Farm Bill: Budget- Supercommittee Issues
Ron Hays reported yesterday at The Oklahoma Farm Report Online that, “A wide ranging conversation was had with the Chairman of the House Ag Committee, Oklahoma’s Third District Congressman Frank Lucas on Thursday afternoon. Lucas has just been back in Washington for a couple of days after the August recess- and indicates that he has yet to sit down face to face with his ranking minority member, Collin Peterson, to discuss exactly how to assemble recommendations to the SuperCommittee for possible budget cuts that will be worked on by those twelve members of Congress this fall. Deadline for the standing committees to get their ideas to the SuperCommittee is just over a month away- October 14.
“Lucas still prefers getting a number instead of being instructed by the SuperCommittee to cut specific programs- and he is still not certain if the SuperCommittee will demand full fledged authorizing legislation to fully be in place this fall- or if the spending cap can be accommodated in the writing of the 2012 farm bill next spring or summer.
“He also has been watching with interest the farm policy statements of groups like the National Cotton Council. The NCC has backed away from staunchly backing continuation of direct farm program payments, while touting some form of a crop insurance type safety net [more detail on NCC’s 2012 Farm Bill position is available here].
To listen to the full conversation with Ron Hays and Chairman Lucas, just click here.
With respect to the supercommittee, Meredith Shiner reported yesterday at Roll Call Online that, “The challenge facing the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction was on stark display today as protesters chanted refrains outside a House committee room while lawmakers exchanged niceties inside at their first meeting.”
“But the optimism of the opening session did little to make the path to a deal clearer. The panel unanimously approved its rules, set mostly by the August debt ceiling deal, and will have a public hearing Tuesday to continue the debate on how best to rein in a burgeoning federal deficit. Members will hear from Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf on ‘The History and Drivers of Our Nation’s Debt and Its Threats’ at that hearing.”
Katy O’Donnell reported yesterday at National Journal Online that, “Even as each member of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction voiced concerns about the struggling economy in their opening statements, it was clear right from the start of Thursday’s inaugural ‘super committee’ meeting that the members do not agree on just how jobs should figure into their final deficit-cutting package.
“Beyond the standard ruminations about American decline and warnings about the threat the deficit poses to national security that accompany nearly every deficit discussion in Washington, committee members spent much of the meeting discussing employment in the context of deficit reduction. Republicans insisted that bringing down the deficit would itself pave the way for job growth, while Democrats argued that a short-term jobs agenda needs to be part of a deficit-reduction plan in order to bring in more revenue in the future.
“‘We can’t fix our budget without fixing jobs, and we can’t fix jobs without fixing our budget,’ Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said, summarizing the dilemma others acknowledged.”
To listen to a broader range of the remarks yesterday from Sen. Kerry just click here (MP3- 1:52).
In addition, a portion of comments from yesterday’s hearing by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) can be heard here (MP3- 2:33); and, Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the GOP Whip- the second highest position in Senate Republican leadership, used a portion of his comments from yesterdays to explain the time constraints under which the supercommittee will have to complete its work, related audio here (MP3- 2:07).
Meanwhile, in a parallel development regarding the deficit and jobs, President Barack Obama indicated last night that, “This is the American Jobs Act. It will lead to new jobs for construction workers, for teachers, for veterans, for first responders, young people and the long-term unemployed. It will provide tax credits to companies that hire new workers, tax relief to small business owners, and tax cuts for the middle class. And here’s the other thing I want the American people to know: The American Jobs Act will not add to the deficit. It will be paid for. And here’s how.
“The agreement we passed in July will cut government spending by about $1 trillion over the next 10 years. It also charges this Congress to come up with an additional $1.5 trillion in savings by Christmas. Tonight, I am asking you to increase that amount so that it covers the full cost of the American Jobs Act. And a week from Monday, I’ll be releasing a more ambitious deficit plan — a plan that will not only cover the cost of this jobs bill, but stabilize our debt in the long run.”
Russell Berman reported last night at The Hill Online that, “The Republican co-chairman of the congressional ‘supercommittee’ on deficit reduction sharply criticized President Obama’s call for the panel to find additional budget savings to pay for his $447 billion jobs plan.
“‘By asking the Joint Select Committee to increase the $1.5 trillion target to cover the full cost of his plan, the president is essentially tasking a committee designed to reduce the deficit to pay for yet another round of stimulus,’ Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) said in a statement after the president’s speech to Congress.”
