November 21, 2019

Ag Economy; Nutrition Fact Panels; Biofuels; EPA Issues; and Budget Issues

Ag Economy

The latest edition of the Main Street Economist, a publication from the Kansas City Federal Reserve, is titled, “A Rural Rebound in 2010.” The article, which was written by Jason Henderson and Maria Akers, stated that, “In 2010, rural America was at the forefront of the economic recovery. As sluggish job growth reined in the U.S. economy, rural firms harnessed stronger global commodity demand and raced ahead of their metro peers. In fact, rural job growth sped up in the second half of the year with jobs stretching 2 percent above year-ago levels in the third quarter, outpacing metro gains. In addition, rising exports of farm commodities and manufactured goods spurred job and income gains in rural communities, fueling optimism for economic prospects in 2011.

“Farm profitability strengthened with commodity markets at the end of the year. Robust agriculture and energy markets also fueled gains in manufacturing and service activity to overcome the headwinds of a weak housing sector. In past recoveries, robust commodity markets and firm manufacturing activity sustained growth in the rural economy for multiple years. Can the rural economy lead the nation’s recovery again in 2011?

“This article reviews developments in the rural economy and discusses prospects for the year ahead. In 2010, rising global food demand and smaller supplies fueled a booming farm economy. Rural firms seized these opportunities to restore economic activity and job growth on Main Street. Together, stronger farmgate and Main Street activity point to further prosperity in 2011. Rural prosperity, however, will depend on the ability of rural firms to compete in emerging global markets.”


Farm Bill; Ag Economy; Biofuels; and Political Notes

Farm Bill: Rep. Frank Lucas- Chairman-Designate of the House Agriculture Committee

Jim Myers reported yesterday at the Tulsa World Online that, “Despite his political resume and physical stature [6 feet 4 inches tall], [Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK)] has made a career of staying out of the spotlight.

“Randy Swanson, a former Lucas press spokesman and top aide, humorously recalls how the ‘Marlboro Man’ routinely hung behind when cameras showed up at an event.

“Those days could be numbered.”


Biotechnology; Climate Regulation; Budget; Farmers Markets; and Political Notes

Categories: Budget /Climate Change


DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “USDA should have been seeking a better balance between biotechnology and organic production before lawsuits locked up the department’s regulatory process over Roundup Ready alfalfa and sugar beets, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said last week.

“In an interview with DTN/The Progressive Farmer, Vilsack explained the goal of a recent meeting between stakeholders in both biotechnology crops and non-biotech farming was to serve as the first step toward a path in which both sectors of agriculture can grow and be profitable. Finding some regulatory middle ground for biotechnology crops will be a major initiative for USDA throughout 2011.

“‘This is a discussion because of technology obviously being adopted very rapidly by American agriculture while at the same time we’re seeing this explosive expansion of farmers who want to be able to plant organically. The question as we consider these technologies is how to make sure every person has the capacity and the ability to farm [in a way] that’s best for them,’ Vilsack said. ‘What we have now in both the alfalfa and the sugar beet circumstances is the courts intervening and restricting the rights of what some people want to do with their land.’”


Farm Bill; Sec. Vilsack; Ag Economy; Food Safety; EPA- Climate; and Biotech

Farm Bill Issues

A recent Congressional Research Report (CRS) report (“What Is the ‘Farm Bill’?,” by Renee Johnson and Jim Monke, Dec. 10), noted at page six that, “The traditional approach to agricultural policy has been to focus on the farm commodity programs and variations of the long-standing farm safety net. The 2008 farm bill added revenue- based support to the commodity programs. In the past, counter-cyclical support was tied only to prices, but some farmers wanted payments to respond to low-yield situations even when market prices are high. The new program, called the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE), has been criticized as highly complex and not responsive enough to local conditions or some commodities. Participation has been lower than expected. Will the next farm bill continue the program or revise it to make it more attractive? Some would rather shift support dollars to better revenue-based crop insurance programs. Others prefer the status quo. The 2008 farm bill also added a ‘permanent’ disaster assistance program (Supplemental Revenue Assistance, SURE)—a pool of money for disasters without needing supplemental appropriations. This program also has met with mixed reviews, and continuation likely will be debated on policy and budget grounds.

