David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “Ending years of painful delays, House-Senate talks began on a new farm bill Wednesday, with renewed promises to finally complete the task by the end of December.
“‘We can do it, we have to do it,’ said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) ‘There are 16 million men and women whose jobs rely on the strength of agriculture,’ echoed his Senate counterpart, Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). ‘I am confident we won’t let them down.’”
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “As formal talks open Wednesday [at 2:30], farm bill negotiators are looking at new alternatives to better align the House and Senate commodity titles and reduce the cost of rival revenue insurance plans to protect against shallow losses.
“An anticipated meeting between President Barack Obama and the top four leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees has been put off because of an apparent scheduling conflict. But the White House signaled it will still pursue discussions to underscore Obama’s commitment to completing a farm bill before January.
“Most public attention has focused on the deep divide over food stamp funding. But the commodity title is its own battleground.”
Billy House reported yesterday at National Journal Online that, “Halloween week kicks off in Congress with two issues long haunted by delays, as House and Senate conferees start separate negotiations Wednesday on a budget plan and a farm-bill reauthorization.
“Opening remarks from participants are expected to define most of the early action.”
Mr. House noted that, “One main difference between the Senate and House [Farm] bills is that the Senate bill retains the 1938 and 1949 farm laws as the basis for agricultural programs while the House bill would make the 2013 commodity title permanent law.
“Another big difference is that the Senate bill cuts only $4 billion over 10 years from food stamps—formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—while the House bill would cut $39 billion through a series of provisions that Democrats say will lead to increased hunger.
“In what may be a sign of the turbulence ahead, Speaker John Boehner appointed Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., to the conference committee even though he doesn’t serve on the Agriculture Committee. And it is Southerland who has made food stamps his main issue and wrote the amendment to the House bill to which the Democrats object the most.”
Jim McTague reported today at Barron’s Online that, “But if you are more into cage boxing, or if you happen to own shares of big-box retailers like Wal-Mart or a major supermarket chain, then another conference committee — the one charged with stitching together a bipartisan, five-year, $500 billion agricultural bill — definitely is the one for you.
“Here, the Republican Party’s brawling, penurious conservative wing is gearing up for another bone-crushing confrontation with the Democratic Party’s bleeding-heart liberals as well as with some of the more moderate members of its own party. This time, the battle is over the proper size of cuts to the food-stamp program, known nowadays as SNAP — for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Republicans want to isolate SNAP from the farm bill so it can’t be used as a hostage in negotiations over other controversial provisions like sugar supports. Then they want to cut the food-aid program by $39 billion over 10 years. Democrats are offering to cut roughly $4 billion over the same time frame, and they want the program left in the farm bill. Acrimony already is running high on both sides, so bridging that $35 billion gap will be difficult. This has supermarkets and grocery chains on pins and needles because their SNAP revenues are not minuscule. In a sense, SNAP has become as much of a crutch for food retailers during this period of sluggish growth as it is for the poor.”
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “When the farm bill conference meets Wednesday afternoon, it will be on a grand stage: the gilded Ways and Means Committee meeting room in Longworth with its sculpted eagles and history of past bargains.
“The challenge for negotiators is to think as big and bold.
“The Agriculture Committees argue—somewhat defensively— that they have already taken major steps. Both bills end the current system of direct cash payments to producers—costing about $4.5 billion annually. At the same time, organic and specialty crops gain modest ground. Much tighter payment limits are imposed on future subsidies. More of an effort is made to help only producers who have put seed in the ground, put themselves at risk and experienced a loss.”
Ed O’Keefe reported in today’s Washington Post that, “Next week, Congress is expected to revive an old but increasingly rare tradition that may determine how well and how quickly the institution is able to recover from all the negative fallout of the recent government shutdown.
“More than three dozen members of the House and Senate plan to sit down in a room together and begin sorting out big differences on competing versions of a large piece of legislation.
“Members of the House and Senate agriculture committees announced plans Wednesday to begin meeting to negotiate details of a new Farm Bill. The agriculture conference committee is a back-to-the-future moment for Congress, which in recent years has subverted the once long-standing practice of having conferees from the House and Senate meet to negotiate final versions of legislation passed in each chamber.”
