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Sunday Update: Iowa Ag Summit; Policy; Budget; Trade; and, Regs

Iowa Ag Summit

A summary and highlights of Saturday’s Iowa Ag Summit are available here, at FarmPolicy.com Online.


Policy Issues

In other news, Lydia Wheeler reported on Friday at The Hill Online that, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture is giving schools $5.5 million in training grants, in addition to the $25 million being allocated this year for new kitchen equipment, to help districts prepare healthier meals.

“‘Our kids today are growing up in a very competitive economy and in this competitive economy it’s going to be very important for them and their country to be on top of their game,’ Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said Friday.”

Beena Raghavendran reported on Saturday at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune Online that, “In Moorhead, to qualify for government cash assistance, residents must have lower incomes than people living right next door in Fargo, N.D.

“This discrepancy upsets U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat whose Seventh Congressional District includes Moorhead. Some Minnesota residents make slightly too much to receive benefits by Minnesota law while their counterparts making the same income across the state line are getting help. It’s a problem echoed across the country because states set their own cash benefit standards.

“‘We have to work on how we treat different people differently in different parts of the country,’ Peterson said.”

The article added that, “The House Agriculture Committee — where Peterson is the highest ranking Democrat — just began its review of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program, to address a glaring problem: Though unemployment has fallen since the recession, numbers of food stamp recipients have remained constant.

“Some Republicans wonder whether the program is increasing its recipients’ dependency on welfare.

Peterson understands the concern, but he doesn’t think the food stamp program should be touched — at least for now.”

The article indicated that, “‘I don’t think we should do anything because we did the farm bill and it’s a five-year bill and they [Republicans] had their chance and it didn’t get done,’ Peterson said.

“The committee’s GOP Chairman Rep. Michael Conaway, of Texas, said there may be a legislative proposal to tackle food stamp inconsistencies.

“‘What we don’t want is for this program to hold people back from achieving their potential,’ he said.”

Julie Harker reported late last week at Brownfield that, “Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and plaintiffs from five other states have filed an appeal in the case of the California egg legislation they are fighting. Last October, a district judge in California tossed out their lawsuit against California’s Proposition Two, which requires eggs produced in California and elsewhere to meet that state’s new enlarged-cage standards for egg laying hens. Koster tells Brownfield Ag News, ‘The egg case is a very important case. A lot of people have made fun of us for bringing this case and yet, increasingly as egg prices are now soaring because of the acts of the California legislature, they are recognizing that we were right to bring this case.’”

Meanwhile, The Washington Post editorial board indicated on Saturday that, “Farmers and ranchers have often argued they are not responsible for the rise of antibiotic resistance and have balked at change. The McDonald’s decision is certain to get their attention and cause change by market incentives. Also, as chicken producers adapt and learn how to keep their flocks healthy without the routine use of antibiotics, the know-how they develop may spread. Of course, the McDonald’s decision is good marketing, too — consumers say they want it. More power to the marketplace.

“This is the latest in a string of developments that suggest, at last, a more serious approach to the problem of antibiotic resistance, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say leads to 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths a year in this country alone. The Food and Drug Administration has asked antibiotic manufacturers to stop selling the drugs for growth promotion in farm animals (although the FDA would permit continued use for disease prevention) and is giving veterinarians more control. Meanwhile, President Obama has proposed to double funding for combating antibiotic resistance, and the White House has mapped out an ambitious strategy. Bacteria have been evolving and adapting for many years, so it is encouraging to see the government and private sector doing more to address a major public health threat.”


Budget Issues

A recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) news item indicated that the agency is set to release updated baseline projections on Monday.

A recap of January’s CBO baseline is available here.

Also, Jesse Byrnes reported on Sunday at The Hill Online that, “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Sunday vowed that Republicans would figure out a way to handle the nation’s debt ceiling in order to avoid a government shutdown.

“‘The debt ceiling will be handled over a period of months,’ he said on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation’ when asked if Republicans would vote to lift the debt ceiling. ‘The secretary of the Treasury has a number of what we call ‘tools in his toolbox,’’ he added.”



In trade related news, an update on Saturday at The Japan Times stated that, “Japan and the United States failed to bridge the gap over tariff issues related to agricultural and auto trade as they wrapped up working-level bilateral talks associated with Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral free trade negotiations on Friday.

Hiroshi Oe, Japan’s deputy chief TPP negotiator, told reporters after the two-day meeting that there still remain some thorny issues.”

The article added that, “Of the unresolved issues, Japan and the United States will hold talks on agricultural tariffs on the sidelines of a meeting of chief negotiators from all 12 members in the TPP talks set for Monday through Sunday in Hawaii.”

Vicki Needham reported on Sunday at The Hill Online that, “Labor unions and other groups opposed to free-trade policies are ramping up a spring offensive against the White House and congressional Republicans with new trade legislation set to emerge in the coming weeks.

“The AFL-CIO along with other groups this week trumpeted how trade promotion authority (TPA) will rubber stamp agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that they say would hurt American workers by leading to job and wage losses.

“Hundreds of members from the various groups canvassed Capitol Hill, bringing their anti-fast-track message to more than 100 congressional offices. It’s just the latest push from the left to stop the Obama administration’s push for TPA or fast-track, which would prevent trade deals from being amended by Congress.”



A news release Friday from Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R., Tex.), Vice Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, indicated that he “….introduced H.R. 1267 this week, a bill that would make it easier for farmers, custom harvesters, and agricultural producers to safely transport the fuel they need for a day of field work. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee, joined Neugebauer in introducing the bill. In the Senate, a companion bill was introduced by Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS).”

Keith Good