FarmPolicy

April 16, 2014

Rep. Adrian Smith Questions U.S. Trade Representative

Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE) questions U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman about what the Administration is doing to address non-tariff trade barriers in China, Japan, Canada, and in future trade agreements. This exchange took place today at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on trade.

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Sharp rise in FAO Food Price Index

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released its monthly Food Price Index today. The index was up for the second month in a row. FAO Economist Michael Griffin explains some of the details of today’s report.

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Farm Bill- Policy Issues; Ag Economy; EPA; and, Political Notes

Farm Bill- Policy Issues

Farm broadcaster Don Wick, of the Red River Farm Network, interviewed Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack yesterday where the discussion focused on the Farm Bill.  An unofficial FarmPolicy.com transcript of yesterday’s interview is available here, while an audio replay can be heard here.

Mr. Wick asked Sec. Vilack about recent Farm Bill stakeholder meetings and what was gleaned from the discussions.  Sec. Vilsack noted that, “I think what we learned was, number one, people are anxious to get this implemented, and number two, that we have correctly identified the first thing that needs to get done, which is disaster assistance for our livestock producers, and number three, that producers are very anxious to get information about the other choices that they’re going to have to make in terms of crop insurance coverages and in terms of the safety net programs, which is why our focus, after we get the livestock disaster assistance programs up and going on or before April 15th so people can make application for the resources they need for losses they incurred in 2011, ’12 and ’13, we’re going to focus our attention on getting the informational materials out to folks across the country so that they can begin familiarizing themselves with the programs and begin making informed decisions about what they need to do.”

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House Budget; Ag Economy; Regulations; Biotech; and, Biofuels

House Budget Proposal

Ed O’Keefe reported in today’s Washington Post that, “House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) introduced a budget proposal Tuesday that would cut more than $5 trillion in federal spending over the next decade, primarily by effectively repealing President Obama’s signature health-care law and greatly reducing funding for social programs.”

The Post article noted that, “Congress approved a bipartisan two-year budget agreement late last year, but Ryan said he drafted a separate proposal because the current plan ‘is nowhere near what we need’ to cut spending.”

Mr. O’Keefe added that, “But any fighting between Democrats and Republicans on spending will not result in the deadline-driven fiscal crises of recent years. Although the GOP-controlled House is expected to debate and pass Ryan’s plan, it will serve only as a political show vote because Democrats, who control the Senate, do not plan to propose or vote on a budget plan.”

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Focus on the U.S. Ag Economy; Biofuels; Immigration; and, CFTC

Agricultural Economy: USDA Reports- Planting Intentions, Grain Stocks

A news release yesterday from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) indicated that, “Producers surveyed across the United States intend to plant an estimated 81.5 million acres of soybeans in 2014, up 6 percent from last year and an all-time record high, according to the Prospective Plantings report released today by [NASS].  If realized, soybeans will surpass the previous record of 77.5 million acres planted in the United States set in 2009.”

The release added that, “Corn growers intend to plant 91.7 million acres in 2014, down 4 percent from last year and if realized the lowest planted acreage since 2010. Expected returns for corn are anticipated to be lower in 2014 compared with recent years [related graph].”

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U.S. Hog Numbers Decline, PED Virus a Significant Concern

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service released its Quarterly Hogs and Pigs estimates on Friday. As U.S. pig numbers declined to the lowest levels in seven years, concern about the PED virus is capturing the attention of USDA’s Chief Economist Joe Glauber.

Jesse Newman and Kelsey Gee explored the PEDv issue in more detail in today’s Wall Street Journal.

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Climate- Policy Issues; COOL; Ag Economy; Biofuels; Immigration; Biotech; and, EPA

Climate Issues- White House Proposal, and Farm Bill Issues

Justin Gillis reported on the front page of today’s New York Times that, “Climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans, scientists reported Monday, and they warned that the problem is likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control.

The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that periodically summarizes climate science, concluded that ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct.”

Chapter Seven of the report, which is available here, is titled, “Food Security & Food Production Systems.”

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An Updated Look at Agricultural Prices

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service released its monthly Agricultural Prices report on Friday. Some commodity prices, like corn (graph) and soybeans (graph) have decreased over the past year, while some livestock related prices, like cattle (graph) and milk (graph), have been on the rise.

The livestock sector has benefited from these trends as production input costs for feed have decreased, while prices received for many livestock related products have increased.

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ERS: Family farms dominate U.S. production of major field crops and hogs, poultry, eggs

From USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), March 28.

