September 18, 2019

Farm Bill; Ag Economy; EPA Issues; and, Trade

Farm Bill Issues

Sarah Gonzalez reported yesterday at Agri-Pulse Online that, “The House Agriculture Appropriations bill is unlikely to hit the floor until after the House Agriculture Committee’s markup of farm bill legislation beginning on July 11, said House Agriculture Chairman Committee Frank Lucas, R-Okla., today.

“‘I’ve made it very clear to leadership that I prefer they not have it at the same time,’ he said. ‘As of this moment, I don’t anticipate having ag appropriations in the House at same time as the farm bill markup in the committee.’

“The agriculture appropriations bill, passed through the House Appropriations Committee two weeks ago and initially expected to be debated on the floor this week, is slated for some time after the chamber completes its consideration of the transportation bill.”

Ms. Gonzalez noted that, “House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said today that the committee is on track for the July 11 markup.

“‘The only thing that’s going to screw this up is if we don’t get floor time,’ he said. Peterson mentioned that House leadership ‘has not been forthcoming’ about floor time for the farm bill or the agriculture appropriations bill.

“Lucas said he has not yet pressed House leadership on floor time for the farm bill, because he ‘doesn’t’ have a bill to press,’ but when the committee completes markup in the days after July 11, ‘that becomes the next biggest issue for me.’”

[Related audio from Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Peterson from yesterday’s House Ag Committee Business Meeting can be heard here (MP3- 1:28)].

Yesterday’s Agri-Pulse article added that, “Lucas noted today that he ‘had a good long conversation’ with Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., regarding differences between each chamber’s legislation.

“‘She understands I have to do my work with the committee,’ he said. ‘When we get to conference certainly the bills will have to be melded together, but we’ve not talked about particulars. I understand the importance of crop revenue to her; she understands the importance of letting a safety net to southern farmers and people in southern plains to me.’”

Also yesterday, Rep. Peterson spoke with Terry Loomis, the Farm Director at Ag News 890 (Fargo, ND), where the conversation focused on Farm Bill issues.

Near the beginning of yesterday’s discussion with Mr. Loomis, Rep. Peterson discussed some of the general differences in working on the 2008 Farm Bill and the 2012 Farm Bill, and also highlighted current variables regarding process and timing- audio clip (MP3- 4:16).

Rep. Peterson went on to talk about issues relating to nutrition spending and target prices in yesterday’s interview with Mr. Loomis; the full interview can be heard here (MP3- 11:54).

Meanwhile, Daniel Newhauser reported yesterday at Roll Call Online that, “House Republican leaders are facing a minefield in moving a farm bill this year, as fundamental policy disagreements on both sides of the aisle might render the agriculture overhaul even more difficult to pass than the transportation bill.

“As has often been the case in the 112th Congress, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) faces an impasse in presenting a bill to his right flank — in this case particularly because the bulk of the farm bill funds a conservative abhorrence: food stamps.

“If the House Agriculture Committee cuts the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program too deeply, however, Democrats will shun the bill, which leaves Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) a perhaps impossibly narrow path to passage.”

The Roll Call article noted that, “Outside conservative groups are ready to mobilize against the bill.”

And, an editorial posted yesterday at the Greeley Tribune (Colo.) Online stated that, “Some had expected the farm bill wouldn’t even be discussed this year, given the upcoming election. The 2008 farm bill expires at the end of September. But the Senate, at least, was motivated to get it through this year. We can only hope representatives in the House are motivated to do the same…We hope the House debate doesn’t result in drastic changes to the bill, and we hope our representatives are able to pass the bill in a timely manner.”


Other Policy Developments- House Appropriations, House Budget Committee Vote

In more specific news on House consideration of appropriations legislation, Pete Kasperowicz reported yesterday at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “The House is preparing to work on two 2013 spending bills for the Department of Defense, the Treasury Department and other agencies, both of which are likely to be taken up on the House floor after the July 4 break.”

The Hill update explained that, “The House Rules Committee was planning to meet to approve a rule for both bills on Thursday, a sign that floor consideration could follow quickly after the July 4 break.”

Mr. Kasperowicz also noted in a separate update that, “The House may also continue to work [today] on the 2013 spending bill for the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Several amendments to that bill were considered late Wednesday, and five still need roll call votes.”

Meanwhile, Erik Wasson reported yesterday at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “House Republicans and Democrats on the Budget Committee voted unanimously on Wednesday to demand answers from the administration on the automatic $109 billion in budget cuts slated to hit Jan. 2.

“The bill, reported out of committee, would require the Office of Management and Budget to detail how defense and non-defense programs would be affected by the automatic cuts.”

Recall that a similar measure was attached in amendment last week to the Senate passed Farm Bill.

Yesterday’s Hill update pointed out that, “During the [House Budget Committee] markup, committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) offered an amendment that would have instituted a one-year spending cut replacement.

“The amendment is identical to one Van Hollen tried to secure a vote on this spring until Democrats were blocked from doing so by the Rules Committee. It would cut spending on farm subsidies and flood insurance while raising taxes on oil companies and millionaires…The House Budget Committee voted the Van Hollen amendment down on 10 to 18 vote.”

Also on this issue, an update posted yesterday at Agri-Pulse Online reported that, “The House Budget Committee marked up the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012 today, voting against an amendment offered by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., that would replace the $1.2 trillion sequester by eliminating direct payments to farmers and increasing taxes on domestic oil companies, among other provisions.”

