The AP reported this morning that, “Republicans have quietly maneuvered to prevent a House spending bill from chipping away at federal farm subsidies, instead forging ahead with much larger cuts to domestic and international food aid.
“The GOP move will probably prevent up to $167 million in cuts in direct payments to farmers, including some of the nation’s wealthiest…[T]he annual bill to pay for food and farm programs next year would cut food aid for low-income mothers and children by $685 million, about 10 percent below this year’s budget.
“The farm subsidy cuts won bipartisan approval in the House Appropriations Committee two weeks ago, but as debate on the House floor began Tuesday, Republicans turned to a procedural maneuver to drop that language.”
Ron Hays of the Radio Oklahoma Network reported yesterday at the Oklahoma Farm Report Online that, “The Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee was back in his home district, tending to the folks on a community by community basis. [GOP] Congressman Frank Lucas of Oklahoma’s Third Congressional District held a total of 14 Field Hearings during four days of the Easter Congressional break.
“His last stop was El Reno, the county seat of Canadian County. During the hour session, Congressman Lucas took the first fifteen minutes and talked about the federal debt and the upcoming debt to raise the debt ceiling, about Libya and about the process of his Committee preparing to write the next farm bill. About 50 citizens showed up, and they offered commentary and asked a few questions on subjects like Healthcare, Social Security and Medicare.”
Mr. Hays added that, “After his hour before the folks, we retreated for a conversation about a variety of agricultural issues, including what ramifications the upcoming debt ceiling vote may have on farm program spending- both this year as well as in the future.”
The full audio interview with Mr. Hays and Chairman Lucas, which covered a variety of issues, is available here, while a short clip featuring comments from Chairman Lucas on budgetary and Farm Bill issues can be heard here (MP3- 3:54).
Paul Kane reported in today’s Washington Post that, “Congressional leaders in both parties agree they have to stop putting off the inevitable and reach a deal to fund the federal government through September, the end of the fiscal year.
“Washington is limping along on stopgap funds that expire April 8, the sixth short-term extension in the past 5.5 months. Neither side wants to pass another one. The extensions are a hassle to negotiate, with the two parties bickering over spending cuts for little benefit.
“But there is one big obstacle in the way of a long-term deal, one that goes beyond the arguments over dollars and cents. The budget proposal the House Republican majority approved this year included a number of unrelated amendments — riders, in Congress-speak — that would impose restrictions on federal agencies.”
Some testimony that was delivered by witnesses at that hearing has been posted at the Senate Budget Committee Online. Excerpts of comments made at the hearing included the following:
Ryan Pederson, President, Northern Canola Growers Association- “We feel that agriculture has already endured significant cuts in the crop insurance program as approximately $3.9 billion was trimmed recently. A significant portion of that cut was allocated to deficit reduction, which shows that agriculture has already made some necessary contributions to aid in our nation’s deficit problem. This has to be taken into account when cuts are demanded of growers during the discussions of the 2010 Farm Bill….A sound crop insurance program is critical to growers to protect against losses that can result from factors beyond our control. It is even more critical as input costs continue to increase at rates beyond the rate of inflation. The NCGA opposes cuts in the crop insurance baseline. Any reallocation of spending under the program should be used to pay for reforms needed to make it more effective on a nationwide basis…If changes to direct payments are to be made, we would ask that these funds be redirected into additional risk management tools such as crop insurance…We would like to see the ACRE Program focused at a more local level than is currently the case.”
Jeffrey Oberholtzer, Director, National Sunflower Association (NSA) – “Crop Insurance: This is the number one tool for sunflower farmers to protect farm income. Further strengthening of crop insurance programs will be supported by the NSA…Direct Payments: There is general agreement within the board that direct payments should be reinvented if this program is a lightning rod for farm program opponents. Obviously no one wants to give up an income stream like direct payments. However, if direct payments are viewed negatively by the public then adjustments should be made. We would support redirecting at least a portion of these payments to further strengthen crop insurance programs or possibly SURE and ACRE programs…SURE and Disaster Programs: We have not had much experience with the SURE program but give Congress high marks for putting a permanent disaster program in place.”
Robert Carlson, President of the North Dakota Farmers Union- “A shift of direct payments to a new or better program that reflects cost of production plus inflationary safety nets is also favored by our members. The Average Crop Revenue (ACRE) program was an attempt to begin this process, but was complicated from a farmer’s perspective. The program has two levels of payment triggers to meet before it would make payments. It also involves a commitment from all landlords and a commitment for the life of the program that may not match the land rent agreement. A program like ACRE may work if the state payment trigger could be moved to a much smaller region or an individual farm payment trigger.”
Steve Edwardson, Executive Director of the North Dakota Barley Council- “Providing growers with a holistic safety net is critical to maintaining stability in agricultural production and the supply of human food and livestock feed. Improved risk management products are a primary component of a safety net, and will assist in preventing further erosion in the downward trend of barley production.”
Darren Samuelsohn reported yesterday at Politico that, “Lisa Jackson is sticking to her guns.
“The Environmental Protection Agency finds itself constantly under attack from industry groups and Republicans who say the agency is overreaching on everything from climate change to microscopic soot. And with the failure of the White House and Congress to pass a climate bill, combined with a potential GOP takeover, now could be seen as the right time for the agency’s head to dial back the rhetoric.
“But at an event last month celebrating the Clean Air Act’s 40th anniversary, Jackson swung hard at industry groups, offending some officials in the room and potentially adding fuel to claims the Obama administration is anti-business.”
Recall that back on April 30, the House Agriculture Committee held a field hearing in Des Moines, Iowa to review U.S. agriculture policy as the Committee begins the process of considering the 2012 Farm Bill.
