January 27, 2020

Ag Economy; Farm Bill; Budget; and, Immigration

Agricultural Economy: USDA Reports

A news release yesterday from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) stated that, “Determined to make up for a crop that was adversely affected by historic drought last year, U.S. farmers intend to plant a record-high combined 174.4 million acres of corn and soybeans in 2013, according to the Prospective Plantings report released today by [NASS]. If realized, corn will represent the highest planted acreage in the United States since 1936 (102 million planted acres) and for soybeans the fourth highest acreage on record.”

The NASS update added that, “Corn growers intend to plant 97.3 million acres in 2013, up for the fifth consecutive year, slightly higher than last year and 6 percent higher than in 2011. With expected returns for corn historically high going into 2013, producers throughout the south and the northern Great Plains intend to plant more corn.”

The release noted that, “Farmers in some areas of the country remain challenged by persistent drought conditions which is limiting the amount of expected soybean acreage in some states. Therefore, nationally 77.1 million acres of soybeans are expected to be planted, down slightly from last year but up 3 percent from 2011” [related graph].

Yesterday’s NASS report indicated that producer are expected to plant 10.0 million acres of cotton this year, down 19 percent from last year.


Biofuels, Policy Issues; Ag Economy; Immigration; and, USDA

Biofuels: Gasoline Prices- RINs, and Lawmakers Consider RFS

University of Illinois Agricultural Economists Scott Irwin and Darrel Good indicated yesterday at the farmdoc daily blog (“High Gasoline and Ethanol RINs Prices: Is There a Connection?”) that, “On March 8 we wrote about the sharp increase in the price of ethanol (D6) RINs since the first of the year. There, we indicated that the E10 blend wall would require RINs credits to be used to meet part of the RFS mandate in 2013 and beyond, increasing the value of those RINs credits. As indicated in Figure 1, the price of 2013 (current year) vintage D6 RINs remains high. The price was quoted at $0.685 per gallon on March 21, 2013, after peaking at nearly $0.90 two weeks ago.”


Budget; Policy Issues; Ag Economy; and, Immigration

Budget Issues

Justin Sink reported yesterday at The Hill Online that, “President Obama on Tuesday signed the continuing resolution that will keep the government funded through the end of the fiscal year, averting a government shutdown.

“The six-month stopgap measure will keep government agencies funded through Sept. 30, maintaining funding at $984 billion. The bill cleared the House last Thursday in a 318-109 vote.”


Policy Issues; Ag Economy- Trade; and, Political Notes

Policy Issues

David Rogers noted yesterday at Politico that, “Congress holds the purse strings, but who holds Congress these days when it comes to farm policy: the meatpackers and Monsanto?”

Mr. Rogers explained that, “Alarmed that automatic spending cuts this month will slow plant operations, the meat lobby won a last-minute Senate amendment that cuts from a new White House-backed school breakfast program in order to ensure there will be enough money to keep food safety inspectors on the job this summer and avoid disruptions.

“At the same time the industry went in the opposite direction, denying funds in the Ag budget for implementing reforms sought in the 2008 farm bill to provide greater protection for less powerful ranchers and farmers who raise the animals for slaughter.

Money is again denied to proceed with rules favored by Western cow-calf operations in their battle with beef packers. In the case of poultry, the bill goes a big step further, literally ordering [Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack] in 60 days to rescind regulations adopted last year to protect growers under contract with the big chicken processors.”


Budget; Farm Bill; Ag Economy; Biofuels; and, Immigration- Monday

Budget Developments

Lisa Mascaro reported in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times that, “For nearly 20 hours, senators considered more than 600 amendments, from lofty to less so, and voted on dozens. The marathon vote-a-rama did not end until just before dawn Saturday, when Democrats stumbled across the finish line and passed their first federal budget plan in four years.

“In a final squeaker, the chamber voted 50 to 49 to approve a $3.7-trillion budget blueprint that would raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy, trim spending, invest new revenue to build infrastructure and tamp down the federal deficit.”

Suzy Khimm, writing on Saturday at the Wonk Blog (The Washington Post), provided “a list of nearly all the amendments that were filed, with the ones that were actually voted on in bold”– click here to view the list.


