FarmPolicy

April 30, 2016

Des Moines Register- Water Runoff Issues, Conservation- Clean Water Act

Categories: Conservation /Farm Bill

A pair of articles on the front page of Wednesday’s Des Moines Register highlighted water runoff issues and conservation practices taking place in the Hawkeye State. The variables noted in the articles have broader connections in the debate over farm conservation policy development beyond Iowa and also could potentially impact how the Clean Water Act is viewed.

Timothy Meinch reported that, “Des Moines Water Works will file a federal suit against three rural counties in northwest Iowa, an action that could trigger far-reaching effects on how states approach water quality regulation.

“The action follows a 60-day warning that sparked little promise for solving water quality concerns at Water Works, according to utility trustees. The board voted unanimously during a special meeting Tuesday to file a lawsuit against drainage districts in Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac counties.”

The article explained that, “Water Works officials and a crowd of supportive residents criticized the state’s voluntary nutrient-reduction strategy for farmers. They said it is insufficient for protecting Iowa waterways…[The legal suit] claims drainage districts act as a conduit, channeling fertilizer and manure between farm fields and waterways. Water Works officials said these districts should be regulated with special permits under the Clean Water Act.”

Mr. Meinch added that, “Water Works officials say rising nitrate levels in the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers will soon require a new nitrate removal facility in Des Moines that could cost $80 million to $100 million.”

Also on the front page of today’s paper, Donnelle Eller reported that, “With decades of conservation farming under his belt, Dwight Dial has a hard time understanding why Des Moines Water Works is so intent on suing three northwest Iowa counties for contributing to high nitrates in the Raccoon River, a source of drinking water for roughly 500,000 residents in central Iowa.

“‘We’re not deliberately dumping our nitrogen into the Raccoon or Des Moines river systems,’ said Dial, who raises corn, soybeans and pigs near Lake City in Calhoun County, a target of the Des Moines lawsuit along with Sac and Buena Vista counties.

“‘We’re doing everything we can to retain nutrients in the field for our plants. … But we can’t control Mother Nature.'”

Ms. Eller noted that, “Rural residents say they are unsure what the Des Moines utility sees as the remedy to its high nitrate levels — or why it is suing a few sparsely populated counties that have little power to influence farming operations.

“‘I’ve never heard what Des Moines Water Works thinks the fix is,’ said Tom Smith, who feeds about 3,000 to 4,000 cattle annually and raises 1,300 acres of continuous corn with two brothers southeast of Storm Lake.

“‘If they think we need to use less nitrogen, the (board of) supervisors have no power over that,’ Smith said. ‘They’re going after the wrong people.'”

Today’s Register article stated that, “Des Moines utility leaders have said they hope the lawsuit will lead to new federal regulations on farmers in Iowa, and potentially across the nation.”

Agricultural runoff is now exempt from the federal Clean Water Act. But the utility wants to force farmers to be treated the same as wastewater treatment plants or factories, which must request permits outlining the runoff that leaves their facilities,” Ms. Eller reported.

Today’s article pointed out that, “Farmers say extreme weather, such as recent droughts and flooding, is influencing nitrate loading — something they can’t control.

Still, farmers invested $13 million last year, on top of $9.5 million by the state, on conservation practices such as buffer strips, terraces and cover crops to keep nutrients from getting into Iowa rivers and streams.”

kg

Wednesday Morning Update: Policy Issues-Ag Economy; Regulations; and, Trade

Policy Issues, Budget Baselines, USDA Reports

Corey Paul reported on Monday at the The Odessa (Tex.) American Online that, “[House Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R., Tex.)] said when he was appointed chairman in January that his chief priority was launching a review of the country’s Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or food stamps, criticizing a lack of oversight for the $80 billion annual program.

“Conaway said Monday that review is underway and that he does not want his fellow legislators to make cuts to the program before he is finished.

“‘I’m trying to maintain this idea that we don’t have any preconceived reforms in mind right this second, and we want to let those percolate out of the review itself,’ Conaway said. ‘One of the fights I’m having with the budget is to make sure they don’t do things there that would taint the water.’”

