Policy Issues –Farm Bill
Jason Noble reported yesterday at the Des Moines Register Online that, “Mitt Romney unleashed a rapid-fire critique of President Barack Obama’s farm policies and revealed personal stories so-far unheard on the Iowa campaign trail at a brief and windswept campaign appearance this afternoon.
“Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, spoke for about 16 minutes to a crowd of more than 1,200 on a century farm in northern Madison County, south and west of the Des Moines metro.
“In his more substantive policy remarks [transcript available here], Romney hit Obama, the incumbent Democrat, repeatedly on issues of interest to the farming and agriculture communities, including the estate tax, exports and regulations.”
The Register article noted that, “The Obama campaign, in response to the rally, accused Romney of telling a ‘series of falsehoods’ about the president’s ag policy and presented a side-by-side comparison of Romney and Obama proposals on taxes, trade, regulations, energy and the farm bill. On each point, the Obama campaign contends its policies are more beneficial for farmers and the middle class.”
Also yesterday, the Romney campaign issued a release titled, “America’s Farmers Can’t Afford Four More Years of Barack Obama,” as well as related statements from House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.), and Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R., Kan.).
In a separate update yesterday, the Romney campaign issued an Agriculture White Paper with additional policy details for Rural America.
An update yesterday at the Des Moines Register’s Iowa Politics Blog pointed out that, “The Obama campaign countered Romney’s emphasis on agriculture issues today by releasing an ‘open letter’ from the president to farmers chiding Republicans in Congress – including, pointedly, Romney’s running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, for not passing a farm bill this fall.”
Todd Neeley reported yesterday at DTN (link requires subscription) that, “Romney called for changes in the tax code, the need for seeking out new trade agreements that benefit farmers, criticized an expansion of federal regulations that affect farmers, and said he would pass a farm bill.”
Politico reported yesterday that, “‘The big difference between the president and me, he has no plan for rural America, no plan for agriculture, no plan for getting America back to work,’ Romney said. ‘I’m going to make sure I help the American people, and the American farmer, and get America working again.’”
And National Journal noted yesterday that, “Romney did not detail what features he would like to see passed in a farm bill, or what he would do about farm subsidies that critics view as corporate welfare.”
Erik Wasson reported yesterday at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Tuesday sought to blame President Obama for Congress’s failure to pass a farm bill this year.
“‘People have been waiting a long time for a farm bill. The president has to show the leadership to get the House and Senate together,’ he said at an event in Iowa.”
The Hill update pointed out that, “Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, pushed back on Romney’s attack and said House Republican leaders are the ones standing in the way of a farm bill.
“‘I think it’s unfair and it shows a complete lack of understanding of what’s going on,’ Peterson said. ‘The problem is not between the House and the Senate, the problem is Majority Leader Cantor won’t put the farm bill on the floor.’
“Peterson said Romney’s new policy paper makes him ‘nervous’ that Romney is not really with farmers on maintaining a safety net.”
Mr. Wasson added that, “Many House Democrats are opposed to the food stamp cuts in the House bill, but Peterson said last month his informal whip count indicates the farm bill could pass.”
More specifically on the Farm Bill and House floor votes, Brian Amaral reported yesterday at The Watertown Daily Times Online that, “House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Monday that the proposed farm bill, currently in legislative limbo, will have to be changed before it passes the House of Representatives.
“‘If it’s going to pass, we’re going to need some tweaks,’ Mr. Cantor, R-Va., said at a news conference following his tour of Knowlton Technologies, a Factory Street manufacturer of specialty paper.”
The article added that, “Mr. Cantor, in the city to campaign for [Republican congressional candidate Matthew A. Doheny (N.Y. 21st District)], said the bill hasn’t been brought up because it doesn’t have the votes to pass.
“‘Right now, the farm bill is not in a position to pass,’ said Mr. Cantor, who had just spent about a half hour walking among the facility’s massive paper rollers that resemble the steel wheels of a large, hot train. ‘We’re trying to get a vehicle that will pass’…Mr. Cantor said it’s likely a farm bill will come up for a vote after the Nov. 6 election, in the so-called ‘lame-duck’ session.”
