- Farm Bill; Appropriations; and, Immigration- Wednesday
- Farm Bill; and, Trade- Tuesday
- Farm Bill; Ag Economy; Regulations; Biofuels; and, Immigration- Monday
- Video: Leader Cantor, Whip Hoyer Discuss Farm Bill
- Farm Bill; Appropriations; Ag Economy; and, Immigration
- Farm Bill; Ag Economy; Regulations; and, Immigration
- Rep. Smith seeks assurances for ethanol, beef, other agriculture opportunities
- Farm Bill; Budget; Trade; Wheat; and, Immigration
- Farm Bill; Ag Economy; Smithfield; and, Immigration
- Farm Bill Issues; Ag Economy; Biofuels; and, Immigration
- Farm Bill; Ag Economy; Wheat; Regs; Immigration; and, the Budget
- Sen. Thune Discuesses Farm Bill, Target Prices on Senate Floor
- Chairwoman Stabenow, Ranking Member Cochran Highlight Farm Bill
- Farm Bill; Approps; Ag Econ; Wheat; Sec. Vilsack; Smithfield; Biofuels
- 2013 Corn Acres (Prevent Plant & Replant) & Soybeans
- Federal Reserve Beige Book: Observations on the Ag Economy- June 2013
_Farm Bill: House Floor Discussion Begins as Uncertainty About Final Passage Lingers- Rules Committee: 103 Amendments Made in Order, Final Vote Could “Spill” Into Next Week _ Lawmakers began discussing the Farm Bill on the House floor yesterday afternoon while the Rules Committee simultaneously sought to determine which of the over 225 amendments to the measure would be considered for votes. Late last night, the Rules Committee reconvened to report the rule for H.R. 1947. According to a Rules Committee “wrap-up” that was released today, a total of 103 AMENDMENTS WERE MADE IN ORDER. The Rules Committee list of amendments and the update status of those amendments has been posted at this Rules Committee webpage. And the House floor schedule for today indicated that, “On Wednesday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business. First votes expected: 1:30 - 2:30 p.m. Last votes expected: 5:30 - 7:00 p.m.” The update added that, “The Rule provides for no further general debate, makes in order the following amendments and allows for the Chairman to offer amendments en bloc: A FULL LIST OF THE 103 AMENDMENTS MADE IN ORDER CAN BE FOUND HERE.” Meanwhile, members from rural districts were “scrambling” to secure the necessary 218 votes necessary to pass the legislation. David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “House Minority Leader NANCY PELOSI said Tuesday that she is ‘not likely’ to support the new Farm Bill and warned Republicans that the burden is on them to come up with the votes after insisting on major cuts from food stamps.” “A veteran of past farm bill fights, Pelosi is not unsympathetic with this goal and she remains close to Rep. COLLIN PETERSON (D- Minn.), the Democratic floor manager for the bill,” Mr. Rogers noted. The article indicated that, “‘They will get some Democratic votes if they don’t mess it up with the amendment process,’ she said. ‘But when I was speaker, every time we had a vote and I picked up the paper it said ‘Today’s vote tests the Pelosi leadership.’ I had to come up with the votes. We never said we didn’t win because we didn’t have enough Republican votes.’ “‘They have 218,’ she added of Republicans. ‘They have the bill that they want that is flies in the face of the values of our caucus. They have to come up with 218.’” Emma Dumain reported yesterday at Roll Call Online that, “House Minority Whip STENY H. HOYER is pushing Republicans to give votes to Democrats’ amendments for the GOP’s farm bill if they want his vote and those of many other Democrats. “The Maryland Democrat continued to raise doubts about whether the bill would have the votes to pass.” The Roll Call item noted that, “‘There are 227 amendments that are going to be filed,’ Hoyer said, adding that he would ‘reserve judgment’ on the bill until the Rules Committee determines which amendments would be brought up for votes.” Corey Boles reported yesterday at the Washington Wire Blog (Wall Street Journal) that, “Rep. STENY HOYER (D., Md.) said he thought some Democrats would vote to advance the legislation out of the House because they support the underlying programs aimed at farmers and are confident the Democratic-controlled Senate will hold firm in opposition to the deep cuts to nutrition programs during later negotiations.” Pete Kasperowicz reported yesterday at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “Rep. COLLIN PETERSON (D-Minn.), the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, downplayed cuts to the federal food stamp program in the farm bill by saying every federal program can stand to be trimmed. “‘While I think it's ridiculous to cut hundreds of billions of dollars out of nutrition programs as some members have called for, I also don't think it's realistic to say that we can't cut one penny from these programs,’ Peterson said at the start of House debate on the bill. ‘Because clearly, there isn't a government program that couldn't stand some reductions.’” Ranking Member Peterson also noted on the floor that, “THE BILL MAKES MAJOR REFORMS TO FARM PROGRAMS. Repealing direct payments saves taxpayers nearly $40 billion dollars and will ensure that farmers won’t get a government subsidy for doing nothing. Instead, producers are given the choice between two counter-cyclical farm safety net programs, addressing either price declines or revenue losses, which only support farmers during difficult times. The bill also sets new income requirements so individual millionaires won’t receive farm payments and it continues the no cost sugar program.” Chairman FRANK LUCAS (R., Okla.) noted on the House floor yesterday that, “In addition to eliminating direct payments, we also repeal the ACRE program, the disaster program for crops, and the counter-cyclical program. My philosophy from the beginning of the farm bill process has been that these programs had to be based on market economics and they had to work for all crops in all regions of the country. Our bill achieves this while also saving $23 billion, which is a record 36 percent spending reduction.” Chairman Lucas added that, “The FARRM Act also reforms SNAP for the first time in decades. We do this by ensuring that states, which administer the program, cannot circumvent the law and endanger the integrity of the program. We end the broad-based categorical eligibility loophole that states use to waive the asset and income tests set by Congress. We end the ‘Heat and Eat’ loophole, so states can’t send token $1 checks to increase participants’ benefits. We end state bonuses for responsibly administering SNAP – a practice they should be doing anyway.” Meanwhile, Emma Dumain reported last night at Roll Call Online that, “DEMOCRATIC AND REPUBLICAN AIDES SIGNALED TUESDAY EVENING THAT FINAL PASSAGE OF THE FARM BILL COULD BE DELAYED UNTIL NEXT WEEK, as the House Rules Committee sifts through more than 200 amendments and leadership on both sides of the aisle wonder whether there are even enough votes to pass it. “‘Sounds like [Republicans] are having trouble rounding up votes and need more time to try to get them,’ one Democratic leadership aide said. “A Republican leadership aide, meanwhile, attributed the holdup to the sheer volume of amendments.” David Rogers, writing last night at Politico, reported that, “REPUBLICANS SIGNALED LATE TUESDAY THAT THE HOUSE FARM BILL DEBATE IS LIKELY TO SPILL INTO NEXT WEEK AS THE LEADERSHIP COPES WITH SCORES OF AMENDMENT REQUESTS AND UNRELATED CHANGES IN THE FLOOR SCHEDULE. “The sudden shift upset top members of the House Agriculture Committee, fearful of leaving the giant bill exposed over the weekend. But Majority Whip KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-Calif.) told POLITICO he was confident still of winning passage.” Mr. Rogers explained that, “General farm bill debate opened Tuesday afternoon, and Agriculture Committee Chairman FRANK LUCAS (R-Okla.) had envisioned beginning amendments as early as 10 a.m. Wednesday and working well into the night. He knew he faced a 3 p.m. deadline Thursday, the time at which House members had been promised they can leave for the weekend. But Lucas and his ranking Democrat, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, felt the task was doable. “Matched against this schedule was the fact that close to 220 amendments had been filed with the House Rules Committee. And late Tuesday, Lucas was told that because of other scheduling considerations, the farm bill will not be back up until about 2:30 Wednesday afternoon.” In addition, Jerry Hagstrom reported last night at National Journal Online that, “THE HOUSE MAY NOT BE ABLE TO FINISH WORK ON THE FARM BILL BY THURSDAY AS LEADERS OF THE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE HAD HOPED BEFORE DEBATE ON THE MASSIVE MEASURE BEGAN TUESDAY, LARGELY because of a pileup of amendments that could require as many as 50 roll-call votes in two days. “House Agriculture Committee Chairman FRANK LUCAS, R-Okla., and ranking member COLLIN PETERSON, D-Minn., had said Monday they were determined to finish the bill by 3 p.m. Thursday, the time that House Majority Leader ERIC CANTOR, R-Va., has set for the final votes of the week. BUT A KNOWLEDGEABLE DEMOCRATIC AIDE SAID TUESDAY THAT THE PLAN LOOKED INCREASINGLY UNREALISTIC. “IT WAS ALSO UNCLEAR AS THE DEBATE STARTED WHETHER THE VOTES EXIST TO PASS THE BILL AT ANY TIME.” Mr. Hagstrom noted that, “The real question is whether congressional leaders have the votes to pass the bill. ‘It is not clear to anyone if there is a path to 218 or how to get there,’ the Democratic aide said. “The big problem, the aide noted, is that the amendments—ranging from reversing or increasing a proposed Republican cut in the food-stamp program to putting restrictions on crop insurance—seem more likely to discourage votes for final passage than improve them. In the past, members have used amendments to get things for their districts that constituents wanted, but this year the tea-party Republicans who want to cut government appear to be dominating the process.” The National Journal item pointed out that, “Some 42 members of the House asked to appear before the committee, which met for hours Tuesday to listen to them.” More specifically on the Rules Committee meeting yesterday, Chris Clayton reported yesterday at the DTN Ag Policy Blog that, “Leading off, Rep. BOB GOODLATTE, R-Va., championed his amendment with ten other congressmen to eliminate the dairy supply provisions in the committee bill and replace it with a margin insurance program [ruled in order]. “Goodlatte's amendment failed in the committee, but the dairy reform measures in the bill are among some of the most divisive changes in the farmer safety net. Goodlatte noted the market stabilization program would attempt to manage the U.S. milk supply, leading to higher prices for consumers. Goodlatte and others would rather provide a margin insurance program for farmers ranging from $4 to $8 per cwt.” The Wall Street Journal editorial board opined on the dairy issue in today’s paper, “Price Fixing Milk.” During the Rules Committee debate yesterday, Rep. BOB GIBBS (R., Ohio) discussed his amendment that is cosponsored with Rep. RON KIND (D., Wis.) regarding target prices (ruled in order). “I believe back in the 1995 farm bill a direction was changed where we were seeing the farmers that were going to move market oriented bills, where the farmers would get their directions for making planning decisions and management decisions based on what the market was telling them. Prior to that they were more making decisions based on what the farm program was,” Rep. Gibbs said. “And my concern is where the target prices are set in the chairman’s mark is moving back to that, because too many of the major program crops are set near or above the cost of production, and that’s market distortion.” He added that, “And being a farmer myself, we should be aware of the fact that there’s a lot of volatility in commodity prices. For example, IF we have a record corn crop this year and another one next year, I can almost, you know, I would speculate that we will be down below the target price level set in the chairman’s mark, and the taxpayers will be paying for it.” A news release yesterday from the NATIONAL FARMERS UNION (NFU) indicated that, “NFU argues that modifying PLC [Price Loss Coverage] to establish a reference price based on a five-year Olympic average price, as some have suggested, would weaken the safety net as multiple years of lower prices would decrease the support prices to very low levels.” Rep. PETER WELCH, speaking yesterday at the Rules Committee about an amendment regarding the RENEWABLE FUEL STANDARD, noted that, “Dairy farmers, one of the biggest costs they have is the cost of grain. And there’s been this explosion in price, significantly as a result of the ethanol mandate that is diverting so much of corn production into ethanol production.” The Vermont Democrat added that, “So I think it’s time for Congress to step back and ask the question as to whether or not this well intentioned ethanol mandate actually makes sense, does it work. My conclusion is it doesn’t.” (This amendment was not made in order). And Rep. CHARLIE RANGEL (D., N.Y.) discussed his amendment on trade with Cuba at the Rules Committee; saying in part, “Basically, this removes any restrictions on the ability of Cuba to buy U.S. products, especially agricultural products, by removing the cash only provision. As you know, we’ve had this embargo for over 50 years. The main objective of the embargo was to get rid of President Fidel and/or his brother, and they’re still there, and we’ve had 11 presidents since that time.” (This amendment was not made in order). And with respect to the SNAP program, Rep. TOM MARINO (R., Pa.) discussed an amendment he introduced that would gather data on SNAP purchases (made in order). “I’ve been working closely with the leader’s office, and the legislative office, and instead of my amendment implementing a national legislation, we’ve agreed to…GAO has agreed TO HELP IMPLEMENT A PILOT STUDY IN NINE STATES TO SEE HOW AND ON WHAT FOOD STAMP MONEY IS BEING SPENT,” he said. Rep. Marino explained that, “There’s no transparency on this. WE HAVE NO EVIDENCE, NO EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE TO SHOW WHO’S USING THE SNAP CARD AND WHAT IS BEING DONE WITH THE SNAP CARD. And it’s not new legislation. It’s not a new mandate. Title 7 USC 2020 requires stores to keep data on the SNAP sales, and it’s simply not being done. And what I’m asking is that there be a study to see if we can at least curtail the waste, fraud and abuse and how we go about it.” And Rep. MIKE CONAWAY (R., Tex.) discussed his amendment [was ruled in order] that, “Requires a 10% reduction in the Thrifty Food Plan calculation in any year that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is not authorized.” An audio clip from his presentation on this amendment can be heard here (MP3- 1:21). Rep. Conaway explained that, “Whether you like it or not, we have had this marriage between the safety net for production agriculture and nutrition programs that has worked well to get this thing across to the 218 votes that we need.” He added that, “The nutrition program has no skin in the game if we don’t reauthorize [the Farm Bill]. In other words if we run past the September 30 deadline, the SNAP program just keeps churning along with the way it is.” His amendment “would create a sense of urgency among the nutrition program folks who support that, to help them help us, get the 218 votes we need,” Rep. Conaway said. Rep. JEFF DENHAM (R., Calf.), who spoke at length during the Ag Committee markup of the Farm Bill about animal production issues and interstate commerce, yesterday elaborated on an amendment he is co-sponsoring with five other lawmakers, including KURT SCHRADER (D., Ore.) that would “create a uniform national standard for housing of egg-laying hens.” To listen to a brief clip from Reps. Denham and Schrader from yesterday’s Rules Committee hearing, just click here (MP3- 3:31). Rep. Denham pointed out: “This is an industry solution- deals only with egg laying hens and HAS NO IMPACT ON OTHER ANIMAL AGRICULTURE.” (The amendment was not made in order.) In addition, an amendment submitted by Reps. RON KIND (D., Wis.), THOMAS PETRI (R., Wis.) and others, that, “Limits premium subsidies to those producers with an AGI under $250,000 and limits per person premium subsidies to $50,000 and caps crop insurance providers’ reimbursement of administrative and operating at $900 million and reduces their rate of return to 12%. Introduces transparency into the crop insurance program,” was made in order. A GOP amendment sponsored by Rep. TIM HUELSKAMP (R., Kans.) and others that, “Creates additional work requirements for SNAP recipients and raises the total reduction in spending to $31 billion,” was also ruled in order. And an amendment by Rep. JIM MCGOVERN (D., Mass.) and other Democrat members that, “Restores the $20.5 billion cuts in SNAP by offsetting the Farm Risk Management Election Program and the Supplemental Coverage Option,” was ruled in order. A press comment