Posted By Keith Good On May 3, 2013

Farm Bill- Policy Issues

In a radio interview earlier this week with Mick Kjar (Ag News 890, Terry Loomis, Farm Director (Fargo, ND)), Senate Agriculture Committee member John Hoeven (R., N.D.) discussed the potential timing of the Farm Bill.

Sen. Hoeven noted that, "We had a meeting last Thursday, and we're going to try to be, in our Ag Committee, marking up the [Farm] bill by the end of next week." If not by the end of next week, Sen. Hoeven added, "then we are going to start essentially the 13th -that week of the 13th…[W]e want to be to the Senate floor, in front of the full Senate in May." (Ag News 890 audio clip here (MP3- 1:08)).

And speaking yesterday on the Agriculture Today radio program (The Red River Farm Network), Sen. Hoeven indicated that, "The Farm Bill is still going to emphasize crop insurance first." (Agriculture Today audio clip here (MP3- 0:15)).

A news release Wednesday from Sen. Mark Udall (D., Colo.) stated that, "Six members of the Colorado congressional delegation are urging leaders of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture committees to pass a five-year Farm Bill. In a bipartisan and bicameral letter today, Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet [D] and Representatives Scott Tipton [R], Mike Coffman [R], Cory Gardner [R] and Ed Perlmutter [D] called the bill crucial for farmers, ranchers and rural economies across the state."Dan Mayfield reported yesterday at Albuquerque Business First Online that, "About 125 ranchers, farmers, sportsmen, dairy farmers, state employees and others joined [Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D., N.M.)] to talk about the upcoming votes she will make on the House Committee on Agriculture on the 2013 Farm Bill at the New Mexico State University branch in Albuquerque."

The update stated that, "'We're going to be looking at how to manage cuts. That's going to be largely what we'll be talking about,' Lujan Grisham said. 'If there ever is a state that needs more support, it's New Mexico.'"

"After several mentioned that federal cuts due to sequestration had forced the state to cancel several SNAP education programs, Lujan Grisham said she would support an amendment that would fund those programs," the article said.

Daniel Flatley reported yesterday at The Watertown Daily Times (N.Y.) Online that, "[Rep. Bill Owens (D., N.Y.), speaking at spring lunch of the Watertown Noon Rotary at the Rutland Congregational Church] said he expected the farm bill to come before the Agricultural Committee by May 15, in accordance with the wishes of committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and to make it through the committee process with few changes.

"He predicted the bill likely will meet significant challenges on the House floor, however."

Meanwhile, Daniel Looker reported earlier this week at that, "This year, the farm bill debate has been behind the scenes, as members of congressional agriculture committees wrestle with food stamp spending and regional differences over commodity programs. Farm groups expect the Senate Agriculture Committee to meet next week to finalize a new bill that will be similar to last year's except for the commodity title. Leaders of the House Agriculture Committee expect to mark up their bill on May 15.

"One holdup is that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which projects the estimated costs of farm bill programs over 10 years, hasn't quite finished its latest score, Mary Kay Thatcher of the American Farm Bureau Federation told Wednesday."

In his detailed article, Mr. Looker explained that, "Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow met with farm groups this week to share some of her plans for the farm bill, Farm Bureau's Thatcher said. Stabenow plans to keep changes to crop insurance made with amendments during final passage of the Senate's bill, including one advanced by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) that reduces insurance premium subsidies for farmers with adjusted gross income above $750,000.

"'Stabenow has already said that and crop insurance (conservation) compliance will be in the bill,' Thatcher said."

In a letter this week to Senate Agriculture Committee leaders, the Independent Community Bankers of America, along with over 40 other organizations, noted that, "For many years, members of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee have contributed to a strong and vibrant federal crop insurance program. As your Committee and the full Senate prepare to consider a comprehensive farm bill, we write to express our support for crop insurance and opposition to provisions that will limit its effectiveness."

"Limiting crop insurance support to producers of a certain size creates barriers to participation for producers trying to obtain this risk management protection and impacts the financial health of the agricultural community. Insurance products offered through federal crop insurance are key to food security, allowing farmers and ranchers to secure operating capital from lenders each year and produce food for consumers around the world. Agricultural producers keep the rural economy on track, purchasing needed inputs and equipment and supporting jobs throughout rural America. Without the risk protection provided by federal crop insurance, agricultural lenders would be forced to increase underwriting standards, increase costs to offset risk and reduce credit availability in some areas of the country to some producers," the letter said.

