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Farm Bill; Budget; and, the Ag Economy- Thursday

Farm Bill Issues

Ramsey Cox reported yesterday at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said she’s ‘appalled’ that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) hasn’t made farmers and ranchers a ‘priority’ in the House.

“‘I am appalled continually that the Republican leadership of the United States House of Representatives doesn’t not consider the security the livelihood of 16 million people who live in rural America across this country a priority, worth including in a final list of things that need to get done,’ Stabenow said on the floor Wednesday [audio replay of Sen. Stabenow’s floor remarks (MP3- 18:58)].

“Stabenow said it’s been 80 days since the farm bill expired. She has urged the House to take up the Senate passed-version or even the House committee version so that farmers and ranchers would have stability in a time where there have been record droughts.”

The Hill update added that, “Stabenow said Boehner and President Obama could include a farm bill in an overall deficit reduction package that they are working on to avoid the ‘fiscal cliff.’ She also said she would support an amendment for drought relief for farmers to an emergency-spending bill being considered in the Senate for victims of Hurricane Sandy.

“‘We have a disaster bill on the floor,’ Stabenow said.  ‘And I’m not going to allow this bill to go through without considering farm disaster provisions.’”

DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow took to the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon to say agricultural leaders in both the House and Senate could still get a farm bill deal if they got the green light from House Republican leaders.

“‘There is no doubt in my mind we can do that,’ said Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat.

Chances appear more likely the 2012 farm bill will roll with the calendar to become the 2013 farm bill. An aide for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was quoted Tuesday, indicating House leaders fear losing votes for a year-end tax and debt-reduction package by shoving a farm bill into the mix.”

Mr. Clayton noted that, “Stabenow made clear that if there is any way to include the five-year farm bill in the year-end legislation the House and Senate could come to terms on their differences in the commodity title. ‘We’re not giving up. We’re coming back next week and we’re going to be here and we are ready to work at a moment to be able to do what we need to do,’ she said in a speech on the Senate floor.”

“Still, Stabenow said she was supporting the inclusion of a provision to extend agricultural disaster aid as part of a larger disaster package on the Senate floor dealing mainly with Hurricane Sandy. The amendment would extend for one year livestock disaster assistance, as well as the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, known as NAP. That program is typically used for fruit and orchard growers. The disaster programs expired last September, but it has been understood that the programs would be reauthorized in a new farm bill,” the DTN article said.

Yesterday’s article explained that, “Jerry Kozak, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, said in an interview Wednesday that dairy farmers remain firmly opposed to an extension of the 2008 farm law. Effectively, dairy farmers would see no benefit from extending the Milk Income Loss Contract program, which expired last September. The MILC program wouldn’t help with price volatility or difficulties from higher feed prices faced by producers during the drought.

“‘We’ve had a pretty hard line that extension does nothing for us,’ Kozak said.

“NMPF has been working with House Ag ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., since 2009 on a new policy to protect producers. Peterson has said he would oppose any fiscal-cliff bill or farm bill extension that doesn’t include his dairy overhaul. NMPF wants Peterson’s Dairy Security Act passed by Dec. 31, with the understanding that there will be an implementation period.”

In a radio interview earlier this week with Mick Kjar (Ag News 890, Terry Loomis, Farm Director (Fargo, ND)), Rep. Peterson discussed the Farm Bill and provided his perspective on developments at that time; an audio replay of a portion of the interview is available here (MP3- 4:30).

At the DTN Ag Policy Blog yesterday, Chris Clayton noted that, “To recap, House leaders in July declared they had to hit the ‘pause button’ on the farm bill, as Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., put it at the time, after the Senate beat expectations and voted a bill off the floor. The House Agriculture Committee completed its work in late July, but House leadership said they would consider the farm bill after the summer break. Then, appearing that the GOP could win the presidency, House leaders didn’t want to give President Obama a bill he could sign in a farm state such as Iowa. Cantor said on the campaign trail with a congressional candidate in Idaho that House leaders would ‘deal with the farm bill’ after the election. Cantor has now successfully dealt with the farm bill by effectively running out the clock on the pause button.”

Kevin Bogardus and Bernie Becker reported yesterday at The Hill Online that, “Lawmakers and lobbyists are losing hope for several major bills as the clock runs out on the lame-duck session of Congress.

“Consumed by the ‘fiscal cliff,’ Capitol Hill has plenty left on its plate but not enough time to address it all. Legislation dealing with postal reform, farm policy and domestic violence is dying a slow death as the deficit negotiations trudge on.”

