David Rogers reported on Friday at Politico that, “Farm bill talks moved into the final stretch Friday with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas saying ‘we’re moving right down the path’ toward a House-Senate conference report in January.
“‘Very optimistic, we’re closing in,’ echoed Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) after an early morning session with Lucas. ‘There’s no question in my mind that we’ll be able to come together and have a farm bill that we can take action on in January.’
“The two ranking members, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) also attended the hour long session, which began at 8 a.m. The new confidence reflects a collective relief that new scores from the Congressional Budget Office will help the two sides reconcile differences over the commodity title.”
House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) spoke on K-101 radio (Woodward, Okla.) yesterday morning with J. Doug Williams and noted that, “On the Farm Bill process, basically we have the framework of the commodity title, that’s the stuff that actually raises the food– crop insurance and those kinds of things– we have basically the framework of the nutrition title– that’s food stamps, that’s where the majority of the money goes. There are probably a hundred little things that most of our listeners wouldn’t give a hoot about that still have to be sorted out between the House and the Senate and that’s work for this weekend and next week.
“My goal is, even though we go home on Friday, and if Lynda [the Chairman’s wife] is listening I’m in trouble, but I may be back a few days next week even though we are not in session to finish everything up because the final agreement needs to be worked out by next week so that the lawyers can put the perfected language together, so that USDA can look it over one last time, so that CBO can score it one last time, so I can have one last set of public conference hearings when we come back that second week in January and proceed to a vote and be done with this process.”
“Some key senators have said the Senate won’t accept a one-month extension, but obviously the House is going to call their bluff. Either everyone gets an extension or USDA spends January trying to draft rules for permanent law to go into effect.”
Donnelle Eller reported on the front page of yesterday’s Des Moines Register that, “Economists expect Iowa corn and soybean growers will lose money over the next four years, beginning with this year’s harvest, squeezed by low commodity prices and high production costs.
“The potential downturn follows a boom that saw growers worldwide bringing millions more acres into production to take advantage of record-high prices.
“Experts in Iowa compare the downturn to the devastating 1980s farm crisis, the only time in at least 60 years that the state’s farm industry posted a loss. This correction is unlikely to be as severe, because farmers are coming off record-high net incomes. But enough similarities exist to cause concern.”
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was a guest on Wednesday’s AgriTalk radio program with Mike Adams where the conversation focused on Farm Bill issues. An unofficial FarmPolicy.comtranscript of the conversation with Sec. Vilsack and Mike Adams is available here.
Sec. Vilsack pointed out that, “Well, I think we have to be realistic about this. If there is no appearance that there’s going to be a deal or if things break down and folks continue to be sort of in their corners and there isn’t a middle ground to be had, then obviously we’re going to have to start working towards and triggering permanent law.
“Some people have suggested that’s going to take a while to implement, but the reality is it’s not that we haven’t been thinking about this at USDA, we have been. We have a pretty good sense of what we would need to do. We’ve reached out to some of the folks, particularly in the dairy industry, to get their views about this. So we would be in a position, in short order—I don’t want to put a timeline on it—but in short order to get something done on the permanent law side.
“But boy, I tell you, that’s not something that I want to do, I’m reasonably certain that’s not anything that anybody in Congress would want to have happen, and I’m sure that no consumer is anxious to see that happen. So hopefully we continue to see progress.”
Sec. Vilsack also noted that, “It’s not just the permanent law issue, it’s also the Brazilian cotton issue, which is a trade dispute that we lost in the WTO, and there are consequences for inaction there. They can begin assessing retaliatory tariffs against many of our products, including exposing some of our intellectual property and destroying the protections that intellectual property has, which would be a first, frankly, in trade discussions, as I understand it.”
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “Maybe it’s time to admit that whatever comes out of the great Farm Bill Wars in Congress will be — an experiment.
“Indeed, it’s a whole new world already compared to the last enacted bill in 2008, which passed by veto-proof margins and was helped along then by added money for nutrition and continued direct cash payments to farmers.
“This time the mandate is entirely different: requiring a major rewrite of the commodity title while also tackling food stamps — all in the name of reform and deficit reduction.”
“So why is it so hard?” Mr. Rogers asked, “One big reason is that everyone seems to have underestimated the challenge of replacing the current system of direct cash payments that’s been the backbone of the commodity title since 1996.”
Mary Kay Thatcher, the Senior Director of Congressional Relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, was a guest on yesterday’s AgriTalk radio program with Mike Adams where the discussion focused on the Farm Bill. An unofficial FarmPolicy.comtranscript of yesterday’s discussion is available here.
Ms. Thatcher pointed out that, “I was hoping that we could have some good news to share this morning, but I think we’re going to continue to work at it. Staff’s up there working hard today, even though the members aren’t around, and the four principals are presumably still having some kind of conference call to further discuss it today. So we still have some hope that, indeed, by the end of the year or by the middle of January, when we have this budget bill, that we can have it done, but we aren’t there today, and I can’t even tell you exactly what progress has been made.”