on the Farm Bill rule from the NATIONAL SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE COALITION (NSAC) today indicated that, “We are pleased the Rule will allow a vote on the Fortenberry commodity program payment limit reform and Thompson-Fortenberry conservation accountability amendments. However, we nonetheless are urging a no vote on the Rule for allowing no debate and no vote on the other major reform amendments backed by NSAC -- the Hanna crop insurance AGI amendment, the Petri premium subsidy limitation amendment, the Speier insurance subsidy transparency amendment, the Kaptur farmer protection against retaliation amendment, the Kuster organic farmer EQIP payment limit equalization amendment, the Lujan-Grisham minority farmer amendment, and the Pingree local food and rural economic development amendment. It is a sad day when bipartisan reform amendments with very broad appeal and excellent chances for passage are killed via rule before they can even be debated. That is not the way to build widespread support for the farm bill. Quite the contrary.” _Appropriations_ A news release yesterday from the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee indicated that, “The U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies today approved fiscal year 2014 funding legislation that totals $20.93 billion, which is $420 million above the fiscal year 2013 enacted level. “The bill funds the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, and provides critical investments in programs that will directly impact public health and safety, including nutrition programs, housing and water programs, agricultural research, food and drug safety, and international food assistance.” Subcommittee Ranking Member ROY BLUNT (R., Mo.), in part, discussed specific issues associated with agricultural research and food aid at yesterday’s markup- audio clip here (MP3- 1:29). _Immigration_ Sara Murray and Kristina Peterson reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “A SWEEPING EFFORT TO REWRITE THE NATION'S IMMIGRATION LAWS WOULD SHRINK FEDERAL DEFICITS OVER THE NEXT TWO DECADES, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday in a report that could help win Republican support for the measure. “The legislation would save $175 billion over a decade by prompting a labor-force expansion that boosts U.S. income- and payroll-tax collections, said the CBO, the nonpartisan agency that advises Congress on budget and economic matters.” And Molly K. Hooper reported yesterday at The Hill Online that, “Speaker JOHN BOEHNER (R-Ohio) on Tuesday told GOP lawmakers that he would adhere to the ‘Hastert Rule’ on immigration reform and not hold a vote without the support of a majority of the caucus. “‘I don't see any way of bringing an immigration bill to the floor that doesn't have a majority support of Republicans,’ Boehner told reporters following a closed-door House GOP conference meeting, where he offered a similar message to his members.” _Keith Good_
_Farm Bill- Policy Issues_ The House Rules Committee convened yesterday and began a discussion relating to the Farm Bill (H.R. 1947). At yesterday’s meeting, Ag Committee Chairman FRANK LUCAS (R., Okla.) and Ranking Member COLLIN PETERSON (D., Minn.) fielded several general questions about the legislation and provided an overview of some key variables of the law. In an exchange with Rep. ROB WOODALL (R., Ga.), Chairman Lucas noted changes contained in the Bill that impact the commodity title, as well as the SNAP program, and indicated that the Ag Committee sought “to achieve a balance.” “What I think Collin and I and the committee attempted to do on the commodity side was to say that certain policies such as the old direct payment program from 1996, while it might still be the most WTO trade compliant law, was unsustainable in the eyes of the membership and eyes of the popular press, which sometimes doesn’t always get into the details,” Chairman Lucas said. With respect to the nuances of the changes in SNAP, Chairman Lucas explained that: “Now in some things like ‘CAT EL’ that the ranking member alluded to, CATEGORICAL ELIGIBILITY, there are a number of states, 40 something, approximately, that use some law from the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 to say that IF YOU QUALIFY FOR CERTAIN FEDERAL WELFARE BENEFITS, YOU AUTOMATICALLY GET FOOD STAMPS. We simply say in the bill you’ve got to apply—demonstrate your income, demonstrate your assets and we’ll help you, but you’ve just got to apply.” Chairman Lucas added that, “LIHEAP [LOW INCOME HOME ENERGY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM] is a program where a handful of states have used the flexibility of the ’96 law to say that if we are helping you with your home heating costs, then you can automatically qualify for a full month’s worth of food stamps. In the bill we simply say, not to take away a state’s ability to decide how they should use their own resources, we simply say instead of sending out one dollar to get a full month’s worth of food stamps, you have to send out $20. That saves about $8 billion.” Ranking Member PETERSON indicated yesterday that, “You know, these changes were made for administrative efficiency. The LIHEAP thing happened in the ‘80s, the ‘Cat El’ happened in ’96 when we block granted welfare. You know, we haven’t updated the income and asset requirements in the food stamp program for probably 30 years. So it’s at 130% of poverty, the income, and there’s a $2,000 asset limit individual, 3,500 for a family, and a car limitation. You can’t have a car that’s worth more than $4,500. “Well, you know, those things need to be updated. In this day and age, if you want people to work, they’ve got to have a car, so most of the states have eliminated that. So the ‘Cat El,’ you’ve got nine states that are using the federal requirements, so the people in those states, if they’re above 130, they don’t get food stamps. But there’s like, I don’t know, probably 14 states that have 200% of poverty, so in those states you can have a lot more income and get food stamps. “Well, I don’t think that’s right. So the states are deciding who gets food stamps, and then we’re paying for it. That’s not a very smart system. So I’d like to see us update, raise the income levels, raise the asset levels, and treat everybody in the country the same. That’s what I’d like to see us do. We couldn’t get that done.” Jerry Hagstrom, writing yesterday at National Journal Online about the Rules Committee hearing, reported that, “But PETERSON also noted that many Democrats have problems with the size of the cut to SNAP. He said that it would have been his choice to update the eligibility standards and asset tests for SNAP, but that the committee had been unable to do that. Instead, the bill would limit the tie between low-income energy assistance and SNAP qualification and limit the use of what is known as categorical eligibility—a provision from the 1996 welfare-reform law that gives states flexibility to set the income levels and asset tests used to qualify for SNAP. Peterson said he believes it’s not fair that qualification standards vary by state, but he added that the national standard for the value of a car that a SNAP beneficiary can own is only $4,500.” House Rules Committee Member JIM MCGOVERN (D., Mass.), who also serves on the Ag Committee, tweeted yesterday that, “While on the #SNAPChallenge, I'm in Rules Committee fighting for a full & fair debate over #SNAPCuts on the House Floor. #farmbill” A tweet yesterday from the House Agriculture Committee, which included a brief slide, stated that: “House to vote this week on #farmbill. Here's a quick guide to what's at stake w/ #SNAP reforms. #voteforFARRM pic.twitter.com/ZDUQn7xJYC” The Rules Committee also announced yesterday that an additional meeting will be held today, Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at 2:00 PM; and stated that, “This hearing is a continuation of the Committee's consideration of H.R. 1947; IT WILL ADDRESS AMENDMENTS SUBMITTED TO THE BILL.” The Rules Committee posted all of the amendments that were filed to the Farm Bill at this webpage, which also includes the sponsor of each amendment, along with a brief explanation. There are over 220 amendments listed on the Rules Committee webpage. Chris Clayton explained yesterday at the DTN Ag Policy Blog that, “THE NUMBER OF AMENDMENTS FORCED THE HOUSE RULES COMMITTEE TO HOLD A MONDAY MEETING TO DISCUSS THE UNDERLYING BILL WHILE SCHEDULING A SEPARATE MEETING TUESDAY AFTERNOON TO DISCUSS HOW THE DEBATE ON AMENDMENTS WILL BE HANDLED. “That effectively means debate on amendments would not begin until Wednesday afternoon. Given that the House is scheduled for its final vote of the week on Thursday afternoon, it LOOKS LIKE THE HOUSE COULD GO INTO A MARATHON SESSION WEDNESDAY EVENING TO GET THE HOUSE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE'S BILL DONE.” In his National Journal article from yesterday, Jerry Hagstrom pointed out that, “The House schedule calls for the last vote of the week to be held Thursday at 3 p.m., but after the Rules meeting BOTH LUCAS AND PETERSON EXPRESSED CONFIDENCE THAT THE BILL WILL PASS BY THEN. ‘YES, YES, YES,’ LUCAS SAID OF THURSDAY’S FINAL PASSAGE.” Mr. Hagstrom also noted that, “Peterson noted that he and House Speaker JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio, disagree over the dairy title, but each has agreed to support the bill regardless of how the title turns out on the House floor.” In a brief look at a few of the amendments to the Farm Bill, a GOP amendment sponsored by Reps. DOUG LAMALFA (CA), LYNN WESTMORELAND (GA), RICHARD HUDSON (NC), and TED YOHO (FL), “Severs the interaction between the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the SNAP standard utility allowance (SUA).” Former Ag Committee Chairman BOB GOODLATTE (R., Va.) issued a news release yesterday titled, “Bipartisan Coalition Introduces Amendment to Remove Dairy Supply Management from the Farm Bill.” Also, Rep. MARLIN STUTZMAN (R., Ind.) indicated in a news release yesterday that, “Stutzman, a fourth-generation farmer from Indiana, filed amendments with the House Committee on Rules today to divide the farm bill into a true, ‘farm-only’ farm bill and separate food stamp legislation.” Reps. BOB GIBBS (R., Ohio) and RON KIND (D., Wis.) filed an amendment that: “Sets the target price for all crops at 55 percent of the five year rolling Olympic average. The amendment also changes the acreage available for target price support to 85 percent of the farmer’s base acres.” And a bipartisan amendment by Reps. RICHARD HANNA (R., NY), CHELLIE PINGREE (D., ME), RON KIND (D., WI), and THOMAS PETRI (R., WI) “Reduces by 15 percent the level of crop insurance premium subsidies for individual participants with an annual Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) over $750,000.” A separate amendment by MIKE THOMPSON (D., Calif.) and JEFF FORTENBERRY (R., Neb.) would, “Require a conservation compliance plan be filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and followed for all crops in wetlands and all annually tilled crops on highly erodible lands in order to qualify for crop insurance premium subsidy assistance.” Also, an amendment with six bipartisan cosponsors, including JEFF DENHAM (R., Calif.) and KURT SCHRADER (D. Ore.), “Strikes section 12314 of the bill and replaces it with the text of H.R. 1731, a bill to create a uniform national standard for housing of egg-laying hens.” With respect to this issue, Carla Hall noted yesterday at the Los Angeles Times Online that, “THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES IS GEARING UP FOR A BIG EGG FIGHT AS EARLY AS WEDNESDAY WHEN IT TAKES UP THE PROPOSED FARM BILL AND WHETHER STATES CAN REGULATE HOW AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS OUTSIDE ITS BORDERS ARE MANUFACTURED OR RAISED. “This all stems from Proposition 2, the California initiative that outlawed tiny, cramped cages for egg-laying hens and was approved, overwhelmingly, by voters in 2008…[T]he measure applied only to California egg farmers — who argued it would be costly to retrofit and would force them to raise their egg prices — while out-of-state producers still using the old cages could sell their eggs across state lines to Californians at a cheaper price. So the state wisely passed a bill two years later that set standards for all eggs sold in California. All would have to come from farms that gave hens roomier quarters and met California’s standards for egg farming.” Ms. Hall noted that, “Now, a farm bill amendment from Rep. STEVE KING, a Republican from Iowa (where, you guessed it, they produce more eggs for sale than in any other state) WOULD PROHIBIT ANY STATE FROM PUTTING CONDITIONS ON ANY OTHER STATE’S AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION METHODS BEYOND WHAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ALREADY REQUIRES. Doing otherwise would interfere with interstate commerce, supporters say, which only the feds can regulate. [See related information on the King Amendment here]. “Meanwhile, the Denham-Schrader amendment to the farm bill would simply set a national standard for more space for egg-laying hens in all the states. It’s supported not only by the Humane Society of the U.S. — which was the prime force behind Prop. 2 — but by the United Egg Producers, a vast national cooperative of egg farmers.” The column added that, “AND NOW IT IS TIME FOR THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO RAISE ITS STANDARDS FOR EGG-LAYING HENS. And that will be the best way to insure adequate care of factory farm hens across the country — without raising the specter of states trying to regulate one another. This is not about commerce. This is about animal cruelty. The House should accept the Denham-Schrader amendment.” Chris Clayton also reported yesterday at the DTN Ag Policy blog that, “Reps. TOM PETRI, R-Wis., ROSA DELAURO, D-Conn., and KIND propose placing an annual cap at $50,000 for the total subsidy received by a farmer who participates in the Federal Crop Insurance Program and require the recipient to be ‘actively engaged’ in farming in order to qualify for the subsidy. “Those same three congressmen were joined nine others to propose capping crop-insurance profitability at 12%, as well as put caps on administrative and operating expenses. They also propose a $50,000 premium-subsidy cap.” Mr. Clayton noted that, “Rep. VIRGINIA FOXX, R-N.C., wants to disclose crop-insurance subsidies for individuals. Specifically, Foxx would like disclosure of government officials and immediate family members receiving such subsidies, as well as majority shareholders in farms. Four other lawmakers also offered a similar amendment requiring name disclosure. “Rep. JOHN DUNCAN, R-Tenn., and Rep. HENRY WAXMAN, D-Calif., propose to eliminate the premium subsidy for harvest-price crop-insurance policies.” Meanwhile, Emma Dumain reported yesterday at Roll Call Online that, “Speaker JOHN A. BOEHNER faces one of his first big leadership tests of the year as he brings a farm bill to the floor this week amid opposition from a host of powerful conservative advocacy groups that have frequently bedeviled his speakership.” The article noted that, “‘[He] plans to vote for this one because it contains significant reforms,’ Boehner spokesman MICHAEL STEEL said Monday in an email to CQ Roll Call. ‘He will also support an amendment to add further reforms to the bill by further overhauling the dairy program. If these reforms don’t pass the House, taxpayers end up with no spending cuts and another extension of current law, and current law is lousy.’” Patrick O'Connor reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “Republican leaders in the House will face a familiar foe when they bring a massive farm bill to the floor later this week: their own rank-and-file. “Conservatives on and off Capitol Hill are working to scuttle the latest rewrite of federal farm and nutrition policy, providing another glimpse of the fault lines that have roiled Republicans in the House all year.” The Journal article stated that, “AS MANY AS 80 OF 234 HOUSE REPUBLICANS COULD VOTE AGAINST THE BILL, GOP AIDES SAID, so the big question at this point is how many Democrats will support it in order to win a majority, which is 218 votes if all House members cast ballots. “Farm-state Democrats, led by Rep. COLLIN PETERSON of Minnesota, are expected to back the measure, while more-liberal members are working to defeat the legislation because it would cut more than $20 billion from food-stamp programs over 10 years.” In executive branch perspective on the Farm Bill, David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “The White House warned Monday that it would veto the House farm bill as it now stands and signaled strongly that the fastest path to some compromise this summer would be by taking savings from crop insurance to offset Republican-backed cuts from food stamps. "The most severe of the food-stamp savings would come from reimposing tighter income limits