Meanwhile, with respect to the commodity title of the Farm Bill, Reuters news reported yesterday that, “Government support for U.S. grain farmers under the new five-year farm bill will peak with the coming 2015 crop, the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute said in a new report.”

The article noted that, “‘Payments under 2014 farm bill programs increase when crop prices fall,’ FAPRI said in its 2015 U.S. Baseline Briefing Book. The think tank estimated that $3.9 billion in ARC and PLC payments for last year’s 2014 crop would be made after fiscal 2016 begins on Oct. 1.

“‘ARC spending is greatest in 2015/16 but declines in later years as the moving averages that determine benchmark revenues adjust,’ FAPRI said. ‘Projected average ARC and PLC payments peak with the 2015 crop at about $6.5 billion but decline to $3.4 billion for the 2018 crop.’”

(more…)

Jeb Bush Video: Iowa

Des Moines Register reporter Jason Noble pointed to this recent video from Jeb Bush which highlighted his appearance at the Iowa Ag Summit and agricultural issues.

kg

Baseline Updates: Corn and Soybean Pricies

University of Illinois agricultural economist John Newton provided a visual look at price projections for corn and soybeans in recently updated baseline analysis from CBO and FAPRI:

kg

USDA- NASS Crop Condition Updates

On Monday, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) office in Texas indicated that, “Producers in South Central, the Upper Coast, and the Southern parts of the state began planting corn. Sorghum planting was active in areas of the Coastal Bend and the Lower Valley. Field preparations for cotton and sorghum continued in areas of the High Plains and Trans-Pecos.”

The report added that, “Livestock began experiencing stress due to wet, cool conditions in areas of East Texas. Supplemental feeding remained active. Range and pasture progressed throughout the state; however, continued cold temperatures began to deteriorate conditions in areas of the Blacklands and the South East.”

The NASS report from Texas noted that 50% of the wheat crop is in good to excellent condition.

The Kansas NASS report stated on Monday that, “Livestock continued to graze crop residue with supplemental feeding reported. Cold temperatures caused livestock producers to increase care. Some producers applied fertilizer for the spring planting season.”

The report added that, “Winter wheat condition rated 3 percent very poor, 10 poor, 41 fair, 43 good, and 3 excellent” and, “Cattle and calf conditions rated 1 percent very poor, 2 poor, 32 fair, 59 good, and 6 excellent.”

And the Oklahoma NASS report noted on Monday that 42% of the winter wheat was in good to excellent condition, and added that, “Conditions of pasture and range were rated mostly fair to good. Livestock conditions were rated mostly good to fair. The snow and freezing temperatures have depleted hay supplies in some areas and stock ponds are getting lower. Many operators were still providing hay and supplemental feed for livestock.”

kg

Chairman Conaway Comments on SNAP, Budget Issues

Categories: Farm Bill /Nutrition

Corey Paul reported on Monday at the The Odessa (Tex.) American Online that, “[House Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R., Tex.)] said when he was appointed chairman in January that his chief priority was launching a review of the country’s Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or food stamps, criticizing a lack of oversight for the $80 billion annual program.

“Conaway said Monday that review is underway and that he does not want his fellow legislators to make cuts to the program before he is finished.

“‘I’m trying to maintain this idea that we don’t have any preconceived reforms in mind right this second, and we want to let those percolate out of the review itself,’ Conaway said. ‘One of the fights I’m having with the budget is to make sure they don’t do things there that would taint the water.'”

On February 25, the full House Ag Committee held a hearing on SNAP, overview here; while on February 26, the House Ag Nutrition Subcommittee also heard SNAP related testimony, an overview of that hearing is available here.

kg

Tuesday Morning Update: Baseline Updates- Policy Issues; Animal Research; Trade; Iowa Ag Summit; and, the Ag Economy

Baseline Updates- Policy Issues

On Monday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its updated baseline Budget Projections for 2015 to 2025.

A brief overview of CBO’s January baseline projections can be found here.

Also on Monday, the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) released its latest baseline-briefing book.

Both baseline updates showed a change in farm program spending projections from previous baseline reports.

Politico writer David Rogers, and Philip Brasher of Agri-Pulse, separately examined the numbers in greater detail on Monday- details of their reporting can be found at this FarmPolicy.com update from yesterday.

