January 25, 2020

Farm Bill and Budget Issues; Ag Economy; Immigration

Farm Bill and Budget Issues: Recap- Friday

DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported on Friday that, “In an interview with DTN, [Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack] said USDA faces the prospect of a dual fiscal problem hitting the department on Tuesday. USDA employees go into the weekend knowing the farm bill expires Sept. 30, as well as waiting to see if Congress will keep the government operating.

“The uncertainty of not having a farm bill will affect USDA employees first. ‘When you add to that the disruptive nature of the lack of clarity about the budget, it’s a very stressful time for those who work at USDA,’ Vilsack said.

“The Senate passed a bill Friday 54-44 to keep operating the federal government until Nov. 15. The bill reinstated funds for the Affordable Care Act, or ‘Obamacare.’ The House and Senate have to come to terms by Tuesday or much of the federal government will shut down.”

Mr. Clayton explained that, “The short-term budget plan passed by the Senate Friday does not include any language to extend farm-bill programs.

“Each federal department has different staffers who will remain on the job. USDA has people whose jobs directly relate to safety such as firefighters, who are considered essential. Other people paid through permit fees in areas already hit by sequestration furloughs will remain on the job for now.”


Farm Bill; Ag Economy; Budget; Food Safety; and, Immigration

Farm Bill

David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “House Republicans took the first steps late Thursday toward a formal Farm Bill conference with the Senate, as the Rules Committee cleared the way for a floor vote Friday that would marry up the separate titles approved in July and then last week.

“The provisions are part of a larger ‘martial law’ rule approved 9-3 by the Rules panel and empowering the GOP leadership to move quickly over the weekend on debt and funding bills prior to the fiscal year ending Monday night.

“In this context, the farm language can seem a bit player in the furor over a threatened government shutdown and potential default. But it is a critical first step that Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) has been waiting for anxiously.”

Mr. Rogers pointed out that, “Even now [House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio)] has chosen such a convoluted approach that some fear it will take several weeks more before a farm bill conference can be up and running.

“There’s no chance of beginning before the current farm law — a one-year extension of the five-year program that already expired in 2012 — runs out Monday. And while the Senate has already appointed its conferees, it must repeat that process now — exposing Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) to more delays.”


Rep. Walz Notes Farm Bill on House Floor

Categories: Farm Bill

Ag Committee Member Tim Walz (D., Minn.) highlighted the Farm Bill on the House floor today.

Rep. Walz stated that, “Thank you, Mister Speaker. The one thing I hear from my constituents when I talk to them out in southern Minnesota is, ‘Is it so much to ask you folks just to do your job?’ As the drama swirls and the brinkmanship goes, and it’s déjà vu all over again, certain things shouldn’t be that difficult.

“As we’re doing this, my farmers and ranchers and millions of them across the country are going about their work every day – getting up before dawn, doing their work – feeding us, clothing us, and powering this country. They’ve asked us to pass a Farm Bill. Four months ago, the Senate did it. Four months ago, the House Ag Committee did it. That wasn’t good enough. We came to this floor, we created drama, we tried to make being hungry a sin – and now you’ve got a monstrosity.

“Well you know what? The constitution makes it very clear: bring the two together, conference the bill, and pass something that’s good for America.

“I get it. You don’t like the Senate bill. I get it. Senate doesn’t like this bill. But you know what? Let’s get together and get something we both equally dislike but at least it serves the people and moves something forward.

“The time is now. The Farm Bill is waiting. People are hungry and producers are growing food. Pass the Farm Bill.”


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

Farm Bill

House Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) and Rep. Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.) were guests yesterday on the Valley News Live (Fargo, N.D.) Point of View television program with Chris Berg.  The conversation focused on the Farm Bill, and in particular nutrition related issues (video replay of the entire program here, the video can also be seen at this link).

In part, Rep. Peterson indicated that, “This is really not about food stamps per se and the Farm Bill per se.  What this is about is an effort by the Heritage Foundation and others that have been going on for twenty, thirty years, until now nobody has listened to them.

They have been trying to split the farm bill from the nutrition bill for years.  This has been something they have tried every time we have done a Farm Bill.  And the reason is not so much to cut SNAP (food stamps), that’s not what they after.  What they are after is, they want to get rid of farm programs.

