Philip Brasher reported yesterday at the Green Fields Blog (Des Moines Register) that, “The Food and Drug Administration says it found numerous sanitation and biosecurity lapses, including live mice, in the Iowa hen houses that have been linked to a salmonella outbreak and a nationwide egg recall.
“Mice are one of the main sources of salmonella bacteria on egg farms. The farms are required by industry standards and now government regulations to make sure that mice and other rodents can’t get in hen houses and infect the birds with salmonella.
“However, in reports released today [click here, and here] investigators said they found mice in four farms operated by Galt-based Wright County Egg. The investigators also said they saw rodent burrows, structural damage to houses, gaps around doors, wild birds flying around, and ‘live and dead flies too numerous to count.’”
Mr. Brasher noted that, “FDA officials said they are working with the farms to correct the problems but did not say what other actions they may take, although their options include criminal prosecutions. Michael Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, said the agency would start inspecting other farms around the country in September. The agency has not inspected eggs except in the case of outbreaks because it had no regulations for egg farms until July 9.
“Hongwei Xin, an expert in poultry housing at Iowa State University, said he’s visited 50 to 70 egg farms in Iowa, including ones operated by major producers Sparboe Farms and Rose Acre Farms, and has never seen the combination of conditions described in the FDA reports and has never observed mice or wild birds in hen houses. ‘This is not very typical at all,’ he said.”
“‘The Obama Administration cares deeply about our farmers and ranchers, and USDA continues to work hard and provide them with the critical support they need to provide this nation with the food, feed, fiber and fuel we rely on. Since becoming Secretary of this department, Secretary Vilsack has advocated fiercely about the need to keep American agriculture strong through farm safety net programs, as well as through efforts to spur economic opportunity in rural America. In recent interviews with a Bloomberg reporter, at NO time did Secretary Vilsack call for $5 billion cuts to farm programs. In fact, he pointed out how USDA already saved $4 billion that was put toward deficit reduction by renegotiating our agreement with crop insurance companies. He also discussed using existing resources more effectively to spur growth and opportunity. As Secretary Vilsack testified before both Senate and House committees regarding the 2012 Farm Bill and he continues to discuss with people throughout the country, rural America continues to face inordinate challenges. As the transcript makes clear, he continues making the case that it is imperative that we keep the farm safety net strong so that the American people can continue to have access to safe, affordable and abundant food.’
Bloomberg writer Alan Bjerga reported yesterday that, “Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack knows that Farm Belt protocol requires paying respect to the Butter Cow. During a visit to the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 17, he made the pilgrimage to the 600-pound bovine sculpture carved from pure creamery butter. Now that he is U.S. Agriculture secretary, Vilsack wants to take a chunk out of another sacred cow: $15.4 billion in farm subsidies.
“Record federal deficits and changing priorities are spurring President Barack Obama’s administration to redirect who gets rural aid. The government is shifting payments to broadband providers, land-conservation efforts and nutrition programs, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its Aug. 30 issue.
“To many farmers, the changes seem designed to satisfy organic-food devotees, first lady Michelle Obama’s anti- obesity cause, weekend duck hunters, and small-town Internet users –everyone, that is, except traditional farmers. Kris Luoma, 55, a cattle rancher and crop- insurance salesman visiting the Iowa fair from Arcadia, Nebraska, blames the ignorance of Washington policy makers.”
Yesterday’s article indicated that, “Vilsack’s USDA in July trimmed $6 billion in payments to crop insurers such as San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. for the next decade. Now he’s looking at cuts of as much as $5 billion a year from an automatic payments program that compensates farmers even if they grow nothing. Vilsack is the chief messenger of this makeover, a turnabout for farmers who have known him as one of their staunchest advocates.”
Mr. Bjerga pointed out that, “Agriculture payments have withstood challenges before. The last real attempt to cut subsidies, in 1996, led to a backlash — and bailout checks for farmers after export declines and heat waves persuaded lawmakers to abandon cost-cutting. This time, the $1.3 trillion annual federal deficit will make changes stick, said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, the Minnesota Democrat whose district’s $243 million in 2009 subsidy payments ranked it No. 6 out of 435.”
More specifically with respect to executive branch farm policy perspective, the Bloomberg article stated that, “With more farmers relying on small-town jobs to make ends meet, and even then with incomes trailing those in urban areas by 29 percent, rural economies need to diversify, Vilsack said. Done right, government programs will benefit everyone, he added, including crop growers and ranchers who need thriving communities nearby.”