The article noted that, “‘It’s long overdue,’ said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who chairs the Agriculture Committee.”
“Rep. Frank D. Lucas (R-Okla.), the House Agriculture Committee chairman, will chair the meetings, which will begin Wednesday afternoon with a format that permits all 41 members to make public statements. From there, the path forward is unclear,” the article said.
“‘I personally believe that we can come up with a consensus bill,’ Lucas said Wednesday.”
A news release yesterday from Senator John Hoeven (R., N.D.) indicated that, “Senators [Hoeven] and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) today announced that the House-Senate farm bill conference committee will convene next week. The senators hosted a farm bill roundtable at North Dakota State University’s Agriculture Experiment Station Research Greenhouse Complex to gather input from agriculture association leaders and discuss the priorities the senators will work on as members of the joint Senate-House committee.
“The new legislation in both the Senate and the House versions focuses on enhanced crop insurance. The measure includes a new Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO), continues the sugar program and provides new Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) to help producers through years of repetitive losses. The Senate bill saves $24 billion to help reduce the deficit and debt.”
A report posted at the Red River Farm Network (RRFN) Online (viewed earlier this morning) pointed out that, “Senator Klobuchar says they held the roundtable for a reason. ‘We want to send a clear message that republicans and democrats in farm states are working together on this. It’s time to get it done. We finally see some momentum. Out of the chaos of the last few weeks comes opportunity. Finally people are appreciating the fact that the shift from direct subsidies to crop insurance is going to save a lot of money for the public. It means that people that are not in farm states are much more interested in seeing this as part of a budget deal.’ Senator Hoven says the farm bill conference committee will start negotiations next week. ‘I hope to have it done by year end. Even if you look at the timelines that we put in place for the budget conference committee and for the continuing resolution. The budget conference committee has to have something by December 13. The continuing resolution is up January 15.’ Hoeven thinks nutrition will be the biggest challenge.”
The Red River Farm Network’sMike Hergert provided a report on the Senator’s Farm Bill meeting, and that summary aired on yesterday’s Agriculture Today radio program – related audio here (MP3- 1:52).
Ellyn Ferguson reported yesterday at Roll Call Online that, “Millions of low-income people will see their purchasing power fall Nov. 1, regardless of the outcome of a larger fight between Democrats and Republicans over future policies and spending levels for the nation’s largest domestic food aid program.
“That’s due to the end of a temporary boost funded by stimulus money that Congress approved in the months after the financial meltdown of 2008. The assistance comes through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which now distributes benefits electronically but is still often referred to as food stamps.”
The Roll Call article noted that, “Under the upcoming change, a household of four receiving a monthly maximum SNAP benefit of $632 will lose $36 a month, or more than $300 in fiscal 2014. Overall, the Congressional Budget Office projects that SNAP spending for fiscal 2014 will fall by $5 billion.”
In his weekly address on Saturday, President Barack Obama reiterated his call for action on the Farm Bill.
After noting that Democrats and Republicans should work together to “pursue a balanced approach to a responsible budget,” and “finish the job of fixing our broken immigration system,” the President indicated that, “Third, we should pass a farm bill – one that America’s farmers and ranchers can depend on, one that protects vulnerable children and adults in times of need, and one that gives rural communities opportunities to grow and the longer-term certainty they deserve.”
Reuters writer Charles Abbott reported yesterday that, “President Barack Obama, in a rebuke to proposals by House Republicans for steep cuts in food stamps for the poor, urged Congress on Thursday to pass a farm bill ‘that protects children and vulnerable adults in time of need.’
“Obama put the long-delayed bill, more than a year overdue, among three priorities for resolution by end of the year. Also on the list were immigration reform and a budget agreement.”
From USDA (October 17)- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack comments on the South Dakota livestock disaster saying USDA Under Secretary Michael Scuse is going there to get first hand information. Secretary Vilsack also comments on the need for Congressional action on a budget, a new Farm Bill and comprehensive immigration reform.
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “The Farm Bill’s top four negotiators met Wednesday and authorized staff to step up discussions on the commodity title in anticipation that the full House-Senate conference could begin the last week of October.
“Present were Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and her ranking Republican, Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, as well as Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House side.”