and an outdated asset test that could force more than 2 million beneficiaries off the rolls. The estimated savings are $11.5 billion over the next 10 years, and the administration made note that its own crop insurance reforms could save an almost equal sum, $11.7 billion. “The release of the White House statement came as Democrats are slated to caucus Tuesday morning with the farm bill on the agenda. The House Agriculture Committee leadership hopes to win what could be a close vote on final passage, BUT THIS STILL RELIES ON GETTING CLOSE TO 50 DEMOCRATIC VOTES, given the number of defections on the right in the GOP.” Mr. Rogers stated that, “The White House release of the statement late Monday came even as the House Rules Committee was meeting to set the terms for general debate Tuesday. More than 220 amendments — filling more pages than the farm bill itself — had been filed with the panel, which will hold a second meeting Tuesday afternoon to begin to cull the list. “INDEED, WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY PROMISE TO BE SOMETHING OF A BRAWL AND THE AGRICULTURE LEADERSHIP WILL HAVE ITS HANDS FULL FOR THOSE 48 HOURS.” Meanwhile, Alexandra Wexler reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to buy sugar from domestic growers, the government's first direct intervention in the nation's sugar market in 13 years. “The move is aimed at helping to whittle down a surplus that has driven prices to four-year lows and is threatening to spark a wave of defaults on almost $700 million of government loans.” The Journal article added that, “The USDA plans to sell the sugar it buys to refiners, companies that take raw cane sugar and process it into the white table sugar found on supermarket shelves. But the USDA isn't going to demand cash. Instead, it will ask refiners to hand over import credits. “USDA officials hope that fewer available credits would help reduce the supply of the sweetener.” In other news, The New York Times editorial board (“The U.S.D.A. Inspects Its Inspectors”), citing a recent USDA inspector general report, indicated today that, “The inspectors are not only overworked, but, in many cases, undertrained. Even in the presence of government investigators, some inspectors failed to condemn contaminated meat. Nor were the inspectors vigilant enough when it came to flagging violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which specifies a minimum standard for the treatment of animals being led to slaughter. “The good news is that the Agriculture Department is inspecting its inspection system. The bad news is that the inspector general’s office merely urges inspectors to conform more fully to existing laws and directives, when what is needed is more and better-trained inspectors.” _Trade_ Nicholas Winning and Paul Hannon reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “THE U.S. AND THE EUROPEAN UNION SAID THEY WOULD START TALKS TO BUILD A FREE-TRADE AGREEMENT TO BOOST GROWTH AND CREATE JOBS ACROSS THE ATLANTIC, a deal that officials hope will strengthen the world's biggest two-way economic relationship.” Senate Finance Committee Chairman MAX BAUCUS (D., Mont.) reacted positively to this development yesterday while American Farm Bureau President BOB STALLMAN noted that, “The misuse of sanitary and phytosanitary standards, including the EU’s restrictions on genetically engineered crops, has long been a tactic to impede trade. We will look closely to these negotiations to move past this trade distorting tactic and fully embrace a rules-based trading system with standards based upon scientific assessment.” James Politi reported yesterday at The Financial Times Online that, “THE US WOULD GAIN MORE THAN THE EU FROM A TRANSATLANTIC TRADE DEAL, ACCORDING TO A STUDY TO BE RELEASED ON MONDAY. “Its report concludes that a transatlantic agreement would reduce trade flows within Europe and damage many developing countries. “Economists at the Munich-based Ifo institute, a German economic think-tank, found that a trade deal would lead to a 13.4 per cent increase in US income per head in real terms over the ‘long term’ but only an average 5 per cent rise among the EU’s 27 member states.” _Keith Good_
_Farm Bill_ On the House Floor Friday, Majority Leader ERIC CANTOR (R., Va.) and Minority Whip STENY HOYER (D., Md.) discussed the upcoming floor schedule and the Farm Bill (video replay and TRANSCRIPT available here). Rep. Cantor stated that, “Chairman FRANK LUCAS and the members of the Agriculture Committee have worked very hard to produce a 5-year farm bill with strong reforms, and I look forward to a full debate on the floor.” Seemingly less confident that the measure will reach a vote on the floor, Rep. Hoyer indicated that, “If I can ask him [Cantor] a question initially about the farm bill, which has obviously been very controversial in the past, still remains controversial in many ways, and I’m wondering, in light of the fact that the Senate passed a farm bill in a pretty bipartisan way, 66–27, with 18 Republicans voting in favor, but I know the Speaker has observed the divisions within the Republican Conference, and obviously there are some divisions within our caucus as well, and I’m wondering whether or not in fact the gentleman is confident that we will get to completion and a vote on the farm bill next week.” Rep. Cantor replied: “I WOULD RESPOND BY SAYING THAT IT’S CERTAINLY OUR INTENTION TO COMPLETE DELIBERATION ON THE FARM BILL. The Speaker has continued to commit himself and our conference to an open process for this House, and I look forward to a robust debate on what, as the gentleman knows, has been a bipartisan effort at the committee.” Regarding the controversial SNAP cuts, Rep. Hoyer noted that, “As the gentleman knows, ON OUR SIDE OF THE AISLE, THERE IS VERY SIGNIFICANT CONCERN ABOUT THE STATUS OF THE SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM, and I would hope that as a rule is considered on that bill, I don’t know whether the gentleman knows at this point in time, that we would have an opportunity to have a significant number of amendments on that bill to reflect the House working its will, as the Speaker has so often observed, and I yield to my friend for whatever information he may have.” And in reply, Rep. Cantor pointed out that: “I would respond by saying that I do think there is a commitment to genuine and robust debate on all sides. And hopefully, without speaking to details because, as the gentleman knows, the Rules Committee has not met, that would include all subject matter in the bill.” Before moving on to other issues, Rep. Hoyer indicated that, “I thank the gentleman for that and look forward to that because I KNOW ON BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE, THIS IS A BILL THAT HAS STRONG FEELINGS AMONG DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES ON THIS BILL AND WITH RESPECT TO DIFFERENT SUBJECTS.” The House Leader’s Weekly Schedule includes the Farm Bill: “H.R. 1947 -‐ Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (Subject to a Rule) (_Sponsored by Rep. Frank Lucas / Agriculture Committee_).” And the Rules Committee has scheduled a meeting regarding the Farm Bill on Monday, June 17, 2013 at 5:00 PM. Additional information on the Farm Bill can be found at this Rules Committee webpage. Pete Kasperowicz and Erik Wasson reported on Friday at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “A well-placed source said the [Farm] bill's sponsors WERE WITHIN 10 VOTES OF THE 218 NEEDED.” More optimistically, Chris Day reported on Saturday at the Stillwater NewsPress Online that, “The U.S. House will approve a farm bill this year, Rep. Frank Lucas said Saturday. “The bill will be debated on the House floor Wednesday and Thursday and will pass after 30 TO 60 AMENDMENTS ARE CONSIDERED, he said. “‘It’s farm bill, farm bill, farm bill for me these days,’ said Lucas, R-Okla., at a Congressional question and answer session with journalists from around the state at the Oklahoma Press Association’s annual conference.” Christopher Doering reported in yesterday’s Des Moines Register that, “Farm groups and GOP lawmakers noted that even though Boehner’s support for the legislation helped win the backing from a handful of key Republicans, IT STILL WILL BE A FIGHT TO GET IT THROUGH THE HOUSE.” The Register article stated that, “Iowa Sen. CHUCK GRASSLEY said the House needs to pass a farm bill this month so lawmakers in both the House and Senate can have time in July to merge their bills into one final measure they will vote on. Congress leaves for summer recess in early August and does not return to Washington until after Labor Day. “‘IT’S TOUCH AND GO’ AS TO WHETHER THE FARM BILL MAKES IT OUT OF THE HOUSE, Grassley, a Republican, recently told reporters.” In an article yesterday at The Hill Online, Molly K. Hooper noted that, “Boehner has already committed to moving a five-year farm measure, which is set for a vote on the floor this week. BUT THERE ARE SURE TO BE DOZENS OF GOP DEFECTIONS.” Also, AP writer Mary Clare Jalonick reported today that, “Approval of a massive farm bill — and the cost of a gallon of milk — COULD HINGE ON A PROPOSED NEW DAIRY PROGRAM the House is expected to vote on this week. “An overhaul of dairy policy and a new insurance program for dairy farmers included in the farm bill have passionately divided farm-state lawmakers. Most importantly, it has caused a rift between House Speaker JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio, and the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. COLLIN PETERSON of Minnesota.” The AP article noted that, “The proposed dairy program would do away with current price supports and allow farmers to purchase a new kind of insurance that pays out when the gap between the price they receive for milk and their feed costs narrows. THE PROGRAM IS VOLUNTARY, BUT FARMERS WHO PARTICIPATE ALSO WOULD HAVE TO SIGN UP FOR A SO-CALLED MARKET STABILIZATION PROGRAM THAT COULD DICTATE PRODUCTION CUTS WHEN OVERSUPPLY DRIVES DOWN PRICES.” Ms. Jalonick added that, “Peterson wrote the proposed dairy policy, which Boehner last year compared to communism. BOEHNER is backing an amendment by the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Virginia Republican ROBERT GOODLATTE, which would scale it back. “‘I'M CAUGHT BETWEEN TWO RAGING BULLS IN A PASTURE,’ Lucas joked as he lobbied colleagues to vote for his farm bill last week.” “Lucas says he has extracted promises from both men that they won't turn on the bill if they lose the vote,” the article said. And David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “The House opens debate Tuesday on a new five-year farm bill with Republicans encouraged by their vote count BUT FACED WITH CONTINUED INFIGHTING AMONG COMMODITY GROUPS OVER THE SHAPE OF FUTURE SUBSIDIES. “TO THE SURPRISE OF MANY, THE POWERFUL CORN AND SOYBEAN LOBBIES ARE BACKING A MIDWEST FLOOR CHALLENGE TO THE NEW PRICE-LOSS PROGRAM CRAFTED BY THE HOUSE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE, which is already struggling to win what’s expected to be a close vote on final passage.” The Politico article stated that, “Floor amendments must be filed by Monday afternoon with the House Rules Committee, which will meet Monday and Tuesday to deal with the giant 629-page bill. Monday’s meeting is to lay the groundwork for general debate the next day. TUESDAY WILL DICTATE THE AMENDMENT PROCESS AND WHAT PROMISES TO BE A SERIES OF KNOCKDOWN FIGHTS WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY. “Rep. COLLIN PETERSON (D-Minn.), who will manage the bill with Lucas, sounded upbeat Saturday. ‘In the end, I think we will be fine,’ he told POLITICO. But if the farm bill collapses, it’s very unlikely that Congress will again approve a broad extension of current law as it did last winter. “Crop insurance and nutrition programs would survive because of separate authorizations. But there’s broad consensus that commodity programs could be lost given the appetite for spending reductions.” Meanwhile, writing yesterday at the DTN Ag Policy Blog, CHRIS CLAYTON took a closer look at the issue of separating the nutrition title from the Farm Bill, “Splitting Farm Bill Programs Not a Policy Panacea.” In a related item, Gale Holland reported late last week at the Los Angeles Times Online that, “More children are at risk of going hungry in Los Angeles County than in any other county in the nation, according to a report released this week. “Using 2011 survey and statistical data from the U.S. Census and U.S. Department of Agriculture, Feeding America, a national network of food banks, found that 650,000 children in Los Angeles County are ‘food insecure.’ “The finding does not necessarily mean the children here are chronically hungry.” With respect to EXECUTIVE BRANCH PERSPECTIVE, Chris Hoff reported on Friday at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Online that, “But the new farm bill is about more than farms for [Sec. of Ag. TOM VILSACK]. He began a town hall meeting at Texas Tech on Friday, June 14, by explaining the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act was really a food, farm and jobs bill. “‘It is important for the country to realize,’ Vilsack said, ‘this bill has something for everyone.’” The article noted that, “One problem related to soil loss has been the way crop insurance companies handle the growth and development of cover crops. Under current regulations, cover crops that protect the soil are discouraged.” In other developments, an editorial posted yesterday at the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (Tupelo) Online stated that, “In Mississippi, about 20 percent of residents receive some kind of nutrition assistance. In the 1st Congressional District, USDA figures show 35,263 of 289,000 total households receiving nutrition help, SNAP households in the 1st District have a median household income of $13,328 compared to $43,294 for non-SNAP households: $847.5 million in fiscal year 2010, to a monthly average of 575,674 people in Mississippi. “USDA also calculates the economic multiplier at $9 in local activity for every $5 in SNAP investment in Mississippi, which means the loss of significant SNAP outlays in the state would have some negative effect on the general economy.” The opinion item added that, “[Ag. Comm. Ranking Member THAD COCHRAN (R., Miss.)], of course, voted for the 2013 Senate bill, as did Sen. ROGER WICKER, R-Miss. “AN OUTCOME MORE LIKE THE SENATE’S SPENDING RULE IN THE FARM BILL OF 2013 WOULD BE TO MANY MISSISSIPPIANS’ NUTRITIONAL ADVANTAGE.” The editorial board at the Quad-City Times (Davenport, Iowa) Online stated on Saturday (“Farm bill gives House GOP a chance to govern”) that, “Now it’s up to Boehner and his Republican majority to prove if they’re capable of governance. Thirty-six times, he chose to allow useless floor votes to posture against Obamacare. This summer, he needs to show he leads a majority capable of much more.” _Agricultural Economy- Smithfield- Trade_ The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicated on Saturday that, “FAO Director-General JOSé GRAZIANO DA SILVA formally recognized 38 countries for reducing hunger by half well ahead of international targets for the year 2015. “During a high-level ceremony attended by several heads of state, 18 countries received diplomas for early achievement of targets set by both Millennium Development Goal 1 (MDG1) — to halve the proportion of hungry people by 2015 — plus the more stringent World Food Summit (WFS) goal of halving the absolute number of hungry people by 2015. “They are: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cuba, Djibouti, Georgia, Ghana, Guyana, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Nicaragua, Peru, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Venezuela and Viet Nam.” Jeffrey Sparshott reported on Friday at the Real Time Economics Blog (Wall Street Journal) that, “Prices that U.S. companies pay for fresh eggs took flight last month, buoyed by an avian flu outbreak in Mexico. “THE PRODUCER PRICE INDEX FOR FRESH EGGS SOARED ALMOST 42%, the biggest gain on record, driving broader inflation for food products, the Labor Department said Friday. “A leading reason for the crack up: U.S. farmers are exporting more eggs to Mexico, eating into supplies for American consumers. The United States’ southern neighbor has been hit by avian influenza, forcing the slaughter of thousands of chickens.” The update noted that, “Prices have already started to come down from May. In the Northeast, wholesale prices for large eggs were about 87 cents to 91 cents a dozen earlier this month, compared with a high range of $1.25 to $1.29 earlier in May, according to the USDA.” Christopher Doering reported on Friday at The Des Moines Register Online that, “THE PURCHASE OF SMITHFIELD FOODS by Chinese meat processor Shuanghui International Holdings has drawn support from farm groups and many politicians, who are optimistic that a larger market for U.S. pork could outweigh potential risks from the deal. “But one of the most outspoken holdouts on the surprise $4.7 