FarmPolicy

August 17, 2019

Climate Issues; Ag Economy; Animal Agriculture; Trade; Food Safety; and the Farm Bill

Climate Issues

Bloomberg writer Simon Lomax reported yesterday that, “Legislation to cap greenhouse gas emissions from industrial polluters may be set aside this year in favor of a measure that ramps up electricity production from renewable sources such as wind farms, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.

“The ‘smaller energy bill,’ which includes a national renewable electricity standard, has the support of ‘a couple of Republicans,’ the Nevada Democrat said in an interview on Univision network’s ‘Al Punto’ program. He didn’t name them.

“A ‘big’ energy bill limiting the greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil doesn’t have Republican support, Reid said in yesterday’s interview. The 57 Democratic senators and the two independents who caucus with them usually need the support of at least one Republican to pass major legislation.”

The Bloomberg article explained that, “Reid hasn’t decided whether to try to pass an energy bill that includes greenhouse gas limits or a smaller measure, Jim Manley, a spokesman for the Senate majority leader, said in an e-mail today. Reid’s choice depends on how lawmakers and the public react to the Kerry-Lieberman proposal, Manley said.

“A smaller energy bill would be based on the American Clean Energy Leadership Act, which was approved by the Senate energy committee last June, Manley said.

“The bill would, among other things, require utilities to obtain 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021, set new energy efficiency standards and open more of the eastern Gulf to oil and gas drilling.”

Ben Geman reported yesterday at The Hill’s Energy and Environment Blog that, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has opened the door to moving a scaled-back energy bill rather than a broader climate change package if the climate bill can’t attract GOP support.

“‘We can do an energy bill this big or one this big,’ Reid said Sunday, spreading his hands far apart and then bringing them close together to contrast a broad measure with a smaller one.

“Describing a smaller package, he said: ‘I can do one this big because I have a couple of Republicans who would help me on that. But the big bill that we need to do, they are not helping us on that, but I can do a smaller energy bill.’”

Meanwhile, an update posted yesterday at the Oklahoma Farm Report Online reported that, “[Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma)] continues to predict that no climate change legislation with any sort of ‘cap and trade’ plan will pass the Senate here in 2010. He also believes that the Environmental Protection Agency will not have a chance to regulate Greenhouse Gas Emissions, as he believes the premise of their endangerment finding of last year was based on faulty science that has been debunked since that time- and that legal challenges against the finding by the EPA are being filed by many states and numerous groups, including the American Farm Bureau and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.”

The Oklahoma Farm Report link includes a 12-minute audio interview with Sen. Inhofe, where he indicated that, “Cap and trade is dead, we have won that.”

On the other hand, Sindya N. Bhanoo reported yesterday at the Green Blog (The New York Times) that, “The latest issue of Science carries a letter that calls recent political attacks on the work of climate scientists ‘McCarthy-like threats of criminal prosecution.’

“The letter was written and signed by 250 members of the National Academies of Science, a grouping of the most distinguished scientists in the country. Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, a research center in Oakland, Calif., that works on environmental preservation issues, helped lead the effort.

“‘It’s a witch hunt,’ Dr. Gleick said in an interview. ‘Let’s have a debate about the science; these attacks on climate science are not based on science, they’re based on politics.’”

More specifically with respect to agriculture and the climate debate, recall that last week the National Association of Wheat Growers indicated that, “The executive summary of a study commissioned by the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) to examine the implications of various climate change or clean energy proposals is now available online at www.wheatworld.org/climatechange.

The study, undertaken by Informa Economics with support from American Farmland Trust, takes a broad look at possible cap-and-trade policies, examining drivers that could increase benefits and minimize costs.

The executive summary released Thursday concludes that, if structured properly, cap-and-trade has the potential to provide some benefits to farmers. However, there are also plausible policy design outcomes that could be very harmful, and a lack of engagement could leave agriculture in a weaker position if and when a final bill comes to fruition.”

Yesterday, NAWG President Jerry McReynolds appeared on the AgriTalk Radio Program with Mike Adams to discuss the climate issue and the new report, to listen to a portion of their discussion from yesterday, just click here (MP3-5:51).

And in other energy related news, a press release issued yesterday by the National Farmers Union stated that, “National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson sent a letter today to White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson; U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack; and U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu supporting the Obama administration’s clean energy efforts.

“The administration promoted the opportunities for renewable energy to be sourced from the agriculture sector at the White House Clean Energy Forum that was held last week.

“‘NFU appreciates the Obama Administration convening the meeting with rural stakeholders at the White House to discuss renewable energy opportunities for rural communities,’ said Johnson.”

