FarmPolicy

October 17, 2017

Farm Bill; Crop Insurance; Nutrition; EPA Issues; Climate; Ag Economy; and Farmer Settlement Issues

Farm Bill (Midterms)

DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “A dozen of the 28 Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee are in toss-up races, raising the possibility that electoral results in farm districts could deliver the House to Republican control and make the process of writing the next farm bill very different.

“House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who is considered the principal author of the very popular 2008 farm bill, said in an interview last week that he is optimistic he will keep his chairmanship next year and be the guiding force for the next farm bill.

“‘The fact that they’re in toss-up races doesn’t have anything to do with agriculture,’ Peterson said in an interview last week. ‘We’re the one committee where the Democrats have a story to tell.’”

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Farm Bill Issues; Climate; Biofuels; Trade, Food Security, 1099, and Political Notes

ACRE

Reuters news reported yesterday (article posted at DTN, link requires subscription) that, “Wheat growers will receive about $300 million in supports for their 2009 crop through a new U.S. program that safeguards farmer revenue, said an Agriculture Department spokeswoman on Monday.

“The money will flow through the Average Crop Revenue Election, created in the 2008 farm law. ACRE offers significantly higher price guarantees than traditional crop subsidies but payment is made only when statewide and farm-level revenue from a crop falls below a trigger level.”

The article added that, “USDA estimated payments of $300 million to wheat growers and slightly more than $400 million for all crops, said the spokeswoman. Earlier this year, USDA estimated payments also would include $65 million to corn, $14 million for barley and $11 million for sunflowerseed.”

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Food Security; Crop Insurance; EPA Issues; Trade; Livestock Issues; and Political Notes

Food Security

Dan Morgan reported on Sunday at The Fiscal Times Online that, “It was a wild summer in the wheat and corn ‘pits’ at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange— bad news for a global economy that had been counting on stable food prices to help it ease out of recession.

“Prices started to rise in July as the full extent of a drought-induced Russian harvest disaster became known. Then, on Aug. 5, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced an embargo on grain exports and prices soared. Russia’s action, along with subpar harvests in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Canada, left a significant hole in the world’s wheat market. The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts Russia will export 500 million bushels less this year than in 2009.

The U.S. has had a run of good wheat crops and its stocks are sufficient to prevent shortages for the time being, according to USDA. In August, it predicted an increase of less than 1.5 percent in the Consumer Price Index for food in 2010. But the sudden spike in grain prices has begun to bite. Ethanol refineries, which buy about a third of the U.S. corn crop, felt the pinch as corn prices rose above $5 a bushel — up from $3.25 in early June — partly on concerns that the harvest will fall short of expectations.”

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Food Security; Crop Insurance; SURE; Animal Agriculture; Nutrition; Food Safety; Trade; Biofuels; and Political Notes

Food Security

Jonathan Birchall reported yesterday at the Financial Times Online that, “Tom Vilsack, the US secretary of agriculture, has played down recent increases in the price of wheat, corn and other food commodities, saying the world is not on the brink of a rerun of the recent food supply crisis.

“Mr Vilsack said food stocks were at higher levels than during the 2007-08 food crisis, which saw record prices for agricultural commodities and food riots in emerging countries. He added that market prices did not reflect real scarcities and would stabilise.

“He said the spike in wheat prices in August, which followed a Russian export ban prompted by the impact of drought on its farmers, was already in decline.”

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EPA Issues; Climate Change; Biofuels; Nutrition; Food Safety; Production Debate; and Discrimination Funding

Senate Ag Committee Hearing- EPA Issues

A news release yesterday from the Senate Agriculture Committee stated that, “U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide America’s farmers and ranchers certainty and stability, not additional burdensome and costly environmental regulations. Lincoln’s comments came during a Senate Agriculture Committee oversight hearing to examine the impacts of EPA regulation on agriculture. The Hon. Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Rich Hillman, of Carlisle, Ark., were among those who testified.