billion merger announced more than two weeks ago remains Sen. CHUCK GRASSLEY, R-Ia., who still hasn’t decided whether to support the deal.” The Register article pointed out that, “‘You’ll find me taking a measured approach, particularly with the antitrust division of the Justice Department, to raise a lot of questions about a lot of mergers — banking, airlines, railroads and things like that,’ said Grassley, a member of both the Agriculture and Judiciary committees in the Senate. “In an interview Friday, he added: ‘I’VE ALWAYS FELT THAT THE ANTITRUST PEOPLE IN THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT DIDN’T HAVE A VERY GOOD UNDERSTANDING OF AMERICAN AGRICULTURE.’” Meanwhile, AP writer Tom Raum reported on Saturday that, “As President BARACK OBAMA pushes an ambitious agenda to liberalize global trading, political trade wars already are forming, and they're with fellow Democrats rather than with Republicans, his usual antagonists.” The article noted that, “Obama worked to overcome Democratic resistance to win passage in 2011 of trade pacts with South Korea, Panama and Colombia, completing negotiations begun by his Republican predecessor, President George W. Bush. “The talks for a new Asia-Pacific free-trade zone came up in the Obama-Xi meetings last weekend.” Mr. Raum explained that, “But the possible inclusion of Japan, the third-largest economy, after the U.S. and China, generated heat from auto-state lawmakers, who criticized Japan's efforts to restrict auto imports. “SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW, D-MICH., PLEDGED TO FIGHT RATIFICATION IF JAPAN WON'T ‘STOP BLOCKING AMERICAN COMPANIES FROM ITS MARKETS.’” And Reuters writers Philip Blenkinsop and Robin Emmott reported on Friday that, “FRANCE CLEARED THE EUROPEAN UNION TO LAUNCH FREE-TRADE TALKS WITH THE UNITED STATES ON FRIDAY AFTER FELLOW EU MEMBERS ACCEPTED ITS DEMAND TO SHIELD MOVIES AND ONLINE ENTERTAINMENT FROM THE MIGHT OF HOLLYWOOD AND SILICON VALLEY…[T]he final mandate given to EU trade chief Karel De Gucht, who will lead negotiations, does not include the audiovisual sector. However, it does give the Commission the right to ask member states for a broader mandate at a later stage.” _Regulations- Wheat_ Reuters writer Charles Abbott reported on Friday that, “The unapproved genetically modified wheat that was discovered sprouting in Oregon appears to have been ‘a single isolated incident,’ U.S. agricultural officials said on Friday in their most detailed description yet of their ongoing investigation.” More broadly on the GMO issue, Christopher Hope penned an article on Friday at The Telegraph Online titled, “David Cameron: 'It is time to look again at GM food'”- the subtitle of the article stated: “David Cameron has opened the way to Britain relaxing rules on genetically modified food.” Meanwhile, The New York Times editorial board noted on Saturday (“The EPA Backs Off on Factory Farms”) that, “Right now, the patchwork of regulations — which assume a great deal of self-policing — suits the factory-farm industry all too well. So does the E.P.A.’s inability to gather even the most basic information about those farms. The industry believes that the less consumers know, the better. President Obama’s nominee to lead the E.P.A., GINA MCCARTHY, is still awaiting Senate confirmation. If and when she gets the job, she should make it an early priority to get the data she needs to shed light on — and forcefully regulate — an industry that thrives on ignorance.” _Biofuels_ University of Illinois Agricultural Economist SCOTT IRWIN indicated on Friday at the _farmdoc daily_ blog (“An Updated Look at the Profitability of Ethanol Production”) that, “It is no surprise to readers of _farmdoc daily_ that ethanol production has played a major role in the grain price boom since 2006. Increasing ethanol production has been driven by a combination of market incentives and biofuels polices. Given the prominence of ethanol production it is important to track the profitability of the industry in order to assess likely ethanol production trends and potential impacts on grain market supply, demand, and prices.” Friday’s update concluded by noting that, “After starting out the recent boom period with strong profits, ethanol plants have struggled to maintain profitability. It is not clear whether the recent 3 month period of positive margins will be maintained going forward. A case can be made for some optimism given the possibility of lower corn prices in the upcoming marketing year and pressures for increasing volumes of ethanol to meet the rising mandate for renewable fuels under the RFS. Another extended period of red ink like 2012 does not appear to be in the cards.” _Immigration_ Tal Kopan reported yesterday at Politico that, “Sen. LINDSEY GRAHAM predicts immigration reform will pass the Senate with more than 70 votes, saying passage is necessary to stop the ‘demographic death spiral’ in the Republican Party. “‘I’m going to leave you on a positive note, I think we’re going to have a political breakthrough that Congress is going to pass immigration reform. I think we’re going to get plus-70 votes, I’ve never been more optimistic about it,’ the South Carolina Republican said Sunday on NBC's ‘Meet the Press.’” Janet Hook reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “As the Senate moves toward passing the broadest immigration bill in a generation, the House is about to serve up the issue in small slices. “The man wielding the knife is House Judiciary Committee Chairman BOB GOODLATTE (R., Va.), whose panel meets Tuesday to take the House's first formal action on immigration legislation. “Mr. Goodlatte, a low-profile conservative who is new to the chairman's job this year, opposes the Senate's comprehensive bill and plans instead to advance a series of more narrowly focused immigration bills. He will begin Tuesday with votes on a get-tough enforcement measure that would turn the debate sharply to the right.” _Keith Good_
On the House floor today, Majority Leader ERIC CANTOR (R., Va.) and Minority Whip STENY HOYER (D., Md.) discussed the Farm Bill. A TRANSCRIPT of the discussion can be viewed here. -_kg_
_Farm Bill- House Developments, Chairman Lucas_ An update posted yesterday at the _Oklahoma Farm Report_ Online noted that, “The Chairman of the House Ag Committee, Oklahoma Congressman FRANK LUCAS, talked with Farm Director RON HAYS about the latest farm bill developments on Thursday morning.” (A replay of the discussion with Chairman Lucas and Ron Hays is available here). The _Oklahoma Farm Report_ update added that, “LUCAS TOLD HAYS HE EXPECTS THE FARM BILL TO COME UP ON THE HOUSE FLOOR NEXT WEEK, ASSUMING THAT THE WHIP COUNT SHOWS THAT THEY ARE CLOSE TO THE 218 VOTES NEEDED FOR FINAL PASSAGE. He expressed his hope that by Monday the Rules Committee would put out a call for amendments - which he expects hundreds of. Lucas says he has had conversations with the Chairman of the House Rules Committee and that he is expecting the Rules Committee will sort through the amendments, realize redundancy isn't a good use of time and limit the number of amendments on each subject. “The Lucas definition of an ‘open discussion’ on the floor of the House is not for every one of two or three hundred amendments to be heard and possibly voted on- BUT FOR ALL MAJOR POINTS OF VIEW TO HAVE THEIR CONCERNS AIRED AND VOTED ON. This would result in each of the major areas of the bill to be open for consideration in an open but orderly process and the Chairman believes the House will end up voting on 30 to 40 amendments covering every title- including food stamps, sugar, dairy, conservation and crop insurance.” In addition, yesterday’s update pointed out that, “Lucas says the debate that could be the most contentious may be over the level of cuts in NUTRITION SPENDING, although he does expect those who simply don't like Commodity Title spending will come up the more modest farm safety net that is in this bill- compared to the 2008 or previous farm bills. He also expects several amendments could end up being considered on how much support is reasonable for crop insurance- and he also expects those who want to socially engineer what a farmer should look like will offer payment limitations on the safety net programs- both in Title 1 as well as in crop insurance.” Also with respect to the Chairman’s interview with RON HAYS, Jerry Hagstrom reported yesterday at National Journal Online that, “House Agriculture Committee Chairman FRANK LUCAS, R-Okla., said Thursday he believes that the farm bill will come up on the House floor next week and be finished in two days—assuming the whip count shows that he and ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., are close to the 218 votes they need for final passage. “‘I feel better now than at any time I’ve felt in a year’ about convincing a majority of the House to vote for the bill, Lucas told the _Oklahoma Farm Report_, a radio program. But he added, ‘I don’t expect to go to the floor if we’re not there with the 218 VOTES.’” Mr. Hagstrom pointed out that, “Meanwhile, congressional and specialty-crop industry sources said that Democratic leaders are trying to convince members who are distressed by the proposed $20.5 billion cut in food stamps over 10 years THAT THEY SHOULD VOTE FOR THE BILL BECAUSE IT CONTAINS PROVISIONS THAT WOULD HELP THE FRUIT AND VEGETABLE INDUSTRY AND, IN TURN, HELP FIGHT CHILDHOOD OBESITY. The specialty-crop provisions in the House bill are better than the Senate bill, one Democratic aide said. Antihunger advocates also met with aides to House Minority Leader NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif., on Thursday to urge her to try to keep food-stamp cuts to a minimum.” And CHAIRMAN LUCAS spoke yesterday with PHIL TURNEY (WBBZ (1230-AM)), and indicated that, “As of this moment, I really expect the [Farm] Bill to come to the floor next Wednesday, I would think that we’ll have a rule over how many amendments and how much debate time- that will probably be a Wednesday, Thursday debate, and hopefully come to a focus next week.” (audio clip- MP3-2:55)). And an update yesterday from the Rules Committee stated that, “The Committee on Rules may meet the WEEK OF JUNE 17TH to grant a rule that could limit the amendment process for floor consideration of H.R. 1947, Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013…[M]embers must also submit 30 hard copies of the amendment, one copy of a brief explanation of the amendment, and an amendment login form to the Rules Committee in room H-312 of the Capitol BY 2:00 P.M. ON MONDAY, JUNE 17, 2013.” Additional information on the Farm Bill has also been posted at this Rules Committee webpage. SPEAKER BOEHNER held a news conference yesterday, where in response to the last question from reporters, the Ohio Republican stated: “My goal is always to bring bills to the floor that have a strong Republican majority. And, you know, whether we're talking about the farm bill, you know -- there are parts of the farm bill I hope are improved on the floor of the House through an open process. BUT I DO EXPECT THAT WE'LL HAVE A MAJORITY OF REPUBLICANS VOTING FOR THE FARM BILL.” An update Wednesday at NCPR Radio (Canton, N.Y.) Online by David Sommerstein stated that, “And there's a movement to eliminate a part of the new dairy safety net that would control the supply of milk to prevent prices from sharply dropping. “That's a problem to North Country [Democratic] Congressman BILL OWENS. Owens says the farm bill will have to be a compromise. But he said you need supply management for another part of the dairy safety net to work - an insurance program that pays farmers when their profit margins shrink. “On food stamps, Owens said he would support a compromise - cuts to food stamps of between $8 and $12 billion, or roughly halfway between the Senate and House versions.” In other developments, Brian Francisco reported yesterday at The Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne, Ind.) Online that, “U.S. Rep. MARLIN STUTZMAN said Thursday he will try to split food stamps away from the five-year farm bill the House is preparing to debate. “‘My focus right now is to convince leadership that we need a vote to SEPARATE THE BILLS,’ Stutzman, R-3rd., said in a conference call with reporters. “‘I’m working to have an amendment or some sort of procedure to separate the bills,’ he said. ‘There are a lot of folks who are interested in voting for it.… I think you’ll find a lot of support for it.’” On this issue, David Hawkings noted yesterday at Roll Call Online that, “‘Can this marriage be saved?’ remains the central storyline as the House gets ready to vote on a farm bill next week. “THE ANSWER NOW LOOKS TO BE A QUALIFIED ‘YES’: THE UNION OF CROP SUBSIDIES AND FOOD STAMPS, CREATED OUT OF POLITICAL CONVENIENCE IN THE NIXON ERA, IS ON COURSE TO BE PRESERVED ONE FINAL TIME. “But a no-fault divorce has a very good chance of being granted before the next farm bill is written near the end of the decade. After 40 years, more and more of the rural lawmakers who care most about the livelihood of farmers have decided they’re ready to dump their urban and suburban colleagues who care more about the nutrition of the poor.” Mr. Hawkings stated that, “Finding a middle ground that can sustain the balky and unusual geographic coalition — without causing that allegiance to get swamped by the more typical and partisan size-of-government disputes — will be a main challenge for the farm bill conferees. It may be their last hurrah. “One reason the regional alliance is nearing its end is that the balance of power and interests between the factions has gone out of whack. When the conservative Texas Democrat W.R. POAGE started forging the coalition in 1969, when he was writing his first farm bill as House Agriculture chairman, THE AMOUNT BEING SPENT ON FARM AID WAS NEARLY IDENTICAL TO THE BUDGET FOR FOOD STAMPS. But the political support for boosting welfare was greater than for bolstering crop subsidies.” “Since the Great Recession started in 2008, right after the last farm bill was enacted, spending on food stamps has about doubled. THIS YEAR, THE GOVERNMENT IS SPENDING ABOUT $80 BILLION TO SERVE 1 IN 7 AMERICANS THROUGH WHAT’S NOW CALLED THE SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM. That price tag is four times as much as the annual grand total for commodity subsidies, agriculture research, crop insurance, land conservation, rural development and other programs that give the ‘farm bill’ that name,” the Roll Call item said. Also, Amy Mayer reported yesterday at The Field Notes Blog (Harvest Public Media) that, “And along with the increased role of crop insurance, the [Senate Farm] bill includes a tie-in with conservation measures.” The update pointed out that, “And the future of cross-compliance is far from assured. “[NEIL HAMILTON, director of the Agricultural Law Center at Drake University in Des Moines] points out that the House bill headed to floor debate—possibly beginning next week—doesn’t require farmers to engage in conservation practices to be eligible for crop insurance. He expects cross-compliance will be introduced as a floor amendment, and said its prospects there aren’t great. “‘Predictably it might fail but it will at least give you a nose count as to where they are,’ Hamilton said. And that outcome could influence what happens in committee.” Meanwhile, a National Crop Insurance Services update yesterday stated that, “While farmers must make their decisions about purchasing crop insurance well before they plant, NEARLY 269,000 POLICIES HAVE BEEN PROCESSED THROUGH PARTICIPATING COMPANIES AND RMA AS OF JUNE 10, 2013. Those policies protect nearly 93 million acres representing nearly $23 billion in liabilities, accounting for $886 million in farmer paid premium. These numbers will continue to grow as more policies are processed and farmers plant their acres.” And a news release yesterday from the AMERICAN SOYBEAN ASSOCIATION (AS)stated that, “In a letter to lawmakers Thursday, the [ASA], National Corn Growers Association, National Sunflower Association and the U.S. Canola Association urged the House of Representatives to quickly consider and pass H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (‘FARRM’) Act.” _Farm Bill- Interstate Commerce- Agricultural Production (King Amendment)_ David Weinberg reported yesterday at the _Marketplace Morning Report_ Online that, “Among the many big issues Congress has on its plate -- immigration, sequestration and healthcare reform -- there are countless smaller battles waged between law makers. ONE OF THOSE BATTLES IS ABOUT EGGS, AND IT HAS HATCHED INTO A MUCH BIGGER DEBATE OVER STATES' RIGHTS. “In 2010, California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 2, which set standards for how egg-laying hens could be raised. It requires hens have enough space in their cages to spread their wings.” Mr. Weinberg noted that, “IN OTHER WORDS, ALL EGGS SOLD IN CALIFORNIA HAD TO MEET THE STANDARD. But opponents of the law argue that it shouldn’t apply to eggs laid outside