February 28, 2020

Just Over 50 Competitive House Races

Categories: Farm Bill

Brody Mullins and Naftali Bendavid reported in yesterday’s (Oct. 17) Wall Street Journal that, “Unlike the past three congressional elections, the 2012 campaign isn’t shaping up as a landslide for either party. The fight for the House is really about battles in slightly more than 50 competitive districts.

“One reason is the way Republicans were able to take better advantage than Democrats of the once-a-decade redistricting process to redraw congressional districts in a way that protected many of their most vulnerable members.

Democrats need to recapture 25 House seats from Republicans to take the majority and return Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) to the speaker’s chair. Most independent analysts say Democrats may gain a handful of seats, but not enough to take control.”

The article explained that, “Spending directly by candidates of both parties will top $1.1 billion on the 435 House races, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

“But total spending on the races—including from outside groups—is harder to estimate. Not counted in the official tally kept by the Federal Election Commission are all of the activities of labor unions, which overwhelmingly support Democrats. Much of that spending isn’t disclosed to the FEC.”

This week’s Journal article also included the graphical illustration below, depicting the most competitive 50 House races, 34 of which are held by the GOP.


Farm Bill; Ag Economy; Budget; and, Biofuels

Farm Bill -Policy Issues, Political Notes

The AP reported yesterday that, “Maine agricultural officials are heading to Washington, D.C., to work with the state’s congressional delegation and federal officials regarding the demise of the 2008 Farm Bill.

“Commissioner Walter Whitcomb says the Farm Bill expired Sept. 30, putting Maine’s dairy producers at risk. He says other programs beneficial to Maine’s potato farmers, blueberry growers and child nutrition education efforts have also been put in limbo.”

The article noted that, “Whitcomb says dairy farmers are particularly vulnerable because the Farm Bill had a federal milk pricing program that gave protection to Maine farmers. Maine has 306 dairy farms ranging in size from 10 to 1,700 cows.”


Bloomberg’s Alan Bjerga: Discussion of Drought, Climate Change & Crop Insurance

On the Monday (October 15) edition of “Rewind,” from Bloomberg news, agricultural reporter Alan Bjerga provided an interesting perspective on the intersection of climate issues, production agriculture, and policy.

In part, Mr. Bjerga noted that the U.S. is undergoing an “expansion” of the corn belt due to technology and economic variables that has resulted in a “shfit” of the growing region for the feed grain that now extends north all the way to southern Canada.

The Bloomberg discussion moved to highlight potential policy implications of this development, and also included analysis from Ed Dempsey of Pension Partners, who elaborated on variables associated with biofuels.

Mr. Bjerga’s “takeaway” points from Monday’s discussion are noted in this PowerPoint slide:

To listen to the complete discussion with Mr. Bjerga and Ed Dempsey from Monday’s Bloomberg program, just click on the listen bar below:

The entire replay of Monday’s “Rewind” program is available below.


Farm Bill; Ag Economy; and, Biofuels

Farm Bill –Policy Issues, Political Notes

Andrew Lersten reported yesterday at The Herald Palladium (St. Joseph, Mich.) Online that, “U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow said she is very proud of her work to try to pass the federal 2012 Farm Bill in the U.S. Senate this year.

“But at a speech at the Van Buren County Farm Bureau’s annual banquet in Lawrence on Monday night, she warned that her efforts will be meaningless if the U.S. House of Representatives doesn’t pass the bill by year’s end.”

The article noted that, “She urged the Farm Bureau members to help convince the House to pass the bill.

“‘We’re kind of in limbo land right now,’ Stabenow said. ‘We need your help.’”


Video: Enriched Colony Housing Units for Egg-Laying Hens

A video from the United Egg Producers on October 16th provided an educational look at enriched colony housing units for egg-laying hens.

For more information on a bill introduced in Congress that would amend the Egg Products Inspection Act, and make important animal welfare improvements for egg-laying hens, just click here.