Meanwhile, an article yesterday at the Poinsett County Democrat Tribune (Ark.) noted that, “Speaking briefly about the Farm Bill, [Rep. Rick Crawford (R., Ark.)] said it passed 35-11 in the committee but found it difficult as neither side wanted to take leadership in taking up the bill. Nutrition was the stopping point in the bill. One said it cuts too much while the other side said it doesn’t cut enough.”
On the nutrition issue, Ramsey Cox reported yesterday at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called cuts to federal emergency hunger programs ‘unconscionable’ on Tuesday [news release, related video].
“He said the cuts have resulted in a 50 percent reduction in food supplies for Vermont food banks, which help working families, the elderly, children and the homeless.”
The Hill update added that, “Sanders also warned that more cuts to food assistance programs could come unless the House passes the Senate-passed farm bill, which funds many other federal food assistance programs, such as food stamps, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and the School Lunch Program.”
Meanwhile, a recent editorial at the Sioux City Journal (Iowa) noted that, “Obesity among children is a growing, serious problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 are obese, triple the number in 1980…For those reasons, we support new United States Department of Agriculture nutrition guidelines for school lunches, including limits on calories and sodium and an increase in servings of fruits and vegetables. School districts must meet the new guidelines or lose the federal subsidies they receive for meals they serve.”
In other policy news, Jacqui Fatka reported yesterday at Feedstuffs Online that, “As the claims come in from one of the worst droughts in decades, farmers and ranchers across the country are receiving indemnity payments for the losses they have incurred. However, indemnity payouts are much less than the $40 billion reported this summer due to lower harvest prices.
“To date, more than $2 billion has been sent to farmers, according to the National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS).”
Also yesterday, University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Gary Schnitkey penned a brief update at the farmdoc daily Blog titled, “Harvest Prices and Insurance Payments.”
And with respect to the executive branch, a news release from USDA yesterday indicated that, “Speaking at the opening session of the first of four regional workshops to outline resources available to assist with drought recovery efforts, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the lack of a new five-year Food, Farm and Jobs Bill has the potential to delay and stifle the federal response.
“‘USDA is doing all we can, but key programs traditionally made available in times of disaster are in limbo because Congress has allowed our authority to deliver them to expire,’ said Vilsack. ‘As I travel the country, it is clear to me that farmers and ranchers are aware of the gravity of the situation, and the need for Congress to act.’”
Related audio from Sec. Vilsack’s presentation yesterday has been posted at Brownfield Online.
Annie Lowrey reported in today’s New York Times that, “Come January, if Congress fails to act, spending cuts and tax increases large enough to throw the country back into recession will hit.
“It is known in Washington as the ‘fiscal cliff.’ But policy and economic analysts projecting its complicated and wide-ranging potential impact said the term ‘fiscal hill’ or ‘fiscal slope’ might be more apt: the effect would be powerful but gradual, and in some cases, reversible.”
Today’s article noted that, “But both Democrats and Republicans have said that going over the fiscal cliff might put them in a better negotiating position. And confidence in policy makers’ ability to get a deal done is low.
“In the event that New Year’s Day came and went without a legislative fix, confidence, investment, markets and household spending would be hurt, analysts said. Still, there would be time for Congress to strike a deal before the economy started contracting. The economic effect would accumulate day by day, and much of it might be reversible.
“The Treasury Department has significant discretion over whether to adjust the withholding tax tables, meaning it could choose to keep last year’s rates and avert much of the blow from the tax increases. Policy makers could also apply lower tax rates retroactively: If the Bush-era tax cuts expired for all households in January, they could be reapplied in February.”
Jeremy Herb reported yesterday at The Hill’s Defense Blog that, “The top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee said Tuesday that defense spending could be reduced by an additional $5 billion if the across-the-board Pentagon cuts hit in 2013.
“The letter from Appropriations Committee ranking member Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) also highlighted a report from the Congressional Research Service published last week estimating that 1.4 million jobs could be lost due to sequestration in calendar year 2013, including 907,000 defense-related jobs.”