California. Congressman STEVE KING of Iowa, the largest egg-producing state, proposed an amendment to the farm bill that would bar states from imposing their agricultural standards on other states.” [A video replay and _FarmPolicy.com_ TRANSCRIPT of the House Ag Committee debate on this amendment is available here]. “‘Congressman King’s amendment does not set a national standard for egg production,’ says MITCH HEAD with United Egg Producers, a trade group that wants a national standard for raising hens. It believes a national standard would settle the issue once and for all and make it easier for all egg producers to comply with the law.” Ken Anderson reported yesterday at Brownfield that, “Iowa Representative STEVE KING was successful in attaching his ‘Protect Interstate Commerce Act’ to the House Ag Committee’s farm bill. And King says he will fight to keep that language in the bill once it hits the House floor, and eventually, a House-Senate conference committee. “The amendment would bar states from imposing their own animal welfare standards on eggs, meat and other ag products brought in from other states. “‘THIS WILL PUT AN END TO, I THINK, THE HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES—WHOM I REFER TO AS THE ‘VEGAN LOBBY’—TRYING TO TELL US HOW TO TAKE CARE OF OUR LIVESTOCK,’ King says. ‘We put an end to it and then HSUS can find another way to turn us all into vegans. In the end, they really want to take meat off our plate.’” _House Appropriations_ A news release yesterday from the House Appropriations Committee stated that, “The [Committee] today APPROVED THE FISCAL YEAR 2014 AGRICULTURE APPROPRIATIONS BILL, WHICH WILL NOW HEAD TO THE HOUSE FLOOR FOR CONSIDERATION. The proposed legislation funds important agricultural and food programs and services, including food safety, animal and plant health programs, rural development and farm services, marketplace oversight, and nutrition programs. “The bill totals $19.5 billion in discretionary funding, which is $1.3 billion below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level and approximately equal to the current level caused by automatic sequestration spending cuts. This total is $516 million below the President’s request for these programs.” The release included a list, along with a brief summary, of the amendments that were added to the measure yesterday. David Rogers reported yesterday on the Appropriations hearing at Politico noted that, “INDEED, THE CHAOTIC, THREE-HOUR PLUS MARKUP GAVE A LITTLE TASTE OF THE ANTICIPATED FREE-FOR-ALL NEXT WEEK AS HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER EDGES CLOSER TO BRINGING A MUCH LARGER FIVE YEAR FARM BILL TO THE FLOOR.” Mr. Rogers noted that, “In Appropriations, potatoes struck first behind Rep. MIKE SIMPSON, a boisterous, popular Idaho Republican who unashamedly promoted his state’s product and won language to make room in WIC’s fruit and vegetable package for white potatoes.” And an update yesterday at the NATIONAL SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE COALITION Blog stated that, “Rep. ROSA DELAURO (D-CT) offered unsuccessful amendments to restore funding for the Commodity Futures Tradition Corporation (CFTC) and for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program.” Erik Wasson reported yesterday at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “Democrats opposed the bill because it reflects $91 billion in automatic cuts to the entire federal discretionary budget called for by the sequester-backed 2011 Budget Control Act. “They said the bill will result in some 200,000 people losing domestic food assistance and 8 million people internationally going hungry.” The Hill update explained that, “The discretionary part of the measure governs the operating budgets of the Agriculture Department, Food and Drug Administration and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and discretionary spending such as on school lunches, international food aid and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program. “THE COMMITTEE HAS NO POWER TO ALTER $120 BILLION IN FARM SUBSIDIES AND FOOD STAMP SPENDING, WHICH IS GOVERNED BY THE MULTI-YEAR FARM BILL. A version of the farm bill for the next five years is expected on the House floor this month.” The Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee is scheduled to hold a hearing on June 18. _Agricultural Economy_ Owen Fletcher reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “WHEAT HAS LONG DOMINATED THE WINDSWEPT FARM FIELDS OF THE NORTHERN GREAT PLAINS. BUT INCREASINGLY, FARMERS HERE ARE SWITCHING TO CORN, reflecting how climate change, advancements in biotechnology and high corn prices are pushing the nation's Corn Belt northward. “Last year, corn narrowly eclipsed wheat as North Dakota's most valuable crop as farmers produced a record corn harvest. This year, as farmers across the Corn Belt are finishing up the planting season after an unusually wet spring, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has forecast that 4.1 million acres of North Dakota will be sown with corn, an all-time high and a nearly threefold increase over a decade ago.” And, Simon Romero reported in today’s New York Times that, “Beef consumption in this red-meat colossus has decreased so much over the decades that the nation recently fell from its perch as the world’s top per capita consumer of beef, a title ARGENTINE RANCHERS ARE FIGHTING TO REGAIN FROM THEIR TINY NEIGHBOR, URUGUAY. In another jolt, a study warned that pizzerias could soon outnumber steakhouses in this city. “As if that were not enough to rattle the national psyche, ARGENTINA SLIPPED INTO 11TH PLACE, BEHIND COUNTRIES LIKE NEW ZEALAND AND MEXICO, IN THE GLOBAL RANKING OF BEEF EXPORTERS THIS YEAR, prompting solemn reactions like one in a major newspaper that declared it ‘the end of a reign.’” The Times article noted that, “Argentines ate about 129 pounds of beef a person last year, far surpassing Americans, who mustered a mere 57.5 pounds by comparison. But Argentina’s current level is a pale shadow of its peak: 222 pounds of beef for every man, woman and child, achieved in 1956. “Reasons vary for these doldrums. Beef prices have surged with inflation, but cattlemen contend that government price controls aimed at preventing domestic beef consumption from falling further have wreaked havoc by making it costly to maintain large herds. Others, eying China’s rising demand for grains over the last decade, SAY IT IS SIMPLY MORE PROFITABLE TO FARM SOYBEANS THAN TO RAISE CATTLE.” On trade issues, Howard Schneider reported in today’s Washington Post that, “Chances for a broad trade deal between the United States and the European Union are fading following recent revelations about U.S. electronic surveillance programs, OVERSIGHT OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD and other issues, according to officials and analysts in the United States and Europe who are following the discussions. “European officials are set to meet in Brussels on Friday to debate a formal mandate for their negotiating team, and analysts who have reviewed the draft text say it points toward a more limited agreement rather than the expansive economic opening that officials said could unleash tens of billions of dollars in additional trade.” The Post article noted that, “There is still, those observers and officials say, immense potential for an agreement that could in the long run boost commerce between the world’s top economic partners, lower the costs of doing business by aligning regulatory standards, and make a number of other changes to ease the flow of goods, services and capital across the Atlantic. “But hopes for an agreement that would dramatically change the trading landscape — and boost the near-term growth and job prospects for Europe and the United States — have run up against the realities of Europe’s 27-nation political maze, including privacy concerns and French demands for protections of its film and media industries.” An update posted yesterday at U.S. Wheat Associates Online stated that, “Every summer, members of a crop survey team from SOUTH KOREA traverse the Pacific Northwest for a firsthand look at the new wheat harvest. This year’s team was scheduled months before USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced May 29 that it had identified an unapproved, genetically modified, glyphosate-resistant trait in volunteer wheat in a single Oregon field. But, the timing of the Korea Crop Survey Team’s travel June 16 to 22 to Montana and Oregon provides a great opportunity to reinforce the safety, quality and reliability of the U.S. wheat on which South Korea’s millers, bakers and food processors have come to rely.” _Immigration_ Lisa Mascaro reported yesterday at the Los Angeles Times Online that, “IN THE FIRST AND ONLY VOTE THURSDAY ON THE IMMIGRATION BILL, SENATORS TURNED BACK A REPUBLICAN MEASURE THAT WOULD HAVE DELAYED A PATH TO CITIZENSHIP FOR THOSE IN THE COUNTRY ILLEGALLY UNTIL AFTER THE BORDER WITH MEXICO IS FULLY SECURE. “Republicans still plan to offer several other measures to enhance border security, but this one, from Sen. CHARLES E. GRASSLEY of Iowa, was one of the most hard-line of the proposals. “The 57-43 vote to defeat the amendment offered an imprecise test of whether the Senate will find the 60 votes needed to pass the bill. Some senators who favored the tough approach may still vote for the bill.” The LA Times article added that, “Top Republicans, including JEB BUSH, the former Florida governor, sought to nudge GOP lawmakers toward an overhaul of immigration laws that party leaders see as being crucial to winning back Latino voters who have largely turned toward the Democratic Party. “Bush met with a small group of House Republicans for a private breakfast and spoke later at a forum.” _Keith Good_
_Farm Bill_ Jake Sherman reported yesterday at Politico that, “Speaker JOHN BOEHNER said Wednesday HE WOULD VOTE FOR THE HOUSE’S FARM BILL, despite reservations.” At a news conference yesterday, Speaker Boehner had this exchange with a reporter, which was the last question at the briefing: “Would you vote for the farm bill (as it stands) today? “Speaker Boehner: I've got concerns about the farm bills, I told our members. But doing nothing means that we get no changes in the farm program, no changes in the nutrition program. And as a result, I'M GOING TO VOTE FOR THE FARM BILL to make sure that the good work of the agriculture committee and whatever the floor might to do improve this bill, that it gets to a conference so that we can get the kind of changes that people want in our nutrition programs and our farm programs.” Mr. Sherman pointed out in his Politico article that, “Passing the farm bill, which will come to the House floor this month, will be one of the toughest tasks for the Ohio Republican’s leadership team. Members of leadership are already working to assuage concerns about several of the bill’s provisions.” Molly K. Hooper and Erik Wasson reported yesterday at The Hill Online that, “Rural Republicans want to see the five-year farm subsidy measure enacted and would be angered with leadership if they pulled the bill. GOP Whip KEVIN MCCARTHY (Calif.) is pushing to get a farm bill done, while Majority Leader ERIC CANTOR (R-Va.) has not said how he will vote.” The article indicated that, “Agriculture Committee Chairman FRANK LUCAS (R-Okla.) and ranking member COLLIN PETERSON (D-Minn.) were working furiously on Wednesday to gin up support. “A formal Republican whip count of the bill on Wednesday after Boehner’s statement ‘was better than anticipated,’ according to a deputy GOP whip. Peterson, meanwhile, estimated he could get somewhere around 50 Democrats in support, though other sources said the number could be lower.” Hooper and Wasson noted that, “LUCAS SAID BOEHNER’S REMARKS WERE A SHOT IN THE ARM FOR HIS VOTE-GATHERING EFFORTS. “‘Anytime the Speaker of the United States House announces that he supports something, that always makes the author of the bill very happy,’ he said. ‘But can you say that means anything is a lock? No.’ “Later, while waiving his whip list in the air, Lucas said the bill had new momentum. “‘We’re moving forward,’ he said. We have the wind at our backs.’” The Hill article stated that, “Peterson said that Boehner’s remarks might turn off some Democrats but were likely a net positive for supporters of the bill. “‘It probably helps us,’ he said.” In addition, the Hill writers pointed out that, “Minority Leader NANCY PELOSI (D-Calif.), who also supports farm payments, has not said how she plans to vote but on Thursday said Democrats ‘see the value of a bill coming to the floor and the value of a bill going to conference.’ “Conservative Rep. STEVE KING (R-Iowa), who supports the farm bill despite a desire for deeper cuts to food stamps, said he has more members moving from ‘no’ to ‘lean no’ on his whip list…[K]ing said a Wednesday presentation from Lucas at the conservative Republican Study Committee was also helpful. Following that meeting, Rep. PHIL ROE (R-Tenn.) predicted that the leadership could pass the bill — but only with help from Democrats.” American Farm Bureau President BOB STALLMAN was also quoted in The Hill article: “With his statement of support for the farm bill today, Speaker Boehner is giving all Americans, including the farmers who feed them and those concerned with nutrition programs, real optimism that Washington can get important work done in 2013.” Emma Dumain indicated yesterday at Roll Call Online that, “A day after House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., questioned whether GOP leadership would bring a controversial farm bill to the House floor following the Senate’s Monday night passage, Speaker John A. Boehner signaled he would support his chamber’s version.” Ms. Dumain observed: “But perhaps more than anything, his pledge to vote for this year’s farm bill suggests his recognition that his vote could be pivotal, as the legislation emerging from the House Agriculture Committee is likely to draw rancor from nearly all Democrats and likely a large portion of the Republican rank and file.” AP writer Mary Clare Jalonick reported yesterday that, “The speaker signaled support for the House bill’s level of food stamp cuts, saying they are changes that ‘both parties know are necessary.’” And David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “Mindful of Democratic resistance, Agriculture Secretary TOM VILSACK said Wednesday that ‘it is important for us to move forward’ with the House farm bill, and a controversial $20 billion cut in food stamps is certain to be reduced in final talks with the Senate and White House…[V]ilsack’s comments came as angry liberals are pressing for a special Democratic caucus on the farm bill. And if Democrats were to bolt in large numbers, it would make it easier for House Republicans to pull down the measure and shift blame from their own divisions that have stalled action for the past year. “Those stakes were raised Wednesday when Speaker JOHN BOEHNER told reporters that he now is prepared to put aside his own reservations and back the bill. The speaker’s comments reflect a growing consensus inside the GOP that the time is ripe to act — better to make some progress than drift along with no progress at all.” Yesterday’s article stated: “Democrats have a stake, too, in these savings — and implicit in Boehner’s new stance is a challenge to the minority to engage him in the floor debate next week. “Indeed, having mocked the speaker’s stall for the past year, House Democrats are coming to their own moment of truth: The farm bill tolls for them, too. “Inside the caucus, there is a real fury over the level of food-stamp cuts — five times what the Senate proposed. BUT THE FIGHT ALSO HIGHLIGHTS WHAT HAS BEEN A SLOW, PERSISTENT EROSION IN THE OLD TIES BETWEEN AGRICULTURE AND AN EVER MORE URBANIZED DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS.” Mr. Rogers noted that, “In 1982, the Democratic roster of the House Agriculture Committee included a future House speaker (TOM FOLEY) and Senate majority leader (TOM DASCHLE) as well as that famous jack-of-all-trades in the Clinton and Obama administrations, LEON PANETTA, a congressman from California. Also serving were future Agriculture Secretary DAN GLICKMAN and two of the most wily, even notorious Democratic movers and shakers of that period: CHARLIE ROSE of North Carolina and TONY COELHO of California. “NOTHING LIKE THAT IS TRUE TODAY. Left in the middle is Minority Leader NANCY PELOSI (D-Calif.), who muscled through the last farm bill in 2007 and 2008 as speaker and owes a debt to rural lawmakers who helped her own rise in the leadership.” After more detailed analysis, yesterday’s article pointed out that, “For Democrats, the challenge will be where to draw the line for income eligibility for food stamps. While still relatively small, the share of food-stamp benefits going to households with gross incomes over 130 percent of poverty has more than doubled in recent years and some rollback makes sense to protect the core program. “At the same time, it is difficult for Republicans to defend an outdated asset test that punishes the same ‘working poor’ the GOP championed during welfare reform. Peterson and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) have explored a compromise closer to the eligibility rules adopted by Texas, but thus far, that has gotten little support from the GOP leadership.” Writing on Wednesday morning, prior to Speaker Boehner’s commitment of support, Hill writer Erik Wasson reported that, “‘Boehner pledged to be a different kind of speaker, and that is to deal with these big issues in the right way, out in the open, with everyone participating,’ a GOP leadership aide said. ‘That’s the way Congress should work. It’s how Boehner leads. And it’s what is best for this institution and for the country.’” Wednesday’s update added that, “‘I have been talking to Chairman [Frank] Lucas [(R-Okla.)], and I argue that we need to push forward, and if it fails, it fails. At least we know how everybody stands,’ [House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member COLLIN PETERSON (D-Minn.)] said.” Julie Harker reported yesterday at Brownfield that, “[Sen. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D., Mo.)] says the attitude of the House, though, is hard to figure out. “‘The parts of my state that really care about this are all represented by Republicans, who are in the majority in the House. And, for the life of me I can’t figure out why they are unwilling to pass a farm bill.’” And Meghan Grebner reported yesterday at Brownfield that, “[Rep. CHERI BUSTOS (D., Il)] tells Brownfield that [Speaker Boehner’s support is] a good sign. ‘I think it’s encouraging,’ she says. ‘Because if you look at the history of the Farm Bill and Congress- Democrats and Republicans have been able to work together and have been able to pass a five-year Farm Bill until this last session of Congress.’” Meanwhile, Pete Kasperowicz reported yesterday at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “The Georgia Democrat is taking the food stamp challenge, living on just $31.50 worth of food for a week. “Rep. HANK JOHNSON (D-Ga.) on Wednesday night unpacked a few bags of groceries on the House floor to demonstrate the paltry diet he'll live by for the next week.” In other developments, a letter earlier this week to Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader Pelosi, which was signed by 50 organizations, indicated that, “CROP INSURANCE IS DIFFERENT THAN TRADITIONAL FARM POLICY AND ANY AMENDMENTS SHOULD BE CAUTIOUSLY CONSIDERED. As with other lines of insurance, crop insurance requires a broad pool of participants to function properly. Amendments to arbitrarily cap premium support or assign a means test for support will impact the pool of participants nationwide, both in the near term and longer term.” “Imposing a means test, cutting premium support by size, crop or type of coverage, and cutting private sector delivery all have the unintended consequence of creating barriers to participation and increasing calls for 100% taxpayer-funded ad hoc disaster assistance,” the letter said. The House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing yesterday titled, “Modernizing U.S. International Food Aid: Reaching More for Less.” A related Fact Sheet on U.S. Food Aid is available here. ANDREW NATSIOS, a former Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development testified at the hearing. Chairman ED ROYCE (R., Calif.) pointed to the current situation in Syria as an example of the difficulties associated with physically transferring food aid to needed regions of the world. “THE FIRST SHIPMENT, U.S. FOOD SHIPMENT, JUST ARRIVED IN THE REGION IN SYRIA. JUST ARRIVED TWO WEEKS AGO. THAT’S TWO YEARS AFTER THE CRISIS BEGAN. But even with this shipment, it is now the case that trucking it into the population in need, because of the difficulties of doing that, it’s not conceivable to move major portions of food by truck into those regions on a daily basis because there’s a daily assault by the Syrian military units, so that isn’t likely to happen,” Chairman Royce said. “So this old structure, you know, frankly, comes two years late and now the food aid is in country, but how do you get it to the region most in need, to those most in need? So with A MORE FLEXIBLE PROGRAM, it seems to me, we’ve been able to respond quickly, we’ve been able to maintain access and help keep local markets running, and reduce the probability of aid dependency over the long-term.” Mr. Natsios stated that, “Well, this goes back, Mr. Chairman, to this comment of [Amartya Sen] that WHEN YOU HAVE A 7,000 MILE SUPPLY CHAIN, A LOT OF THINGS CAN HAPPEN ALONG THE WAY.” Mr. Natsios went on to elaborate with a past example of getting food to troubled region in the 1990s, “MOST FAMINES ARE ALSO AN OFFSHOOT OF CIVIL WARS. The two things are a toxic mix with each other. And what usually happens is one side sees the food coming in, because it’s very visible. You can’t hide 100,000 tons of food. YOU CAN’T SHIP IT ELECTRONICALLY THROUGH A BANKING SYSTEM, WHICH YOU CAN DO WITH CASH, to an NGO doing local vouchers, for example. It’s a giant red flag. And if the enemy—if a particular side in the civil war wants to starve their opponents to death, the way you do is you blow up the food shipments.” An unofficial _FarmPolicy.com_ TRANSCRIPT of a portion of this exchange from yesterday’s hearing is available here. Also, in response to a question from Ranking Member ELIOT ENGEL (D., N.Y.) about food aid reform, former Sec. of Agriculture DAN GLICKMAN stated: “And I think a lot of people are either fearful of what might happen if we don’t have a statutory requirement that the overwhelming majority of the food aid that’s sent is in commodities, because I think they fear that maybe with budget issues or other things it won’t get the same priority here in the Congress or the administration. BUT I THINK THERE’S THE GROWING RECOGNITION THAT WE NEED A HECK OF A LOT MORE FLEXIBILITY. IT’S NOT ALL OR NOTHING.” Rep. Engel asked: “Do you think this would have much of an impact on American farm income?” Former Sec. Glickman replied: “No. In fact, my judgment is over the long-term this is a big plus for American agriculture because it will create the opportunity for countries to become more self-sufficient and buy more things from us, and there are examples around the world in Southeast Asia, and I mentioned Korea and others. It’s tough in Sub Saharan Africa and other places to do this in the short-term, but they desperately need us to help them become more food self-sufficient.” _Agricultural Economy_ AP writer David Pitt reported yesterday that, “CORN FARMERS ARE FEELING THE IMPACT OF A COOL, WET SPRING BUT ARE STILL EXPECTED TO BRING IN A RECORD CROP THIS YEAR. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its monthly report released Wednesday that farmers are expected to bring in 14 billion bushels of corn this year. That's 135 million bushels less than last month's estimate, reflecting the impact of the cooler spring. “But that WOULD STILL BEAT THE 13.1 BILLION BUSHEL RECORD, SET IN 2009. Last year, farmers harvested only about 11 billion bushels because of the drought.” Mr. Pitt added that, “The USDA said the amount of corn expected to be harvested per acre — the yield — will be reduced to 156.5 BUSHELS PER ACRE DOWN FROM 158 BUSHELS ESTIMATED A MONTH AGO. Last year's drought-withered corn yielded 123 bushels per acre.” A summary of U.S. corn related variables from yesterday’s report is available here, while a similar overview for U.S. soybeans can be found here. John Eligon reported in today’s New York Times that, “‘The projections are still highly tentative,’ JOSEPH W. GLAUBER, the U.S.D.A.’s chief economist, wrote in an e-mail. “As of Monday, about 4.5 million acres of corn and 22 million acres of soybeans remained unplanted, according to CHRISTOPHER A. HURT, an agricultural economist at Purdue University. By this time last year, all of the nation’s corn crop had already been planted.” Meanwhile, in other news, a recent update from the FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF KANSAS CITY indicated that, “Young and beginning farmers represent the next generation of farm operators, but entering the profession can be challenging. In the latest issue of the Main Street Economist, NATHAN KAUFFMAN, economist, explores the obstacles young and beginning farmers face in securing financing for capital-intensive operations.” Also, AP writer Hannah Dreier reported today that, “Long weighed down by dwindling populations in farming and coal communities and the movement of young people to cities, RURAL COUNTIES ARE BEING HIT BY SPUTTERING GROWTH IN RETIREMENT AND RECREATION AREAS, once residential hot spots for baby boomers.” With respect to TRADE, Steven Erlanger reported in today’s New York Times that, “The leaders of the EUROPEAN UNION, mired in recession and battered by increasing opposition from voters, are desperate for political success to promote economic growth. They are pushing for a rapid negotiation of a trade agreement with the United States aimed at expanding commerce and creating jobs. “But many experts say any such deal FACES LONG ODDS.” The Times article stated that, “FRANCE has already raised objections about its ‘cultural exception’ — limiting the number of Hollywood movies shown there to protect subsidized, domestic movies and television programs — and continued to press the issue ahead of a meeting on Friday of the European Union’s trade ministers [See also, “Planned EU-U.S. Trade Deal Hits Snag on Cultural Issues,” in today’s Wall Street Journal]. “At the same time, there is a range of other, probably more serious problems, including AGRICULTURAL DISPUTES OVER THINGS LIKE GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD AND CHLORINATED CHICKEN and regulatory questions about car safety, pharmaceuticals and financial derivatives.” _Regulations_ Ben Goad reported yesterday at The Hill’s RegWatch Blog that, “President Obama’s nominee to head an obscure but powerful regulatory office on Wednesday promised to make scrapping burdensome rules a priority. “HOWARD SHELANSKI’S testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs were his first public remarks since he was tapped in April to serve as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).” The Hill article added that, “He vowed to ‘institutionalize’ the president’s initiative directing agencies to review all rules on the books and get rid of the ones that don’t make sense.” Meanwhile, AP writer Alanna Durkin reported yesterday that, “MAINE FOOD RETAILERS WOULD HAVE TO PUT SPECIAL LABELS ON PRODUCTS THAT CONTAIN GENETICALLY MODIFIED INGREDIENTS, UNDER A MEASURE ADVANCED BY THE HOUSE ON TUESDAY.” The AP article pointed out that, “An amendment added Tuesday requires that five contiguous states, including Maine, pass similar laws before the state's law goes into effect. “Lawmakers say that requirement will give the law a better chance of success by allowing multiple states to share the costs of a possible legal challenge from the biotech industry while also sending a message to the U.S. government to enact a federal law.” And AP writer Rebecca Boone reported yesterday that, “FARMERS IN IDAHO HAVE FILED A POTENTIALLY CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT AGAINST SEED GIANT MONSANTO after genetically engineered wheat was found in an eastern Oregon field.” _Immigration_ Julia Preston and Ashley Parker reported in today’s New York Times that, “As debate started on Wednesday on amendments to the Senate immigration bill, border security emerged as a focal point, with supporters and doubters agreeing that those provisions would have to be strengthened to attract more votes, especially from Republicans.” The Times article added that, “The debate got off to a rocky start with a dispute between Senator HARRY REID of Nevada, the majority leader, and several Republicans, including Senator CHARLES E. GRASSLEY of Iowa, over how many votes would be required to pass an amendment.” _Keith Good_
Today, Congressman ADRIAN SMITH (R-NE) sought assurances for ethanol, beef, and other agriculture opportunities in future trade dialogue with Brazil during a Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade hearing on June 12, 2013. -_kg_
_Farm Bill_ Emma Dumain reported yesterday at Roll Call Online that, “House Minority Whip STENY H. HOYER, D-Md., Tuesday said he’s skeptical that House Republican leaders will proceed this summer with two major pieces of legislation — A FARM BILL and a firearms background check bill. “HE SAID THE FARM BILL REMAINS TOO CONTROVERSIAL WITHIN THE REPUBLICAN CONFERENCE TO BE CLEARED FOR FLOOR ACTION, despite the fact that Speaker JOHN A. BOEHNER, R-Ohio, on Monday pledged his support — along with that of House Majority Leader ERIC CANTOR, R-Va. — for bringing up the measure later this month under an open rule.” In the press briefing yesterday, Rep. Hoyer stated that: “As you know, the speaker has never voted for a Farm Bill. So it's -- and obviously he's not too enthusiastic about the farm program. “Democrats, on the other hand, are concerned about the nutritional program, as you know, that Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program which has been cut very substantially in the Farm Bill…[F]armers making over 750,000 still aren't getting -- are eligible to get some assistance. And if you're a husband and wife and you each make $749,000, you're eligible for assistance. But if you're a poor person relying on food stamps as we traditionally called them or -- you're going to get a cut. I think that's -- Democrats [are] going to feel that's a perverse priority…[S]o I don't know yet. We have to see what the bill, see what form it is.” Rep. Hoyer added that, “But you -- BUT YOU'RE GUESS, AT THIS POINT IN TIME, IS AS GOOD AS MINE AS TO WHETHER IT'S GOING TO COME TO THE FLOOR AS IT'S VERY CONTROVERSIAL IN THE REPUBLICAN CONFERENCE AS WELL.” Meanwhile, a news release yesterday from Rep. PAUL BROUN (R., Ga.) indicated that, “[Broun] today sent a letter to House Speaker JOHN BOEHNER and Majority Leader ERIC CANTOR urging them to take steps to remove the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other nutrition programs from the upcoming Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act. The letter, signed by 25 Republican members of Congress and supported by Heritage Action and Americans for Prosperity, focused on the fact that over 80 percent of legislation ostensibly meant to authorize federal farm programs is instead devoted to SNAP, pushing the total cost of the bill close to $1 trillion. “‘Combining the reauthorization of federal agriculture programs and nutrition programs into one bill has resulted in a battle of competing interests, and it represents a major reason why reauthorization – and much-needed reform – of these programs have been unsuccessful thus far. IT IS MY HOPE THAT SPEAKER BOEHNER AND MAJORITY LEADER CANTOR WILL WORK TO DIVIDE THESE UNRELATED PROGRAMS INTO TWO DISTINCT BILLS SO THAT THE HOUSE MAY ENGAGE IN AN OPEN AND TRANSPARENT DEBATE ON BOTH ISSUES.’” This topic also came up on Monday’s _AgriTalk_ radio program. MIKE ADAMS indicated that, “[T]he irony here is conventional thinking still is that you need food stamps as part of the farm bill to get a farm bill passed, but once again food stamps may be what keeps the farm bill from getting passed.” MARY KAY THATCHER, Senior Director of Congressional Relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, pointed out that, “It very well could be. And I’m sure that will add to the people who want to split the two and have commodity programs in one and food stamps in another. AND OF COURSE THAT WOULD ABSOLUTELY BE THE DEATH KNELL FOR A FARM BILL IN THE FUTURE IF WE SPLIT THOSE TWO UP.” Meanwhile, ECM (Minn.) Capitol Reporter T.W. Budig reported yesterday that, “Democratic 4th Congressional District Congresswoman BETTY MCCOLLUM heard a string of officials, faith leaders and members of the public testify against a proposal in the Republican-led U.S. House to cut about $21 billion over 10 years from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a food stamp program nicknamed SNAP. “McCollum, at the listening session Monday, June 10, at the State Capitol and in a statement on the U.S. House floor, called the proposal, contained in the House farm bill, ‘IMMORAL’ AND ‘CRUEL AND HARMFUL.’ No one at the supportive State Capitol listening session faulted the congresswoman’s language.” James Aldridge reported yesterday at the San Antonio Business Journal Online that, “Texas Food Bank Network officials say if the proposed cuts in the federal farm bill passes Congress, some 171,000 Texans could be dropped from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps. “Texas could face $1 billion in lost federal benefits and result in 481.7 million meals being eliminated.” Also yesterday, a letter signed by
194 195 [corrected] organizations, was sent to all House Members, as well as House Agriculture Committee staff and leadership staff.