Also on the crop insurance issue, a news release this week from USDA's Risk Management Agency indicated that, "USDA has released a new pilot federal crop insurance plan that utilizes a rainfall index to provide coverage for annual forage crops. The Rainfall Index - Annual Forage Insurance Plan is being tested in six states and covers crops planted annually and are used for livestock feed or fodder. It is available in all counties in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. Catastrophic Risk Protection and buyup levels are available under the plan."In other developments, Ron Nixon reported in today's New York Times that, "A proposal by the Obama administration to overhaul the international food aid program has set off a jurisdictional fight among members of several House and Senate committees, threatening to derail the most significant change to the program since it was created nearly 60 years ago…[T]he food aid money is currently part of the Agriculture Department's budget, but President Obama's proposal would transfer it to the foreign affairs budget, where it would be overseen by the Agency for International Development. The reorganization would also mean that Congressional oversight of the program would shift from the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees on agriculture to theappropriations subcommittees on foreign operations."

Today's article noted that, "But members of the House and Senate agriculture subcommittees are skeptical.

"During hearings last week, Representative Robert B. Aderholt, Republican of Alabama, the chairman of the House agriculture subcommittee, said he was concerned that removing food aid from the agriculture budget would hurt American farmers.

"Representative Sam Farr of California, the committee's ranking Democrat, also questioned the transfer, raising concerns about the subcommittee losing oversight of the program."

Mr. Nixon added that, "There has been a similar response from members of the Senate agriculture subcommittee. Senator Mark Pryor, Democrat of Arkansas, the chairman of the subcommittee, along with Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, the ranking Republican, both said that they were opposed to transferring food aid dollars out of the agriculture budget."

Also, Ben Goad reported yesterday at The Hill's RegWatch Blog that, "Agricultural groups and consumer advocates implored the Obama administration on Thursday to press forward with contentious meat labeling regulations despite the threat of damaging international trade sanctions.

"A coalition of farmers and consumer rights groups called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to finalize a strengthened set of rules requiring meat producers to attach country-of-origin labels (COOL) to their products."

And, a news release yesterday from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) stated that, "Today, [Sen. Gillibrand], a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and U.S. Representative Richard Hanna applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) finalization this week of a first-ever Commercial Item Description (CID) for Greek yogurt…[P]reviously, USDA Commercial Item Descriptions for yogurt did not differentiate between Greek and other types of yogurt. The new description specifically outlines specific Greek yogurt qualities such as being 'high-protein' and 'strained.'"With respect to nutrition, Kimberly Gasuras reported this week at the Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum (Ohio) Online that, "Bucyrus City Schools has added dinner to its menu of meals served to students.

"The after-school dinner program has been launched as a pilot program until May 9 and is being served to students in the BEST (Building Excellent Students Together) after-school program."

Referencing last week's New York Times article on minority farmers' claims of discrimination by USDA, Rep. Steve King (R., Iowa), the Chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Operations, Oversight, and Nutrition, noted in a tweet yesterday that, "Congress must act."

The jurisdiction of the subcommittee Rep. King chairs includes: "Agency oversight, review and analysis, special investigations, food stamps, nutrition and consumer programs."

In trade developments, Jennifer Epstein reported yesterday at Politico that, "President Barack Obama rounded out his second-term Cabinet on Thursday by nominating Penny Pritzker as his new Commerce secretary and Michael Froman to be the next U.S. trade representative."

A separate report yesterday at The Hill's On the Money Blog indicated that the nominations garnered support from both business groups and lawmakers.

Egg Bill

Ken Anderson reported yesterday at Brownfield that, "The president of Nebraska Farm Bureau says federal legislation dictating the size of cages for egg-laying hens 'has no place in the Farm Bill.'"Steve Nelson was reacting to reports that Senate Ag Committee chair Debbie Stabenow plans to include the so-called Egg Bill in her markup of the Senate Farm Bill, which is expected to take place next week."

Yesterday's update added that, "'The fact that Debbie Stabenow would even consider starting the discussion on a new farm bill by including legislation initiated and advocated for by extremist organizations is a slap in the face to American farm families,' Nelson says. 'Including legislation to set a 'one size fits all' standard for the housing and treatment of egg-laying hens would set a dangerous precedent and only encourage further bullying of farm families by activists through baseless legal actions and public smear campaigns.'

"Nelson says such action by Stabenow 'threatens the prospects of passing a much needed farm bill.'"

Agricultural Economy

Emiko Terazono and Gregory Meyer reported yesterday at The Financial Times Online that, "Corn prices hit a one-month high as fears of tighter supplies heightened because planting was delayed by rain and snow in the US Midwest…[A]lthough farmers have until the middle of May to plant new crop corn, agricultural trading houses and analysts are increasingly concerned about the impact of the weather on the next US harvest."