Video: Sec. Vilsack Speaks on Behalf of “Obama for America Campaign”

Categories: Rural America

In a recent interview on KTIV-TV (Sioux City, Iowa), Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa Governor, talked about presidential politics on the eve of second presidential debate. It was noted that Sec. Vilsack was not speaking as a government official in the interview, but on behalf of the “Obama for America Campaign.”

A video replay of the interview is available here:

KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Recall that GOP Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney addressed farm policy issues in Iowa last week, a recap of Gov. Romney’s presentation is available here.

A recent column by Sec. Vilsack on rural and agriculture issues can be found here, while Iowa State Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey indicated in a recent column that Gov. Romney was best for rural America.


Economic Research Service: Feed Outlook, October

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS) released its Feed Outlook report, “Smaller Carryin and Forecast Production Tighten Corn Ending Stocks for 2012/13.”

The ERS report contained a detailed summary of recent USDA projections regarding feed grains and noted that, “U.S. corn production for 2012/13 is lowered 21 million bushels as lower yield more than offsets higher area in this month’s forecasts. The yield slips 0.8 bushels per acre to 122.0 bushels, and harvested area advances 0.4 million acres to 87.7 million. Corn supplies for 2012/13 are projected 214 million bushels lower, mostly reflecting lower carryin based on September 1 stocks. Projected exports are reduced 100 million bushels. Corn ending stocks for 2012/13 are projected 114 million bushels lower at 619 million. The projected average price received by growers is reduced 10 cents on each end of the range to $7.10- $8.50 per bushel due to lower-than-expected early season cash and futures prices.

Reduced production and beginning stocks leave world coarse grain supplies for 2012/13 projected down 11.0 million tons this month to the lowest level since 2007/08. However, foreign corn supplies in 2012/13 are projected to be record high at 673.5 million tons. Brazil’s corn exports for trade year 2012/13 are raised over 30 percent this month to a record 19.0 million tons, supporting an increase in forecast corn trade and a sharp reduction in U.S. exports to the lowest level in almost 40 years.”

The ERS report included this graphic relating to U.S. ending stocks (click on the graphs for full, expanded view):

Yesterday’s report also included this graph depicting U.S. corn supply, as well as a graph showing cash prices for corn in Central Illinois.


Farm Bill; Budget; and, the Ag Economy

Farm Bill –Policy Issues

In a column published in yesterday’s Des Moines Register, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack indicated that, “I was surprised at the Iowa View published Oct. 10 and attributed to Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Bill Northey. Unfortunately, his essay makes assertions that are inaccurate, misleading and just plain wrong.

“Here are the facts: President Obama has a strong record of supporting America’s farmers, ranchers and rural America. Today, agriculture is thriving. Record farm income, record agricultural exports and declining rural unemployment all demonstrate the strength of the president’s support of rural America.

“Today, there is a record amount of bio-fuel production. The administration recently announced new renewable fuel standard targets that will increase bio-diesel production, a decision praised by Iowa soybean producers. And he has increased the amount of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline. President Obama remains a consistent supporter of the bio-fuel industry.”

More specifically with respect to the executive branch and agricultural issues, a news release yesterday from the American Soybean Association (ASA) stated that, “With the national spotlight on the race for the White House, the [ASA] reached out to President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney for each candidate’s points of view on issues critical to soybean farmers. President Obama and Governor Romney offered their positions on the farm bill and crop insurance, estate tax, biodiesel, biotechnology, trade, research, regulations, and transportation and infrastructure.”

Yesterday’s release noted that, “Both candidates expressed a desire to pass a comprehensive farm bill as quickly as possible.”

The full responses from each campaign are available by clicking here.


Farm Bill; Ag Economy; Biofuels; and, CFTC Issue

Farm Bill Issues

A joint statement Friday from Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and OMB Deputy Director for Management Jeffrey Zients indicated that, “[Sec. Geithner] and [Dep. Dir. Zients] today released details of the final fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget results. The release shows the deficit in FY 2012 fell to $1.089 trillion, $207 billion less than the FY 2011 deficit and $238 billion less than forecast in President Obama’s February Budget.”