Farm Bill: Senate Appropriations- Conservation Funding
Philip Brasher reported yesterday at The Green Fields Blog (Des Moines Register) that, “Land conservation programs take a hit in the Senate’s version of a 2012 spending bill for the Agriculture Department and Food and Drug Administration. Cuts to conservation programs that are popular with Midwest farmers and landowners allowed the lawmakers to increase food safety and international food aid, areas that were targeted by House budget writers.”
On this issue, Daniel Looker reported yesterday at Agriculture Online that, “Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), a member of two powerful ag committees, told Agriculture.com today that he’ll offer an amendment to cut direct payments as part of an effort to restore funding for conservation and rural development.
“Harkin, the former chairman of the Agriculture Committee also sits on the agriculture subcommittee of the appropriations committee, which Wednesday voted to cut mandatory conservation programs by 12%, or $726 million, in the 2012 fiscal year that starts in October. It didn’t touch spending for direct payments.
“Harkin has long been critical of direct payments, which go to any producer with a history of raising corn and other commodity program crops. They cost the Treasury about $5 billion a year. At a time when many farmers will have record or near record income, ‘the direct payment program makes no sense,’ Harkin said Thursday.”
Mr. Looker added that, “Harkin said he thinks he’ll have support from other senators for making cuts to direct payments.
“‘I think that would be a good debate to have,’ he said.
“Harkin said he’ll also be making the case for cutting direct payments on his own to the 12-member ‘super committee’ that is charged with coming up with at least $1.2 trillion in federal budget cuts over 10 years. The committee has a November 23 deadline and Congress has until mid-October to offer suggestions.”
And Julie Harker reported yesterday at Brownfield that, “Funding for two national institutes that inform Congress and state and federal governments on ag economics and rural issues remains in the mark-up of the Senate Ag Appropriations bill this week.
“Both ‘FAPRI’ – the Food & Agricultural Policy Research Institute and ‘RUPRI’ – the Rural Policy Research Institute are headquartered at the University of Missouri.”
Farm Bill: House Agriculture Subcommittee Hearing- Dairy Issues
A news release yesterday from the House Agriculture Committee stated that, “Today, Rep. Thomas Rooney, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry held an audit hearing to examine U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) dairy programs. This is the tenth hearing in the series on farm policy that is designed to provide oversight of current spending to ensure programs are delivered effectively. It also provides Members of the Committee with a comprehensive view of farm programs.
“Current dairy programs include the Dairy Product Price Support Program (DPPSP), Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) Program, Dairy Export Incentive Program (DEIP), Livestock Gross Margin Insurance for Dairy (LGM-Dairy), and Federal Milk Marketing Orders (FMMOs). Members of the Subcommittee heard testimony about how these programs are working, current conditions and productivity in the dairy industry, and possible public policy challenges moving forward.”
At yesterday’s hearing, full Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) reminded the panel that there is current discussion about moving dairy policy to a “margin-type program” as opposed to a price based program; Rep. Peterson asked the panel to talk about dairy farm margins over the past few years. To listen to a portion of this discussion between Rep. Peterson and USDA Senior Economist Larry Salathe, just click here (MP3- 2:08).
Similarly, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) queried the panel for their general thoughts on the proposed “Foundation for the Future” program, to listen to some of this discussion, which included remarks from Dana Coale, the Deputy Administrator for Dairy Programs, USDA-Agricultural Marketing Service, and Juan Garcia, the Acting Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs, USDA- Farm Service Agency, just click here (MP3- 4:09).
A bit later at yesterday’s hearing, Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) followed up on Rep. Huelskamp’s line of inquiry and sought to flesh out additional administration perspective on “Foundation for the Future.” This audio clip (MP3- 5:40), which includes remarks from Ms. Coale and Mr. Salathe, contains a portion of this additional discussion.
In other dairy related developments, the AP reported yesterday that, “The federal government will reimburse Northeastern dairy farmers for the milk they had to dump because Tropical Storm Irene prevented them from getting it to market.
“Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Democrats, said the funds will replace milk dumped or spoiled by power loss or impassible roads along the Eastern Seaboard. Farmers will be paid full market value, more than $4 a gallon.”
Tom Polansek reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “Global food prices remained near record highs last month, with concern growing that a disappointing U.S. corn harvest may trigger further increases, particularly in the developing world.
“The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said Thursday its food-price index slipped less than a point in August to 231 points, just 3% below a record high set in February.”
