February 23, 2020

Ag Economy; Climate Change; Biofuels; and Food Security

Ag Economy- Focus on Dairy Sector

Jerry Hirsch reported in today’s Los Angeles Times that, “Frustrated with low milk prices, dairy farmers are selling cows for hamburger meat and threatening to dump milk into sewers. Many are burning through their life savings hoping to survive the slump, and others are exiting the business.”

Mr. Hirsch explained that, “The pain is being felt throughout the U.S. industry, but it’s especially keen in California, the No. 1 dairy state. The Golden State’s 1,800 dairies produce $7 billion worth of milk annually, more than one-fifth of the nation’s supply. Slumping international demand combined with an American public ordering fewer cheese pizzas has turned the milk market sour.

Current prices are about half of what it costs California producers to feed and milk their herds; every carton sold in the supermarket represents a loss on the farm. Farmers are staying afloat by getting loans secured by every cow, tractor and acre they own. But experts say that if milk prices don’t rise in the coming months, many farmers will burn through their cash and go out of business.”


Biofuels- (Interview with Lee Terry (R-Neb.)); Climate Change; Doha; Food Safety; Ag Credit-Income Issues; and Crop Insurance

Biofuels- (Interview with Lee Terry (R-Neb.))

Reuters writer Roberta Rampton reported yesterday that, “President Barack Obama said on Wednesday he wants to see new types of biofuels commercialized as quickly as possible, but the corn-based ethanol industry needs to remain viable in the meantime.

“‘My administration is committed to moving as quickly as possible to commercialize an array of emerging cellulosic technologies so that tomorrow’s biofuels will be produced from sustainable biomass feedstocks and waste materials rather than corn,’ Obama wrote in a letter to a group of farm-state governors.”


Climate Change; Biofuels; California and the Executive Branch (Ag Issues); Budget Issues; Crop Progress; and Insurance

Climate Change

Dan Looker reported yesterday at Agriculture Online that, “Farm groups reacted negatively to last week’s passage of a climate change bill by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but some are waiting to see if the bill can be improved before deciding to support it or work against it.

Mark Gaede, a lobbyist for the National Association of Wheat Growers, wants to see trading of agricultural offsets added to the climate change bill, but he thinks other farm groups may be making too much of the fact that agriculture isn’t mentioned in the bill yet.

“‘Because there’s been one markup of the bill in one committee does not mean we should be running around saying the sky is falling,’ Gaede told Agriculture Online.”


Global Food Security; Animal Agriculture; Dairy Issues; Biofuels-Indirect Land Use; Climate Change; and Farmland Values

Global Food Security

Javier Blas reported on Sunday at the Financial Times Online that, “Only a short time ago, African farmland seemed of little interest to outsiders. But last year’s food crisis and water scarcity in many countries has changed foreigners’ appetite with the result being that fertile soil in Africa is now sought by international investors to the tune of hundreds of thousands of hectares.

“The first big report on the trend – branded by some as ‘farmland grab’, but seen by others as a huge development opportunity – concludes that food security, rather than commercial enterprise, is behind most of the deals sealed or negotiated.”


Waxman-Markey: Carbon Offsets and Committee Jurisdictional Issues

Categories: Climate Change /Ethanol

Waxman-Markey and Carbon Offsets- Background

Last Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the Waxman-Markey climate change bill.

One of the many concerns agricultural stakeholders have with the legislation is the lack of a defined role for farmers on the carbon sequestration issue. For example, National Corn Growers Pres. Bob Dickey indicated last week that, “After reviewing the legislation, we can see the bill does not clearly provide for a mechanism by which corn growers can sell carbon credits on the market.” Likewise, American Farm Bureau Federation Pres. Bob Stallman noted last week that, “We have consistently advocated that any cap-and-trade bill must: recognize and support the benefits agriculture can provide…”


Climate Change Bill Passes Committee; Biofuels- House Hearings; Animal Agriculture; and Crop Insurance

Climate Change Bill Passes Committee

David A. Fahrenthold reported in today’s Washington Post that, “A bill to create the first national limit on greenhouse-gas emissions was approved by a House committee yesterday after a week of late-night debates that cemented the shift of climate change from rhetorical jousting to a subject of serious, if messy, Washington policymaking.

