Government News -
Wednesday, 24 November 2010 15:39
By Keith Good
Farm Bill issues
The “Washington Insider” section of DTN reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “It is now safe to conclude the next farm bill will have a hard time reaching the funding level of the 2008 version — for several reasons. One is because 37 programs totaling around $9.5 billion will lose their baseline funding level in 2011. Some of that funding could be found, like budget offsets for the disaster/SURE program, which makes up just over 40 percent of the no-baseline amount. And some of the offsets could be found from some other farm bill funding levels.
“But the major budget test for the new farm bill could come a year or two after it is actually completed. Reason: Congress will eventually take steps to deal with the budget deficit and farm program spending will be part of that process. Still, many observers signal farm program cuts will be more backloaded — gaining momentum as the likely five- or six-year farm bill unfolds.”
Philip Brasher reported yesterday at the Green Fields Blog (Des Moines Register) that, “Sen. Charles Grassley says the next chairman of the Senate agriculture committee, Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow, is ‘a person that I can work with.’
“But while Stabenow supported the 2008 farm bill, Grassley says he isn’t clear on what her positions are going to be when it comes to farm subsidies.
“‘I don’t have a firm view of her in mind of where she stands on the things that are very big for the safety net for farmers, the present program crops,’ Grassley, R-Ia., said on his weekly conference call with reporters.”
Mr. Brasher added that, “Although Michigan produces the same crops as other areas of the Midwest the state ranks No. 11 nationally in corn production – fruits and vegetables also are widely grown in the state. Michigan is known for its cherries, apples and blueberries and ranks fifth in production of fruit, tree nuts and berries, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.
“Stabenow has been an advocate on the committee for marketing support for fruit and vegetable producers.
“‘Coming from the state of Michigan you could expect her to have more of a sensitivity toward fruits and vegetables,’ Grassley said.”
Meanwhile, on the heels of the development of farm policy directives from the Iowa Farm Bureau (recap) and the Oklahoma Farm Bureau (recap), the Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) is set to hold its annual meeting next week (Nov. 30 to Dec. 3). With theascension of Sen. Debbie Stabenow to the Chairmanship of the Senate Agriculture Committee, perhaps the outcome of this annual meeting will take on added significance.
An MFB news item from last week noted that, “The current farm bill, adopted in 2008, expires in 2012. Beginning next year, the incoming Congress is expected to start proceedings for the bill’s re-write.
“The policy resolution that will go before delegates recommends maintaining the course of the current farm bill but with a renewed focus on risk management programs for agricultural commodities over traditional direct payments for certain crops.”
In other policy news, DTN writer Katie Micik filed a report yesterday from Bloomington, IL (link requires subscription), where she noted that, “U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told a commodity-group conference that he heard two words over and over from the time he walked through the Double Tree hotel doors: estate tax.
“‘I get it. I hear what you’re saying,’ Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, told the crowd, a mix of farmers, bankers and ag business leaders gathered for the annual Illinois Commodity Conference, which is organized by the state corn, soybean, beef and pork commodity associations and the Illinois Farm Bureau.
“The estate tax expired at the end of the 2009, but anxiety is setting in throughout farm country because the tax is expected to return with a $1 million exemption and 55 percent rate in January.”
The DTN article added that, “[Sen. Durbin] said he’d also like to see the Food Safety Modernization Act passed in the lame-duck session. He said there have been debates about whether changes to the food safety system need to be sweeping or small.
“‘The big debate said why in the world do we have a dozen federal agencies looking at this issue? Why is USDA sitting in that meat plant, poultry plant everyday and the FDA shows up once a year? Why is one agency inspecting cheese pizza and another pepperoni pizzas? Why does one agency look at broken eggs and the other one look at whole eggs? You can’t explain it.’
“‘But it was too big to swallow, and I couldn’t sell it politically. So we went back down to a lower level, and I said let’s move forward on food safety from where we are today. We finally put together a heck of coalition. … We’ve got a chance to do something significant here.’”
Yesterday’s article reminded readers that, “Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., held up a vote on food safety legislation before the Thanksgiving holiday by requiring Congress to have a debate about banning earmarks for three years, a measure he’d like to attach to the bill.”
In news regarding new GOP members of Congress, Ledyard King reported earlier this week at the Argus Leader Online (SD) that, “On the campaign trail, Democrats derisively dubbed Republican Kristi Noem ‘South Dakota’s Sarah Palin.’ Noem bristled at the label, saying she was her own candidate and didn’t even want the former Alaska governor to campaign for her.
“But after her first week in Washington getting acclimated to her new job as a member of Congress, the comparison might not be that far off.
“Like Palin, Noem has emerged as a star of sorts, standing out in a freshman Republican class that already has made a name for itself more than a month before lawmakers are sworn into office. She was elected to a coveted leadership post and has been sought out by national and international media. Even her fellow freshmen seem a little in awe of the 38-year-old rancher from Castlewood.”
The article added that, “Despite the Palin comparisons, Noem hasn’t decided whether she will join the tea party caucus in the House.”
Rep. Elect Noem spoke about her orientation in Washington, D.C. in a recent press conference that was posted yesterday at the Argus Leader Online.
In this brief audio clip from the press conference, (MP3- 2:00) Rep. Elect Noem talked about how new Members of Congress could potentially set the tone for what can happen in Washington after January, and expressed interest in being on the Agriculture Committee.
In executive branch news developments, an Online CBS show with Katie Couric that was posted yesterday highlighted the issue of hunger in America and featured Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
Greg Sargent reported yesterday at The Plum Line Blog (Washington Post) that, “It looks like Chuck Grassley is not happy with fellow GOP senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn for calling on Congress to let billions in ethanol subsidies expire this year.