A related opinion item posted earlier this week at The Billings Gazette (Mont.) indicated that,  “The Senate Farm Bill includes a request asking the Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget for specifics on how the executive branch will implement the big budget cuts that will automatically occur in January under legislation Congress passed last summer. That request itself is a compromise between Republicans who wanted to highlight details of defense cuts and Democrats who wanted to point out domestic cuts.

“‘This is a good precedent of starting to reduce the deficit in a way where both political parties are working together,’ [Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.)] told reporters after the Farm Bill vote.

“The June 21 Senate Farm Bill vote shows what can be accomplished when lawmakers work together for the good of the nation. Now the House must act — the sooner the better — so agriculture producers and the millions of Americans depending on food stamps will know what the rules will be after Sept. 30.”


Agricultural Economy

Bloomberg writer Alan Bjerga reported yesterday that, “The drought in the U.S. Midwest that has pushed up corn prices 28 percent since June 15 may eventually rival a dry period in 1988 that cost agriculture $78 billion, a government meteorologist said.

“This year’s weather pattern, which settled into the Great Plains and the Southwest last year and has spread into the Corn Belt, resembles those of a quarter century ago, Matthew Rosencrans, a drought specialist with the National Weather Service, said today at a forum in Washington. Sparse rainfall may drive crop costs up further, destroying livestock profits and raising food prices, said David Anderson, an agricultural economist at Texas A&M University.

“‘Everyone’s worried about this,’ Anderson said in an interview after speaking at the forum. Corn ‘stockpiles are already low,’ he said. ‘We thought this was the year we might get some relief from that, and that may not happen. We’re going to have highly volatile prices the rest of the summer.’”

Gregory Meyer reported yesterday at the Financial Times Online that, “Policy makers and analysts are growing increasingly worried about the state of the corn crop as temperatures of 100ºF (38ºC) or more were expected to cover the central US this week.

Jerry Norton, who chairs the grain estimates committee at the US Department of Agriculture, said about 25-30 per cent of the domestic ‘corn belt’, the main growing area, could be affected.

“‘It would be hard for it to be a worse situation,’ he said. ‘I’m not trying to overdramatise it.’”

The FT article added that, “Scott Irwin and Darrel Good, of the University of Illinois, said that increased acreage would lessen the need to curb demand as long as yields surpassed 150 bushels. ‘Based on current and upcoming weather conditions, however, there is risk that the average yield will fall below that level, requiring higher prices to ration the crop,’ they wrote.”

And Bloomberg writer Jeff Wilson reported yesterday that, “Corn supplies in the U.S., the world’s biggest exporter, are declining at the fastest pace since 1996 just as a Midwest heat wave damages the world’s largest harvest for a third consecutive year.

“Stockpiles were probably 3.168 billion bushels (80.47 million metric tons) on June 1, 47 percent less than on March 1, the average of 22 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg shows. The worst Midwest drought in more than a decade is wilting a harvest that the U.S. Department of Agriculture says will be the biggest ever. The agency updates its inventory estimate June 29 and its production forecast two weeks later.”

Peter Whoriskey reported in today’s Washington Post that, “A drought in the Corn Belt and elsewhere in the Midwest has pushed the bushel price of corn up about 27 percent in the past month alone, and there is little sign of rain in the near future, a forecast that could soon push up food costs across the country, meteorologists say.”


EPA Issues

DTN writer Todd Neeley reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “A House committee Wednesday began tackling legislation that would ensure confined animal feeding operations would continue to be exempt from federal reporting requirements when it comes to manure and ammonia air emissions.

“EPA issued a final rule in 2008 exempting all federal reporting requirements for air releases from manure at CAFO operations. EPA classifies CAFOs by size,…. The final rule also exempted certain livestock farms — based on size — that had air emissions from animal waste that met or exceeded the level for reporting in federal law.

“Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., and other House Republicans, however, point to an Oct. 21, 2011, EPA notice in the Federal Register, where the agency indicated that it was ‘on a separate track’ and was developing regulations to amend reporting requirements for livestock operations for air emissions.”

Mr. Neeley explained that, “Reporting requirements would come from the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act, or CERCLA, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-know Act, or EPCRA.

“Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo., told the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy that he introduced the ‘Superfund Common Sense Act’ out of concern that EPA is moving in a direction to classify manure as a hazardous waste. The House bill is virtually identical to Senate Bill 1729 introduced by Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.

“Doing so would allow the agency to require CAFOs to report manure volumes, as well as set up monitoring capabilities to watch and report ammonia levels emitted from feedlots. Long said this means CAFOs could be required to file daily reports with federal, state and local emergency responders — something that industry officials said could be costly.”



Vicki Needham reported yesterday at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “A majority of House Democrats admonished U.S. trade officials for failing to consult with Congress and disclose details of negotiations on an Asia-Pacific trade deal.

“On Wednesday, 132 of 191 Democrats sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk pressing him to increase transparency and openness in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks while ramping up engagement with Congress as complaints increase about the secrecy of the talks.”

In a separate update yesterday, Ms. Needham reported that, “A top House Republican wants an inside look into negotiations of an Asia-Pacific trade deal.

“House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (Calif.) sent a letter to U.S. trade officials requesting that he and his staff be able to observe the upcoming round of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) starting July 2 in San Diego.

“In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Issa expressed his concerns, one of which is building among lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol, that there is a lack of transparency surrounding the negotiations.”

Keith Good

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