Agricultural related tweets yesterday, which included photos, depicted the snow on farms in Minnesota and Iowa, while a separate tweet captured corn being planted yesterday near Evansville, Ind.

An update yesterday from University of Missouri Extension stated that, "Plummeting temperatures in Missouri could mean poor stands of corn and seed damage.

"The unseasonable weather might cause chilling injury to corn seeds prior to emergence, said University of Missouri Extension agronomy specialist Bill Wiebold."

Also, an update at the National Climatic Data Center (NOAA) yesterday pointed out that, "According to the April 30, 2013 U.S. Drought Monitor, moderate to exceptional drought covers 46.9% of the contiguous United States, a decrease from last week's 47.3%."And Perry Beeman reported yesterday at The Des Moines Register Online that, "After weeks of steady improvement, drought conditions in Iowa remained unchanged in the week that ended Tuesday, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported.

"Nearly 54 percent of the state, generally in western counties, remained either abnormally dry or in drought. Three months ago, the whole state was."


A news release yesterday from the National Chicken Council (NCC) stated that, "The [NCC] this week provided detailed comments to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in response to a white paper the committee issued that asked nine questions for agricultural sector stakeholders specifically addressing the impacts of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)."University of Illinois Agricultural Economists Scott Irwin and Darrel Good posted an update yesterday at the farmdoc daily blog ("Brazilian Ethanol Imports - Implications for U.S. Ethanol and Corn Demand"), which noted that, "The current domestic ethanol market is dominated by the ongoing collision between the RFS for renewable biofuels and the E10 blend wall. Given the slow pace of market penetration of E15 and E85, the RFS likely exceeds the blend wall for ethanol in all blends in 2013. The difference between the magnitude of the RFS for renewable biofuels in 2013 (13.8 billion gallons) and the effective blend wall (estimated at 12.9 billion gallons) will be addressed with the use of blending credits accumulated from previous discretionary ethanol blending, some increase in higher blends, or possibly by discretionary blending of biomass-based biodiesel if those blending margins become positive.

"Ethanol blended in the fuel supply can be produced domestically or imported from Brazil (or indirectly from Brazil through Caribbean countries). Under a blend wall constraint, imported ethanol from Brazil replaces domestically produced ethanol in the fuel supply. The magnitude of those imports, then, has important implications for the domestic ethanol industry and the demand for corn. The magnitude of U.S. ethanol imports are determined by both supply and demand considerations. The supply of Brazilian ethanol available to export to the U.S. equals Brazilian production minus domestic Brazilian consumption minus exports to other countries. Brazilian ethanol production in 2013 is expected to be larger than the 5.6 billion gallons of the past two years due to an abundant sugar cane crop and lower sugar prices. Production may be nearer the seven billion gallons of 2010. On the other hand, the ethanol blend in the Brazilian fuel supply is scheduled to increase starting next month. The U.S. imported about 490 million gallons of Brazilian ethanol in 2012. Peak imports were at 730 million gallons in 2006. On balance, the supply of Brazilian ethanol available for export to the U.S. this year is not expected to constrain imports."

After a more detailed analysis, yesterday's farmdoc update concluded by pointed out that, "Brazilian ethanol imports in 2013 of 600 million gallons are 400 million gallons larger than our earlier forecast and imply:

1. 400 million fewer gallons of domestic ethanol production,

2. 145 million fewer bushels of corn consumption, and

3. A faster drawdown in ethanol blending credits.

"This analysis also underscores the importance of the rate of growth in consumption of E85. A more rapid growth rate would expand the ethanol blend wall allowing larger domestic ethanol production and larger corn consumption. We will examine the conditions necessary for E85 expansion in a future post."

Bee Study

John M. Broder reported in today's New York Times that, "The devastation of American honeybee colonies is the result of a complex stew of factors, including pesticides, parasites, poor nutrition and a lack of genetic diversity, according to a comprehensive federal study published on Thursday. The problems affect pollination of American agricultural products worth tens of billions of dollars a year.

"The report does not place more weight on one factor over another, and recommends a range of actions and further research."


A news release yesterday from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) stated that, "The [NCBA] is appalled to learn that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to illegally release information on cattle operations to the activist groups Earth Justice, the Pew Charitable Trust and the Natural Resources Defense Council. In this latest action, the agency again admitted it had released too much information on livestock producers, specifically producers from Montana and Nebraska. This action happened less a month after the agency found it had released too much information on livestock producers in 10 states."