Sen. Sessions Discusses SNAP Program on Floor on Thursday

Categories: Farm Bill

On Thursday, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) spoke at some length about the SNAP program (food stamps) on the Senate floor.

A portion of his remarks are illustrated below, as is a longer video clip of his remarks.

In part, Sen. Sessions stated that, “Nobody is checking to see if somebody who qualified for any of these government programs later gets a job and doesn’t meet the qualifications. They still are getting benefits all over the country, unless they self-report. All kinds of things such as this are going on. No one is checking to see if somebody goes into two food stamp offices, two other benefit offices of various kinds and asks for them under different names at each place and produces some sort of ID. There is all kinds of abuse in this system and I hear it all the time.

“Most people who get food stamps need it, they qualify for it, and they would get it under any kind of reasonable reform that would occur. But to suggest that we aren’t wasting money through practices that allow unqualified individuals to gain access to multiple programs of this kind is a mistake. It absolutely happens every day.

I tried cases to a jury of stores selling food stamps, manipulating the program, dealing with corrupt individuals who brought the food stamps in to sell because they had obtained them fraudulently and never needed the food at all. This idea that there is no fraud in this program is ludicrous. That is what the leaders of the Department of Agriculture are saying: We have no problem. It is OK. Just send us more money. We will keep expanding and growing every year—maybe double the thing again, I guess.”

A video clip of some of Sen. Session’s remarks on the SNAP program can be seen here:


Budget; Farm Bill; Ag Economy; Biofuels; and, Immigration

Budget: Continuing Resolution

David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “Congress approved and sent to the White House on Thursday a stopgap spending bill to avert any threat of a government shutdown next week and keep agencies funded through September in the wake of automatic cuts ordered under sequestration.

“Final passage came on a 318-109 vote in the House, as top Republicans opted to embrace significant changes approved by the Senate on Wednesday rather than risk further delay.”


Rep. Shimkus Encourages Media To Scrutinize RINs Issue

Categories: Ethanol

Today on the House floor, Rep. John Shimkus (IL-15) asked questions about the price of RINs (Renewable Identification Numbers) in a brief one-minute speech.

In part, he noted that, “There are questions that need to be asked on why such a swift, dramatic price shifts are being reported in the market. Are speculators at work?

“There is an excess of over 2 billion RINs, why is that not proving and providing stability? I encourage the media to ask these types of questions- but to simply jump out and blame the renewable fuels sector is incorrect.”


Budget; Farm Bill; Biofuels; Ag Economy; and, Regulations

Budget Issues

David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “A far-reaching six-month funding bill cleared the Senate on Wednesday afternoon after final adjustments were made for the meat industry to forestall the planned furloughs of food safety inspectors this summer in the wake of sequestration.

“The measure goes next to the House, which is expected to give its quick approval Thursday so as to avoid any threat of a government shutdown when the current continuing resolution runs out March 27.

“The final 73-26 Senate roll call followed a 63-36 vote in which 10 Republicans — nine of them from the Senate Appropriations Committee — again provided pivotal support. And the eight days of floor debate signaled a renewal of that bipartisan partnership that has been historically important in moving legislation through the Senate.”


Budget; Farm Bill; Biofuels; and, Trade Issues

Categories: Budget /Ethanol /Farm Bill /Trade

Budget: Senate Continuing Resolution

Ramsey Cox reported yesterday at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “Senate Majority Harry Reid (D-Nev.) scheduled a cloture vote on the continued spending resolution for Wednesday morning.

“Around 11:15 a.m. on Wednesday the Senate will hold three votes to advance the Senate continued spending resolution, negotiated by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and ranking member Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), which sets the same spending levels as a government funding measure approved by the House earlier this month.”

Yesterday’s update explained that, “The first vote will be on an amendment from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), which would move $60 million for military investments in biofuels to operations and maintenance. He said the funds would be better used to offset sequestration cuts to military operations than for energy projects.

“The second vote will be on a substitute amendment from Mikulski and Shelby, followed by a vote on the cloture motion to end debate on H.R. 933.”