Friday’s update added that, “Outlays for the Department of Agriculture were $139.7 billion, $7.7 billion lower than the MSR [Mid-Session Review] estimate. Major differences from MSR estimates include:

“Outlays for the Farm Service Agency (FSA) were $1.2 billion lower than expected. The bulk of this difference was due to lower commodity marketing loan-making and higher loan repayments than anticipated, due to higher-than-estimated crop prices. Additionally, FSA paid out less in disaster assistance for 2010 crop losses and other disaster payments than anticipated in the MSR…[O]utlays in FY 2012 for the Food and Nutrition Service were $2.6 billion lower than estimated in MSR. The majority of this difference was due to lower-than-expected growth in the Child Nutrition free meals program.”

Meanwhile, Bloomberg writer Alan Bjerga reported on Thursday that, “Food-stamp overpayments have dropped to record lows even as the number of Americans receiving aid is at an all-time high, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

“The BGOV Barometer shows the percentage of food-stamp payments that were above program guidelines fell to 2.99 percent in the year ended Sept. 30, 2011, the most recent available, according to the department. The overpayment rate was less than half what it was a decade earlier, while the number of recipients more than doubled to 44.7 million people on average in 2011.”


Chairman Lucas Campaign Video

Categories: Farm Bill

A campaign re-election advertisement for House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) highlights broad themes of leadership and features several agricultural scenes, but does not specifically note farm policy issues.


Chairwoman Stabenow Maintains Edge in Senate Race, Highlights Farm Bill

Categories: Farm Bill

The Detroit News reported on Thursday that, “Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow [Chairwoman of the Senate Ag Comm.] still holds a big lead over former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra going into the final weeks of an otherwise lackluster campaign, a Detroit News /WDIV Local 4 poll shows.

Stabenow leads Hoekstra 50.1 percent to 37.5 percent, a 12.6 point lead. That is closer than Stabenow’s lead of 15.9 points last month, but higher than the 7.2-point margin in August when Hoekstra won the GOP nomination” [related graph from article].

The article noted that, “The two candidates have yet to square off in a televised debate, [related article] and Hoekstra has struggled to overcome a fund-raising deficit, which has kept him raising money instead of campaigning while Stabenow has been able to run TV ads.”

Meanwhile, on October 5, the Stabenow campaign released a video titled, “Our Farm Jobs Tour!

A descriptive caption of the video, which is available below, noted that, “Agriculture is critical to Michigan’s economy: it is the state’s second largest industry, contributing more than $71 billion to the Michigan economy and accounting for nearly one out of every four Michigan jobs.

“As Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Stabenow’s 2012 Farm Bill, which passed the United States Senate with strong bipartisan support, has been called the most significant reform in American agriculture policy in decades.”



Bloomberg Video: U.S. Food Prices, Global Production

From Bloomberg News, October 11, “Wayne Gordon, a strategist at UBS AG, talks about the outlook for U.S. food prices, the Department of Agriculture’s crop survey and prospects for global food production. Gordon speaks with Mark Crumpton on Bloomberg Television’s ‘Bottom Line.’ (Source: Bloomberg)”


Ag Economy; Biofuels; and Farm Bill- Policy Issues

Agricultural Economy

Emiko Terazono and Jack Farchy reported yesterday at The Financial Times Online that, “Corn prices jumped sharply on Thursday after official US forecasts for this year’s harvest were cut, reviving fears over the supply of basic foods following one of the worst droughts in half a century.

“Grains and oilseed prices rallied strongly, with CBOT December corn futures gaining as much as 5 per cent to a high of $7.74¼ a bushel. Wheat and soyabeans also rose after the US Department of Agriculture’s closely watched monthly report.