“‘At a time when every American feels anxious about his or her own economic future, our farmers, ranchers, and foresters are facing at least ten new regulatory requirements that will drive up their costs and make it more difficult to compete in the global marketplace. These regulations rely on dubious rationales and, as a consequence, will be of questionable benefit to the goal of conservation and environmental protection,’ Lincoln said. ‘Farmers face so many unknowns – the last thing they need is regulatory uncertainty. Our farmers, ranchers and foresters need clear, straightforward, and predictable rules to live by that are not burdensome, duplicative, costly, unnecessary, or in some cases just plain bizarre.’

“Lincoln pointed toward EPA’s Clean Water Act permit requirements for pesticide applications as one example of an expensive and duplicative process that is creating unnecessary hurdles for farmers. She noted that farmers are not only struggling to meet these requirements, but are often left guessing on which requirements to meet.”

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Food Safety; Crop Insurance; Nutrition; Biofuels; Climate Change; Trade; and the Ag Economy

Food Safety

The AP reported yesterday that, “The heads of two Iowa egg farms linked to as many as 1,600 salmonella illnesses this summer gave Congress few answers in testimony about the conditions at their farms Wednesday, as one executive would not testify and the other did not answer many of the lawmakers’ questions.

“The owner of Wright County Egg, Austin ‘Jack’ DeCoster, said he was ‘horrified’ to learn than his products might have been the cause of the illnesses. The CEO of Hillandale Farms, Orland Bethel, cited his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and did not answer questions.

“Hillandale Farms and Wright County Egg recalled a half-billion eggs in August after tests of products turned up potentially positive for the bacterium Salmonella enteritidis, the strain responsible for the recent outbreak. Wright County Egg supplies feed and chickens to Hillandale.”

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Farm Bill Issues; EPA Hearing; Food Safety; Animal Agriculture; Trade; Ag Economy; and Biofuels

Farm Bill Issues

DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday that, “Now that the contentious Standard Reinsurance Agreement is completed, USDA’s Risk Management Agency is considering how to simplify some programs while also increasing crop-insurance participation in Southern states and among specialty crop growers.

“In addition, a high winter wheat price guarantee is testing the new COMBO policy that mixes Actual Production History, Crop Revenue Coverage and Income Protection into a single insurance plan. The COMBO was designed to provide some simpler options for farmers and allow them to buy higher coverage levels.

“The COMBO policy ‘is just an effort on our part for some simplification and efficiencies in the program,’ said Bill Murphy, administrator for the Risk Management Agency. ‘All it is doing is bringing together small grains, coarse grains, cotton, rice, canola and sunflowers into one product and having general rules that apply to most of them when we can.’”

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Food Safety; Climate- EPA Issues; Ag Economy; Farm Bill Issues; and Trade

Food Safety

An update posted yesterday at CQPolitics Online reported that, “Food industry groups will rally this week in an effort to revive a bipartisan food safety bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has declared dead until after the Nov. 2 midterm elections.

“‘We hope to remind legislators of the extraordinary breadth of support for [the bill] and the urgency of passing food safety legislation,’ said Scott Faber, vice president of federal affairs for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents food, beverage and consumer products companies.

“Other groups joining the effort include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Food Marketing Institute and several advocacy and nonprofit groups, such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Consumer Federation of America and the Pew Charitable Trusts.”

The article added that, “Members of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), which represents the nation’s grocery stores, were already scheduled to be in Washington to lobby for the bill prior to Reid’s announcement that he would set the bill aside. Reid, D-Nev., blamed objections by Tom Coburn, R-Okla., for holding up efforts to reach an agreement to set ground rules for floor debate.

FMI members now will redouble their efforts, said Jennifer Hatcher, the institute’s senior vice president for government and public affairs. She said representatives of her organization have asked to meet with Coburn to discuss the bill’s importance to her industry.”

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Farm Bill Issues; Biofuels; Climate Issues; Food Safety; and the Ag Economy

Disaster Aid

The Washington Insider section of DTN reported on Friday (link requires subscription) that, “USDA finally announced that it would, indeed, fund a disaster aid program for producers suffering losses on 2009 as it had promised Senate Ag Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., but the program as announced has little resemblance to the deal Lincoln thought she had.