Calls from some groups to reform current farm policies are often based on arguments for the need for greater equitable distribution of support within the farming sectors. Farm program critics point out that farm bill dollars are not equitably shared across the sector. Subsidies flow to a limited number of staple commodities—mainly grains, oilseeds, cotton, milk, and sugar—and not to fruits, vegetables, or livestock. Also, subsidies are proportional to production, allowing larger farms to receive more than smaller ones. Critics want to address these imbalances.”


Farm Bill; Food Safety; Ag Economy; Biotech; Biofuels; Animal Ag; and Climate

Farm Bill: Spending Issues- Political Background (“Cut-Go”)

The “Washington Insider” section of DTN reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “One of the time-honored controversies that occupy nearly every Congress concerns the mechanism used to evaluate the future cost of proposed bills. Recently, a device called Pay-Go has been used to require, in concept, that budget experts examine each proposal and estimate the amount of spending it would require over the coming decade compared with that otherwise expected. Any increase, either from spending or revenue cuts, is required to be offset by cuts in other spending, or increases in taxes and fees.”


Food Safety; Farm Bill; Sec. Vilsack; and Biofuels

Food Safety

William Neuman reported in today’s New York Times that, “The House of Representatives gave final approval on Tuesday to a long-awaited modernization of the nation’s food safety laws, voting 215 to 144 to grant the Food and Drug Administration greater authority over food production.

“The bill, which President Obama has indicated he will sign, is meant to change the mission of the F.D.A., focusing it on preventing food-borne illnesses rather than reacting after an outbreak occurs. The overhaul comes after several major outbreaks and food recalls in recent years involving salmonella in eggs and peanuts, and E. coli in spinach and other leafy greens.

“Under the legislation, food manufacturers will be required to examine their processing systems to identify possible ways that food products can become contaminated and to develop detailed plans to keep that from happening. Companies must share those plans with the F.D.A., and provide the agency with records, including product test results, showing how effectively they carry them out.”


Biofuels; Farm Bill; Food Safety; Environmental Perspectives; and Ag Economy

Biofuels: E15 Lawsuit

Reuters writer Timothy Gardner reported yesterday that, “U.S. auto and engine makers sued the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday for allowing higher blends of ethanol for newer cars, saying it could confuse consumers at fuel pumps and lead to engine damage in older vehicles.

“The suit, the second major legal challenge to the EPA on higher ethanol blends in as many months, asks the federal appeals court in Washington to send the decision back to the EPA and to review whether the decision violates the Clean Air Act.”


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

Farm Bill: Federal Spending- Background

Naftali Bendavid and Jonathan Weisman reported in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal that, “Even as President Barack Obama signed a broad, bipartisan tax law, battle lines were being drawn over spending cuts and Mr. Obama’s health-care law, setting up the likely first big fights in the new Congress.

“Senate Republicans, facing an uproar from tea-party activists, rose up late Thursday to scuttle a $1.1 trillion spending bill, turning their backs on billions of dollars in projects that they had championed.”


Biofuels- Taxes; Farm Bill- Ag Economy; Climate; and Biotech

Biofuels- Taxes- Package Passes House

David M. Herszenhorn reported today at The New York Times Online that, “Congress at midnight Thursday approved an $801 billion package of tax cuts and $57 billion for extended unemployment insurance. The vote sealed the first major deal between President Obama and Congressional Republicans as Democrats put aside their objections and bowed to the realignment of power brought about by their crushing election losses.”

The Times article explained that, “The final vote in the House was 277 to 148 after liberal Democrats failed in one last bid to change an estate-tax provision in the bill that they said was too generous to the wealthiest Americans and that the administration agreed to in a concession to Republicans. The amendment failed, 233 to 194.

“Supporting the overall measure were 139 Democrats and 138 Republicans; opposed were 112 Democrats and 36 Republicans.

“The bill extends for two years all of the Bush-era tax rates and provides a one-year payroll tax cut for most American workers, delivering what economists predict will be a needed lift. The Senate approved the package on Wednesday by 81 to 19.”


Biofuels- Taxes; Farm Bill; Land Values; Animal Ag; Climate; and CFTC Issues

Tax Issues: Political Background- Bill Passes Senate, House Vote Expected Today- Estate Tax Concerns Weakened But Lingering

David M. Herszenhorn reported in today’s New York Times that, “The Senate on Wednesday approved the $858 billion tax plan negotiated by the White House and Republican leaders, and House Democrats said they expected to pass the bill on Thursday after a final, and seemingly futile, effort to change a provision that benefits wealthy estates.