Today’s Journal article added that, “The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in a separate report released Thursday highlighted how the U.S. faces less pressure from rising food prices than developing nations.
“Food costs and diets in developing nations are linked to crop prices, and consumers spend a larger percentage of their income on food. Consumers in the U.S., who eat more processed foods, face food prices influenced more heavily by labor costs and spend just a fraction of their overall income on food.
“The report highlights the difference in food-cost inflation around the world and in the U.S. The U.N.’s world food-price index for July was up 34% over a year ago, while the U.S. consumer-price index for food in the same month was only 4% above the prior year.”
Meanwhile, Mark Peters and Paul Vieira reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “For 70 years, a lone trading desk in Canada’s prairie region quietly has held sway over the price of wheat and, in effect, how much consumers pay for everything from a loaf of bread to a bowl of pasta.
“But those days are numbered.
“The Canadian Wheat Board is poised to lose its monopoly grip on the country’s wheat sales. Canada’s Conservative Party captured a parliamentary majority this past spring, and newly elected government officials took that as a mandate to end the wheat board’s reign.”
A news release yesterday from the House Agriculture Committee stated that, “Frank D. Lucas, Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, sent a letter today to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson requesting a response to a list of questions from a bipartisan group of lawmakers that was submitted to her agency nearly six months ago. Administrator Jackson testified before the Committee on March 10, 2011 at a hearing on EPA regulations. Following the hearing, members of the Agriculture Committee submitted questions for the record to clarify EPA’s proposed actions and to gather more information about potential impacts on agriculture.”
A news release yesterday from GOP South Dakota Representative Kristi Noem indicated that, “[Reps.Noem] and Robert Hurt (R-VA) released the below statements today after Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE) introduced a companion bill in the U.S. Senate to H.R. 1633, the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act, co-authored by Reps. Noem and Hurt. This follows the announcement by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) that H.R. 1633 will be considered on the House floor as a part of the House’s overall agenda on jobs and regulatory relief. H.R. 1633 is a bipartisan bill that would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from burdening farmers, ranchers, and small business owners in rural America with additional dust regulations to help create a better environment for job creation and economic growth. H.R. 1633 has been endorsed by the American Farm Bureau, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Public Lands Council, the Western Business Roundtable, National Federation of Independent Business, South Dakota Farm Bureau and South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association.
“‘I’m glad to see that support continues to grow for H.R. 1633 in both the House and the Senate. With unemployment remaining unacceptably high in the 5th District and across the country, it is critical that we continue to adopt commonsense, pro-growth policies that seek to remove the federal government as a roadblock to job creation. By reducing unnecessary federal dust regulations on our farmers and small businesses, H.R. 1633 will help restore certainty to the marketplace so that our true job creators will have the confidence and freedom necessary to innovate, expand, and hire,’ said Hurt.
“‘These developments are a clear indication that we’re gaining momentum for the commonsense idea that rural America, including South Dakota, doesn’t need any more dust regulation at this point. This is a big win for farmers and ranchers who already have enough uncertainty associated with their business. If we want to create the environment for job growth then we need to get burdensome regulations out of the picture,’ said Noem.
A press release yesterday from House Speaker John Boehner stated that, “[Speaker Boehner (R-OH)] today announced he will host more than a dozen private-sector job creators in the House gallery during President Obama’s address to a Joint Session of Congress tonight.”
Among the guests, “Rock Katschnig [related video clip] is a corn and soybean farmer of 32 years from Prophetstown, IL. Hurt by a stream of harmful federal regulations, Katschnig appealed to President Obama at an Atkinson, IL town hall last month, pleading, ‘Please don’t challenge us with more rules and regulations from Washington D.C. that hinder us.’ The president replied, ‘Don’t always believe what you hear.’ Despite President Obama’s statement, one proposed regulation on ‘particulate matter’ (dust) would devastate Katschnig’s industry and destroy many farming jobs. The obstacles encountered by Mr. Katschnig are on the list of ‘Top 10 Job-Destroying Regulations’ identified in Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) August 29 memo outlining the legislative agenda for the remainder of the year.”
Also yesterday, Ben Geman reported at The Hill’s Energy Blog that, “The Environmental Protection Agency’s top air quality official offered scant backing for President Obama’s surprise decision last week to scuttle planned EPA rules to toughen Bush-era smog standards.
“‘The president issued a statement and it should speak for itself,’ Gina McCarthy, EPA’s assistant administrator for air and regulation, said Thursday.”