More broadly, yesterday’s FAPRI update stated that, “Lower prices have resulted in a large decline in crop producer income and could result in significant federal spending under new programs established by the 2014 farm bill. After reaching record levels in 2014, most livestock sector prices are also expected to decline in 2015. As a result, net farm income is projected to fall sharply.”

Average projected corn prices recover to $3.89 per bushel for the 2015/16 marketing year in response to reduced U.S. production. Wheat and soybean prices both fall in 2015/16, to $5.17 per bushel and $9.29 per bushel, respectively, given continued large global supplies,” FAPRI said.

In addition, CBO’s outlook for the SNAP program is available here, while the CBO’s outlook for child nutrition programs can be found here.

Meanwhile, Marcia Zarley Taylor reported yesterday at DTN (link requires subscription) that, “U.S. crop farmers have just weeks left to make their five-year farm program decision. For most, the March 31 choice will be narrowed between ARC-County and Production Loss Coverage (PLC). Many corn-soybean growers in the northern Corn Belt see good reason to go with what they call the ‘surer thing’ of ARC payments, DTN interviews have found.

“Even in counties that experienced bumper yields in 2014, growers may face little or no ARC payments in 2014 but still are banking that ARC will outpay PLC for 2015 and beyond. For example, McLean County, Illinois, averaged an amazing 217 bpa corn yield in 2014, so stands to collect no ARC payments, the University of Illinois estimates. However, with a return to average or below average yields in 2015, ARC-County payments could jump to $78/base acre in 2015.”

(more…)

CBO, FAPRI March Baseline Updates

On Monday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its updated baseline Budget Projections for 2015 to 2025.

A brief overview of CBO’s January baseline projections can be found here.

Also on Monday, the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) released its latest baseline-briefing book.

David Rogers reported on Monday at Politico that, “Fresh projections for the new farm bill Monday show a greater participation rate — and higher costs — associated with a Senate-backed revenue loss program championed by Midwest corn and soybean producers.

“A revised farm baseline prepared by the Congressional Budget Office shows a decided shift in this direction from just months ago. A second report from the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri projects that the program’s costs will jump by nearly $1.7 billion, or 81 percent, above what FAPRI had previously predicted for the 2015-2016 marketing year.”

Mr. Rogers explained that, “Proponents of the program, formally known as Agricultural Risk Coverage or ARC, argue that it is still more efficient than traditional counter-cyclical, price support programs. And in fact, both the FAPRI and CBO numbers show that the ARC payments to corn farmers will drop off significantly in three to four years.

“Nonetheless, the infusion of so much government money up front is sure to invite criticism. CBO projects that total payments to corn and soybean producers from ARC alone will be $3.37 billion in fiscal 2017 — when the big subsidies come due for the government.

“That is 38 percent higher than what this sector collected in 2014 under the old system of direct cash payments to producers.”

The Politico article pointed out that, “It’s still a bit of a guessing game as to how many farmers will sign up for ARC vs. PLC, but the combined costs in the early years are striking.

“In the case of corn and soybeans, CBO is projecting most producers will go in the direction of ARC, but thousands will opt for PLC instead, accounting for another $1.47 billion in costs in fiscal 2017.

When added to the ARC subsidies, the corn and beans sector is expected then to receive a total of $4.8 billion in government payments in fiscal 2017. That’s nearly double what the direct payments were for these two crops in 2014.”

And Philip Brasher reported on Monday at Agri-Pulse that, “The new farm programs for grain and oilseed growers will pay them up to $7 billion annually over the next few years, surpassing what they would have received through the old system of direct payments, according to new forecasts released Monday.”

After additional analysis of the updated CBO and FAPRI reports, Mr. Brasher pointed out that, “After 2018, ARC payments decline dramatically as the five-year moving average begins to reflect the drop in commodity prices. FAPRI economists estimate that ARC payments will drop from $3.1 billion in fiscal 2018 to $1.8 billion in 2019 and then to $1.2 billion the following year.

PLC payments, on the other hand are expected to peak at $2.8 billion in fiscal 2018 and drop to $2.4 billion the following year, according to FAPRI.