“The USDA lowered its forecast for the corn harvest in the US, the world’s largest exporter, to 10.71bn bushels, down from last month’s forecast of 10.73bn bushels and 13 per cent lower than last year.”

(A recap of yesterday’s USDA reports, including graphs and charts, has been posted at


USDA Crop Production Update

Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released its October Crop Production report.

In part, the NASS update indicated that, “Corn production is forecast at 10.7 billion bushels, down slightly from the September forecast and down 13 percent from 2011. This represents the lowest production in the United States since 2006. Based on conditions as of October 1, yields are expected to average 122.0 bushels per acre, down 0.8 bushel from the September forecast and 25.2 bushels below the 2011 average. If realized, this will be the lowest average yield since 1995. Area harvested for grain is forecast at 87.7 million acres, up less than 1 percent from the September forecast and up 4 percent from 2011. Acreage updates were made in several States based on administrative data.”

Today’s update added that, “Soybean production is forecast at 2.86 billion bushels, up 9 percent from September but down 8 percent from last year. Based on October 1 conditions, yields are expected to average 37.8 bushels per acre, up 2.5 bushels from last month but down 4.1 bushels from last year. Compared with last month, yield forecasts are higher or unchanged across all States. Area for harvest in the United States is forecast at 75.7 million acres, up 1 percent from September and up 3 percent from last year. Acreage updates were made in several States based on administrative data.”

The NASS update included these two graphical illustrations of U.S. corn and soybean production (click on graph for full view).

Also today, the World Agricultural Outlook Board (WAOB) released its monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE), which incorporated today’s NASS production update.

In part, the WASDE report stated that, “U.S. corn use for 2012/13 is lowered with a 100-million-bushel reduction in projected exports. Corn exports are lowered based on the slow pace of sales to date and strong competition from Brazil. Corn ending stocks for 2012/13 are projected 114 million bushels lower at 619 million…[T]he season-average farm price for corn is lowered 10 cents on both ends of the range to $7.10 to $8.50 per bushel based on early season cash and futures prices and prices available for forward delivery through early 2013.”

The WAOB also noted that, “U.S. soybean exports for 2012/13 are raised 210 million bushels to 1.265 billion reflecting increased supplies, lower prices, and the record pace of export sales through early October. Soybean crush is raised 40 million bushels to 1.540 billion mostly due to increased soybean meal exports and increased soybean supplies. Soybean crush is also supported by an increase in domestic disappearance of soybean oil which reflects the impact of the increase of the biodiesel mandate for 2013 recently announced by the Environmental Protection Agency. Soybean ending stocks are projected at 130 million bushels, up 15 million from last month.

“Prices for soybeans and products are all reduced this month. The U.S. season-average soybean price range for 2012/13 is projected at $14.25 to $16.25 per bushel, down $0.75 on both ends of the range.”

Charts containing the complete supply and demand variables for U.S. corn and soybeans are reproduced from today’s WASDE report (click on tables for full view).


Farm Bill; Budget; Ag Economy; Biofuels; and, CFTC Issues

Farm Bill Issues

Pete Kasperowicz reported yesterday at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “The Democratic ranking members of 18 House committees called on their Republican counterparts to convene hearings on a range of issues such as taxes, the farm bill and the Violence Against Women Act, instead of coasting for the next four weeks before the elections.

“‘Not only has the House recessed without addressing these urgent concerns, but the committees you chair are failing to hold hearings and conduct other urgent business,’ they wrote to House Republicans.

“‘As the senior Democrats on the House committees, we reiterate our strong desire for our committees to conduct official business during October,’ they said. ‘We are prepared to work with our chairs to schedule hearings and legislative action in our committees throughout this month, instead of remaining inactive.’”

The letter, which was signed by Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D., Minn.), noted that, “The House will be in session just eight days between August 3 and November 13, although important legislation deserves our immediate attention: middle-­‐income tax cuts, jobs bill, the Farm bill, and the Violence Against Women Act. We also should use the next four weeks to consider responsible deficit reduction alternatives to the looming sequester.”