The article noted that, “‘It is going to require Mr. Boehner and Mr. Reid sending a signal to the [Agriculture] Committee leadership that the farm bill will be attached to the fiscal-cliff deal,’ said Mary Kay Thatcher, senior director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation. ‘Given a signal that that’s possible, there is still time to get this done.’

“Thatcher said Congress could pass a full, five-year authorization of farm programs — like both the House Agriculture Committee and the Senate have already done — or move on a one-year extension with some adjustments for programs that have already expired.”

A news release yesterday from Rep. Adrian Smith (R., Neb.) stated that, “[Rep. Smith] sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) requesting the inclusion of farm policy in any year-end legislative package considered by the House of Representatives.  Smith’s letter also was signed by Congressman Lee Terry (R-NE).

“‘As negotiations to resolve the fiscal cliff continue, I hope farm policy will be included as part of a larger deal,’ said Smith.”

A video update yesterday from Sen. John Boozman (R., Ark.) noted that, “Arkansas farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses deserve the certainty a Farm Bill provides. Unfortunately, the farm bill expired earlier this year and Congress has failed to find common ground that protects all of our nation’s agriculture producers. In this edition of ‘From the Mailbag’ Senator Boozman discusses the need for a Farm Bill before the end of the year.

In his brief video comments, Sen. Boozman pointed out differing regional variables in agriculture with focus on the specific needs of “southern” agriculture.

And, a news release yesterday from the National Farmers Union (NFU) noted in part that, “[NFU] President Roger Johnson issued the following statement after the NFU Board of Directors passed a resolution today opposing an extension of the 2008 Farm Bill, which expired on Sept. 30, in lieu of passage of a new five-year farm bill. The vote by the Board was passed without objection… ‘Any short-term extension of the farm bill would only cause a litany of problems that will not be easily fixed when a new farm bill eventually is signed into law…’”

Meanwhile, Bloomberg writer Derek Wallbank reported yesterday that, “The House Agriculture Committee will go back to the drawing board on the farm bill in the next Congress, after unsuccessful efforts to include the legislation in any deal to avert more than $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts set to trigger on Jan. 1.

“‘I see no reason to delay,’ the committee’s chairman, Frank Lucas, an Oklahoma Republican, told reporters today.

“Representative Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the committee’s top Democrat, said the panel probably will begin consideration of the bill, designed to set farm policy for five years, on Feb. 27. The old law expired Sept. 30. ‘What else are we going to do? we have no other choice,’ Peterson said.”

The Bloomberg article explained that, “Some farm-state lawmakers had been talking about trying to get the agriculture bill included in a larger deal to avert the tax increases and spending cuts that have been labeled the fiscal cliff. With time running out, and facing opposition from House Speaker John Boehner, Republican of Ohio, the conversation has changed.

Instead, House leaders are considering doing an extension of the bill, according to a Republican leadership aide. Details on what that might look like haven’t been revealed.

“Lucas said he ordered committee staff months ago to draft a ‘buffet of legislation’ as a contingency for just such a scenario.”

Yesterday’s article added that, “The Senate is considering adding funds for livestock ranchers reeling from drought to a $60.4 billion disaster relief bill for superstorm Sandy. The chamber intends to complete work on that legislation this week.

“Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley yesterday filed an amendment to the bill that would provide livestock disaster assistance as well as aid for tree and fruit growers. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow of Michigan is a co- sponsor, along with three other Democrats.

Stabenow’s endorsement may boost the amendment’s chances, as she and other farm-state lawmakers have opposed efforts in the past to separate drought relief from the farm bill.”

With respect to the executive branch, Reuters writer Doug Palmer reported yesterday that, “Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Wednesday said there was a serious risk the deeply divided U.S. Congress will not complete work on a new five-year farm bill by year-end.

“‘There is a very serious risk that we might not get a farm bill done this year,’ Vilsack said in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce” [related audio clip (MP3-0:45); transcript of full remarks].

The Reuters article added that, “‘We’re going to encourage Congress to get this done,’ Vilsack told reporters after his speech.

“He said the reservations of the presiding officer of the U.S. House of Representatives, House Speaker John Boehner, had become a stumbling block. Boehner has expressed concerns about lumping a ‘1,000-page’ farm bill into any package crafted to avoid the ‘fiscal cliff’ — the tax increases and spending cuts that could kick in on Jan. 1.

“‘We need to tell the speaker it’s not a thousand-page bill. It’s a bill that can be easily linked to, and provide savings for, any fiscal cliff resolution,’ Vilsack said.

“‘We would encourage the speaker to rethink the notion it can’t be done. It can be done,’ he added.”

During his remarks yesterday, Sec. Vislack also pointed to different perceptions that exist regarding Rural America, and commented on how some in the countryside have responded to these perceptions, related audio clip here (MP3- 1:36).