Both CBO and FAPRI estimate that the cost of the federal crop insurance program, which has been expanded with new products under the 2014 farm bill, including a new policy for cotton, will hover around $8 billion a year.”

More broadly, the FAPRI update stated that, “Lower prices have resulted in a large decline in crop producer income and could result in significant federal spending under new programs established by the 2014 farm bill. After reaching record levels in 2014, most livestock sector prices are also expected to decline in 2015. As a result, net farm income is projected to fall sharply.”

Average projected corn prices recover to $3.89 per bushel for the 2015/16 marketing year in response to reduced U.S. production. Wheat and soybean prices both fall in 2015/16, to $5.17 per bushel and $9.29 per bushel, respectively, given continued large global supplies,” FAPRI said.

In addition, CBO’s outlook for the SNAP program is available here, while the CBO’s outlook for child nutrition programs can be found here.

kg

Clarity Sought in USDA Wetland Determinations- Sen. Heitkamp

Categories: Farm Bill

A news release on Monday from Senate Ag Committee member Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.) stated that, “[Sen. Heitkamp] today called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to clarify how it is making offsite wetland determinations on farmers’ land in North Dakota and across the country, and improve certainty for farmers and their operations for the upcoming growing season.

“The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) State Offsite Methods allow it to make wetland determinations without being physically present on farmers’ land. However, its new proposed methods have not provided additional clarity for farmers in how the NRCS conducts this process. Heitkamp pressed USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie to improve how the NRCS communicates with farmers relating to wetland determinations and conservation compliance, which impact what farmers may do with their land.”

Recall that on February 27, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture held a budget hearing and heard testimony from USDA- Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller.

During the discussion portion of this hearing, the issue of remote wetlands determination came up.

Specifically, Rep. David Young (R., Iowa) had the following exchange with Chief Weller:

Rep. David Young: “Last year the NRCS proposed updating the way it conducts wetlands determinations in the prairie pothole states, you know, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota. How will the wetland determination proposal affect producers, and when there is a review, will there be an ability for folks to have a second request for review and a second opinion if they disagree with the determination you make?”

Mr. Weller: “Yes. So first starting with what a producer hopefully will experience with us. What we’re proposing is bringing a modern, up-to-date, scientifically driven approach to doing what we’re calling off site determinations. This is a practice we’ve had at NRCS for decades. But what we didn’t have in the prairie pothole region is a consistent approach across all four states. So depending on where your property was, you had a different approach that we needed to update.

“So what this means, though, is actually, at the end of the day, when we implement this—because we were just seeking comments on this approach so far—is better service for a producer. So right now, as you know, there’s been a backlog, particularly in North and South Dakota, but Iowa as well. And in a lot of cases it’s because it’s on site determinations. It takes staff time. When you do an off site determination, you’re using remote sensing technology, you know, photography, LIDAR coverage, other techniques to really do equivalent, if not a more accurate determination approach.

The bottom line is time savings. So the average number of times it takes to do an off site determination is six hours. The average number of hours it takes to do on site is at least 14 hours. Many of them are 40 hours. And that doesn’t count all the driving time. When you break that down in dollars and cents, if you just say, take—you assume 30 bucks an hour for like a field technician to go out and do it, that equates to about 170 bucks to do an off site determination. When you do on site it’s like over $400 a determination, on average.

But when you multiply that over like South Dakota, where they have 2,500 determinations in the backlog, that’s the difference between $300,000 over a million dollars. And when it comes down to that kind of expenditure, when you add that up across four states, you’re talking real money. And that’s money I’d rather employ back in the field to provide, you know, technical assistance to producers as opposed to investing it in a way that we can be more efficient.

“So to your question about what happens for the producer, the first approach would be the off site determinations, which will be much more efficient. They’ll get determinations made quicker. It’s a preliminary determination. If they don’t like the determination, they can then appeal it and they can then request an on site determination.

“If they don’t like the on site determination from the field staff, they can then appeal that to the state office. If they don’t like the state office determination, they can then appeal that to the national appeals division. So there’s absolutely all these protections for a producer. We’re not changing any of that, how that works. We’re actually just trying to streamline it and get the determinations made faster and cheaper.”