Mr. Bjerga explained that, “While as much as $5 billion in automatic payments to farmers would go to the administration’s new rural initiatives instead, Vilsack said he’s hopeful that deficit-cutting demands will be satisfied by the reductions in crop insurance.
“Still, some growers and lawmakers worry that the White House will force further cuts in automatic payments, which farmers use to finance bank loans. And they’re concerned about unintended consequences from dramatic shifts in land use.”
And the article concluded by noting that, “Frank Lucas, an Oklahoma Republican who will take over the chairmanship of Peterson’s Agriculture Committee if Republicans in November gain the 39 seats they need to control the House, calls Vilsack a ‘nice guy’ drowning in bad ideas. He listens too much to environmentalists and ‘foodies’ who care more about how crops are produced than whether farmers can make a living, Lucas said. Vilsack disagreed.
“‘I might have a slightly different emphasis,’ he said as he ended his fair tour near an exhibit on expanding broadband. ‘But you can’t say I’m not trying.’”
Andrew Martin reported in yesterday’s New York Times that, “Federal investigators have descended on Iowa to try to figure out the cause of a salmonella outbreak that may have sickened thousands of people and led to the recall of a half billion eggs.
“Because most of the tainted eggs have either been used or removed from store shelves, consumers at this point appear to have little to fear from eating eggs as long as they are cooked properly. And new safety rules for egg production, which came too late to prevent this episode, might help stave off a similar outbreak in the future.
“But some consumer advocates say the huge egg recall highlights a broader and continuing problem at the heart of the nation’s largest food recalls: a highly complicated and often dysfunctional food safety system.”
Mr. Martin explained that, “The responsibility for food safety remains split primarily between the Agriculture Department and the Food and Drug Administration. But the way the responsibilities and resources are divided up can seem so illogical that some of the bureaucrats themselves have called for change.
“There are few places where that is more evident than in the regulation of eggs. The F.D.A. oversees the safety of eggs still in their shells, but the Agriculture Department regulates liquid eggs that are used in industrial food production, while also being responsible for chickens and the grading of eggs for quality.”
The Times article added that, “Consumer groups and food safety advocates in Congress also hope the salmonella outbreak provides momentum to a comprehensive food safety bill that has already passed the House but remains stalled in the Senate.
“‘I think what this will do, its immediate impact, will be to dislodge the food safety legislation out of the Senate,’ said Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro, Democrat from Connecticut. ‘This outbreak can propel that forward.’”
Bloomberg writer Molly Peterson reported yesterday that, “A nationwide recall of more than a half billion eggs linked to a salmonella outbreak prompted investigations by U.S. lawmakers as health officials said at least 40 new illnesses have occurred in the past four days.
“Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms of Iowa were asked by lawmakers from the House Energy and Commerce Committee to submit documents dating back more than five years about their safety practices, any alleged violations, and their discovery of the contaminated eggs. Wright County Egg, of Galt, Iowa, has announced recalls of 380 million eggs since Aug. 13. Hillandale, based in New Hampton, Iowa, announced a recall of 170 million eggs on Aug. 19, bringing the total to 550 million.”
The article added that, “Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, also today asked the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture about the egg recall. DeLauro asked the agencies what they knew about reports of past violations by the egg producers before the recall occurred. DeLauro heads the House subcommittee in charge of the budget of the FDA and Agriculture Department.”
Meanwhile, Philip Brasher reported yesterday at the Green Fields Blog (Des Moines Register) that, “Get ready to pay more for eggs as a result of the massive recall linked to Iowa’s DeCoster farms.
“The wholesale price of Grade A eggs has jumped by 38 percent to $1.35 a dozen from Aug. 13, when the recall started, says Richard Brown, who tracks egg prices for Urner Barry Publications.
“‘We know the prices will go up. We don’t know how much,’ Gene Gregory, president and CEO of the United Egg Producers told my colleague Dan Piller at an industry meeting this morning in Des Moines.”
The update indicated that, “Although the eggs that have been recalled amount to a relatively small part of total production, disruptions in supplies can have a big effect on prices, since eggs can’t be frozen or stored for long periods, said David Harvey, an Agriculture Department economist. But he doesn’t think the recall will have a major impact on prices and consumption long term, so long as it outbreak is connected to just one group of farms.”