Federal Reserve Beige Book: Observations on the Ag Economy

Today the Federal Reserve Board released its Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions.  Commonly referred to as the “Beige Book,” the report included the following observations with respect to the U.S. agricultural economy:

* Sixth District- Atlanta- “Agriculture contacts said that the rise in some crop prices, resulting from the drought in the Midwest, had led to increased crop production in the Southeast where soil conditions were more favorable, but the overall rise in feed prices was putting pressure on livestock producers. Compared with the same time last year, prices paid to farmers for corn, rice, soybeans, beef, and broilers were up while cotton prices were down.”

* Seventh District- Chicago– “The corn and soybean harvest began a few weeks earlier than normal across the District, as plants were dry due to the drought. In some areas, late rains helped produce higher- than-anticipated yields, but these made only a small dent in the large drought-related losses. Crop quality also was an issue in parts of the District. The drop in crop volume hurt grain elevators relatively more than crop farmers, as payments from crop insurance and sales at high prices offset much of the loss in farm income from the drought. However, given insurers’ limited processing capacity and the large number of claims, already existing delays in crop insurance payments are likely to get worse. Corn and soybean prices eased down from their peaks, providing a bit of relief for livestock producers, though most operations remained unprofitable. Milk and cattle prices moved higher, while hog prices fell. Many hog facilities are operating below capacity, pointing to future reductions in supplies of pork.”

* Eighth District- St. Louis– “The condition of pastureland in the Eighth District has improved significantly from early August to late September. Excluding Mississippi, where 97 percent of pastureland was already rated as fair or better, the fraction of pastureland in fair or better condition has increased by at least 20 percentage points in all District states. The share of crops in fair or better condition has similarly increased across the District, although the condition of the corn crop remains relatively unchanged. Harvest completion rates have outpaced their 5-year averages for almost all crops in all District states. In particular, harvest completion rates for corn and rice are on average 30 percentage points ahead of their 5-year averages.”

* Ninth District- Minneapolis– “Agriculture was mixed, as crop farmers saw strong prices but widely varying yields, while animal producers saw tighter profit margins. Harvests were well ahead of schedule for crops around the region, thanks to hot and dry conditions late in the summer. District sugar beet producers were expecting a record harvest. The condition of the corn and soybean crops remained much better in Minnesota and North Dakota than in core corn belt states. However, portions of Wisconsin and South Dakota were hit much harder by drought. In addition, meat and dairy producers struggled with higher feed costs. Prices received by farmers increased for most agricultural outputs in September compared with a year earlier; the primary exceptions were milk and hogs, which saw price decreases.”

* Tenth District- Kansas City– “Drought continued to hurt agricultural conditions across the District. Dry, hot weather accelerated crop maturity, prompting an early corn harvest with below-average yields. The soybean crop was rated in mostly poor condition as harvest began. Winter wheat planting was progressing normally, but low soil moisture could delay emergence. Corn and soybean prices fell seasonally, but concerns about global production underpinned wheat prices. Despite drought conditions, high crop prices and crop insurance payments were expected to boost farm income and more than offset lower livestock profits due to higher feed costs. District bankers indicated ample funds were available for qualified borrowers to meet cash flow needs and finance carry-over debt. Demand for farm loans remained modest amidst a pull-back in capital spending. Farmland values rose further and were expected to remain at high levels.”

* Eleventh District- Dallas– “The District remained largely in drought, although scattered rainfall improved soil moisture conditions in several areas. Crops were mostly in fair to good shape. Production is expected to be better than last year—when the drought was much more severe in the Eleventh District—but below average because of ongoing dry conditions. Grain prices remained high due to the Midwest drought, adversely affecting Texas’ large livestock sector as feed costs reached record highs.”

* Twelve District- San Francisco– “Higher grain and feed prices prompted District livestock producers to reduce herd sizes. Favorable weather conditions in some parts of the District helped stabilize production.”


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