“While welcoming the announcement, Lincoln told the press she was disappointed in the USDA version, which was less than half as large as originally requested — $630 million, down from her $1.5 billion request.

“Still, she was eager to claim credit for what funding was offered. ‘… I was able to use my influence as chairman to provide relief to farm families. In Arkansas, this program will ensure nearly 90 percent of all acres are eligible to receive assistance if they experienced a weather-related disaster. It will also help hundreds of poultry growers and fish farmers who are suffering due to circumstances beyond their control.’ The smaller total will ‘go a long way’ to help farmers. ‘This is not about a dollar figure,’ she said.”

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Farm Bill; Nutrition; Rural Loans; Biodiesel Tax Credit; Food Safety; and Climate Issues

Farm Bill Considerations

Reuters writer Charles Abbott reported yesterday that, “The new U.S. farm law should take into account the government’s tight finances but sweeping changes in crop supports are not needed, said the Republican leader of the House Agriculture Committee on Thursday.

“Oklahoma Rep. Frank Lucas said he would retain so-called direct payments that guarantee cotton, grain and soybean growers $5 billion a year as part of a judicious fine-tuning of the 2008 farm law, which is popular in farm country.

“‘There’s no need to throw out the system,’ said Lucas during a Reuters interview. ‘I think we take the ’08 bill and we build off of that, and within the money available to us.’”

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Farm Bill Issues; House Passes Ag Comm Bills; Food Safety; Trade; and Ag Economy

Disaster Aid

AP writer Mary Clare Jalonick reported yesterday that, “The Obama administration is making good on an election-year promise to Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln to give hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to farmers who lost crops due to weather.

“Many of the farmers eligible are in Arkansas and the Southeast. Lincoln, caught in a bruising race for re-election, has pushed for the aid, and she secured a promise from White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel in July that the money would be paid out. It took the Agriculture Department almost two months to figure out how to do it, since such disaster aid is usually subject to congressional approval.”

The article noted that, “Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday that the $630 million in disaster aid will come from a pot of money at USDA that is often used to supplement nutrition programs but is also designated to restore the purchasing power of farms. Vilsack said the aid to cotton, rice, soybean and sweet potato producers would do that. Also included are payments for poultry producers, a major industry in Arkansas, and fish farms, which also have a presence in the state.

The amount is about half of what Lincoln, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, had pushed for. It would go to 26 states and 1,000 counties, Vilsack pointed out, but the bulk of the cash will go to Southern farmers. All but two counties in Arkansas are eligible for assistance.”

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Farm Bill; Animal Ag; World Hunger; Food Safety; Biofuels; 1099 Issue; Climate Policy; and Corn Sugar

Farm Bill Issues

The Washington Insider section of DTN indicated yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “The Iowa Farm Bureau made headlines recently when it voted to recommend ending fixed direct payments. These ‘transition payments’ were a component of the Republican Contract with America’s Freedom to Farm initiative in 1996 — and were included to gain support for ending hold-over supply control programs that producers had come to hate. Even when prices weakened later on and the producer safety net was re-strengthened, the fixed payments were continued in the 2002 and 2008 bills.

“At the time they were first implemented, the payments were considered something of an advance by supporters of the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round negotiations because they were decoupled from production and prices. However, as the ‘transition’ payments have became to be seen as a fixture, they have become much more controversial, for several reasons.

“They are expensive, for one thing, at around $5 billion year annually.”

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Food Safety; Climate Policy; Food Security; 1099 Concerns; Rural America; and First Lady Speaks on Nutrition

Food Safety

Philip Brasher reported yesterday at the Green Fields Blog (The Des Moines Register) that, “Jack DeCoster and Orland Bethel, the two figures at the center of the salmonella outbreak traced to Iowa eggs, will answer questions from a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee at a Sept. 21 hearing, say spokeswomen for the executives.