ERSGraph

Family farms—whether using the ERS definition based on majority ownership of the farm business or the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) definition based on the predominance of family-supplied labor—account for a large share of U.S. agricultural production. However, their relative production within commodity groups varies. Family farms were particularly important in the production of major field crops (corn, cotton, soybeans, and wheat), where they accounted for 62-96 percent of U.S. production in 2011, and in hogs, poultry, and eggs, where they accounted for 68-96 percent of production. Family farm production shares are lower in every major commodity category when focusing on the share of farms where the principal operator and spouse provide most of the labor used on the farm (the FAO standard). Large farms, often family owned but heavily reliant on hired farm labor and contract service providers, account for a large share of U.S. production, particularly in high-valued crops (fruit, nuts, vegetables, and nursery) and dairy. For example, family-owned and operated farms account for 75 percent of dairy production, but the operator and spouse usually provide less than half the labor on those farms. This chart can be found in “Family Farming in the United States” in the March 2014 Amber Waves.

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Des Moines Register: Iowa cropland prices slide, but less than expected

From The Des Moines Register, March 28- The value of Iowa cropland fell 5.4 percent in the past six months. Kyle Hansen, president of the Iowa Realtors Land Institute, explains why that may not be a bad thing.

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EPA- Policy Issue; FDA; and, the Ag Economy

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)– Policy Issues

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was a guest on yesterday’s AgriTalk radio program with Mike Adams where, in part, the conversation focused on recent EPA water related issues.  An unofficial FarmPolicy.com transcript of yesterday’s complete discussion with Mr. Adams and Sec. Vilsack is available here.

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Farm Bill; EPA Issues; Ag Economy; Biotech; and, Tax Extenders

Farm Bill- Policy Issues

USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden was a guest on yesterday’s AgriTalk radio program with Mike Adams where the conversation focused on Farm Bill implementation.

Mr. Adams queried on the radio program yesterday: “What is the biggest challenge, when you’re looking at that commodity title and you say it’s going to take the rest of this year, what is the biggest hurdle you have to overcome to get that thing going?”

Dep. Sec. Hardin indicated that,  “It is complicated.  And because it does lock in producers for the life of the farm bill, we want to make sure that they can make decisions that is right for them.  A lot of changes.  There are IT changes, you know, getting our systems up-to-date and making the changes, training our personnel, making sure we’re communicating with producers so that they have the information to make informed decisions.  There’s a lot of steps in this process.  We’re going to make sure we take each step and do it right so producers can make good decisions and not just a quick decision.”

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EPA Water; Farm Bill; Ag Economy; Biotech; Biofuels; and, Immigration

EPA Water Issues

DTN writer Todd Neeley reported yesterday that, “Though U.S. agriculture groups have feared an expected expansion of the Clean Water Act for nearly three years, some 53 conservation practices would for the first time be exempt and previous agriculture exemptions from the law would stay in place in a newly proposed rule announced Tuesday by EPA.

“EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told reporters that critics of the proposal may be pleasantly surprised by what they find in the rule, which will trigger a 90-day comment period once published in the Federal Register in the next few weeks. McCarthy said she believes the new rule will improve the Clean Water Act and reward farmers and other landowners for long-standing conservation practices.” (The proposal can be viewed here).

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USDA Reports Note Dry Conditions- Crop Concerns Impact Prices

USDA field offices in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas this week (March 24) noted that dry windy conditions are adversely impacting crops in the Southern Plains. A recent Wall Street Journal article noted that crop prices inched upward due to potential supply concerns.

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Biotech; Ag Economy; Farm Bill; Biofuels; Immigration; and, Regulation

Biotech

Ellyn Ferguson reported yesterday at Roll Call Online that, “Large-scale farming and agribusiness, derisively dubbed Big Ag by critics, look to polish their image this week with a Statuary Hall ceremony for a hero in the field and a screening of a documentary about young farmers and ranchers.

“On Tuesday, top lawmakers, including Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, plan to attend the installation of a bronze statue of plant scientist Norman E. Borlaug. Borlaug is hailed as the father of the 1960s ‘Green Revolution’ that improved crop production in Mexico and Asia.”

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Factors That Impact U.S. Food Prices

Richard Volpe discussed the impact of droughts on U.S. food prices, other factors that determine the price of food, and how USDA Economic Research Service pricing forecasts are used. He is a research economist in the Food Markets Branch of the Food Economics Division at ERS.

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