David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “Updated projections by the Agriculture Department on Thursday forecast significant price declines for corn, wheat and even soybeans — all large enough to trigger potential payments under the new farm bill.
“Corn stands out the most, with average prices dropping to $3.90 per bushel in the coming crop year, even after the department assumes reduced plantings. Wheat would fall to $5.30 a bushel, also with reduced plantings.
“Soybeans fare best of the three and will continue to see increased plantings. But the $9.65-per-bushel price reflects an estimated 24 percent decline from what the department estimated for the current 2013-2014 farm cycle.”
“Meeting with farmers and ranchers around Fresno — where electronic signs along highways flash entreatingly to drivers, ‘Serious drought. Help save water’ — Mr. Obama pledged $183 million from existing federal funds for drought relief programs in California. Though the announcement won cautious support in this region, Mr. Obama also pressed ahead with the more difficult task of enlisting rural America in his campaign on climate change by linking it to the drought.
Jesse Newman reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “Prices for agricultural land in some key states in the U.S. Farm Belt last year grew at the slowest pace in four years, according to a quarterly report Thursday from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
“Values for farmland in the Chicago Fed’s district, which includes all of Iowa and most of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, rose 5% in 2013, the report showed, down from growth of 16% in 2012. Last year’s growth was the slowest pace since 2009 and the second slowest in the past decade, the bank said” [related graph].
A news release yesterday from National Crop Insurance Services indicated that, “On the heels of the 2014 Farm Bill becoming law, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) addressed the crop insurance industry yesterday and noted that crop insurance is now the centerpiece of U.S. farm policy.
“‘Today, crop insurance is the foundation of this Farm Bill and the farm safety net,’ Stabenow, one of the law’s architects, said at the crop insurance industry’s annual convention.”
The update added that, “‘The farmer gets a bill, not a check with crop insurance…and they don’t get help unless they really need it,’ Stabenow said referring to the premiums farmers pay and the indemnities that are only received after losses are verified.
“Stabenow noted that during the debate, farmers stressed their support for crop insurance and asked Congress to strengthen it. And by making crop insurance more readily available to specialty crop growers, she said the policy’s coalition of support has been strengthened.”
The “Washington Insider” section of DTN (link requires subscription) reported on Friday that, “One of the program areas watched carefully in the farm bill debate was cotton, since the United States is still accused of failing to comply with the 2004 World Trade Organization case it lost to Brazil. Advocates argue that the final version of the farm bill changes to U.S. cotton subsidies to insurance and thus should comply. They also argue that since the changes have the stated goal of promoting a negotiated settlement to the longstanding dispute, the proposal should not be considered as illegally protectionist.
“In fact, Brazil is in the driver’s seat in this dispute since it won the earlier WTO case, but it has not yet taken a formal position on the bill. Still, a number of U.S. observers note that that Brazilian officials made plain their opposition to the new bill’s proposals by pointing out objectionable provisions and emphasizing that the farm bill still contains a substantial volume of trade-distorting subsidies for U.S. cotton growers.
“Separately, Brazilian Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo also told U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman in a Jan. 30 meeting that Brazil was evaluating the bill to see if it protects Brazilian interests. In addition, the minister told the press that his government has not ruled out retaliation as a possibility.”
AP writer Jeff Karoub reported yesterday that, “A group of scientists at Michigan State University huddled around a computer screen earlier this week — not poring over scientific data but watching a webcast of the U.S. Senate.
“Among them was Rufus Isaacs, an entomologist who leads a team of U.S. and Canadian scientists working to enhance bee pollination of crops. Isaacs was anxious to see if the Senate would approve the long-delayed farm bill, and with it continue the $8.6 million federal grant critical to his pollen project’s survival. The Senate passed the legislation and Congress sent it to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign the bill Friday on Isaacs’ campus in East Lansing.
“‘It was a great relief and celebration in my lab,’ Isaacs said of the rare moment when pollen took a backseat to politics. ‘It’s been a long wait for this.’”
The article noted that, “The nearly $100 billion-a-year federal farm bill, passed after 2 ½ years of legislative wrangling, does two main things: Almost 80 percent of the money goes to food stamps for the needy, and around 15 percent is designated for farm subsidies and crop insurance subsidies. The pledge of hundreds of millions of dollars for agricultural research is a relative drop in the bucket, but it’s pumping money into universities across the country, particularly for advanced agricultural research.
“Obama’s visit to Michigan State is a nod to the primary role a fellow Democrat, Michigan U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate’s Agriculture Committee, played in authoring the bill and getting it passed.”