Today’s news update from Sen. Heitkamp added that, “Last August, Heitkamp brought Bonnie to North Dakota, calling on him to improve consistency and predictability on wetland determinations and to have him hear firsthand how uncertainty surrounding wetland regulations affects farmers in the state.”

kg

Updated: New Research Halted at U.S. Meat Animal Research Center Until New Procedures Adopted, OIG Follow Up

Categories: Food Safety

Recall that back on February 13, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture held a budget hearing and heard testimony from USDA Inspector General Phyllis Fong.

During the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt (R., Ala.), Subcommittee ranking member Sam Farr (D., Calif.) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D., Maine) all referenced a recent New York Times article from January that focused on animal production research procedures and operations at a federal facility in Nebraska. The lawmakers expressed support for the IG to investigate some of the issues raised in the Times article in more detail.

The lawmakers noted that:

Chairman Aderholt: “In closing, I do want to thank you for agreeing to review the New York Times allegation about the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Nebraska. The article described research and attitudes that seem to be pretty much in…pretty inconsistent with the conscientious, the hardworking scientists and the staff that work there and that we have at the Agricultural Research Service. Your assistance in auditing the claims included in the article and reviewing the current conditions, practices and policies would be very helpful to us.”

Ranking Member Farr: “And I want to echo what the chairman said on the animal treatment center, and I’m sure it’s going to open up a lot of issues with a lot of university research areas, but it’s worth looking into. I know California has required all the research institutions in the state universities to change all their caging and animal husbandry practices to bring in humane practices, state-of-the-art humane practices. It’s very expensive to bring it all up, but they did it, and I think that’s probably something that we in Congress ought to look at.”

Rep. Pingree: “I want to just add my voice to the choruses of concern around a very troubling New York Times story that was mentioned about animal research, so I’m hopeful that we’re going to do some more investigating into that. And obviously many of the concerns that were raised in that story about the spending of taxpayer dollars and humane treatment basically bordering on the bizarre, in fact in some of the things that were being researched, in my opinion, and even more importantly, completely counter to what the consumer is looking for today. I mean, the market is growing in humanely raised and, you know, different levels of treatment for animals, so why the taxpayer dollars is being spent in something that’s clearly inappropriate practice I think raises a lot of questions. So just want to add my concerns along with the chair and the ranking member.”

Reuters writer P.J. Huffstutter reported this morning that, “No new research projects will be allowed to begin at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center until stronger procedures are put into place and improved animal welfare standards are implemented by the center’s oversight staff, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement Monday.

“Vilsack also ordered that USDA staff update electronic record-keeping practices at all facilities, to ensure all animals are being appropriately monitored and cared for.”

DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported on Monday that, “A panel of outside researchers declared in a draft report Monday they found no evidence of current animal abuse or mistreatment at a USDA animal and meat research facility in Nebraska.

“Despite no evidence of current animal abuse, USDA still ordered any new research projects at the facility not be started until some new procedures are implemented.

“The report examined current practices at USDA’s Meat Animal Research Center outside of Clay Center, Neb., following allegations in the New York Times of animal abuse at the facility. The article in January sparked outrage from some animal-rights activists and led Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to call for a quick review of the facility.”

Mr. Clayton added that, “A four-member panel visited the research center over a two-day period Feb. 24-26 and gave the facility a clean bill of health. ‘Without exception, the panel observed healthy and well-cared-for animals,’ the panel’ report stated. ‘As a rule, animals were handled with care and professionalism by dedicated staff members. No instances of animal abuse, misuse or mistreatment were observed.'”

The report released Monday didn’t specifically address allegations made in a New York Times article in January about death losses and animal care at the facility,” the DTN article said.

Joe Duggan reported on Monday at the Omaha World-Herald Online that, “The panelists found ‘no evidence’ of animal welfare training for those who work at the center. In addition to ordering such training, Vilsack also required center officials to more clearly define their long-standing partnership with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln when it comes to animal welfare.

“‘It is imperative that all USDA research activities be carried out in a manner consistent with our high standards of humane and responsible treatment of animals in our care,’ Vilsack said.”