In a related update, Erik Wasson reported yesterday at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “The top leaders of the House-Senate farm bill conference committee plan to hold a pivotal conference call on Monday.
“Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), the respective heads of the Senate and House Agriculture committees, and the committees’ ranking members Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) will join the negotiating session.
“The ‘big four’ leaders are still trying to hammer out a farm bill deal in order to move the $1 trillion agriculture subsidy, crop insurance and food stamp bill on the House and Senate floor in December.”
And, Mr. Wasson tweeted yesterday evening that, “Conf call by 4 #farmbill lead negotiators happened. Process continues w/ no resolution yet”
Ron Hays, of The Oklahoma Farm Report and Radio Oklahoma Network, spoke on Friday with House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) about the Farm Bill and farm policy variables.
An audio replay and summary of the Chairman’s remarks from Friday can be found here, while an unofficial FarmPolicy.comtranscript of the conversation with Ron Hays and Chairman Lucas is available here.
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “Farm bill talks intensified Wednesday night even as a new report showed that food stamp expenditures are already beginning to fall as a share of the economy — a downward decline that’s expected to accelerate over the next five years.
“Further cuts from food stamps are a major dividing point in the farm bill negotiations now, but there is growing pressure to try to reach a deal in the next few days on both the nutrition and commodity titles.
“The top four members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees met for almost 90 minutes Wednesday evening behind closed doors with staff. Further discussions are expected Thursday morning, and House Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) held out the possibility of more meetings Friday depending on what progress is being made.”
Chris Clayton reported yesterday at the DTN Ag Policy Blog that, “Farmers in parts of the northern and eastern Corn Belt would be collecting Price Loss Coverage payments on their corn crops this week IF the House version of the farm bill were in place.
“DTN’s market tracker shows corn for delivery selling as low as $3.17 a bushel in northeast Montana. Cash prices in several states show farmers would be receiving a target-price check for corn.”
Gregory Meyer reported on Friday at The Financial Times Online that, “The Obama administration has formally moved to put the brakes on US biofuels as it juggles conflicting pressures from two of the most powerful lobbies in Washington.
“Its proposal to trim a statutory ethanol blending mandate for the first time drew the threat of a lawsuit from the renewable fuels industry, and complaints from the oil lobby that the measure did not go far enough.”
Mr. Meyer noted that, “The rule unveiled for public comment on Friday by the Environmental Protection Agency [proposed rule, fact sheet, news release] called for 15.21bn gallons to be blended into the motor fuel supply in 2014, 16 per cent lower than the 18.15bn gallons under the renewable fuels law passed in 2007. It is a significant reversal for the agency, which just a year ago upheld the mandate in the face of protests from several state governors.”
The FT article indicated that, “‘As a result, we are now at the ‘E10 blend wall,’ the point at which the E10 fuel pool is saturated with ethanol,’ the EPA said.”
During a radio interview yesterday with J. Doug Williams (K-101-FM radio, Woodward, Okla.), House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) indicated that, “And I am in the process, with my senior colleagues on the House side on the Ag Committee, to try to negotiate out the differences between us and the Senate. There are three big areas of difference, and in reverse order, food stamps. The Senate wants to save about $4 billion by basically making the Northeastern states that use food stamps to help pay for their citizens’ home heating oil to stay warm in the wintertime to pay more.”
“The Senate essentially just doesn’t want to make any changes in food stamps. The House wants to do ten times as much, so working that out is going to be tough,” the Chairman added.
Chairman Lucas pointed out that, “The second area is the dairy program. The House leadership doesn’t want to do supply management, which makes the dairy insurance work better. The Senate insists on that. That’s a philosophical issue about supply management by the federal government.
“And the biggest area, the one that matters probably the most, generally, to our listeners, is the commodity title. The Senate wants to do…they’ve finally come around to the fact that you have to have a safety net that works not just for the Midwest, but for everybody else. They want a program by which, when you sign up for five years, you’re automatically covered under either version of the safety net.
“The problem is, when you take the responsibility out, you also reduce the quality of the safety net. The House perspective is we’re big boys and girls, we can make big decisions, let’s give people a choice between which way they go, let them choose for the five years. If they make the right decision, then the safety net will be stronger. If they make the wrong decision, well, they made the decision they made. So that’s a difference right now. And those are the three big things holding us up.”
Darren Goode reported yesterday at Politico that, “The Obama administration may be about to hand the oil industry a major victory by reducing the federal requirement for blending ethanol into fuel — a decision with big implications for farm-state politics, food prices and the nation’s energy markets.
“As early as Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce how many billions of gallons of ethanol it will require refiners to blend into gasoline and diesel fuel in 2014. If it sticks with a draft version that leaked in October, the agency will lower the amount to 2012 levels.”