Ag Economy

Bloomberg writer Luzi Ann Javier reported yesterday that, “Global production of rough rice, the staple for half the world’s population, will rise to a record 710 million metric tons this year, as harvests in India and the rest of Asia recover from drought, the United Nations said.

“Output will expand 4 percent from 680 million tons in 2009, as production in India, the world’s second-largest grower and consumer, is forecast to increase 15 percent to 151 million tons, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said in a report e- mailed today.”

Domestically, Anthony Greder and Katie Micik reported yesterday at DTN (link requires subscription) that, “Eighty-one percent of the U.S. corn crop is in the ground, with major corn-producing states such as Illinois, Indiana and Iowa nearing completion, according to USDA’s latest Crop Progress report.

“Nationwide, 39 percent of the corn crop is emerged, well ahead of last year’s 13 percent and the five-year average of 21 percent.”

Yesterday’s article added that, “Soybean plantings reached 30 percent as of Sunday, May 9, maintaining a pace that is well above last year and the five-year average. The percent emerged, at 7 percent, is also above both last year and five-year average.”

Bloomberg writer Jeff Wilson reported yesterday that, “Corn fell for the second time in three sessions on speculation that cold weekend weather failed to harm recently planted crops in the U.S., the world’s biggest grower of the grain.

“Temperatures that reached the freezing mark the past three days from Colorado to Ohio caused no permanent damage, said Drew Lerner, the president of World Weather Inc. in Overland Park, Kansas.”

A brief report from University of Illinois Extension indicated yesterday (“Corn Prices Continue to Get Bounced Around”) that, “A large number of factors continue to exert some influence on the prices of corn, soybeans, and wheat. A different factor appears to take the spotlight on an almost daily basis. Some developments have been positive for crop prices, some negative. As a result, prices continue to be very choppy.”

The update noted that, “Part of the fluctuation in crop prices has been associated with fluctuation in the financial markets, which in turn reflect fluctuations in expectations about economic recovery and the demand for commoditiesCurrency values have also been in play in the commodity markets to the extent that exchange rates are thought to influence commodity imports and exports…[and]… Crude oil and gasoline prices, which have some direct impact on the value of bio-fuels, have also been in a wide range just in the past week.”

Yesterday’s report added that, “The USDA’s monthly update of world supply and consumption prospects to be released on May 11 will contain the first projections for the 2010-11 marketing year. Projections for the domestic market are expected to contain forecasts of large corn and soybean crops, reflecting more acreage than planted last year and early prospects for high yields. Early planting of the 2010 crop along with a relatively high trend yield calculation used by USDA should result in an especially high yield forecast for corn. Even with an increase in consumption of corn for ethanol production and for export during the year ahead, the forecast of year ending stocks will likely be larger than the level of beginning stocks. A large increase in soybean stocks may be forecast due to prospects for a large crop and declining export demand. Even though wheat acreage is down sharply this year, the current crop condition ratings point to a relatively high yield of winter wheat.

“With so many factors influencing prices, but without a single dominant factor, the recent pattern of volatile crop prices is expected to continue. That is even before the most important part of the 2010 growing season for corn and soybeans arrives.”

Animal Agriculture

Rod Smith reported yesterday at Feedstuffs Online that, “American consumers buy eggs from cage housing systems by a margin of more than 40 to one over eggs from cage-free systems, according to data from Information Resources Inc. (IRI), which tracks checkout scanner transactions from 34,000 grocery and other retail stores in the U.S.

“Furthermore, based on other research, Americans pay three times less for eggs than Europeans do. Also, more than half of Americans prefer that egg producers continue to use current cage housing or migrate to alternative systems such as aviary or colony cages, and 44% prefer cage-free housing.

“These research results were to be presented to egg producers at the United Egg Producers (UEP) board of directors legislative meeting this week in Washington, D.C.”

Mr. Smith explained that, “The IRI data found that 92% of all eggs consumers purchased in retail stores in 2009 were from cage operations, just 2% were from cage-free operations and only 1% were from free-range/organic operations (Figure). The remaining 5% of eggs were other specialty eggs, and the percentages were unchanged from 2008.

“‘Our farmers produce all of these kinds of eggs,’ UEP president Gene Gregory said.

He emphasized that UEP’s position always has been that consumers should be free to choose the kind of egg they want to buy based on their ability to pay and their own personal opinions.

Gregory said ‘it’s disturbing’ that animal rights activists are trying to force restaurant and retail companies to take away that choice by making them buy eggs from only cage-free operations.”