Also on Monday, with respect to the USDA’s Inspector General, P.J. Huffstutter reported that, “The U.S. Agriculture Department’s Office of the Inspector General has assembled an audit team and plans to begin field work this month in an inquiry of the government’s key livestock study center amid media reports of animal welfare abuse, the agency told Reuters on Monday.

“OIG officials currently are ‘determining the scope and objectives of their planned audit inquiry‘ into the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) facility in Nebraska, the agency said.”

kg

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.”

 

Trade

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.”

 

Regulations

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

Highlights and Summary: Iowa Ag Summit

Donnelle Eller and Jennifer Jacobs reported on the front page of Sunday’s Des Moines Register that, “Nine GOP White House contenders did their best to sound more compelling and better-versed on farm-related matters than their competitors Saturday as they were quizzed during an unusual showcase of agriculture policy on the presidential campaign trail.”

The Register writers explained that, “Unlike the raucous, free-wheeling political rock concert that was the freedom summit, which was hosted by conservative Republican U.S. Rep. Steve King, [moderator and pork and ethanol entrepreneur Bruce Rastetter], a mainstream Republican, kept tighter control on the conversation. He staged a living-room-like setting with leather chairs and a vase of tulips and conducted interview-style question-and-answer sessions on renewable fuels, the wind energy production tax credit, normalizing trade with Cuba, biotechnology, illegal immigration, water pollution from farm runoff and other topics.

“The mood in the crowd of about 900 was warm but mostly subdued as they heard from, in order: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, former New York Gov. George Pataki and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Despite the free tickets and free lunch, a third of the seats were empty by afternoon.”

Sunday’s article noted that, “The Republicans’ stances differed little except on the Renewable Fuel Standard, a federal mandate that outlines how much ethanol and biodiesel must be blended annually into the country’s fuel supply. Most said they understand and accept the need for the mandate, at least until it can be phased out. Santorum and Huckabee in particular passionately defended it.

But Pataki expressed vocal opposition to the RFS, as did Cruz, whose answers were met with applause.”

(more…)

Bloomberg Politics: “With All Due Respect” – Iowa Ag Summit Preview

From Bloomberg Politics today: “Mark Halperin is joined by Iowa Agriculture Summit Organizer Bruce Rastetter and Des Moines Register Chief Political Reporter Jennifer Jacobs on ‘With All Due Respect.'”

A video replay of the entire Bloomberg show is available here, while specific clips are available below.

 

Bruce Rastetter, organizer of the agricultural summit in Des Moines on Saturday, previews what to expect when Jeb Bush and other 2016 Republicans take the stage,” Bloomberg Politics.

 

Mark Halperin and John Heilemann discuss what’s at stake for the GOP hopefuls in Iowa on Saturday,” Bloomberg Politics.

kg

Prelude to The Iowa Ag Summit- Perspective on Crop Insurance Subsidies Will Likely Be Solicited

Following coverage of the Iowa Ag Summit from earlier this week, Jennifer Jacobs reported on Thursday at The Des Moines Register Online that, “The debut of Jeb Bush [related article] on the Iowa presidential landscape is one factor that marks Saturday’s Iowa Agriculture Summit as an important milestone of the early 2016 campaign.

“It’s also the first big multi-contender GOP presidential forum that will attract business Republicans who are more interested in economic issues than social issues or God’s place in the civic arena.”

Ms. Jacobs went on to discuss “eight things to watch for” at the Summit; the list included the following:

1. Who are the hottest speakers?

2. Who will exhibit the best farm savvy?

3. Will anyone be perceived as anti-ag?

4. How will Christie deal with any awkwardness with the moderator? (“[Host Bruce Rastetter, an agribusiness leader and GOP power player] was one of seven Iowa politicos who flew to New Jersey on a 2012 recruitment mission. He has since backed off support for Christie, saying he’s reserving judgment on the 2016 contenders.”)