AP writer Henry C. Jackson reported yesterday that, “South Dakota’s congressional delegation pressed the U.S. agriculture secretary Wednesday to expedite a provision in the new farm bill that helps ranchers in the Dakotas and Nebraska recover from an October blizzard.
“The nearly $100 billion-a-year federal farm bill, which awaits President Barack Obama’s signature, restarts a livestock disaster program that had expired. Members of the South Dakota delegation were among those urging Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to make sure there are no delays getting the relief money to ranchers.
“Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., Tim Johnson, D-S.D., Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and other lawmakers signed a letter Wednesday asking Vilsack to move quickly to provide relief to ranchers and farmers who suffered heavy losses. The total amount of the aid was not clear and would depend on total losses for producers.”
The AP article noted that, “‘They’ve waited long enough for much-needed support,’ said Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., who worked on the committee that combined the House and Senate versions of the farm bill.”
Rep. Noem also wrote a letter to Sec. Vilsack yesterday regarding the implementation of livestock related provisions.
After passing the House last week, the U.S. Senate webpage indicated this morning that, “Monday, Feb 03, 2014- 2:00 p.m.: Convene and resume consideration of the conference report to accompany H.R.2642, the Farm bill.”
As the Senate is poised to act on the Farm Bill conference report, Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) recorded a segment for the C-SPAN Newsmakers program late last week that aired yesterday on the cable channel.
A video replay of the discussion with Chairwoman Stabenow is available here, while an unofficial FarmPolicy.comtranscript of the program can be found here.
Ramsey Cox reported yesterday at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has scheduled a vote for Monday on the farm bill.
“Reid filed cloture on the House-passed amendment to H.R. 2642 — the $956 billion conference committee farm bill — setting up a vote for Monday at 5:30 p.m. If at least 60 senators vote to end debate, the Senate will then proceed to a vote on final passage.”
The Hill update noted that, “‘While it cuts more to food assistance programs than some of us would like, it’s a good compromise that will protect needy families,’ Reid said Thursday morning.”
The article added that, “One of the conferees, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), said he wouldn’t support final passage of the bill because it didn’t include major reforms to farm subsidies that both the original Senate and House bills included.
“‘Does the new farm bill improve agriculture in America? I believe unfortunately the answer is no,’ Roberts said. ‘We should not pass a farm bill with more government subsidies, more government regulations and more waste.’”
After Monday’s cloture vote, a vote on final passage would then come on Tuesday.
Farm Bill; Immigration; and, the Ag Economy- Wednesday
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “The House cleared the way for a Wednesday showdown vote on the new farm bill agreement [one page summary here] , even as Republicans blocked Democratic efforts to dedicate a portion of the savings to help pay for extended unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless.
“The 222-194 vote Tuesday made for a sharp contrast with the broad support now enjoyed by the farm bill itself. And after two years of struggle, the Agriculture Committee leadership is increasingly confident that the giant measure will now prevail—almost exactly six months after it was upended by the same chamber last June.
“‘I think we’re going to get there but if it was easy, it wouldn’t be the farm bill would it?’ House Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) joked with reporters. And at a morning Democratic Caucus, proponents were cheered by the fact that Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), who leads the Congressional Black Caucus, rose to defend the deal despite liberal complaints about continued cuts from food stamps.”
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “After a two-year struggle and more perils than ‘Downton Abbey,’ Congress should finally see a new farm bill this week as House-Senate negotiators worked through the weekend in hopes of filing the legislation by Monday night.
“Going into Sunday night, disputes continued over livestock regulations. But afternoon staff briefings were already being held on the proposed agreement, and the hope was to call the conferees together for their signatures on Monday.
“Indeed, the mood was such that no one believed any longer that more time would help; instead, it was judged better to grab the opportunity for House action this week. And if the farm bill is filed Monday night, the leadership is proposing to call it up as early as Wednesday, a fast turnaround for a measure given up as dead by many just months ago.”
Mr. Rogers noted that, “Bipartisan support remains crucial, but Democrats have won significant compromises on food stamp funding and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is promising a real push to deliver the needed Republican votes.”
The “Washington Insider” section of DTN explained yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “A number of reports have indicated that an agreement among farm bill conferees that would provide a new dairy policy program without supply management means the farm bill is all but completed. However, there remain several loose ends still dangling until Congress reconvenes next week.
“Chief among these are provisions covering crop subsidy caps and country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for meat and meat products. Some Capitol Hill sources predict that the four farm bill principals likely will decide those issues during a meeting among themselves rather than holding a meeting that includes all 41 conferees.