Yesterday’s Register item added that, “About 550 million eggs have been recalled by Wright County Egg, a division of the DeCoster operation, and a second producer that used DeCoster hens and feed.
“DeCoster was the nation’s sixth largest producer as of 2008, according to Watts Poultry USA.
“The DeCoster operation is taking a financial hit due to the recall, because the eggs can’t be sold on the retail market while the Food and Drug Administration investigates the farms. The eggs are instead being routed for processing and pasteurization, according to the company. The resulting egg product goes into a variety of uses, including cake mixes and food service. Eggs are typically diverted to processing when they’ve got quality problems.”
Erik Eckholm reported in today’s New York Times that, “As it reeled from the recall of half a billion eggs for possible salmonella infection, the American egg industry was already battling a movement to outlaw its methods as cruel and unsafe, and adapting to the Obama administration’s drive to bolster health rules and inspections.
“The cause of the infections at two giant farms in Iowa has not been pinpointed, Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said Monday in a television interview. But ‘there is no question that these farms that are involved in the recall were not operating with the standards of practice that we consider responsible,’ Ms. Hamburg said in the strongest official indication yet that lax procedures may be to blame.
“One of those producers, Wright County Egg, responded that it ‘strives to operate our farms in the most responsible manner, and our management team has worked closely with F.D.A. through their review of our farms.’”
The article added that, “The other farm under intense scrutiny is Hillandale Farms.
“Federal officials have not questioned the intensive methods that have produced cheap eggs and meat but that some criticize as cruel and bad for the environment and public health.
“Animal rights advocates, who have campaigned to end the housing of hens in tiers of cages, were quick to seize on the recall. ‘Confining birds in cages means increased salmonella infection in the birds, their eggs and the consumers of caged eggs,’ the Humane Society of the United States wrote last week in a letter to Iowa egg producers.”
Today’s article pointed out that, “But the link between cage farming and disease is not so clear, say many academic and government experts who add that some aspects of cage production, which prevents birds from wallowing in their droppings, may be safer than letting hens run loose.
“‘Some groups tend to cherry-pick studies to show the results that they want consumers to see,’ said Jeffrey D. Armstrong, dean of agriculture and natural resources at Michigan State University.
“‘The bottom line is we don’t know’ whether caged or cage-free production is safer, Mr. Armstrong said.”
“By any historical measure, American egg production is efficient and comparatively safe. The current recall is the largest in memory, but involves only a small fraction of the 70 billion eggs produced annually, mostly by hens who spend their lives with six or seven others in cages the size of an open newspaper, their droppings carried away by one conveyer belt while the eggs are whisked off by another,” the Times article said.
A news release Friday from the University of Missouri Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (MU FAPRI) indicated that, “A drought in Russia and reduced global wheat production along with shifts in U.S. crop production affect the entire U.S. agricultural outlook. Changes in one sector ripple through all farm segments.
The release added that, “As in the past, the baseline assumes normal weather conditions and continuation of current federal farm policies. ‘In contrast to the 2010 long-term baseline, this FAPRI baseline update assumes that biofuel tax credits and tariffs all expire on schedule,’ said Pat Westhoff, co-director of MU FAPRI. ‘This is not meant as a judgment about what is or is not likely to occur, but simply an interpretation of what constitutes ‘current policy.’’”
“Westhoff said the update should not be confused with a full-review baseline, which is much more exhaustive. The next full baseline process for 2011 begins in November.”
(Note that the USDA’s Economic Research Service is scheduled to update its “Farm Income and Costs” report on August 31.)
An update posted last week at the Minnesota Corn Growers Association Online contained several interesting audio clips regarding the 2012 Farm Bill from lawmakers and administration officials that took part in the Minnesota Ag Leadership Conference.
Perspective on the Farm Bill and biofuels from House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) is available here (MP3- 3:57); while a brief overview from Ag Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-Oklahoma) can be heard here, (MP3- 1:42).
And comments from Under Secretary, Farm & Foreign Agricultural Services Jim Miller can be found here (MP3- 1:41).
Meanwhile, the Washington Insider section of DTN reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., says he would like to make major changes in the federal support program for the nation’s dairy farmers in the next farm bill. Speaking recently during a dairy farmer event in Minnesota, Peterson said, ‘As chairman of the Agriculture Committee, I was responsible for writing the dairy portion of the current farm bill and I’d be the first to say it isn’t working. We need to get away from the price support system.’