“So if you are a farmer out there and if you live in the Red River Valley which is dependent on the sugar program, you have to be careful what you do here because if these bills were split, and if it were permanently split so that we never had nutrition together with the farm bill, I can guarantee you the sugar program would not survive in the future.”

(Rep. Peterson audio clip from yesterday’s Point of View program available here (MP3- 1:45)).

Also on yesterday’s program, Rep. Cramer noted that, “I am confident that the bill will get put back together, in fact we are going to pass a rule later this week that allows that to happen and conferees will be named.  And there is no doubt that the bill is going to come back to the House and the Senate, in my mind anyway there is no doubt, that it will come back, put back together and that the savings in the food stamp program is going to be a lot closer to $4 billion than to $40 billion.”

(Rep. Cramer audio clip from the Point of View program available here (MP3- 0:57)).


Video: Point of View- Reps. Peterson, Cramer Discuss Farm Bill

Categories: Farm Bill

House Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) and Rep. Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.) were guests yesterday on the Valley News Live (Fargo, N.D.) Point of View television program with Chris Berg. The conversation focused on the Farm Bill, and in particular nutrition related issues. (The video can also be seen at this link).

Valley News Live – KVLY/KXJB – Fargo/Grand Forks


USDA- ERS: Food Price Outlook, 2013-14

From the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS), Sept. 25- “The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all food increased 0.2 percent from July to August, increased 0.1 percent from June to July, and is now 1.4 percent above the August 2012 level.

* The food-at-home (grocery store food items) CPI increased 0.2 percent in August and is up 1 percent from last August; and

* The food-away-from-home (restaurant purchases) CPI increased 0.2 percent in August and is up 2 percent from last August.

“The all-items CPI rose 0.1 percent in August and is 1.5 percent above the August 2012 level. The overall direction of food prices in 2013 continues to be mixed, and the food-at-home CPI is down 0.1 percent thus far in 2013. While there are no changes to the 2014 CPI forecasts, several forecasts for the remainder of 2013 have changed.”

Click on image for full screen



Farm Bill; Budget; and, the Ag Economy

Farm Bill Issues

Ron Nixon reported yesterday at The New York Times Online that, “House leaders on Tuesday said they were working with their Senate counterparts toward a new five-year farm bill, just days after the House pushed through a bill that would slash billions of dollars from the food stamp program.

“But with only a few days left before the current farm bill expires at the end of the fiscal year, and with a fight over the debt ceiling looming, few lawmakers see any chance of getting a new farm bill done.

“‘I’m an eternal optimist, but I can’t see them getting anything done before the fiscal year ends,’ said Dale Moore, the executive director of public policy for the American Farm Bureau Federation. ‘Right now we’re just hoping that something will get done before the end of the year.’”


Washington Post Video: “Crying fowl on Chinese chicken imports”

Categories: Food Safety

From the Washington Post Online program On Background, September 24- “The USDA quietly approved cooked chicken imports from China last month, raising concerns with some food safety groups and on Capitol Hill. Chris Waldrop of the Consumer Federation of America weighs in on the debate.”


WSJ Video- Opinion: Does America Still Have a Free-Trade Agenda?

From The Wall Street Journal Online, Sept. 24- “U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman on the Obama administration’s push to open markets in Asia-Pacific and elsewhere.”


Video: Crop Insurance by the Numbers

Categories: Farm Bill

From National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS), Sept. 24, 2013- “Over the last decade, overall taxpayer spending on farm policy as a whole has steadily declined. Commodity prices have strengthened and the country has shifted to an insurance system that reduces the need for traditional subsides and limits taxpayer exposure.”

Also from NCIS:

OVERLAND PARK, KAN. — As we continue pressing forward in the 2013 Farm Bill debate, the success of the crop insurance program and the benefit that it has had to the American taxpayer is the subject of a new NCIS video.

“Over the last decade, overall taxpayer spending on farm policy as a whole has steadily declined,” notes Tom Zacharias, president of National Crop Insurance Services. “That’s no accident,” he adds, explaining that commodity prices have strengthened and the country began shifting to an insurance system that reduced the need for traditional subsides and limited taxpayer exposure.

From 1998 to 2012, insured acreage has increased by 100 million acres. “It has become such a success, that most farmers agreed in 2012 to get rid of direct payments during the Farm Bill debate,” Zacharias notes.

