Farm Bill; Biofuels; Trade- Cuba; Ag Economy; Climate Change; Financial Regulation; and Political Notes
House Ag Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-Oklahoma) was a guest on yesterday’s AgriTalk Radio Program with Mike Adams. As part of yesterday’s discussion, the two discussed the future direction of U.S. farm policy and the House Ag Committee’s hearings on the 2012 Farm Bill.
In part, Rep. Lucas noted that when he arrived in Congress in 1994 the great fear was that we would never have another Farm Bill, “the question now is are we going to have a Farm Bill in 2012 that forgets to have any ‘farm’ in it. That’s what worries me.”
Rep. Lucas added that, “The ’96, the ’02 the ’08 Farm Bills that I have been a part of- Congress wrote those Farm Bills- not the Clinton administration, not the Bush administration- we wrote those bills. If we will write the 2012 Farm Bill, and if we will continue to keep ‘farm’ in the Farm Bill, then we can build on the good things we have done and we can move forward. But if the administration, or those who support a similar view, want to take us away from production agriculture, processing, away from our base mission, I suppose in theory they could turn [Rural] America into a bedroom community where we all just sleep at night and drive off to work somewhere else everyday. That would be unfortunate and it would be horrible economics for the country.”
To listen to a clip from yesterday’s program regarding the Farm Bill, just click here (MP3-2:42).
Rep. Lucas also briefly addressed crop insurance on yesterday’s AgriTalk Program, to listen his perspective on this subject, just click here (MP3-0:49).
The entire AgriTalk show from yesterday can be heard here.
The House Ag Committee resumes Farm Bill hearings this afternoon with a meeting in Des Moines, Iowa. Additional hearings will follow on Saturday, Monday, Tuesday and next week as well. For a complete schedule, just click here; and for a summary of recent House hearings on the 2012 Farm Bill, just click here.
Philip Brasher reported yesterday at The Green Fields Blog (The Des Moines Register) that, “End the ethanol subsidies and import tariff. That’s the message that meatpackers, represented by the American Meat Institute, and groups representing beef, pork and poultry are sending in a letter to the House Ways and Mean Committee.
“‘Although we support the need to advance renewable and alternative sources of energy, we strongly believe that it is time that the mature corn-based ethanol industry operates on a level playing field with other commodities that rely on corn as their major input,’ the letter says.
“‘Favoring one segment of agriculture at the expense of another does not benefit agriculture as a whole or the consumers that ultimately purchase our products.’”
The entire letter, which was signed by the American Meat Institute, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, National Turkey Federation and the National Chicken Council, can be viewed here.
Mr. Brasher added that, “Matt Hartwig of the Renewable Fuels Association fires back in an email: ‘Once again, corporate livestock interests are seeking … a return to the days they bought corn under the price of production for the American farmer. Such practices resulted in farmers getting more income from the government than they could from the marketplace, while corporate livestock industries prospered.’”
Meanwhile, an editorial regarding President Obama’s speech earlier this week on renewable energy, which was posted by Cindy Zimmerman at the DomesticFuel Blog, noted that, “Ethanol producers and corn farmers who were hoping for President Obama to make a strong show of support for the ethanol industry when he appeared at a POET plant in Missouri on Wednesday were probably a little disappointed. Yes, he made the appearance and said that ‘renewable, homegrown fuels are a key part of our strategy for a clean energy future’ – but that was about it.
“The entire speech, minus introductions, was only 10 minutes long and most of it was spent talking about the economy. About three minutes were spent on what the administration has done to promote renewable energy with the economic recovery act, the Biofuels Working Group and the Navy using biofuel in a new jet. However, there was no mention at all of the top priorities for the ethanol industry – getting the tax incentives renewed and the E15 waiver approved. Without those actions, the future of the ethanol industry is questionable.”
Yesterday’s update added that, “It is also notable that the president did not even mention the word corn, even though he was standing next to a big front end loader filled with it. The word agriculture was used only in reference to the U.S. Secretary and state director of agriculture present at the event. Farmers were only referenced in terms of the ‘tough time’ they were having ‘getting by’ when he was running for office.
“The good news is that POET president Jeff Broin did get a chance to speak briefly with the president about the industry’s concerns. ‘We talked about the fact that cellulosic ethanol had the potential to create hundreds of thousands of jobs and that there were some policy issues that are very important to move that forward, the first being the fact that today the market is full,’ said Broin. ‘Basically ten percent ethanol is what’s allowed in gasoline today and we need to move that wall and open up the market.’ However, Broin says he only had a limited amount of time to talk with the president and was not able to address the ethanol tax incentive issue, but he did discuss it with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.”
Internationally, Bloomberg writer Katia Cortes reported yesterday that, “Brazil plans to boost the amount of ethanol mixed into gasoline at the pump ahead of a record sugar- cane crop this year.
