Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says that the farm bill – either passing or not – sends a message to the rest of the country about governing. He discusses the bill, Hillary Clinton and Gov. Chris Christie in this episode of Capital Download with Susan Page.
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 stumbled badly Thursday and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) said it would be ‘very challenging’ now for him to meet the Republican leadership’s schedule of having a final agreement back on the House floor by Dec. 13.
“The Oklahoma Republican had been pressing hard for some framework of a deal before the Thanksgiving recess. But after three face-to-face meetings between House and Senate negotiators in less than 24 hours, the upshot seemed more a picture of frustration.
“‘Anything is possible but it is very challenging,’ Lucas said. He added that it was a ‘fair assessment’ that he had not made the progress he had hoped for this week.”
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.”
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “Falling corn prices are making themselves felt in House-Senate farm bill talks.”
“December 2013 corn futures fell Monday to a new low of $4.12 per bushel at the Chicago Board of Trade. This caps a summer-long slide aggravated most recently by the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to lower ethanol targets for 2014. And it’s now very likely that corn will qualify for assistance next year under the new revenue-protection program that is the mainstay of the Senate’s commodity title,” the Politico article said.
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.”
Erik Wasson and Russell Berman reported yesterday at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday said he does not believe the deficit savings in a 2013 farm bill should be used to reach a year-end budget deal replacing the sequester.
“The farm bill being negotiated between the House and the Senate could contain as much as $51 billion in savings over 10 years. That could go a long way toward replacing the $91 billion in automatic agency budget cuts in fiscal 2014, prompting speculation that a budget deal could midwife the enactment of the farm bill.
“But Boehner said he has told Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), the lead budget negotiator for House Republicans, not to look to the farm bill for savings.”
The Hill update noted that, “‘I think it’s a separate issue, and I’ve made it very clear to Chairman Ryan,’ Boehner said at his weekly press conference.”
(Note that related audio clips from yesterday’s press conference with the Speaker can be heard here (MP3- 0:23) and here (MP3- 0:19).
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.”
“Eighty-four percent of the nation’s corn is in the bin, compared to 73% last week and a five-year average of 79%.”
The DTN article added that, “Soybean harvest advanced by five percentage points in the same week. Ninety-one percent of the nation’s crop has been cut, compared to 86% last week and a five-year average of 92%.”
Dar Danielson noted yesterday at RadioIowa Online that, “Iowa farmers are rushing to complete the corn and soybean harvest before winter sets in for good.”
Meanwhile, University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Gary Schnitkey indicated yesterday at the farmdoc daily blog (“Break-Even Soybean Prices: History and Projections”) that, “For farmland that is cash rented near average rent levels, break-even soybean prices have increased from near $5.00 per bushel in 2004 to around $10.70 per bushel in 2013 and 2014. Break-even prices near $10.70 will cause losses when soybean prices are below $10.70. Prices being below break-even prices are possible over the next several years.”
Tony C. Dreibus reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “Soybeans rose for the fifth straight session on signs of strong demand for U.S. inventories…[C]hicago Board of Trade soybean futures for November delivery gained 11 cents, or 0.8%, to $13.19 a bushel.”
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.”
During a speech on Friday in New Orleans, President Obama indicated that, “So helping American businesses grow; creating more jobs — these are not Democratic or Republican priorities. They are priorities that everybody, regardless of party, should be able to get behind. And that’s why, in addition to working with Congress to grow our exports, I’ve put forward additional ideas where I believe Democrats and Republicans can join together to make progress right now.
“Number one, Congress needs to pass a farm bill that helps rural communities grow and protects vulnerable Americans. For decades, Congress found a way to compromise and pass farm bills without fuss. For some reason, now Congress can’t even get that done. Now, this is not something that just benefits farmers. Ports like this one depend on all the products coming down the Mississippi. So let’s do the right thing, pass a farm bill. We can start selling more products. That’s more business for this port. And that means more jobs right here.”
And Michael D. Shear reported in Saturday’s New York Times that, “There are regular West Wing meetings on transportation, college affordability and a new farm bill.”
DTN Editor Emeritus Urban C. Lehner indicated at his blog on Wednesday that, “Charlie Stenholm’s passions during his 26 years as a Democratic Congressman from Texas were supporting agriculture and balancing the federal budget. That makes him a good man to listen to on the interaction between the two House-Senate conference committees meeting today, the one trying to reconcile different versions of the farm bill and the other trying to hash out a budget deal.
“Unfortunately for agriculture, what he has to say isn’t encouraging.”
Mr. Lehner noted that, “Serving as the moderator of a Farm Foundation panel discussion on the farm bill, Stenholm hammered home an inconvenient fact: It will be difficult for the farm-bill conferees to make meaningful progress until the budget conferees ‘give them a number.’ How much must agriculture contribute to cutting the budget?
“Without that number, any compromises the farm-bill conferees make on big-ticket items like food stamps will be wasted if the budget conferees end up demanding bigger cuts.
“At the very least this inconvenient fact pours cold water on talk of a farm-bill deal by Thanksgiving. The budget conferees’ deadline is December 13. Chances of getting an ag number before then are slim. As panelist Joe Outlaw of Texas A & M put it, ‘In political gamesmanship you don’t throw out a number’ sooner when you might be able to get a better number later.”
House Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) was a guest yesterday on the News & Views program with Joel Heitkamp (790 AM Fargo-Moorhead, N.D.) where the discussion focused on the Farm Bill.
An unofficialFarmPolicy.com transcript of the News & Views discussion is available here.
Mr. Heitkamp asked Rep. Peterson, “Obvious first question, are we going to get a farm bill before the end of the year?”
Rep. Peterson indicated that, “Well, I hope so. I’ll probably have a better answer for you by later on this afternoon or maybe tomorrow. I thought we were going to get together this morning, but like everything that’s been happening with this bill, it got delayed, so now we’re not meeting ‘til 1:00 Washington time. And so I had a call from Stabenow for a while this morning, which, you know, was not encouraging. But we’ll have to see what happens when we get in the room at 1:00.”