“Peterson did not provide details on how he would modify the current program, but he did indicate that his goals for the industry are not losing current dairy farmers while attracting new young producers into the dairy industry. Developing a support structure that accomplishes both of those goals while keeping dairy prices high enough to allow both groups to make a living from dairying will prove challenging.
“The National Milk Producers Federation already is on record with a proposal to eliminate the current dairy price support and milk income loss contract programs and replace them with a new program that would support producer margins. The vast majority of the nation’s milk supply is produced by the dairy marketing cooperatives that are NMPF members, thus increasing the chances that some type of reform will be included when the next farm law is written.”
Elton Robinson reported yesterday at the Delta Farm Press Online that, “The ‘Killer Bs’ could inflict some major whelps on the cotton program during the 2012 farm bill debate, according to National Cotton Council president and CEO Mark Lange.
“Lange’s soubriquet for the impact of budget, baseline and Brazil could first buzz into Washington on the wings of November elections.”
With respect to the budget, the article noted that, “‘There is a good chance that Republicans may take the House in fall elections and if they do, there will be a number of ‘budget hawks’ coming to Congress. If that happens, we may be writing a 2012 farm bill with tremendous pressure on ag spending,’ said Lange, speaking at the Southern Cotton Ginners Summer Meeting in Memphis.
“Lange said there’s also a possibility of a budget reconciliation package in the spring of 2011 ‘that could catch agriculture right in the midst of the debate.’”
And on the baseline, Mr. Robinson reported that, “Lange noted that given current high prices for corn and soybeans, ‘the only price support money built into the Congressional Budget Office’s current baseline — beyond direct payments — is for cotton. When [House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.)] starts his discussion about a revenue package, where’s he going to find the money? The only place to take money is from direct payments or cotton’s price support system.’”
“Brazil could also challenge the marketing loan, Lange says. ‘I think we’re going to be writing the farm bill with the Brazil case hanging over our shoulder.’
“Brazil has suspended retaliation on U.S. goods and services going into the country, but Lange noted that it still has the right to do so,” yesterdays article said.
DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “As groups look to make their cases about the farm-safety net, the Iowa Farm Bureau is working on a revenue protection plan that would eliminate direct payments.
“Craig Lang, president of the Iowa Farm Bureau, said at a forum Tuesday that his members will consider policies for the 2012 farm bill that would eliminate the $5.2 billion paid to farmers in direct payments ever year [related graph] for a better revenue program that would expand and boost the Average Crop Revenue Election program and likely eliminate the USDA disaster program as well.
“‘We’re saying, would our farmers give direct payments up if they had a safety net, and we’re hoping they say yes,’ Lang said.”
Yesterday’s article noted that, “Lang was one of the panelists discussing ways to revitalize rural America at a forum held by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack Tuesday. The event was held before a sparse crowd with a downpour dampening moods at the Iowa State Fair.”
Mr. Clayton explained that, “Giving up direct payments would be tough. About 10 percent of direct payments, or $500 million, are sent to Iowa farmers now. But Lang said Iowa Farm Bureau has a fear of the growing federal deficit and worries that the country will not be able to catch up to its growing national debt.”
“To help supplement the loss, a revenue-protection program would boost the gap in crop-insurance protection levels and cover a broader array of farmers not now part of the direct payment program, he said.”
The DTN article also added that, “Addressing the age of farmers is a ‘critical issue’ for rural America, Vilsack said, with the ranks of today’s farmers filled with three times as many people over age 65 than the rest of the nation’s workforce. He acknowledged it will be difficult also to make the case to young people that there are more opportunities, but the farm bill should have ‘a heavy emphasis’ on beginning farmers with ‘real programs and real resources,’ he said.”
Josh Mitchell and Paul Kiernan reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “Mexico plans to impose tariffs on an expanded array of American products, from pork to pistachios, escalating a trade dispute over a U.S. ban on Mexican truckers operating north of the border.
“Mexico’s Economy Ministry said Monday it would add 26 U.S. products to its tariff list while removing 16 others. The tariffs involve a relatively small slice of U.S. exports. But by targeting products such as pork, apples and California oranges, Mexico appeared to be trying to engage powerful lobbies—and influential lawmakers—to increase pressure on the Obama administration to resolve the long-running spat.”
Today’s Journal article explained that, “By adjusting the list of goods, Mexico hopes to add an element of uncertainty that might prompt U.S. exporters not directly affected by the tariffs to become more vocal against the cross-border trucking ban, Economy Minister Bruno Ferrari said.