“The legislation would create a cap-and-trade system: Over the next decades, power plants, oil refineries and manufacturers would be required to obtain allowances for the pollution they emit. Those who need more or less could turn to a Wall-Street-like market in the allowances.

“The 33 to 25 vote was a major victory for House Democrats, who had softened and jury-rigged the bill to reassure manufacturers and utilities — and members of their own party from the South and Midwest — that they would not suffer greatly.”


Climate Change; Sec. Vilsack; and Peanuts

Categories: Climate Change /Ethanol

Energy and Commerce Comm. Markup of Waxman-Markey Climate Bill- Day Three

David Fahrenthold reported yesterday evening at The Washington Post Online that, “The House Energy and Commerce Committee has just reconvened for another long evening, having spent the day debating changes to mammoth climate-change legislation, still without reaching the bill’s halfway point.

“On its third day of debate on the bill, the committee had voted on 17 amendments by 6 p.m. They approved a provision to get annual reporting on China and India’s efforts to curb emissions, and set a national goal for increasing energy efficiency by 2012.”


Climate Change- House, Senate Hearings; Biofuels (Indirect Land Use Link); and CFTC Issues

Categories: Climate Change /Ethanol

Climate Change- House- “Woody Biomass”

David A. Fahrenthold reported in today’s Washington Post that, “After lawmakers consumed all of Monday afternoon with opening statements, debate over a bill that would cap U.S. greenhouse gas emissions finally got underway in a House committee yesterday.

“But it has not gotten far.

The Energy and Commerce Committee spent its first eight hours yesterday considering six amendments to the mammoth bill, which would create a ‘cap-and-trade’ system that forces polluters to amass credits equal to their emissions.”


Global Food Security; Climate Change; Biofuels; and Animal Agriculture

Global Food Security

Bloomberg writer Alan Bjerga reported yesterday that, “Global agricultural production must rise to curb surges in grain prices, even as the world financial crisis temporarily reduces demand, executives from Deere & Co., Bunge Ltd. and Syngenta AG said.

“Corn, wheat, rice and soybeans, which rose to records in 2008, may climb again after larger crops and lower demand pushed prices down, the executives said today at the World Agricultural Forum in St. Louis. Output will need to double by 2050 even as climate change, soil degradation and scarcity of arable land reduce it by 25 percent, the United Nations said in February.

“‘We need to grow more from less’ as the world’s population rises and the amount of farmland declines, David Morgan, the president of Syngenta Seeds Inc., said at the biennial conference, which brings together corporate executives, government agriculture ministers and nongovernmental organizations to discuss sustainable methods of boosting food production.”


Climate Change: Markup Released; Biofuels; Animal Agriculture; Farmland Values; and Peanuts

Climate Change: Markup Released- Overview

Steven Mufson reported in Saturday’s Washington Post that, “The congressional trek toward climate legislation inched forward yesterday as the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a 932-page bill chock-full of allowances and provisions designed to bring together a coalition of lawmakers, industries and environmental groups behind the regulation of greenhouse gases.

“The bill was hailed by a diverse group including some of the country’s biggest utilities and industries, a huge chunk of the environmental movement and leading Democrats, who said that committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) had forged a bill capable of winning support on a politically loaded issue that cuts across both regional and political lines.

“‘This bill marks the dawn of the clean-energy age,’ said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), co-author of the legislation.”


Executive Branch Budget: Crop Insurance; Animal Agriculture; Biofuels; and Climate Change

Executive Branch Budget: Crop Insurance

Recall that last Thursday (May 7), the Obama administration “unveiled nearly $17 billion in additional budget cuts for the coming fiscal year,” and indicated that these savings would accrue “by ending or reducing 121 federal programs” (Jackie Calmes, “Obama Unveils New Budget Cuts.” The New York Times. May 8th).


Climate Change- (Interview with Adrian Smith (R-Neb.)); Biofuels; Doha; H1N1; Food Safety; and CFTC Issues

Climate Change- (Interview with Adrian Smith (R-Neb.))

DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom and DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., may have thought he was doing agriculture a favor last week when he said he would not support cap and trade climate-change legislation . But the National Farmers Union has asked him to reconsider, saying if Congress does not pass a bill the Environmental Protection Agency will end up regulating greenhouse-gas emissions.