* Fifth District- Richmond– “Fruit and peanut yields have been excellent, while cucumber production was reduced this autumn as a result of too much rain. Cotton and soybean harvests are also expected to be low this year because of the excessive rain this summer.”
* Sixth District- Atlanta– “As a result of this year’s excessive rain and flooding, which heavily damaged some crops, the USDA declared most counties in Alabama and many in Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee as natural disaster areas. Since the last report, average monthly prices paid to farmers for corn, cotton, soybeans, hogs, and broilers were down but were up for rice, citrus, beef, and milk. Lower corn prices benefitted livestock producers that rely on corn for feed. Compared to August, cotton estimates for September indicated reduced production in Florida, Mississippi, and Tennessee; higher production in Alabama and Louisiana; and unchanged production in Georgia.”
* Seventh District- Chicago– “Although this year’s drought affected the harvest, corn and soybean yields in parts of the District were higher than expected in September. In fact, a contact reported that the local harvest would be the best in four years. Soybean yields were more variable than and not as favorable as corn yields. In the areas affected by drought, subsoil moisture and genetic advances in seeds reduced yield losses. Rains in September slowed harvesting, even damaging some crops that were mature. Crops harvested and sold early brought a premium due to low crop stocks prior to harvest. Since then, corn prices have dropped relatively more than soybean prices. With much of the harvest still unsold, farmers will store more of the crop in the hope of better selling opportunities over the winter. Milk and cattle prices increased from the previous reporting period, while hog prices decreased. Livestock producers continued to benefit from lower feed costs. Fruit crops bounced back strongly from last year’s devastating freeze, leading to lower prices.”
* Eighth District – St. Louis– “Crop conditions across the District remained relatively unchanged from our previous report. On average, 89 percent of the District states’ corn, cotton, sorghum, and soybean crops were rated in fair or better condition. Similarly, about 80 percent of the District states’ pastureland was rated in fair or better condition. Harvest progress in the District lagged behind the 5-year average for all five major crops. The District corn, cotton, and rice harvests were 19 percent, 14 percent, and 18 percent behind their five-year averages, respectively. The District sorghum and soybean crops fared slightly better at 9 percent and 8 percent behind their five-year averages, respectively.”
* Ninth District- Minneapolis– “Agricultural conditions deteriorated somewhat since the last report. Drought conditions returned to the eastern part of the District in late summer, with parts of eastern North Dakota and central Minnesota seeing severe drought conditions in early September. Crop progress remains behind average due to late spring planting, and yields are likely to be affected. While much of the District corn and soybean crops remain in good or excellent condition, overall quality has fallen in recent weeks. However, in Minnesota, apple growers are expecting a strong harvest. Prices received by farmers in September increased from a year earlier for hogs, cattle, milk, dry beans and chickens; prices for corn, wheat, soybeans, hay, eggs and turkeys fell from a year earlier.”
* Tenth District- Kansas City– “In the agriculture sector, crop production expectations were little changed from the previous survey period, but falling prices lowered farm income expectations. With most of the corn and soybean crops still in relatively good condition, overall District yields were expected to be about average. As harvest began, however, a greater probability of near-record corn and soybean production nationally led to a drop in prices, cutting farm income expectations. Meanwhile, heavy rainfall in Colorado and flooding along the South Platte River affected some agricultural lowlands. Scattered storms slowed harvest activity and winter wheat planting, but helped soil moisture conditions. Lower feed prices narrowed losses for cattle feedlot operators and improved profitability for hog producers. Weaker farm income prospects were expected to curtail farm household and capital spending, but demand for quality farmland remained strong.”
* Eleventh District- Dallas– “The District remained largely in drought, although the severity lessened in late September in Texas due to good rainfall and the excessive heat tapering off. The harvest progressed normally for row crops, and conditions were mostly fair to good. Improved moisture conditions increased optimism for the winter wheat crop. Beef exports increased over the reporting period.”
* Twelfth District- San Francisco– “Agricultural and resource-related sales and production activity expanded in the District. Demand remained strong for most crop and livestock products. Contacts noted that competition for grapes in the California wine industry contributed to higher prices for grapes, which passed through to raisin prices, reducing sales and increasing inventories of raisins.”