In part, the letter pointed out that, “The _Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2013 _(H.R. 1947) ACHIEVES SPENDING CUTS THAT REDUCE THE FEDERAL BUDGET DEFICIT, SAVING TAXPAYERS $40 BILLION, including $6 billion through sequestration. It also repeals or consolidates more than 100 programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including Direct Payments to crop producers. Without passage of FARRM, no budget savings will be achieved beyond sequestration.”
Rep. RANDY NEUGEBAUER (R., Tex.) indicated yesterday that, “I’m hopeful that we can keep this process moving, reconcile the differences between the House and Senate, and get a bill signed into law by August.”
DTN Editor Emeritus Urban C. Lehner indicated yesterday in a blog update that, “For conservative Republicans, the choice is trickier. They shudder at the 40%-plus expansion of the food stamp program in recent years. They fear the deepening of a ‘culture of dependency’ on government handouts. By voting for the bill the ag committee reported they'd get a $20 billion cut in food-stamp spending over 10 years. That's a paltry cut in their view -- less than 3% -- but the alternative if the farm bill fails is no cut.
“By voting against this bill, on the other hand, they make a powerful statement of strict fidelity to conservative principle. Their opponents in the 2014 primary in their districts won't be able to say they sold out on food stamps by voting for a token cut.
“TEXAS REPUBLICAN MICHAEL CONAWAY HAS A NICE PHRASE SUMMARIZING THIS DILEMMA. FOR HOUSE REPUBLICANS, IS THIS IS A ‘LEGISLATIVE MOMENT’ OR A ‘THEATRE MOMENT?’”
After additional analysis, Mr. Lehner noted that, “That's why it's a delicate matter whether the farm bill can pass the House at all. And if it does, the food-stamp cut will shrink in the ensuing House-Senate conference, which will require House Republicans to vote again, and for a less appealing compromise.
“Last year the House leadership didn't bring the bill up for a floor vote, so for supporters the prospect of a floor debate represents progress. FURTHER PROGRESS WILL DEPEND ON WHETHER THE HOUSE IS A LEGISLATIVE BODY OR A STAGE.”
In addition to nutrition, policy observers have noted that dairy and crop insurance issues could also surface as flash points in the House Farm Bill process.
Beyond those variables, former Ag. Comm Chairman BOB GOODLATTE (R., Va.) tweeted yesterday that, “Approx. 600,000 U.S. jobs in food industries use sugar. I support reform of the sugar program #4jobs.”
Christopher Doering reported yesterday at The Des Moines Register Online that, “‘The House will need to pass a bill by the end of this month if there is any hope of working on the differences between the House and the Senate before our August summer break,’ said [Iowa GOP Sen. CHUCK GRASSLEY].
“‘If we saw anything last year it was that letting the farm bill expire creates even greater uncertainty and anxiety for those who care about farm legislation,’ he said. ‘IT’S TOUCH AND GO’ WHETHER THE FARM BILL WILL GET OUT OF THE HOUSE, HE ADDED.”
The Register item noted that, “‘The House of Representatives once again has an important opportunity to continue toward passage of a food, farm and jobs bill, and I am encouraged by indications that the House will follow regular order and consider a bill,’ said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
“‘However, I remain deeply concerned that the House version contains dramatic reductions in support of nutrition programs that are critical for the well-being of millions of working families, while also benefitting farm and rural economies,’ he said.”
Meanwhile, University of Illinois Agricultural Economist GARY SCHNITKEY indicated yesterday at the _farmdoc daily_ blog (“Farm Program Payments under Alternative Proposals”) that, “Commodity program payments under alternative House and Senate proposals are estimated for corn produced in McLean County, Illinois. Payments are estimated for 2013 through 2016 given average yields for three price scenarios: 1) a $4.50 Market Year Average (MYA) price for each year from 2013 through 2016, 2) a $4.00 MYA price, and 3) a $3.50 MYA price. UNDER ALL PRICE SCENARIOS, THE AVERAGE CROP REVENUE ELECTION (ACRE) PROGRAM HAS HIGHER PAYMENTS THAN COMMODITY PROGRAMS PROPOSED BY THE SENATE AND HOUSE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEES.”
Peter Schroeder reported yesterday at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “CONGRESS WILL HAVE UNTIL OCTOBER OR EVEN NOVEMBER BEFORE THE NATION IS IN DANGER OF DEFAULTING ON ITS DEBT, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
“The CBO provided an update to its debt limit projections Tuesday, determining that the ‘extraordinary measures’ available to the Treasury Department should buy enough time under the nation's borrowing cap that the nation will be well into the fall before that borrowing limit becomes an issue.”
Reuters writer Doug Palmer reported yesterday that, “The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday approved the nomination of White House chief international economic affairs adviser MIKE FROMAN to be U.S. trade representative, setting the stage for full Senate approval.
“‘I am glad he got such strong support in the committee,’ Chairman MAX BAUCUS, a Montana Democrat, said in a statement after the voice vote. ‘He now deserves that same support in the full Senate. We need to quickly approve this nomination so Mr. Froman can hit the ground running and get to work.’”
Julian Pecque reported yesterday at The Hill’s Global Affairs Blog that, “TWO-THIRDS OF THE DEMOCRATIC FRESHMEN IN THE HOUSE WARNED THAT THEY'RE AGAINST GIVING PRESIDENT OBAMA SPECIAL POWERS TO UNILATERALLY NEGOTIATE TRADE DEALS.
“The comments come as the U.S. Trade Representative is negotiating a major trade deal with Pacific rim countries and is about to start trade talks with the European Union. In a letter to the top Democrat on the trade panel, Rep. SANDER LEVIN (D-Mich.), the 36 Democrats led by Rep. MARK POCAN (D-Wis.) shared their ‘serious concerns’ about the ‘extreme secrecy’ surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks.”
And Peter Spiegel reported yesterday at The Financial Times Online that, “The US government has warned Brussels that EU efforts to placate French demands to exempt its film industry from high-profile transatlantic trade talks could unleash a torrent of demands in Washington for similar reciprocal carve-outs that would imperil a comprehensive deal.”
The FT article noted that, “‘If they take issues off the table, it will increase the pressure on our side to start carving out issues,’ [WILLIAM KENNARD, the US ambassador to the EU] said. ‘I’m not sitting here telling you we don’t have our own sensitivities. We do. It’s just that we’re not putting constraints on our negotiators on those issues.’”
Meanwhile, Jude Webber and John Paul Rathbone reported yesterday at The Financial Times Online that, “ARGENTINE FARMERS HALTED GRAINS SALES ON TUESDAY, in a protest against government ‘mismanagement’ which has led to high taxes, inflation and exchange rate problems.
“Farmers see hanging on to their crop as a way to hedge against stubbornly high inflation and the weakening domestic currency; but the sales stoppage, after months of strike talk, comes just as the market was beginning to see signs of Argentine grains sales picking up.”
_GMO Wheat Issue_
Sameer C. Mohindru reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “JAPAN TUESDAY RESTRICTED IMPORTS OF FEED WHEAT FROM THE U.S., suspending shipments from the Pacific Northwest and allowing only Soft Red Winter grade to be offered in the next tender due to concerns over the recent discovery of an unapproved genetically modified strain at an Oregon farm.”
Terry Wanzek noted in a column posted yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “The biotechnology in question—herbicide resistance that helps crops fight weeds—is well understood and commonly used in corn and soybeans. We eat safe and nutritious food derived from it every day. This trait wasn't commercialized in wheat for the simple economic reason that foreign buyers would refuse it because they have not yet embraced farming's biotech revolution.
“SO THE BIGGEST QUESTION IS NOT WHETHER THE GM WHEAT FOUND IN OREGON IS SAFE—WE KNOW WITH CONFIDENCE THAT IT IS—BUT RATHER HOW IT GOT THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE. Authorities must launch a thorough investigation that examines every possibility, from the misplacement of seeds during field tests years ago to the survival of a few stray plants in the wild.”
Wanzek added that, “And let's not discount the possibility of mischief: The enemies of biotech crops are thrilled by this discovery. Last week, Monsanto Co., which developed the GM wheat, refused to rule out the possibility of sabotage.”
Sara Murray and Corey Boles reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “THE PUSH TO REWRITE THE NATION'S IMMIGRATION LAWS EASILY ADVANCED IN THE SENATE TUESDAY, lending the effort a burst of momentum as lawmakers prepare to spend the rest of the month debating the issue.
“The Senate voted 82-15 on a motion that lets lawmakers formally debate the bill and begin offering amendments. All 15 ‘no’ votes came from Republicans.
“The measure, which required 60 votes to pass, won support from 28 Republicans. While they may not ultimately support the bill, many GOP lawmakers don't want to be seen as blocking debate on a sweeping immigration overhaul.”
The Journal writers noted that, “House Speaker JOHN BOEHNER (R., Ohio) predicted Congress would have a bill by the end of the year that could be signed into law, but he expressed reservations about the Senate's approach.
“‘I've got real concerns about the Senate bill, especially in the area of border security and internal enforcement of this system,’ Mr. Boehner told ABC News. ‘I'm concerned that it doesn't go far enough.’”
Today’s article added that, “Senate Democratic leaders are confident they have 60 votes to win approval of the bill already, a senior Democratic leadership aide said. The aide said that Democrats expected to lose at most three Democratic votes and to gain as many as 14 Republicans when a final vote is taken on the bill. Democrats now have a 54-46 majority, including two independents who caucus with them.”
Lisa Mascaro reported today at the Los Angeles Times Online that, “Trying to bridge the divide in the Republican Party is Sen. MARCO RUBIO of Florida, perhaps the most crucial member of the bipartisan group that wrote the bill. He has been working on his own border security measure to offer as an amendment.
“‘I understand many in the Democratic Party and the advocate community for immigrants are asking for certainty in the green card process, but I also think we need to have certainty on the border process,’ Rubio said Tuesday in the Senate halls. ‘And so we need to find both.’”
And Mark Landler and Ashley Parker reported in today’s New York Times that, “As the Senate voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to begin debating an overhaul of the nation’s immigrations laws, PRESIDENT OBAMA OFFERED A WHOLEHEARTED ENDORSEMENT OF THE BIPARTISAN PROPOSAL, WHICH PRESENTS HIM WITH A CHANCE TO REACH THE KIND OF LANDMARK ACCORD WITH REPUBLICANS THAT HAS ELUDED HIM ON THE BUDGET AND GUN VIOLENCE.
“For Mr. Obama, who has picked his shots in the immigration debate to avoid stirring partisan anger on Capitol Hill, it was a moment of promise and peril. While he threw his weight behind the bill, he conceded that it would not satisfy all sides and said he anticipated a bruising fight over issues like border security and the path to citizenship.
“The president, however, may have more leverage than in previous battles, not least because many Republicans believe rewriting the immigration laws is critical for the long-term viability of their party given the nation’s demographic shifts, even if doing so risks alienating parts of their base.”
The Times article stated that, “Mr. Obama, in an attempt to allay fears about immigration changes, said the bill before the Senate included the tightest border control provisions in American history. He said twice that illegal crossings were ‘near their lowest levels in decades.’
“But the president also insisted on a path to citizenship for immigrants here illegally — a provision that has continued to be a sticking point between the senators who drafted the legislation and conservative Republicans, especially in the House, who believe that approach represents amnesty for those who broke the law to enter or stay in the country.”