Trade

A news release posted yesterday at the House Ways & Means Republicans webpage yesterday stated that, “Ways and Means Ranking Member Dave Camp (R-MI), Agriculture Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-TX) today released the following statements on the third anniversary of the bipartisan May 10 agreement as well as a report showing the harm suffered by American agriculture due to a failure to move forward on pending trade agreements:

“CAMP: ‘It has been three years since Congress reached a bipartisan compromise on a new framework designed to move forward on America’s trade policy, but the trade agenda has collapsed through inaction by the Administration and key Democrats in Congress. As a result, American workers are worse off and falling further behind our competitors, as shown by the study that we released today. With over 15 million Americans unemployed, workers don’t need more talk about expanding exports to create jobs; they need us to actually create those jobs by finding a path forward on the pending trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea, and Panama.’

“LUCAS: ‘Exports are critical to the vitality of rural America because they add much needed capital in rural communities for reinvestment and economic development. American farmers and ranchers work hard to produce an abundant supply of food and fiber for the U.S. and the world, which is evident by the fact that the agricultural industry has historically maintained a trade surplus. However, American farmers and ranchers lose economic opportunities every day that Congress fails to pass the Colombian free trade agreement. This report shows in one year, from 2008 to 2009, our farmers lost over $800 million in market access in Colombia. If the President is serious about developing the rural economy, there is no better place to start than by allowing our farmers and ranchers to benefit from the access we have already negotiated for their products, which provides an opportunity for them to reinvest in their own communities.’”

And Reuters writer Robert Evans reported yesterday that, “There can be no quick fix to end the deadlock in the World Trade Organisation’s long-running Doha Round talks, the new U.S. ambassador to the WTO said on Monday.

“To achieve a breakthrough, it is vital for China, India and Brazil to step up to their responsibilities as major world economic players and engage in hard negotiations in Geneva, the envoy, Michael Punke, told reporters.”

Food Safety

Bloomberg writer Alan Bjerga reported yesterday that, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture is issuing new compliance guides and tightening testing to prevent 39,000 illnesses from campylobacter and 26,000 salmonella poisonings, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

“The new standards, which outline best practices for averting poisonings, lower the allowable percentage of positive tests for pathogens in birds processed by poultry companies such as Tyson Foods Inc. and Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. They are the first ever for campylobacter and the first revisions for salmonella in chicken since 1996 and in turkey since 2005.

“‘The new standards announced today mark an important step in our efforts to protect consumers,’ Vilsack said in a teleconference with reporters.”

Farm Bill

A news release issued yesterday by USDA stated that, “Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that producers nationwide are invited to apply for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, CSP offers payments to producers who maintain a high level of conservation on their land and who agree to adopt higher levels of stewardship. Eligible lands include cropland, pastureland, rangeland and non-industrial forestland. The deadline to be considered for the next ranking and funding period is June 11, 2010.

“‘Voluntary conservation practices by producers are an essential part of our effort to improve soil and water quality,’ said Vilsack. ‘Broad and diverse participation in the CSP program will provide producers with many benefits such as enhancing wildlife habitat and helping to mitigate the impact of climate change.’

“Congress limited enrollment for CSP nationally at 12.7 million acres per year. Applicants will compete within state-identified ranking pools. CSP is offered in all 50 states, District of Columbia, and the Pacific and Caribbean areas through continuous sign-ups with announced cut-off application dates for ranking periods.”

Al Cross reported this morning at The Rural Blog (University of Kentucky) that, “The leading candidate for Kentucky’s open seat in the U.S. Senate said last night that he opposes agricultural commodity programs. ‘I don’t think federal subsidies of agriculture are a good idea,’ Rand Paul said during a statewide debate with most of his opponents in next Tuesday’s primary election, primarily Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who said he supports farm subsidies.

“Paul has gained the lead in the primary and general-election polls on the strength of the fundraising base of his father, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who ran for president in 2008; his opposition to federal bailouts, budget earmarks and deficit spending; and his support of term limits and a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget. However, the issue of farm subsidies has played little if any role in the race.

“Paul and Grayson addressed the issue in response to a question from Bill Goodman, the moderator in the hour-long discussion on Kentucky Educational Television. Paul said he tells farmers that he opposes the estate taxes, but ‘I’m not in favor of giving welfare to business.’ Grayson said the federal government has an ‘important role’ to play in farming. An pro-ethanol group from Iowa is running TV ads against Paul.”

This morning’s update noted that, “Jonathan Martin of Politico writes that the debate illustrated ‘the central dispute that has defined the closely watched contest and is dividing establishment and insurgent Republicans nationally: should the party hew to a purist line on fiscal issues, slashing spending and reducing the role of Washington, even if that means taking political risks that may be unpopular with the general electorate?’”

Keith Good

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