An UNOFFICIAL transcript of this hearing has been posted at FarmPolicy.com and is available here.
Likewise, last Tuesday, the House Ag Committee held a field hearing in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in preparation for the 2012 Farm Bill.
An UNOFFICIAL transcript of this hearing has been posted at FarmPolicy.com and is available here.
Meanwhile, a brief FarmPolicy.com recap of all of the House Ag Committee Farm Bill hearings is available here.
Ron Smith reported yesterday at the Southwest Farm Press Online that, “Brazil and the World Trade Organization are dealing with a situation that bears little resemblance to real world conditions in the cotton market, Collin Peterson, chairman of the House Ag Committee, said during a farm bill field hearing Monday in Lubbock.
“Peterson, commenting on the negotiations currently underway with Brazil to prevent retaliatory measures allowed by the WTO ruling against the U.S. Cotton program, said the issue is based on situations that existed under previous farm bills. ‘It’s about past history,’ he said. ‘Brazil is suing you over past history.’”
Christine Souza reported today at the California Farm Bureau Online that, “Don’t get too comfortable with the policies and programs contained in the current federal farm bill: That was the message that the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee brought to farmers and ranchers attending a field hearing in Fresno last week.
“Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said farmers should expect ‘fundamental changes’ in farm policy and said there will be ‘little room for the status quo’ in the next farm bill, because of budgetary pressures and a public increasingly skeptical of traditional farm programs.”
The “Washington Insider” section of DTN indicated on Friday (link requires subscription) that, “Throughout much of last year, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unequivocally stated and restated that cap and trade programs, such as those in the House climate change bill, would mean significant positive net benefits for agriculture. USDA staff worked under pressure to use its massive economic models, together with those from universities and elsewhere, to measure the effects of such a program — and, frankly, to build support for the legislation.
“However, when the details of these studies began to emerge and be examined critically by congressional staff and others, questions began to emerge. It appeared that the models used were based on a number of critical assumptions and focused narrowly. They appeared to say that cap and trade programs were indeed capable of raising agricultural prices and returns — but that in the cases examined, many of those benefits took place in a much reduced sector, with millions of acres diverted into ‘sequestration’ projects and planted to grasses or trees.”
Lisa Lerer and Manu Raju reported on Friday at Politico that, “Democrats are racing to hash out the details of a jobs bill by a self-imposed Monday deadline — and working overtime to gain the Republican votes they’ll need to pass it.
“Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Max Baucus spent Thursday in a flurry of delicate negotiations with Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch , with aides going back and forth on the details of a tax-focused jobs bill.
“The bill has shifted from a sweeping piece of legislation to a smaller, bipartisan bill — loaded up with tax cuts to gain Republican support,” the Politico article said.
Budget: Reactions to Executive Branch Agricultural Proposals
Bloomberg writer Alan Bjerga reported earlier this week that, “U.S. Department of Agriculture spending would rise 2.3 percent to $132.3 billion in fiscal 2011 as the number of people receiving aid to buy groceries, the USDA’s biggest expense, reaches records, the government said.
“The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps, will cost $75.3 billion in the year starting Oct. 1, up 3.9 percent from this year, accounting for most of the overall increase, according to the budget President Barack Obama sent to Congress today. Agricultural subsidies would fall 11 percent as the administration tries to limit payments to wealthy farmers.
“A record 37.9 million people, or about one of every eight Americans, received food stamps in October, as the jobless rate reached a 26-year high, the USDA said on Jan. 12. Participation in the program that month was up 22 percent from a year earlier, setting a record for the 11th straight month.”
DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said he plans to begin hearings on the 2012 farm bill in March or April of this year and that he is determined to write a bipartisan bill that is within the funding baseline that exists in 2012.
“The funding baseline is the amount of money that the Congressional Budget Office determines would be spent on all programs in the farm bill if the same programs were to continue after 2012. CBO projects the funding levels based on spending in programs in past years.
“Peterson said at least initially he expects each major farm bill section — the farm program, conservation and nutrition — to stay within its 2012 baseline.”
DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday that, “Agriculture policy should focus on job creation in 2010, the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee explained to DTN in a December interview.
“Much of the policy focus for Congress will be to attempt to finish work started in 2009 while gauging just what is practical before November’s mid-term elections.
“Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., said her committee will work on green energy with the goal to ‘create jobs and put our economy back on the right track … We’re going to be looking towards focusing on creating jobs in rural communities. That will probably be a big issue for us.’”
Jim Snyder reported yesterday at The Hill Online that, “The Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that carbon dioxide represents a threat to human health starts a process that regulatory experts say will take years to resolve.
“Whether it becomes the ‘glorious mess’ that Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) predicted depends on factors like how much flexibility utilities and other emitters are given to meet the new standards and whether Congress eventually passes a cap-and-trade bill that would clear up some of the uncertainty surrounding the regulation.”
Juliet Eilperin reported in yesterday’s Washington Post that, “By offering concrete emission targets last week, the United States and Chinahave resuscitated global climate talks that were headed toward an impasse. But the details that have yet to be resolved — including the money that industrialized countries would offer poorer ones as part of an agreement — suggest a political deal remains a heavy lift for the 192 countries set to convene in Copenhagen in little more than a week.
“Although the proposals from the world’s two biggest greenhouse-gas emitters have boosted the prospects for a deal, they demonstrate something else as well: No one wants to shoulder the blame for failure at Copenhagen, even if it means the final outcome falls short of what many had envisioned a year or two ago. The U.S. pledge to cut its emissions by 2020 and China’s offer to lower its carbon dioxide output relative to the size of its economy by the same date are more modest than what their negotiating partners had demanded.”