December 6, 2019

Biofuels- Taxes; Ag Economy; Climate Issues; and the Farm Bill

Biofuels- Taxes

David Herszenhorn and Jackie Calmes reported in today’s New York Times that, “President Obama announced a tentative deal with Congressional Republicans on Monday to extend the Bush-era tax cuts at all income levels for two years as part of a package that would also keep benefits flowing to the long-term unemployed, cut payroll taxes for all workers for a year and take other steps to bolster the economy.

“The deal appeared to resolve the first major standoff since the midterm elections between the White House and newly empowered Republicans on Capitol Hill. But it also highlighted the strains Mr. Obama faces in his own party as he navigates between a desire to get things done and a retreat from his own positions and the principles of many liberals.

Congressional Democrats pointedly noted that they had yet to agree to any deal, even as many Republicans signaled that they would go along.”


Debt Commission; Farm Bill; Biofuels (Tax Issues); Trade; and the Ag Economy

Debt Commission

Lori Montgomery and Shailagh Murray reported in Saturday’s Washington Post that, “An unexpected groundswell of support was building Friday around an aggressive blueprint for cutting long-term spending, raising taxes and stabilizing the growing national debt, as lawmakers in both parties called on President Obama to embrace the proposal and launch a serious effort to rebalance the federal budget.

“Eleven of the 18 members on Obama’s fiscal commission voted to endorse the package, short of the 14 needed to force quick action in Congress. But three Republican and three Democratic lawmakers were among those voting ‘yes,’ a show of bipartisan support that Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), a commission member, hailed as a ‘breakthrough.’

“The reality of deficit reduction remains more complicated, however, particularly against a backdrop of stubbornly high unemployment and strident calls for short-term spending to boost the economy.”


Nutrition Bill; Food Safety; Trade; Biofuels; Farm Bill; Ag Economy; and Biotech

Nutrition Bill

Robert Pear reported in today’s New York Times that, “Congress gave final approval on Thursday to a child nutrition bill that expands the school lunch program and sets new standards to improve the quality of school meals, with more fruits and vegetables.

Michelle Obama lobbied for the bill as a way to combat obesity and hunger. About half of the $4.5 billion cost is financed by a cut in food stamps [SNAP] starting in several years.

Mrs. Obama said she was thrilled by passage of what she described as a groundbreaking piece of legislation.”


Farm Bill (Debt Commission); Food Safety; Nutrition; Biofuels; Ag Economy; and EPA Issues

Farm Bill (Debt Commission)

AP writers Andrew Taylor and Tom Raum reported today that, “A painful package of spending cuts and tax increases drew sharp challenges from both the left and right on President Barack Obama’s deficit commission Wednesday, putting approval in doubt. However, both parties’ Senate budget point men embraced the plan, and even opponents called it a starting point for efforts next year to control the nation’s ballooning debt.”

“The 18-member bipartisan commission scheduled a vote on the plan for Friday. But as Wednesday’s meeting demonstrated, the co-chairmen, Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson, face a difficult chore in rounding up the 14 votes needed to officially send the plan to Congress for consideration.”

The AP article added that, “[Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND)] said there were ‘things in this plan that I dislike intensely.’ Yet, he said he was prepared to support it ‘and support it strongly. I don’t see another alternative.’”

(Note: To listen to remarks on the debt commission outline from Sen. Conrad, who is also a senior member of the Agriculture Committee, just click here (MP3- 4:24), and a press release on this issue yesterday from Sen. Conrad is available here).


Ag Economy (Farm Income, Trade); Biofuels; Food Safety; Taxes; and USDA Issue

Ag Economy (Farm Income, Trade)

Yesterday, USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) released its Farm Income and Costs: 2010 Farm Sector Income Forecast, which indicated that, “Net farm income is forecast at $81.6 billion in 2010, up 31 percent from 2009 and 26 percent higher than the 10-year average of $64.8 billion for 2000-2009 [related graph].”

ERS explained that, “The mid-1970s was the last comparable period when U.S. farming enjoyed multiple years of sustained levels of high output and income.

“A second feature of the 2000-2009 decade is the high and persistent levels of volatility in agricultural commodity and input (feed, fuel, and fertilizer) markets. The volatility is reflected in the patterns of farm income during the decade. Net farm income increased in 6 of the 10 years, posting an average increase of 26.6 percent in the years with increases in farm income and an average decline of 23.5 percent in the other years (2002, 2005, 2006, and 2009).”


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