Also yesterday, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R., Kan.) was a guest on yesterday’s AgriTalk radio program with Mike Adams where in part, he discussed Farm Bill issues and his removal from the House Agriculture Committee, related audio clip here (MP3- 4:42).



Jackie Calmes and Jonathan Weisman reported in today’s New York Times that, “Hopes for a broad deficit-reduction agreement faded on Wednesday as President Obama insisted he had offered Republicans ‘a fair deal’ while Speaker John A. Boehner moved for a House vote as early as Thursday on a scaled-down plan to limit tax increases to yearly incomes of $1 million and up, despite Senate opposition and Mr. Obama’s veto threat.

The impasse was clear as Mr. Obama and Mr. Boehner separately spoke to the television cameras instead of each other, after a weekend of private negotiations amid grieving over the shootings in Newtown, Conn., had narrowed their differences enough to raise optimism about a far-reaching deal to stabilize the nation’s debt.”

The Times article explained that, “The Boehner bill does hold tax benefits for those with a yearly income above $1 million. It would repeal two Clinton-era tax provisions that limit the personal exemptions and deductions that wealthy taxpayers can claim; extend the lower tax rates on inherited estates rather than allow them to revert to the pre-Bush administration level; and set a 20 percent tax rate for the dividends and capital gains of households earning at least $1 million a year.

“The speaker’s package would raise about $300 billion in additional revenue over 10 years, compared with extending the Bush tax rates for all income, as Republicans long espoused. That is about $500 billion less than Mr. Boehner’s original offer for $800 billion. It is about $700 billion less than would be collected under Mr. Obama’s proposal to extend the Bush rates only for incomes below a $250,000 threshold for couples, and $200,000 for individuals. In the talks with Mr. Boehner, he moved that line to $400,000.”

Jared A. Favole and Damian Paletta reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “White House officials said the president’s most-recent offer, which includes roughly $1.2 trillion in spending cuts, still stands, and the next move is Mr. Boehner’s. Republicans said too many of the spending cuts came from items such as reduced interest payments on the federal debt, and said it was up to Mr. Obama to come up with more cuts. Mr. Obama said Wednesday he would reach out to congressional leaders in coming days.

The talks remained frozen Wednesday as both sides awaited the outcome of Thursday’s vote. Messrs. Obama and Boehner (R., Ohio) have not negotiated since Monday and continued to take shots at each other in public.”

Lisa Mascaro, Christi Parsons and Michael A. Memoli reported last night at the Los Angeles Times Online that, “Thursday’s House vote will be ‘tough sledding,’ as one veteran lawmaker put it, and the outcome is uncertain. But win or lose, Boehner is expected to resume talks with Obama once the theatrics are finished.”

During his interview earlier this week with Mick Kjar on Ag News 890, Rep. Collin Peterson also spoke briefly about the “fiscal cliff,” noting that is was “not a cliff,” and he pointed out that the real concerns of not reaching an agreement are the potential impacts on the U.S. economy, related audio (MP3- 1:56).


Agricultural Economy

University of Illinois Agricultural Economists Scott Irwin and Darrel Good penned an update yesterday at the farmdoc daily Blog titled, “Do Recent Precipitation Deficits Tell Us Anything about Next Summer’s Precipitation?

After a brief analysis, the authors noted that, “Careful analysis of the historical record indicates that recent precipitation levels and current soil moisture conditions provide little guidance in forming expectations for precipitation levels next summer. Historically, odds of favorable or unfavorable growing conditions have been independent of precipitation levels in the last half of the previous year. Beyond this particular analysis, we would expect to find general independence of year-to-year weather conditions. We reported on such independence, for example, in average winter and summer temperatures in a post earlier this year.

It is important to emphasize that we are not attempting to forecast 2013 summer precipitation levels in corn and soybean producing areas of the U.S. Expectations about weather conditions in the summer of 2013 may be influenced by factors other than recent and current weather. These factors would include, for example, expectations about El Niño/La Niña-Southern Oscillation events and general climate patterns. The point is that making a connection between current moisture deficits and next summer’s weather must be based on these ‘other’ factors. There is simply no general tendency for current conditions to reliably predict what will happen that far into the future.

“As a final point, we note that prior to the growing season new crop corn and soybean prices should reflect some risk of sub-par average yields in 2013. That ‘risk premium’, however, should probably not be much larger than in any other year based solely on current moisture conditions. Current forward prices for the 2013 crops of corn and soybeans are well above the levels that existed before the drought of 2012 and likely reflect substantially more than average yield risk.”

Keith Good