“Mexico said the levies would now affect 54 agricultural products and 45 manufactured ones. The government is expected to publish a list of affected products this week. A Mexican official Monday said the list included pork, certain cheeses, ketchup, chewing gum, dried and fresh apples, oranges and pistachios.”
“[Pres.] Obama could end the ban on Mexican trucks without congressional approval, but that would risk an election-year backlash from unions and powerful congressional Democrats who oppose opening the borders to Mexican trucks. Instead, the administration has sought to work with Congress on a resolution to the trucking dispute,” the Journal article said.
Mitchell and Kiernan pointed out that, “U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said the administration was ‘disappointed’ in the tariffs;” and, “The National Pork Producers Council, a trade group, said the tariffs imposed by the industry’s second-biggest export market would have ‘negative economic consequences’ and criticized the U.S. government for ‘not living up to its trade obligations.’”
A July 20 Congressional Research Report (“Measuring Equity in Farm Support Levels”- by Randy Schnepf) stated that, “Federal farm law mandates support for, among others, 21 ‘covered commodities.’ Support for these agricultural commodities, as specified in the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-246) includes direct payments, counter-cyclical payments, and marketing loan benefits. Since 1996 a handful of these program commodities—feed grains (corn, sorghum, barley, and oats), cotton, wheat, rice, soybeans, and peanuts (hereafter referred to as the major program crops)—have received over $160 billion or 72% of all U.S. farm program payments, primarily in the form of commodity price and income support benefits.
“Large disparities in the relative levels of benefit among these commodities have led to questions of equity. This report looks at available data for the major program crops and compares support rates per unit, total payments, payments per harvested acre, payments as a share of the value of production, and payments as a share of the total cost of production. In addition, price and income support levels are compared to market prices. By all of these measures there has been little equity across commodities. However, farmers often have argued for equity based on cost of production. Economists, on the other hand, would use trend (or a moving average of) market prices as the basis for setting support prices in order to avoid market distortions and resource misallocations.”
The CRS report stated that, “With respect to commodity price and income support payments, this report focuses its equity analysis on the covered commodities since they are the primary beneficiaries. The author recognizes that fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, ornamental plants, and other minor crops account for nearly half of the value of U.S. crop production but do not receive any direct subsidies. Whether the lack of support for nearly 50% of crop production is equitable is beyond the scope of this analysis.
“With the benefit of hindsight it is possible to compare support prices and actual payments against several standards to address questions of equity. Across these commodities, this report compares (1) support levels in the law, (2) yearly average program payments, [related graph] (3) program payments per acre [related graph], (4) payments as a share of crop market values [related graph], (5) payments as a share of production costs [related graph], and (6) support levels with market price trends.”
The CRS report stated on page 14 that, “To the extent that the January 1997 through May 2010 time period reflects long-run market conditions, this exercise suggests that upland cotton and rice growers receive a disproportionately high level of both CCP and marketing loan support relative to the other major covered commodities. Barley and soybeans receive disproportionately lower CCP and marketing loan support. The situation is mixed for most of the other crops; however, wheat, corn, sorghum, and oats are within +/- 5% of the parity value for both loan rates and target prices, suggesting that they are the closest to achieving policy equity under this somewhat ad hoc analysis.
DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “The White House has refused to respond to questions about why the Obama administration may be able to find $1.5 billion to fund ad-hoc ag disaster aid but cannot find funding to pay a settlement in a discrimination case against black farmers.
“John Boyd, president and founder of the National Black Farmers Association, issued a news release Wednesday wanting to know why the administration can find money for a disaster program, but not the $1.2 billion needed to settle discrimination claims.”
Yesterday’s DTN article indicated that, “In response to emailed questions from DTN on Tuesday asking for comment on the ad-hoc disaster funding and black farmer’s settlement, a White House spokesperson responded, ‘Off the record — you can say that the White House did not respond for comment.’
“DTN tried again on Thursday to get a comment from the White House or USDA, but was unsuccessful.”
“Environmental Working Group (EWG) President Ken Cook today wrote to the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) challenging the rationale for the White House’s promise to fund an agriculture disaster aid package sought by embattled Sen. Blanche Lincoln, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
“The letter, addressed to OMB’s Acting Deputy Director Robert Nabors, says the White House proposal violates key principles that make for effective and equitable farm disaster aid and threatens to repeat the mistakes of ‘ill-conceived and poorly administered farm disaster aid programs’ of the past that ‘trample sound policy en route to ransacking the Treasury.’ The letter also raises question about the threshold for receiving aid in Lincoln’s plan and what funds will be used.”