Rep. McGovern’s 6th “End Hunger Now” Floor Speech

Categories: Farm Bill

House Agriculture Committee Member Jim McGovern (D., Mass.) spoke on the House floor on Tuesday about hunger issues in the United States.

In part, Rep. McGovern stated that, “Once again, Chairman Ryan has proposed a budget that guts low-income programs. The Ryan budget not only does not End Hunger Now, it actually makes hunger in America worse than it is today.”

Rep. McGovern also spoke about U.S. hunger issues back on March 14, March 4th, February 26, February 14 and on February 5.


Rep. Kaptur Notes Cuts to Nurtiton in House GOP Budget

Categories: Budget /Farm Bill

On Tuesday, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Ohio) noted on the House floor that the GOP budget proposal includes cuts to Senior Farmers Markets Nutrition Coupons, which she argued would hurt the health of U.S. seniors.


Budget; Farm Bill; Ag Economy; and, EPA

Budget Issues

David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “A stopgap bill to avert a government shutdown next week and keep agencies operating through September advanced in the Senate Monday night — powered by a renewed bipartisan partnership in the Appropriations Committee leadership.

“On a 63-35 roll call, 10 Republicans joined Democrats to limit further debate on the 587-page package, which seeks to greatly expand on the House-passed version of the same continuing resolution or CR.

“The strength of the vote all but assures passage, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said it was his ‘sincere hope’ that this will occur Tuesday. All indications are once the Senate acts, the House Appropriations Committee leadership is prepared to take the modified Senate CR directly to the House floor, possibly as early as Thursday.”


Sen. Blunt Discusses CR and Sequester on Monday

Categories: Budget

Sen. Roy Blunt (R., Mo.) discussed the continuing resolution (CR) and sequester on the Senate floor on Monday.

In particular, Sen. Blunt highlighted an amendment he had offered regarding budget funding prioritization to facilitate the ability of the federal government, including the USDA, to keep essential employees, such as meat inspectors, from being furloughed.

A portion of his remarks on this issue can be viewed here:


Farm Bill; Budget; Trade; and, Biofuels

Farm Bill Issues

On Friday, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers released its annual Economic Report of the President (full report), this year’s report contains a chapter on Agriculture, which can be found here, “Chapter 8: Challenges and Opportunities in U.S. Agriculture.”

The report provided this brief overview of how agriculture fits into the rest of the U.S. economy, which also has inherent political ramifications: “In the 1920s, farm households accounted for more than 25 percent of the U.S. workforce and generated approximately 8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Today they account for only 1.6 percent of the work force and generate approximately 1 percent of GDP. Over the same period, the rural share of the population has fallen far less, from 49 percent to 19 percent, suggesting that rural areas are less dependent on farming’s contribution to the rural economy (Table 8-1) . The agricultural sector is still vital to our country, but because of growth in other sectors of the economy and rapid gains in agricultural productivity that have lowered the relative prices of agricultural products, it has become a smaller share of the U.S. economy.”

In reference to U.S. farm policy the report indicated that, “Highly volatile agricultural commodity prices can create significant income risk for farmers. At the same time, the current farm safety net is inefficient and unfair, creating distortions in production and crowding out market-based risk management options.”

Adding provisions that make lands that have not previously been used to grow crops ineligible for crop insurance or other Federal benefits would help protect the nation’s prairies and forests from being converted into marginal cropland,” the report added.

Also, the report noted that, “For example, the increasing reliance of farm families on income earned from sources other than their farms and a shift toward market-oriented farm policies have made farms and commodity markets less vulnerable to adverse price changes than before. These changes imply that moving away from traditional commodity support programs would have a much smaller impact on farm household income than in previous decades. Nonetheless, substantial government support of agriculture remains.”

And, the report also pointed out that, “One-third of beginning farmers are over age 55, indicating that many farmers move into agriculture only after retiring from a different career.”


2013 Economic Report of the President- Agriculture Chapter

On Friday, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers released its annual Economic Report of the President (full report), this year’s report contains a chapter on Agriculture, which can be found here, “Chapter 8: Challenges and Opportunities in U.S. Agriculture.”


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