“If the men do cooperate with the lawmakers, that would set them apart from Stewart Parnell, the peanut butter maker who in 2009 refused to answer questions about a deadly salmonella outbreak linked to his products. Pannell took the Fifth to avoid answering questions from lawmakers.”

Mr. Brasher added that, “Meanwhile Monday, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy, introduced legislation that would make it a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison to knowingly sell tainted food. It’s currently a misdemeanor offense for first-time offenders, and even then the government rarely prosecutes. No charges have been brought so far against Parnell. The maximum prison term under current law is three years.

“The stiffer law wouldn’t take effect until the bill is enacted. Leahy plans a hearing on his bill Thursday, so that it could be added to a food-safety bill pending in the Senate.”

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Farm Bill Issues; WASDE Report- Food Security; and Food Safety

Farm Bill- Direct Payments

Philip Brasher reported yesterday at the Des Moines Register Online that, “The Iowa Farm Bureau’s landmark vote for overhauling farm subsidies is getting attention from farm groups and policymakers around the country. Whether it gets their support is another matter.

“The Iowa group wants to end the fixed annual payments that have been a central part of farm policy since 1996 and use the savings to enhance programs that protect farmers against drops in revenue. The fixed payments, which total $5 billion a year, go exclusively to farmers who grow corn, soybeans, cotton and other crops [related graph]. The Iowa Farm Bureau says the money could be better used for revenue-based subsidies that could benefit both crop and livestock producers.”

“The fixed payments have become a target of critics who say that farmers shouldn’t be getting government checks when they’re harvesting bumper crops [corn, soybeans] and commodity prices [wheat, corn and soybeans] are at historically high levels. The Iowans’ position is certain to thrust the issue of fixed payments to the forefront of the American Farm Bureau Federation, the nation’s largest farm group, when it meets to review its policies in January.”

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Farm Bill; Food Safety; Biotech; Climate Issues; and Nutrition

Categories: Farm Bill /Food Safety

Farm Bill

John D. Russell reported yesterday at SCNow.com (South Carolina) that, “The Clemson Pee Dee Research and Education Center hosted a forum Wednesday to discuss the 2012 Farm Bill.

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and U.S. Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., held the forum to meet, talk to and get input as to how the farm bill will affect local farmers and agriculture in the Pee Dee.”

The article noted that, “‘(The bill is) a constellation of different programs, and it’s something over the years that has given us the best agriculture in the world,’ Spratt said.

Peterson said he’s been traveling the country getting input about the bill and said that one of the biggest challenges with the farm bill is the budget.”

“‘We’re intending to stay within our budget (for the 2012 Farm Bill). We’ve actually already reduced the deficit by making a change in our insurance program,’ Peterson said.”

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Farm Bill; EPA Issues; CFTC Issues; Ag Economy; Animal Ag; Food Safety; and Climate Issues

Farm Bill

Chris Clayton reported yesterday at the DTN Ag Policy Blog that, “U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., issued a news release Wednesday stating he welcomed the decision by the Iowa Farm Bureau calling for an end of direct subsidy payments to farmers and basing farm programs on revenue-based insurance. Currently the U.S. Department of Agriculture makes annual payments of roughly $5 billion to farmers. These payments are made regardless of market or weather conditions and were intended in the 1996 farm bill as a transition from depression-era crop subsidy programs to a free market approach.”

Sen. Lugar’s news release indicated that, “In the 2002 and 2007 federal farm bill debates, Lugar proposed scrapping antiquated programs and replacing them with crop specific revenue-based and whole farm revenue-based insurance. His 2007 Farm, Ranch, Equity, Stewardship and Health (FRESH) Act would have phased out current farm programs that benefit roughly half of U.S. farmers and instead offered all U.S. farmers options that protected against severe losses of revenue on an annual basis. The changes would save billions of taxpayer dollars.”

Lugar’s amendment did not pass, but was supported by nearly four-fifths of the Senate, an increase from three-fifths in 2002.”

Editor’s Note: Sen. Lugar’s press release has been updated: “Lugar’s amendment did not pass, but was supported by nearly four-tenths of the Senate, an increase from three-tenths in 2002.”

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