“‘A purely regulatory approach to addressing greenhouse-gas emissions will bring all of the downside of increased energy inputs and none of the upside of carbon offset opportunities. Balancing environmental goals with consumer and economic impacts is a difficult task, yet it is imperative for Congress to act,’ NFU President Roger Johnson said in the letter. ‘Without a robust and flexible agriculture offset program, America’s farmers and ranchers will be unable to mitigate increased input costs that will occur as a result of a cap and trade program,’ Johnson added.

“Farmers have a chance to benefit from a cap-and-trade plan if the climate-change bill in the House Energy and Commerce Committee allows agricultural land to be considered for emission offsets. Under a cap-and-trade plan, businesses would lower greenhouse-gas emissions because of government-set caps on the amount of greenhouse gases companies may emit. Those operations emitting less than their allotted caps could trade excess carbon emission rights to other companies that are exceeding their quotas. Those emitting more greenhouse gases than their allotted caps would have to go out and buy credits on an open market.”


Climate Change; Biofuels; Sec. Vilsack; Budget; Mexico Truck Issue; Peanut Issues; and Senate Hearing for OMB Nominee

(Correction: Yesterday’s update incorrectly identified Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) as the Ranking Member of the House Ag Committee. Rep. Goodlatte is the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy, and Research, not the full committee).

Climate Change

Ian Talley reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday a finding that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are a public health danger won’t necessarily lead to government regulation of emissions, an apparent about-face for the Obama administration.

“The comments follow revelations of an administration document warning the EPA of potential economically harmful consequences from an agency finding last month that proposes declaring greenhouse gases a danger to the public. The document represents comments from various federal agencies, prepared by the Office of Management and Budget for EPA rule-making.

“An OMB spokesman said, however, that the document doesn’t represent administration policy. And statements in the document are at odds with the EPA’s reasoning for the ‘endangerment’ proposal.”


Biofuels; Climate Change; and Senate Hearing on OMB Nomination


Richard Harris reported on Sunday at National Public Radio Online that, “Getting fuel from green plants seems like a great idea. But scientific research over the last few years shows that biofuels aren’t necessarily helpful in combating global warming. Based on this data, the EPA has drafted new, tighter regulations that could make it harder for the biofuels industry to grow.

“In theory, biofuels themselves don’t add any extra carbon to the atmosphere. Green plants take carbon dioxide out of the air, so when you burn them, the carbon dioxide just goes back to where it came from.

“But an industry based on this idea turns out not to be so green. For one thing, when the ethanol industry took off in the United States, so did the price of its main raw material — corn. So farmers in places like Brazil planted corn on their pasturelands to cash in, but they still needed land to graze their animals on.”


Food Safety; H1N1; Sen. Lugar on Indirect Land Use; Animal Agriculture / Welfare; and Crop Insurance

Categories: Audio /Ethanol /Food Safety

Food Safety

Andrew Martin and Gardiner Harris reported in today’s New York Times that, “Every few weeks, it seems, deadly germs turn up in the food supply.”

“Is it becoming more dangerous to eat?

“Public health experts cannot give a definitive answer, largely because the historical figures on food-borne illness are spotty. But most of them believe the nation’s food supply is markedly safer now than it was 100 years ago, and probably safer than a decade ago.”


Budget: Agriculture and Climate Change Issues; and Peanuts

Budget- Agricultural Programs

Jackie Calmes reported in today’s New York Times that, “President Obama on Thursday unveiled nearly $17 billion in additional budget cuts for the coming fiscal year to underscore what he called an ‘ongoing’ effort to find savings at a time when the government’s costs for bailouts, health care and wars are mounting far faster.”

The Times article explained that, “The $17 billion would be saved by ending or reducing 121 federal programs.”

With respect to agriculture, Reuters writer Charles Abbott reported yesterday that, “U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday proposed a $250,000 a year cap on farm subsidies and a phase-out of the ‘direct payment’ subsidy to large operators — ideas already rejected this year by Congress.”

Mr. Abbott added that, “Farm subsidy spending, estimated at $9.25 billion this year, would be cut by $1 billion a year under Obama’s proposals, which include a reduction in crop insurance subsidies and an end to cotton storage payments.”


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