“‘I want to assure you that the administration is committed to providing assistance consistent with your legislative proposal by the end of the month,’ Nabors wrote. ‘OMB and USDA are aware of existing authorities and are currently reviewing the most appropriate manner by which to provide such assistance. We are currently evaluating options to ensure compliance with existing laws, ease of administration, and effectiveness of targeting the assistance to those in need.’
“House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., has questioned whether USDA had the authority to provide the aid.”
Erik Eckholm reported in today’s New York Times that, “Concessions by farmers in this state [Ohio] to sharply restrict the close confinement of hens, hogs and veal calves are the latest sign that so-called factory farming — a staple of modern agriculture that is seen by critics as inhumane and a threat to the environment and health — is on the verge of significant change.
“A recent agreement between farmers and animal rights activists here is a rare compromise in the bitter and growing debate over large-scale, intensive methods of producing eggs and meat, and may well push farmers in other states to give ground, experts say. The rising consumer preference for more ‘natural’ and local products and concerns about pollution and antibiotic use in giant livestock operations are also driving change.
“The surprise truce in Ohio follows stronger limits imposed by California voters in 2008; there, extreme caging methods will be banned altogether by 2015. In another sign of the growing clout of the animal welfare movement, a law passed in California this year will also ban imports from other states of eggs produced in crowded cages. Similar limits were approved last year in Michigan and less sweeping restrictions have been adopted in Florida, Arizona and other states.”
Tom Steever reported yesterday at Brownfield that, “Senator Charles Grassley expects no immediate action on the federal farm payment limit proposal he introduced with Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold. The Iowa Republican says the measure was put forward far enough in advance of the 2012 farm bill to let people know he’s not giving up on limiting farm payments to $250,000 per entity. Grassley has tried unsuccessfully in the past to insert such a limitation in farm legislation.
“‘We have nothing against big farmers,’ said Senator Grassley, in a conference call to reporters Tuesday morning. ‘Big farmers can continue to get big if they want to, but we feel that without having a reasonable payment limitation that we’re subsidizing big farmers to get bigger.’”
The Brownfield update added that, “Grassley says that what’s changed since his last attempt to limit payments is the greater public scrutiny of federal spending.
“‘The farm program is one of those many issues where we can save money,’ said Grassley, ‘and people are very concerned about the deficit so this very great concern at the grassroots about the deficit, I think, is going to help us more than anything else.’”
An update posted yesterday at the Oklahoma Farm Report Online reported that, “The White House has promised Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln that they can move money around and come up with $1.5 billion in disaster aid that will include 210 million dollars for Arkansas farmers- money that could arrive just days ahead of the November general elections.
“Oklahoma Congressman Frank Lucas, the ranking minority member of the House Ag Committee, says that he agrees with the Chairman of the House Ag Committee, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, that there is no way for them administratively to move this amount of money around within USDA without major problems. He calls it a reaction to Senator Lincoln in dire need of help to win reelection this fall in Arkansas. At the same time, he adds that if the White House forces this through- it will provide some much needed help for Oklahoma farmers because of a variety of weather related disasters from the last couple of years.”
To listen to an interview with Rep. Lucas and Ron Hays on this issue, just click here.
Agricultural disaster aid has become a campaign issue in the U.S. Senate race in Arkansas between Senator Blanche Lincoln (D) and Representative John Boozman (R).
An update posted yesterday at Sen. Lincoln’s campaign webpage stated that, “After blocking flood disaster relief for Arkansas agriculture producers in Congress, Congressman John Boozman is now complaining about Senator Blanche Lincoln’s ultimate solution-securing a promise from the Administration to fund her bill with existing budget authority at no added cost to taxpayers.”
“Senator Lincoln has fought for months to overcome Republican objections in the Congress to her deficit-neutral disaster assistance package. Congressman Boozman voted against the needed aid and watched idly as Senate Republicans blocked it in order to prop up his Senate bid. After Republican Senators, led by Mitch McConnell, blocked Senator Lincoln’s legislation four times, she secured a commitment from the Administration to deliver the aid. Friday, an Administration official announced that Senator Lincoln’s request would be met by the end of the month.