Steven Sloan reported yesterday at Politico that, “Lawmakers from both parties are approaching a tax code overhaul in remarkably similar ways: tossing out or limiting current tax provisions to help bring down marginal rates for everyone.
“Not Chuck Schumer.
“The New York Democrat outlined a very different path Tuesday when he argued that lawmakers should use the lame-duck session to raise tax rates on top earners, end some deductions, increase taxes on investments and use the revenue that would be generated to pay down the $1.1 trillion deficit.”
Ramsey Cox reported yesterday at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Democrats of holding ‘the economy hostage’ by suggesting any deal on taxes must include raising rates on the wealthiest income-earners.”
And Mike Lillis reported yesterday at The Hill Online that, “House Democrats are attacking House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) this week, claiming he set the bar too low for the lame-duck session.
“Boehner over the weekend said it’s unlikely House Republicans would push for a sweeping budget deal when Congress returns to Washington after November’s elections to address the looming ‘fiscal cliff.’
“Top Democrats have pounced, accusing GOP leaders of pushing the nation’s troubles into the indefinite future rather than working harder to solve them this year.”
The AP reported yesterday that, “The United Nations said Tuesday its 2009 headline-grabbing announcement that 1 billion people in the world were hungry was off-target and that the number is actually more like 870 million.
“The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization blamed flawed methodology and poor data for the bum projection [news release, video], and said it now uses a much more accurate set of parameters and statistics to calculate its annual estimate of the world’s hungry.”
Meanwhile, Bloomberg writer Elizabeth Campbell reported yesterday that, “U.S. milk production is headed for the biggest contraction in 12 years as a drought-fueled surge in feed costs drives more cows to slaughter.
“Output will drop 0.5 percent to 198.9 billion pounds (90.2 million metric tons) in 2013 as the herd shrinks to an eight- year low, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates. Milk futures rose 45 percent since mid-April and may advance at least an additional 19 percent to a record $25 per 100 pounds by June, said Shawn Hackett, the president of Boynton Beach, Florida- based Hackett Financial Advisers Inc. He correctly predicted the rally in March.
“Dairies in California, the top milk-producing state, are filing for bankruptcy, and U.S. cows are being slaughtered at the fastest rate in more than a quarter century…So far this year, 49 bankruptcy cases have been filed by family farms in California, up from 43 cases filed last year in the same period, according to federal court records.”
Also yesterday, the AP reported that, “Farmers in California’s agricultural heartland say record-high gas and diesel prices are putting pressure on their bottom lines, but economists say it’s unlikely that will translate into significantly higher food prices across the U.S.”
And Joel Millman reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “Washington state is enjoying the second-biggest apple crop in its history, but farmers warn they may have to leave up to one-quarter of their bounty to rot, because there aren’t enough pickers.
“‘I’m down 40% from the labor I need,’ said Steve Nunley, manager of a 3,000-acre apple orchard for Pride Packing Co. in Wapato, Wash. Mr. Nunley said he has 200 pickers right now, but needs close to 400. He has increased pay to $24 for every 1,000-pound bin of Gala apples they pick, compared with $18 last year. Even so, he expects to have to let tons of fruit fall unpicked this season.”
In other harvest related news, John Perkins reported yesterday at Brownfield that, “USDA reports this year’s corn and soybean harvests continue to move well ahead of the normal pace, while dry weather is keeping winter wheat emergence behind schedule in many key growing states.
“As of Sunday, 69% of the U.S. corn crop is harvested, compared to 29% this time last year and the five year average of 28%…[and]…for soybeans, 58% of the crop is harvested, compared to 42% last year and 40% on average.”
The AP reported yesterday that, “The nation’s top agricultural negotiator says he expects farm exports to be down between $1 billion and $2 billion this year because of the drought.
“Isi Siddiqui says the tighter supply of grains, and the resulting higher price of feed, is driving up beef and poultry costs. But he says it isn’t to the point that international buyers are fleeing in droves.
“The U.S. exported $137 billion in agricultural products last year. Siddiqui says 2013 sales are projected at $143 billion.”