5. Will Rubio be a new stand-out? Or someone else?

6. How will Patty Judge be received?

7. Will this event elevate Rastetter’s stature among Republicans?

8. Will GOP contenders who skip the summit be hurt by their absence?And  reported today at Radio Iowa Online that, ” who say they may compete for the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nomination will be featured at the first-ever Iowa Agricultural Summit tomorrow. The event’s host is of Hubbard, a man who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to conservative candidates and causes over the past decade and a half — from the fortune he amassed raising hogs and investing in ethanol production.

And, O. Kay Henderson reported today at Radio Iowa Online that, “Eleven politicians who say they may compete for the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nomination will be featured at the first-ever Iowa Agricultural Summit tomorrow. The event’s host is Bruce Rastetter of Hubbard, a man who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to conservative candidates and causes over the past decade and a half — from the fortune he amassed raising hogs and investing in ethanol production.

“‘Food doesn’t come from a grocery store. You just happen to buy it there,’ Rastetter said during an interview with Radio Iowa, ‘so this is something that affects every American because every American eats and is concerned about food safety, the environment, sustainability — those kinds of things.'”

The article noted that, “‘I hear a number of them are calling around, asking people for their views, their perspective, getting updates on policies and why they exist,’ Rastetter said. ‘So I think that’s all a good thing and we had hoped they would be more up-to-speed with ag policy with just the idea of this summit.’

“Rastetter said the topics for his conversations with the candidates haven’t been kept secret. For example, he plans to ask whether the candidates support federal crop insurance subsidies and pending international trade deals that could boost U.S. ag exports. He will also ask for their views on topics like organic food labeling and immigration policy.”

Today’s update added that, “The event comes at a critical time for agriculture, according to [Iowa GOP Governor Terry Branstad]. He points to falling ag land values, layoffs at John Deere and the USDA’s prediction that net farm income will fall by 32 percent this year. Branstad said the candidates will have an opportunity to ‘articulate a vision’ for bringing ‘prosperity’ to rural America.”

kg

Friday Morning Update: Biotech; Policy; Ag Economy; Iowa Ag Summit; and, Biofuels

Biotech

Jacob Bunge reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “U.S. regulators for the first time are proposing limits on the planting of some genetically engineered corn to combat a voracious pest that has evolved to resist the bug-killing crops, a potential blow to makers of biotech seeds.

“The measures proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency represent a bold step to thwart the corn rootworm, a bug that ranks among the most expensive crop threats to U.S. corn farmers.

“The plan is aimed at widely grown corn varieties sold by Monsanto Co. , the first to sell rootworm-resistant corn, and rival seed makers including DuPont Co. and Dow Chemical Co. Such corn seeds have been genetically modified to secrete proteins that are toxic to destructive insects, but safe for human consumption, helping to reduce farmers’ reliance on synthetic pesticides.”

(more…)

FAO Food Price Index Declines…Again

A news release on Thursday from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) stated that, “The FAO Food Price Index declined to a 55-month low in February, dropping 1.0 percent from January and 14 percent below its level a year earlier.

“Lower prices for cereals, meat and especially sugar more than offset an increase in milk and palm oil prices.

“The FAO Food Price Index averaged 179.4 points in February, down from 181.2 points in January and 208.6 points in February 2014.”

The update explained that, “Its ongoing decline – to its lowest level since July 2010 – reflects robust supply conditions as well as ongoing weakness in many currencies versus the U.S. dollar, which appear set to continue, said Michael Griffin, FAO’s dairy and livestock market expert.”

Bloomberg writer Rudy Ruitenberg reported on Thursday that, “‘We’re looking forward to very good crops in many countries,’ Concepcion Calpe, an FAO economist in Rome, said by phone Thursday. ‘Supplies appear to be very, very abundant and more than sufficient to cover the expected demand. With the kind of reserves we have today, it would take a lot of changes in the forecast to change the trend’ for food prices, she said.

“A gauge of grain costs dropped 3.2 percent from January and is down 14 percent from a year earlier, the report showed.”

The Bloomberg article added that, “Global grain production rose 0.8 percent to 2.542 billion metric tons last year, 0.3 percent higher than the agency’s previous estimate, it said in a separate report. World stockpiles will climb 8.6 percent to 630.5 million tons by the end of June, a second consecutive annual increase.”

kg


« Past Entries Recent Entries »