cash payments to farmers.
“This time the mandate is entirely different: requiring a major rewrite of the commodity title while also tackling food stamps — all in the name of reform and deficit reduction.”
“So why is it so hard?” Mr. Rogers asked, “One big reason is that everyone seems to have underestimated the challenge of replacing the current system of direct cash payments that’s been the backbone of the commodity title since 1996.”
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says that the farm bill – either passing or not – sends a message to the rest of the country about governing. He discusses the bill, Hillary Clinton and Gov. Chris Christie in this episode of Capital Download with Susan Page.
Mary Kay Thatcher, the Senior Director of Congressional Relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, was a guest on yesterday’s AgriTalk radio program with Mike Adams where the discussion focused on the Farm Bill. An unofficial FarmPolicy.comtranscript of yesterday’s discussion is available here.
Ms. Thatcher pointed out that, “I was hoping that we could have some good news to share this morning, but I think we’re going to continue to work at it. Staff’s up there working hard today, even though the members aren’t around, and the four principals are presumably still having some kind of conference call to further discuss it today. So we still have some hope that, indeed, by the end of the year or by the middle of January, when we have this budget bill, that we can have it done, but we aren’t there today, and I can’t even tell you exactly what progress has been made.”
In a related update, Erik Wasson reported yesterday at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “The top leaders of the House-Senate farm bill conference committee plan to hold a pivotal conference call on Monday.
“Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), the respective heads of the Senate and House Agriculture committees, and the committees’ ranking members Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) will join the negotiating session.
“The ‘big four’ leaders are still trying to hammer out a farm bill deal in order to move the $1 trillion agriculture subsidy, crop insurance and food stamp bill on the House and Senate floor in December.”
And, Mr. Wasson tweeted yesterday evening that, “Conf call by 4 #farmbill lead negotiators happened. Process continues w/ no resolution yet”
Ron Hays, of The Oklahoma Farm Report and Radio Oklahoma Network, spoke on Friday with House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) about the Farm Bill and farm policy variables.
An audio replay and summary of the Chairman’s remarks from Friday can be found here, while an unofficial FarmPolicy.comtranscript of the conversation with Ron Hays and Chairman Lucas is available here.
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “Farm bill talks stumbled badly Thursday and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) said it would be ‘very challenging’ now for him to meet the Republican leadership’s schedule of having a final agreement back on the House floor by Dec. 13.
“The Oklahoma Republican had been pressing hard for some framework of a deal before the Thanksgiving recess. But after three face-to-face meetings between House and Senate negotiators in less than 24 hours, the upshot seemed more a picture of frustration.
“‘Anything is possible but it is very challenging,’ Lucas said. He added that it was a ‘fair assessment’ that he had not made the progress he had hoped for this week.”
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “Farm bill talks intensified Wednesday night even as a new report showed that food stamp expenditures are already beginning to fall as a share of the economy — a downward decline that’s expected to accelerate over the next five years.
“Further cuts from food stamps are a major dividing point in the farm bill negotiations now, but there is growing pressure to try to reach a deal in the next few days on both the nutrition and commodity titles.
“The top four members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees met for almost 90 minutes Wednesday evening behind closed doors with staff. Further discussions are expected Thursday morning, and House Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) held out the possibility of more meetings Friday depending on what progress is being made.”
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “Falling corn prices are making themselves felt in House-Senate farm bill talks.”
“December 2013 corn futures fell Monday to a new low of $4.12 per bushel at the Chicago Board of Trade. This caps a summer-long slide aggravated most recently by the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to lower ethanol targets for 2014. And it’s now very likely that corn will qualify for assistance next year under the new revenue-protection program that is the mainstay of the Senate’s commodity title,” the Politico article said.
Chris Clayton reported yesterday at the DTN Ag Policy Blog that, “Farmers in parts of the northern and eastern Corn Belt would be collecting Price Loss Coverage payments on their corn crops this week IF the House version of the farm bill were in place.
“DTN’s market tracker shows corn for delivery selling as low as $3.17 a bushel in northeast Montana. Cash prices in several states show farmers would be receiving a target-price check for corn.”
Gregory Meyer reported on Friday at The Financial Times Online that, “The Obama administration has formally moved to put the brakes on US biofuels as it juggles conflicting pressures from two of the most powerful lobbies in Washington.
“Its proposal to trim a statutory ethanol blending mandate for the first time drew the threat of a lawsuit from the renewable fuels industry, and complaints from the oil lobby that the measure did not go far enough.”
Mr. Meyer noted that, “The rule unveiled for public comment on Friday by the Environmental Protection Agency [proposed rule, fact sheet, news release] called for 15.21bn gallons to be blended into the motor fuel supply in 2014, 16 per cent lower than the 18.15bn gallons under the renewable fuels law passed in 2007. It is a significant reversal for the agency, which just a year ago upheld the mandate in the face of protests from several state governors.”
The FT article indicated that, “‘As a result, we are now at the ‘E10 blend wall,’ the point at which the E10 fuel pool is saturated with ethanol,’ the EPA said.”
Erik Wasson and Russell Berman reported yesterday at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday said he does not believe the deficit savings in a 2013 farm bill should be used to reach a year-end budget deal replacing the sequester.
“The farm bill being negotiated between the House and the Senate could contain as much as $51 billion in savings over 10 years. That could go a long way toward replacing the $91 billion in automatic agency budget cuts in fiscal 2014, prompting speculation that a budget deal could midwife the enactment of the farm bill.
“But Boehner said he has told Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), the lead budget negotiator for House Republicans, not to look to the farm bill for savings.”
The Hill update noted that, “‘I think it’s a separate issue, and I’ve made it very clear to Chairman Ryan,’ Boehner said at his weekly press conference.”
(Note that related audio clips from yesterday’s press conference with the Speaker can be heard here (MP3- 0:23) and here (MP3- 0:19).
During a radio interview yesterday with J. Doug Williams (K-101-FM radio, Woodward, Okla.), House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) indicated that, “And I am in the process, with my senior colleagues on the House side on the Ag Committee, to try to negotiate out the differences between us and the Senate. There are three big areas of difference, and in reverse order, food stamps. The Senate wants to save about $4 billion by basically making the Northeastern states that use food stamps to help pay for their citizens’ home heating oil to stay warm in the wintertime to pay more.”
“The Senate essentially just doesn’t want to make any changes in food stamps. The House wants to do ten times as much, so working that out is going to be tough,” the Chairman added.
Chairman Lucas pointed out that, “The second area is the dairy program. The House leadership doesn’t want to do supply management, which makes the dairy insurance work better. The Senate insists on that. That’s a philosophical issue about supply management by the federal government.
“And the biggest area, the one that matters probably the most, generally, to our listeners, is the commodity title. The Senate wants to do…they’ve finally come around to the fact that you have to have a safety net that works not just for the Midwest, but for everybody else. They want a program by which, when you sign up for five years, you’re automatically covered under either version of the safety net.
“The problem is, when you take the responsibility out, you also reduce the quality of the safety net. The House perspective is we’re big boys and girls, we can make big decisions, let’s give people a choice between which way they go, let them choose for the five years. If they make the right decision, then the safety net will be stronger. If they make the wrong decision, well, they made the decision they made. So that’s a difference right now. And those are the three big things holding us up.”