But in addition to eliminating the need for direct payments, the public-private partnership of crop insurance has also eliminated the need for costly ad hoc disaster bills. “Since 1989, 42 pieces of legislation, totaling $70 billion in unbudgeted dollars were passed to help farmers following a disaster, he explains. “Those days are over.”

With crop insurance in place, farmers and private insurance companies now share the risk, ensuring that the entire burden doesn’t fall solely on the laps of taxpayers. Each farmer must pay the premium for their individual policy, and when disaster occurs, the billions paid in premiums by farmers help offset the cost of the insurance. “Farmers have paid $30 billion of their own money on crop insurance protection to buy this coverage,” Zacharias notes. In addition to the premiums paid by farmers, the government has collected more than $4 billion in underwriting gains from 2001-2010, which helped offset losses in the bad years as well.

Zacharias points out that crop insurers have stood alone in offering up budget reductions in recent years, totaling $12 billion. Unfortunately, some in Congress are angling for more, says Zacharias. “The additional cuts they are proposing would result in lower crop insurance participation, ironically shifting risk away from farmers and crop insurance companies right back to taxpayers,” he said.

“As we go forward in the next farm Bill, we would say ‘Do No Harm” to crop insurance.”


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

Farm Bill Issues

The “Washington Insider” section of DTN reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “Political pundits were quick to report last week that passage of the House nutrition measure brings the Congress a step closer to a new farm bill –– an assessment that at least a few others dispute. All agree that it will set up a ‘fierce battle between the House and Senate over social policy.’ But, how that may play out remains to be seen.

“At least for now, last week’s vote does seem to mean the fight is focusing ever more tightly on the supplemental food programs rather than farm policy and safety nets –– although a number of those controversies remain.

“The reason is that many House conservatives, prodded by the Heritage Foundation and a few other conservative groups, say they regard this farm bill fight as their main chance to implement another round of welfare reform, an opportunity they welcome in spite of the fact that it forces them to defend significant cuts in anti-poverty programs while pushing for new, increasingly expensive safety nets for an already prosperous sector.”


Washington Post Video: “Food Stamps: We asked, Congress Answered”

Categories: Farm Bill

From the Washington Post, Sept. 21, “In Play posed the same questions about the food stamp program to two lawmakers, Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Steve Southerland (R-Fla.), with very different views. Their answers may surprise you. (The Washington Post)”


Farm Bill; Ag Economy; Budget; and, Immigration

Farm Bill Issues

A recent update at the Red River Farm Network (RRFN) Online indicated that, “The House needs to pass a procedural motion to combine the farm bill and the just-passed nutrition bill before farm bill conferees can be named. ‘Once that is done, the legislation will go to the United States Senate,’ said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, ‘They would have the option of accepting it. I think that’s not very likely to occur. They’ll reject, I would assume. At that point, they’ll ask for a conference. We’ll agree to a conference. They’ll appoint conferees. We’ll appoint conferees. So mechanically, because we’re not in session until Wednesday, it’s probably the following week before we can get the conferees appointed.’ The House and Senate both make cuts in food stamps, but the level of those cuts is far apart. Both chambers also take a different policy approach to the commodity title.  ‘The Senate has a major focus on what many of us call shallow loss crop revenue,’ Lucas told RRFN, ‘The United States House version has passed and sent to the Senate, for their consideration, a very strong choice proposal.’ The House plan includes a shallow loss option and ‘what we call a price protection option.’ RRFN’s exclusive interview with Lucas can be heard online [MP3- 3:44].”


Sen. Sanders Discusses GOP SNAP Measure

Categories: Farm Bill

From the MSNBC Politics Nation with Al Sharpton program, Sept. 19, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) discusses the GOP SNAP measure that passed the House on Thursday.

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C-SPAN Washington Journal Features Discussion on Farm Policy

Categories: Farm Bill

From the C-SPAN Washington Journal program, Sept. 21, “National Journal Contributing Editor and The Hagstrom Report Founder & Executive Editor Jerry Hagstrom discussed the future of the Farm Bill, with the House & Senate far apart on approaches to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) and a Farm Bill expiration just ahead on September 30.”


Chairwoman Stabenow Discusses House Food Stamp Cuts on MSNBC

Categories: Farm Bill

Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) was a guest on the MSNBC Hardball with Chris Matthews program on Sept. 19 where the conversation focused on the recent House vote to reform the SNAP program (food stamps).

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