“There are some who are promoting a modified North American label for COOL, without a U.S.-origin label, but some pro-COOL farm group lobbyists are opposed. Others are counseling that USDA take its time regarding the final COOL rule, choosing instead to wait until the World Trade Organization decides a pending case on that rule that has been filed by Canada and Mexico.”
Ali Meyer reported yesterday at CNSNews.com that, “A record 20% of American households, one in five, were on food stamps in 2013, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).”
Meanwhile, Ron Nixon reported yesterday at The New York Times Online that, “Late last year, staff members at the Capital Area Food Bank here [Washington] began fielding requests for larger deliveries from the dozens of soup kitchens and food pantries that it supplies as more and more people showed up seeking help.
“The food bank said it was not unusual to see a surge before Thanksgiving or Christmas. But this time the lines were caused not by the holidays but by a $5 billion cut to the federal food stamp program that took effect in November when a provision in the 2009 stimulus bill expired.
“Now the food bank, which provided about 45 million pounds of food last year, says it is preparing for even greater demand as Congress prepares to cut billions of dollars more from the food stamp program, which is included in a farm bill that has yet to pass. About 47 million Americans receive food stamps.”
Mr. Nixon explained that, “It is unclear when the new cuts will kick in, even if Congress manages to pass a new farm bill, an effort that has taken almost two years. The House and the Senate appear to have worked out most of their differences on the bill. That compromise is expected to cut about $9 billion from food stamps over 10 years. House Republicans had wanted to trim financing by $40 billion over the same period, and a bipartisan Senate bill sought a $4 billion cut.
“But House members, most of them Republicans, may be unwilling to pass a bill that includes anything less than the $40 billion cut. And senators, especially Democrats, may see the compromise measure as going too far. President Obama has threatened to veto any bill that cuts too deeply.”
A news release yesterday from Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.) stated that, “[Sen. Heitkamp] today spoke with North Dakota agriculture producers about the progress that has been made on the Farm Bill, and urged them to keep the pressure on lawmakers to get the job done.
“Heitkamp addressed farmers in Jamestown at the Precision Agriculture Action Summit and in Fargo at the Crop Insurance Conference 2014.
“‘After three years of debate, we are now closer than ever to passing a long-term, comprehensive Farm Bill,’ said Heitkamp.”
The update noted that, “Heitkamp stressed the importance of maintaining a strong crop insurance system. She highlighted the crop insurance provisions she pushed for in the Senate-passed bill, including: additional crop insurance supports for new and beginning farmers; a provision to make sure disaster years don’t unfairly harm production histories, resulting in weaker coverage for farmers; and a provision to make permanent the enterprise units system that has been very successful in North Dakota.”
Doug Finke reported on Saturday at The State Journal-Register (Springfield, Il.) Online that, “U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Saturday that he expects a farm bill now being negotiated in Congress to include provisions requiring the able-bodied to seek work or perform public service to receive food stamps.
“The Virginia Republican said the requirements will be part of the reforms that will be included in the farm bill that’s been held up for months as negotiators try to resolve differences between the House and Senate.
“‘The bill is going to be a reform bill,’ said Cantor, who was in Springfield on Saturday for a fundraiser to benefit U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville. ‘There’s no question the amount of spending in all areas of federal government needs to be examined. It will be about reform.’”
The article noted that, “One area of difference between the House and Senate on the farm bill is the amount of cuts to nutrition programs like food stamps. Both chambers agreed to cuts, but the House wanted far deeper cuts than the Senate.
“‘Nutrition has not been finalized, although we are moving closer to resolution on that,’ Cantor said.”
“Davis said the conferees hope to have the framework of a new farm bill worked out by the end of the month when Congress returns to Washington,” the article said.
Ramsey Cox reported yesterday afternoon (12:32 pm) at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) raised his glass of milk Thursday on the Senate floor to celebrate a reported breakthrough in a deal on dairy in the farm bill negotiations.”
The Hill update noted that, “Blumenthal, who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee, said he was ‘pleased’ that farm bill conferees were nearing a deal on dairy policies — the last issue that needed to be worked out in the bill.
“‘I am pleased they have reached a dairy compromise,’ Blumenthal said. But the senator didn’t reveal any details about the deal.”
A short time later (1:23 pm), Erik Wasson reported at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “The stalled farm bill is picking up momentum again, as negotiators try to resolve all remaining differences this week.
“House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) said Thursday that farm bill negotiators are aiming to unveil the legislation next week and have it voted on during the last week of January, half of which is taken up by the Republican annual retreat.”