“The measure to boost the ethanol mix to 25 percent from 20 percent will take effect on May 2, said Manoel Bertone, the Agriculture Ministry’s production and bio-energy secretary. In February, the government reduced the mix after inventories fell near the end of the sugar-cane harvest.”
Reuters writer Doug Palmer reported yesterday that, “Business and human rights groups urged Congress on Thursday to ease the decades-old embargo on Cuba by passing a bipartisan bill to lift a ban on travel to the communist country and remove certain obstacles to legal farm sales.
“‘We believe the proposed legislation represents a necessary step toward ending a U.S. policy that has failed for decades to have any impact on improving human rights in Cuba,’ Jose Miguel Vivanco, executive director the Americas division of Human Rights Watch, said at a congressional hearing.
“President Barack Obama’s election in November 2008 stirred hopes throughout the Hemisphere that the United States would move to end the embargo codified by Congress in 1963 and strengthened twice in the 1990s.”
The article explained that, “Representative John Tanner, chairman of a trade subcommittee in the House of Representatives Ways and Means, called the hearing on Thursday to examine a bill crafted by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Colin Peterson, a Democrat, and Republican Representative Jerry Moran.”
Mr. Palmer indicated that, “A March study by Texas A&M University estimated that approving the Peterson-Moran bill to lift the travel ban and ease agricultural export restrictions could lead to $365 million in additional sales of U.S. goods and create 6,000 jobs in the United States, [Myron Brilliant, senior vice president for international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce] said.”
DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “A key Republican House member said Thursday he supports easing restrictions on food and medicine sales to Cuba and more liberalized travel rules, but that the United States may be sending questionable political signals about U.S. priorities by making overtures to Cuba without passing the U.S. free trade agreement with Colombia.
“At a House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee hearing on Cuba, Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the highest ranking Republican on the subcommittee, noted that President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders have argued that Colombia has not made enough progress on labor and human rights issues, but that Cuba is violating a number of International Labor Organization conventions and has not ratified the ILO core conventions on the prohibition of the worst forms of child labor. At the same time, Colombia has ratified all eight ILO conventions, and the ILO has commended Colombia for making progress in protecting labor rights.
“‘I worry about a possible double standard being promoted — that trade with Cuba could be fine, but trade with Colombia is a problem,’ Brady said.”
Mr. Hagstrom also noted that, “Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., a member of Ways and Means, the congressional committee that handles taxes and trade, said in a news release, ‘It’s about time we got rid of these failed policies that restrict agricultural sales to Cuba. The federal government has accomplished nothing other than keeping our family farmers from accessing a promising market for their products. That’s got to change, and I’m going to keep pushing for a reasonable approach to trade with Cuba.’”
A news release issued yesterday by the National Farmers Union stated that, “National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson submitted testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee on Trade, concerning Cuba policy. In his testimony, Johnson expressed NFU’s support of the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act (H.R. 4645), the legislation sponsored by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson.”
Andrew Johnson Jr. and Tom Polansek reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “Corn futures rallied for a second consecutive session on Thursday, reaching one-month highs on the prospect of China opening its doors to more U.S. shipments of the grain.
“The most actively traded corn contract hit a high of $3.77 a bushel, the highest price since March 23. July corn later trimmed those gains to settle 1.4% higher at $3.69 a bushel at the Chicago Board of Trade.
“The rally was sparked by widespread talk that a corn deal struck this week may spark additional export sales to China, not a traditional buyer of U.S. corn. The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed Wednesday that China bought 115,000 metric tons of U.S. corn, its largest purchase since the 1998-1999 marketing year.”
The Journal article added that, “Despite the two-day rally in corn, the market’s long-term outlook is bearish because U.S. inventories are ample and planting for the upcoming 2010-11 crop started off strong.
“Favorable weather allowed U.S. producers to plant corn quickly, raising the likelihood of a big crop. The USDA estimates farmers will plant 88.8 million acres of corn in 2010, up 3% from last year. As of Sunday, 50% of the nation’s corn crop had been planted as compared with 19% the previous week.”
Meanwhile, a report issued yesterday by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) stated that, “The 2009 gross income from cattle and calves, hogs and pigs, and sheep and lambs for the U.S. totaled $59.0 billion, down 10 percent from 2008. Gross income decreased for cattle and calves, hogs and pigs, and sheep and lambs. Cattle and calves decreased 10 percent, hogs and pigs also decreased 10 percent, while sheep and lambs decreased 3 percent.”
Also, a separate NASS report from yesterday stated that, “The combined value of production from broilers, eggs, turkeys, and the value of sales from chickens in 2009 was $31.6 billion, down 12 percent from the $36.0 billion in 2008. Of the combined total, 69 percent was from broilers, 19 percent from eggs, 11 percent from turkeys, and less than 1 percent from chickens.”