“The Senate vote was 81 to 19 as Democrats yielded in their long push to end the Bush-era lowered tax rates for high-income taxpayers.”


Biofuels- Taxes; Clean Water Act; GIPSA Rule; Climate Issues; and Trade

Tax Issues: Political Background- Democrat Opposition Fades, While GOP Concerns Increase- Estate Tax Issues Remain

Janet Hook and Martin Vaughan reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “The final obstacle to President Barack Obama’s tax deal—the opposition of House Democrats—appeared to be melting away Tuesday as strong Senate support for the legislation turned up pressure on liberal critics to concede.

“‘It’s a fast-moving train,’ said Rep. Peter Welch (D., Vt.), who has led opposition to the legislation to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for all income groups. ‘The momentum is all in its favor, that’s for sure.’”


Biofuels- Taxes; Farm Bill; Nutrition Bill; and the Ag Economy

Tax Issues: Political Background- Estate Tax Concerns

David M. Herszenhorn reported in today’s New York Times that, “With robust bipartisan support, the Senate on Monday advanced the tax-cut package negotiated by President Obama and Congressional Republicans, increasing pressure on House Democrats to set aside their opposition.

“The vote, to cut off debate and end any filibuster, assured that the Senate would approve the $858 billion package on Tuesday and send it to the House, where Democrats are still demanding changes to a provision granting a generous tax exemption to wealthy estates.

“The Senate vote was 83 to 15, with 45 Democrats and 37 Republicans in favor. Opposed were nine Democrats, five Republicans and Senator Bernard Sanders, independent of Vermont.”


Biofuels- Taxes; Climate; Farm Bill; Food Safety; and Ag Economy

Tax Issues: Political Background

John D. McKinnon and Janet Hook reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “Democrats are predicting that a much-debated tax agreement will clear a crucial hurdle comfortably in the Senate on Monday, with a margin that they hope will add momentum to the deal in the House.

“But even with President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton and a growing number of Senate Democrats backing the deal, House Democrats remained eager to test whether they could push Republicans to raise the proposed tax rate on estates.”


Biofuels- Tax Issue; Farm Bill; Ag Econ; Competition; and Climate

Tax Issues: General Overview

Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane reported in today’s Washington Post that, “The Senate opened debate late Thursday on a reworked tax package that would add incentives for renewable energy, which many Democrats have demanded, but leave intact the core elements of a deal negotiated by the White House and Republicans, including a revived inheritance tax that has outraged liberal lawmakers.

“As the Senate steamed toward a Monday afternoon vote on the far-reaching package, House Democrats were in open revolt. Amid chants of ‘Just say no,’ they agreed overwhelmingly during a private meeting Thursday to block the measure from going to the House floor, a symbolic move that underscored the depth of their anger.

“Later, House Democratic sources said several options were under discussion, including an amendment to strengthen the inheritance tax provisions. By changing the underlying terms of the deal, however, such an effort could imperil the bill in the Senate, raising the risk that lawmakers could leave town without extending a host of tax provisions that are set to expire on New Year’s Eve – hitting virtually every U.S. family with an immediate tax increase.”


Biofuels- Tax Issues; Farm Bill; Food Safety; Animal Agriculture; and Climate

Tax Issues: Political Background

Carrie Budoff Brown and Jonathan Allen reported last night at Politico that, “A wave of new Democratic support Wednesday signaled that President Barack Obama’s deal to renew the Bush tax cuts would make it through Congress, as long as most Republicans lined up behind it as expected.

“With Democrats in both chambers still angry about parts of the package, the administration scrambled to allay concerns and build momentum for the unusual deal with congressional Republicans reached this week. By the end of the day, the measure looked increasingly likely to pass, as Democrats stepped forward one by one to back it.”


Biofuels- Tax Issues; Farm Bill; Debt Action; Climate; and Biotech

Tax Issues: Political Background

David M. Herszenhorn and Sheryl Gay Stolberg reported in today’s New York Times that, “President Obama on Tuesday strongly defended his tax cut deal with Congressional Republicans against intense criticism from his own party, insisting it was ‘a good deal for the American people.’

“Struggling to ensure that the package would win approval, the White House deployed Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to Capitol Hill in a bid to allay the concerns of Senate Democrats. Mr. Obama also held a news conference where, with uncharacteristic emotion, he suggested that liberals were unrealistic about what they could achieve in Washington and also slammed Republicans, at one point comparing them to hostage-takers.”


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