“As I reported here yesterday, DeMint and Coburn, two leading conservatives, are calling on fellow Republicans to support letting the subidies expire as a way to prove the GOP is serious about reining in government spending. Just as the battle over earmarks did, ethanol subsidies could put GOP Senators who have supported them in the past — such as Grassley and Orrin Hatch — in an awkward spot, driving a wedge between them and conservatives who want a harder line on spending.”
Yesterday’s update added that, “With Coburn throwing down the gauntlet and saying not even subsidies for the oil and gas industries should be off the table, it seems like there’s a clear opening here for an unorthodox alliance between conservatives like DeMint and Coburn and green groups who also condemn such subsidies. It’s unclear as of yet how hard DeMint and Coburn will push this crusade, but Coburn in particular does seem pretty serious.
“While the issue could divide Dems along regional lines as well, it seems more directly relevant to the GOP as a clear test of how serious they are about living up to their anti-spending rhetoric.”
Reuters writer Tom Doggett reported yesterday that, “The White House cleared the way for the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a final rule on how much ethanol and other renewable automobile fuels will be sold next year.
“The EPA proposed in July that biofuels fuels would account for 7.95 percent of total gasoline sales next year to meet a congressional mandate that at least 13.95 billion gallons of renewable fuels be produced in 2011.
“The final number, which the agency plans to issue next week, could still be changed.”
Mr. Doggett noted that, “The White House Office of Management and Budget posted a notice on its website that it approved the rule on Monday, but did not provide details on what the final regulation looked like.
“EPA officials declined to comment on whether the final rule differs from its July proposal.
“The proposed 2011 rule is less than the 8.25 percent renewable fuels standard set for this year.”
Reuters writer Jonathan Lynn reported yesterday that, “Russia has entered the final stage of its 17-year-bid to join the World Trade Organization and outstanding issues should be resolved in the coming months, Economy Minister Elvira Nabiullina said on Tuesday.”
Bloomberg writer Marina Sysoyeva reported yesterday that, “Russia will cut its poultry import quota to 350,000 metric tons next year, 50 percent less than this year and about 40 percent less than originally planned… [R]ussia introduced import quotas in 2003 to help domestic producers. Quotas were cut by 18 percent this year in a bid to increase national production.”
And Reuters writer Christopher Doering reported yesterday that, “Chinese importers intend to buy more than 5.5 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans from seven U.S. companies, including Cargill, valued at nearly $3 billion, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department and industry officials."
A news release earlier this week from Purdue University stated that, “Grain prices moved higher this year and the costs of growing them are likely to do the same in the year ahead, according to Purdue University estimates.
“The 2011 Purdue Crop Cost & Return Guide projects that farmers could see double-digit increases in variable costs, which include fertilizer, seed, pesticides, fuel, machinery and other expenses not related to labor or land rental.”
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Williams reported yesterday at DTN (link requires subscription) that, “It’s easy to find some jaw-dropping farmland sales since the commodity prices gained steam this fall, but real estate deals are more in the ‘steadily increasing’ range, rather than repeating the frenzy of the 1970s, land watchers say.”
“Still, some extreme sales leave onlookers buzzing. Take the recent 80-acre auction in Sioux County, Iowa, which brought $13,950 per acre. It was not a ‘development’ price, but for ground with a Corn Suitability Rating of 70, which is productive but fairly common quality for northwest Iowa. The bidding started at $7,500, went up in $100-per-acre increments, recessed twice, at $11,000 per acre and at $12,000 per acre when it thinned to two bidders. The entire auction took 25 minutes.”
Yesterday’s article, which included additional analysis and more detailed regional information, indicated that, “At the annual ag lenders conference held in early November, Jim Farrell, president and CEO of Farmers National Company in Omaha, reported strong cropland appreciation throughout his national trade area. Here’s how his agents assessed real estate trends, based on a September survey:
“High-quality land in Illinois averaged $8,000 per acre, the priciest in the survey. Average to below-average Illinois land ran $5,200.”
Ken Anderson reported yesterday at Brownfield that, “Saying there are a lot of unanswered questions, Ohio’s next agriculture director plans to take a closer look at the animal care deal arranged by that state’s outgoing governor and animal rights activists—specifically the Humane Society of the United States.
“According to wire reports, James Zehringer’s biggest concern is that the proposed regulations will stifle the growth of agriculture in Ohio. Zehringer, a former poultry farmer who’s been a state lawmaker for the past three years, has been highly critical of what he has calls ‘out-of-state-activists.’ He says he’s not convinced the animal rights groups will stop with what was outlined in the agreement.
“HSUS already has said that it will revive an animal welfare ballot issue if the Ohio deal falls apart. HSUS president and CEO Wayne Pacelle says he would be surprised if changes are made because the state’s agriculture industry leaders backed the proposal.”
Ian Johnson reported yesterday at The New York Times Online that, “Senior Chinese officials said on Tuesday that next week’s climate talks in Cancún, Mexico, would succeed only if the West agreed to transfer technology to developing countries like China and to take the lead in cutting emissions.
“The comments by one of China’s senior officials in charge of climate issues, Xie Zhenhua of the powerful National Development and Reform Commission, were mirrored by two other senior Chinese climate officials who earlier this week published a report saying China was willing to make concessions — if developed nations put money into a $30 billion fund aimed at helping poor nations cope with global warming.
“Western countries pledged to set up such a fund but details have yet to be worked out. Mr. Xie said it would be the key to securing a deal to the 1997 Kyoto treaty, which is due to expire in 2012.”
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