“Value of all egg production in 2009 was $6.16 billion, down 25 percent from the $8.22 billion in 2008. Egg production totaled 90.4 million eggs, up slightly percent from the 90.0 million eggs produced in 2008. In 2009, all eggs averaged 81.7 cents per dozen, compared with $1.09 in 2008.”
And WGN Radio’s Max Armstrong interviewed Porter Martin of Porter Martin Farmland and Cattle Company about Illinois farmland values as part of last week’s WGN Agri-Cast program.
To listen to this very interesting and wide-ranging interview regarding agricultural land values in Illinois from last week, just click here (MP3-13:42).
The AP reported today that, “Immigration reform has become the first of President Barack Obama’s major priorities dropped from the agenda of an election-year Congress facing voter disillusionment. Sounding the death knell was Obama himself.
“The president noted that lawmakers may lack the ‘appetite’ to take on immigration while many of them are up for re-election and while another big legislative issue – climate change – is already on their plate.”
Reuters writer Timothy Gardner reported yesterday that, “The U.S. Energy Information Administration will take up to eight weeks to analyze the stalled Senate climate bill after receiving most of its details from the office of Senator John Kerry, a spokesman said on Thursday.
“Elements of the bill that is aimed at reducing greenhouse gases were delivered to the EIA both verbally and by hard copy.
“‘We received details. It’s not a copy of legislation, but it was specific enough to allow us to go forward with our modeling efforts,’ said Jonathan Cogan spokesman for the EIA, the independent statistics arm of the Department of Energy.”
Washington Post writer Juliet Eilperin noted yesterday at the Post Carbon Blog that, “With climate legislation stalled in the Senate, an array of groups called Thursday for lawmakers to settle their differences and get moving.
“Leaders from 54 environmental, labor and faith groups wrote a letter (pdf) asking President Obama to step it up to get climate and energy legislation passed this year.”
The update added that, “Also Thursday, 33 retired U.S. generals and admirals announced their support for comprehensive climate and energy legislation in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
“That letter comes a day after the Center for a New American Security released two new reports, one on military and climate change, and another on the connection between climate science and national security.”
Meanwhile, a “Dear Colleague” item issued yesterday by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Oklahoma) stated in part that, “In response to the threat from EPA, there has been broad bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress to take legislative steps that would prevent the EPA from smashing into rural America like a hailstorm. As the Ranking Members of the Agriculture and Energy and Commerce Committees we joined over 100 Republican colleagues in the House to cosponsor a disapproval resolution (H.J. Res. 77) that would nullify the EPA’s endangerment finding. A similar resolution (H.J. Res. 76) was cosponsored by Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson and has also been introduced in the House. These resolutions have the backing of 175 agriculture groups.
“Rural America never stopped being a good place to live, so our job is to make it a good place to make a living again. EPA’s intrusive endangerment finding pushes that dream over the horizon for many farmers and ranchers. Please help protect rural America and prevent further overreaching regulation by the EPA by joining us in cosponsoring these resolutions.”
And an item posted yesterday at E&E TV Online stated that, “Congressman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Agriculture, weighs in on the Senate’s stalemate on climate legislation and addresses efforts in Congress to block U.S. EPA from regulating emissions. Rep. Lucas also gives his take on EPA’s push to implement a zero-drift standard for pesticides.”
Brady Dennis reported in today’s Washington Post that, “The Senate began debating a far-reaching bill Thursday to overhaul financial regulations, bracing for a series of amendments in coming days that will highlight key divisions between Democrats and Republicans… Lawmakers now face the prospect of two weeks or more of debate on the bill, which would create a new consumer regulator, establish oversight of the vast derivatives market and give the government authority to wind down large, troubled financial companies without leaving taxpayers on the hook.”
DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “Former President Bill Clinton gave Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., a strong endorsement Wednesday in the Arkansas Democratic primary next month and the general election. Clinton, an Arkansas native, also said he will campaign for Lincoln if she asks him.
“Lincoln has been challenged in the primary by Arkansas Democratic Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who is supported by labor unions and liberal interest groups that have expressed disappointment in Lincoln’s voting record. The primary election is May 18.” (Note: related articles here and here).
“After a rural summit organized by the Senate Democratic Steering Committee, Clinton said in an interview that the vote Lincoln provided on his budget in 1993 when she was in the House was ‘courageous’ and vital to its passage. The measure passed the House by two votes.”
Mr. Hagstrom indicated that, “Noting that he was governor of Arkansas in the 1980s during the farm crisis, Clinton also said, ‘It is good for us in Arkansas that she is chairman of the agriculture committee.’ Clinton said Lincoln’s chairmanship allows her to organize conferences like the rural summit at which he focused on the need for government programs to bring high-speed Internet service and wind and solar energy programs to rural America. Each Democratic senator invited one person from his or her state to attend the conference, a Senate Democratic aide said.
“At the summit, Lincoln, who chairs rural outreach for the Senate Democratic Caucus; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; and Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., brought together stakeholders from communities around the country to focus on revitalizing rural America through economic development and job creation.”