_Farm Bill_ David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “A landmark five-year Farm Bill cleared the Senate on Monday evening, SETTING THE STAGE FOR A LONG-DELAYED FIGHT ON THE HOUSE FLOOR NEXT WEEK OVER MAJOR REVISIONS IN AGRICULTURE POLICY AND THE FUTURE OF FOOD STAMPS. “The 66-27 roll call exceeded last year’s margin with 18 Republicans joining Democrats on passage. And the increased GOP support makes it more difficult for Speaker JOHN BOEHNER to walk away from the choices before him — as he did last summer.” Mr. Rogers explained that, “REPUBLICANS ARE GENUINELY DIVIDED OVER THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT IN FARM POLICY, with the speaker — a veteran of the House Agriculture Committee — engaged in his own personal war against a new milk- supply management proposal in both the House and Senate bills. “Food-stamp reform and the deep cuts demanded by the House raise fundamental questions for both parties. On top of all this, nearly 200 of the 435 House members have never before been part of a farm bill debate given the immense turnover of recent years. “THE RESULT COULD BE A BLOODY FREE-FOR-ALL, DRIVEN BY REGIONAL AND IDEOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES.” The Politico article noted that, “Nonetheless, after last year’s stall, it would be a major embarrassment for Republicans if the bill were to die on the House floor. And Majority Whip KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-Calif.) is working actively with House Agriculture Committee Chairman FRANK LUCAS (R-Okla.) to get to conference with the Senate and then see whether a final package can be brought back for enactment by the August recess.” Yesterday’s lengthy and detailed article also indicated that, “Cost is less the issue with dairy subsidies, measured in millions not billions. But after taking a pass on the Senate, POWERFUL DAIRY PROCESSORS ARE ALIGNED WITH BOEHNER IN THE HOUSE TO TRY TO KILL THE NEW PROGRAM — a lightning rod for those who believe government already has too great a role in agriculture. “Boehner brings an animosity, honed by past fights with a late Ohio dairyman from his district. But he is matched against Rep. COLLIN PETERSON (D-Minn.), a former House Agriculture Committee chairman who crafted the milk plan and has been an indispensable ally for Lucas. “Peterson’s proposal is to scrap much of the current dairy-support system in favor of one that tries to guarantee a farmer a minimum $4 margin between average feed costs and milk prices per hundredweight.” Ramsey Cox reported yesterday at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “‘Hopefully the House this time will complete this work and we’ll have an opportunity to go to conference,’ [Senate Ag Comm. Chairwoman DEBBIE STABENOW] said.” On the Senate floor yesterday, Chairwoman Stabenow noted that: “We started this last year. We had three weeks that the farm bill was on the floor of the Senate. We had 73 votes, adopted 42 amendments, and we took that as the basis for the bill this year. Once the House did not take up the bill—and, in my judgment, walked away from rural America last year—we had to come back and do it again, so we used the work product the Senate did last year as the basis of our work, and we had 2 weeks of debate on the floor of the Senate. We have added 14 more amendments to the bill that is in front of us.” In a news release yesterday, SPEAKER BOEHNER stated that, “The Majority Leader has announced that the House will consider the Farm Bill this month. The Leader and I will encourage the Rules Committee to provide a fair process that will allow for a vigorous and open debate – the kind of process I pledged we would have more of in the House when I became speaker.” He added that, “As a longtime proponent of top-to-bottom reform, my concerns about our country’s farm programs are well known. But as I said on the day I became speaker, my job isn’t to impose my personal will on this institution or its members. Rather, it’s to ensure we have a fair process and an open debate, leading to a product that reflects the will of our majority, the will of our members, and the will of those we represent. That’s the commitment I intend to keep as this process proceeds.” Niels Lesniewski reported yesterday that, “BOEHNER’S STATEMENT DIDN’T USE THE TECHNICAL TERM ‘OPEN RULE,’ which is the process the House generally uses to consider spending bills and any germane amendment may be offered.” And Ed O'Keefe reported yesterday at The Washington Post Online that, “But [Speaker Boehner] said he remains opposed to the House bill’s current proposal for a new dairy insurance program that would reduce payments to some farmers depending on overall milk supply, because he would prefer to further limit the government’s role in the process. “The speaker ‘wants a simpler approach with less government intervention than the convoluted current system and the proposal put forth in the committee-passed farm bill,’ his spokesman, MICHAEL STEEL, said in an e-mail.” In a statement yesterday, House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) noted in part that, “It’s going to be difficult but if everything stays on track, I believe it’s possible to get a bill to the President before the August recess, finally providing some certainty for our farmers, ranchers and consumers.” Ron Nixon reported yesterday at The New York Times Online that, “In the House, the farm bill faces a much tougher road. Last year, conservative lawmakers helped kill the bill because of their desire for deeper cuts in the food stamp program, which serves about 45 million Americans. “Hoping to satisfy conservatives, the House Agriculture Committee recently increased the amount of cuts to the program to the $20 billion mark over the next 10 years, up from $16 billion in last year’s bill.” Bloomberg writers Derek Wallbank and Alan Bjerga reported yesterday that, “‘Unless there are some significant changes and some significant effort, I don’t think this’ll get across the floor,’ Kansas Republican TIM HUELSKAMP said in an interview. ‘People in Kansas get it -- just because it’s the farm bill doesn’t mean you have to vote for it,’ said Huelskamp…” The Bloomberg writers added that, “Unless the bill is changed, ‘It could potentially cause problems for the farm bill passing, because you’ll have Republican leadership and a good deal of Republicans you’ll need to have to pass the farm bill angry at a provision that’s going to be in there,’ JERRY SLOMINSKI, International Dairy Foods Association senior vice president for legislative and economic affairs, said in an interview.” Speaking yesterday on the _AgriTalk_ radio program with MIKE ADAMS, National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO JERRY KOZAK noted that, “All indications are, though, that [Rep. BOB GOODLATTE (R., Va.)] intends to submit his amendment to the House floor to strip out the stabilization, and so we will have to deal with that. I’m hoping others in the House see that the House Agriculture Committee last year and this year did not support his amendment and that it’s time for processors who are advocating the Goodlatte-Scott amendment to end the divisiveness that they’ve created and to recognize that farmers need a program that contains the market stabilization, as well as taxpayers.” MARY KAY THATCHER, Senior Director of Congressional Relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, noted on yesterday’s _AgriTalk_ program that, “We may have a little bit better view of where we are on that later this week. The Republican leadership is going to whip the [Farm] bill on Wednesday, meaning they’ll be making their calls around to the other offices asking where they’re going to be.” She noted that, “So most speculation is that we require at least 150 Republican votes, at least 70 Democratic votes to get the necessary 218, and I don’t think we’re there on either count right now.” Ms. Thatcher added that, “You really didn’t have the nutrition community saying we’ve got to do this because none of the nutrition programs have to be reauthorized. They just continue on. “So the fact is if they continue on as is right now, they don’t take either the $20 billion cut that the House has or the $4 billion cut that the Senate has. There’s really no incentive for them to want to move forward with consideration of this farm bill. So it’s difficult when you don’t have a constituency that’s that big and that organized helping you push for the farm bill to get done.” Reuters writer Charles Abbott reported yesterday that, “AGRICULTURAL LOBBYISTS AND ANALYSTS SAID THE SENATE VOTE MADE A NEW FARM LAW MORE LIKELY BUT NOT CERTAIN THIS YEAR…[A] bruising fight was possible in the House over food stamps. Some 134 of the 201 Democrats in the House signed a resolution against any cuts. And some Republicans want steeper cuts in farm programs as well as in food stamps, which could jeopardize passage of a bill.” Also yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office released an update regarding the House Farm Bill. Meanwhile, an update yesterday by Kansas State University Agricultural Economist ART BARNABY (“Means Testing is Good Politics, But Economic Sense?”) noted that, “One would doubt that many in Congress really understand the administrative cost for a means test that will likely exceed any savings. The real definition of a big farm is ‘anyone who farms an acre more than I farm’. However, Congress continually tries to define a ‘big’ farm based on payment limits and Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), because it makes good politics. Unlike commodity programs where subsidy checks are sent to farmers, crop insurance only provides a subsidy payment in cash if there is a claim. Otherwise, crop insurance is a production expense and farmers are the ones writing checks. “If the proposed means test of a $750,000 ($750K) AGI limit is applied to crop insurance, it will require farmers over the limit to pay a 15 point increase in their share of the crop insurance premium. Most Washington observers expect any means testing for crop insurance will be determined by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) because FSA already has means testing for their programs. One would think the AGI limit would be a simple administrative process. But one only needs to read the 430 pages of FSA handbook on AGI limits, titled ‘Payment Eligibility, Payment Limitation, and Average Adjusted Gross Income’ to figure out THIS IS MORE COMPLICATED THAN EXPECTED.” Dr. Barnaby added that, “It appears some policymakers are starting to understand that only a few farmers would be over the $750K limit, but they account for a very large share of the production. IF THESE ‘BIG’ FARMS DROP OUT OF THE INSURANCE POOL, IT WOULD INCREASE RATES ON THE REMAINING FARMERS, IF THESE LARGE FARMERS ARE PRODUCING UNDERWRITING GAINS. THE ADMINISTRATION IS MAKING THE OPPOSITE ARGUMENT ON THE HEALTH INSURANCE POOL, WHERE THEY WANT EVERYONE IN THE INSURANCE POOL TO MAKE ‘RATES AFFORDABLE.’” Ohio State University Agricultural Economist CARL ZULAUF indicated on Friday at the _farmdoc daily_ blog (“Market Distortion and Farm Program Design: A Case Examination of the Proposed Farm Price Support Programs”) that, “This post examines the potential for market distortions caused by the price support programs currently proposed in the House and Senate 2013 Farm Bills. It is common for discussion of market distortion to focus on the level of price supports, but the degree of distortion reflects the interaction of all of a program's parameters.” Also with respect to agricultural programs, the full HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE is scheduled to markup the FY 2014 Agriculture Appropriations Bill on Thursday morning. _Agricultural Economy_ Anthony Greder and Emily Garnett reported yesterday at DTN (link requires subscription) that, “U.S. corn planting continued to inch toward the finish line this past week, progressing 4 percentage points to reach 95% COMPLETE by Sunday, June 9, according to USDA's latest Crop Progress report. That's 3 percentage points behind the average pace of 98%. “Concerns remain about how many acres that have already been planted will be drowned out by recent heavy rains.” The DTN update added that, “Soybeans were 71% planted, compared to 57% last week and a 84% five-year average.” Reuters writer Sam Nelson reported yesterday that, “U.S. farmers will struggle planting the final stages of this season's corn and soy crops this week due to occasional rains, but crops that have been sown should grow rapidly, an agricultural meteorologist said on Monday.” University of Illinois Agricultural Economist DARREL GOOD indicated yesterday at the _farmdoc daily_ blog (“Difficult to Anticipate Corn Production”) that, “A large number of acreage, yield, consumption, and price scenarios are still possible at this time. Importantly, THERE IS ROOM FOR A MUCH SMALLER CROP THAN THE EARLY PROSPECTS OF 14 BILLION BUSHELS BEFORE RATIONING WOULD BE REQUIRED DURING THE UPCOMING MARKETING YEAR. A crop of 13 billion bushels would be sufficient to meet expected needs at current new crop price levels. If harvested acreage is near 85.5 million acres (four million below the early forecast), as an example, a crop of that size would require an average yield of 152 bushels, about 10 bushels below trend value. The USDA will provide updated projections in the June 12 WASDE report.” _Smithfield_ Christopher Doering reported earlier this week at USA Today Online that, “The fate of a Chinese company's controversial $4.7 billion purchase of U.S. pork giant Smithfield Foods COULD REST IN THE HANDS OF A SECRETIVE AND POWERFUL GOVERNMENT PANEL LITTLE KNOWN OUTSIDE OF THE NATION'S CAPITAL. “The proposed takeover announced last month of Virginia-based Smithfield, the world's largest pork processor and hog producer, by China's Shuanghui International Holdings has thrust the government's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) into the spotlight, highlighting the growing concern about U.S. companies being purchased by foreign entities.” Mr. Doering indicated that, “The committee was given the authority in 1988 to review the impact that foreign purchases of American companies have on national security. CFIUS, which is headed by the Treasury secretary, includes members from the departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Energy, along with five other agencies. “The government panel is notorious for operating in secret and is not permitted by law to talk about or comment publicly on any transaction, largely because of the sensitive information it is given to review. In 2011, the most recent year data from CFIUS (pronounced sif-e-us) are available, it reviewed 111 cases, and 10 of them were from China. The panel does not reject deals outright. Instead, it tells the companies it is going to recommend the president of the United States block their deal, which usually causes the parties to drop their proposed merger before the White House intervenes.” The article noted that, “Companies usually ask CFIUS to review their cases, but in rare instances, they can be told they have to file. Once a decision is reached, usually after 30 days, committee officials tell the businesses, which have the option of making it public. “LARRY POPE, chief executive of Smithfield, told investors after the deal was announced on May 29 that the company plans to file with CFIUS ‘out of an abundance of caution.’” Ian Berry reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “HOG PRICES JUMPED TO A NEARLY TWO-YEAR HIGH, bolstered by strong U.S. consumer demand for pork and tight near-term supplies of slaughter-ready hogs. “Hog futures also continued to draw support from sentiment that U.S. pork exports will increase if China's largest pork processor completes its planned $4.7 billion takeover of Smithfield Foods Inc.” _Immigration_ Sara Murray and Corey Boles reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “EFFORTS TO SECURE THE BORDER WITH MEXICO WILL BE A CENTRAL FOCUS AS A SWEEPING OVERHAUL OF THE NATION'S IMMIGRATION LAWS MOVES TO THE SENATE FLOOR THIS WEEK, the start of a marathon month of debate on the bill. “Senators are set to vote Tuesday on a procedural motion to formally bring the bill to the floor, which requires 60 votes to pass and would open debate on a stream of amendments, including many that could split the coalition of senators backing the bill and endanger its chances of passage.” The Journal writers explained that, “The bipartisan group of eight senators that crafted the bill is still torn over how much to adjust the legislation to win additional support, particularly from Republicans looking to strengthen requirements for border security. Border security is a particularly sensitive issue, because the legislation sets security benchmarks that must be met before anyone currently in the country illegally can receive green cards and become legal permanent residents…[I]n addition to tougher border-security provisions, Democrats expect Republicans to try to bolster a provision requiring the payment of back taxes by illegal immigrants who are seeking to become legal residents.” Bloomberg writers Roxana Tiron and Kathleen Hunter reported yesterday that, “HOUSE REPUBLICAN LEADERS ARE SEEKING TO SPEED UP EFFORTS TO CRAFT U.S. IMMIGRATION-LAW PROPOSALS AS THE SENATE NEARS THE FIRST TEST VOTES ON ITS OWN PLAN. “House Speaker JOHN BOEHNER and other leaders have decided to focus on immigration before the August recess, three Republican aides said yesterday. The aides asked not to be quoted by name because official deadlines haven’t been set.” Sen. JEFF SESSIONS (R., Ala.) penned a column on immigration issues in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, while House Judiciary Committee Chairman BOB GOODLATTE (R., Va.) had an opinion item posted on Sunday at The Roanoke Times (Va.) Online.” _Keith Good_
_Farm Bill: Senate Issues, Chairwoman Stabenow on C-SPAN_ Pete Kasperowicz reported on Friday at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “The Senate starts work at 2 p.m. [today], and will continue to debate the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, S. 744. AT 5 P.M., DEBATE WILL SHIFT TO THE AGRICULTURE REFORM, FOOD, AND JOBS ACT, S. 954. “At 5:30 p.m., senators will vote on an amendment to the farm bill from Sen. PAT LEAHY (D-Vt.), which would set up a pilot project for Internet projects in rural areas. “AFTER THAT, THE SENATE SHOULD BE IN A POSITION TO VOTE ON FINAL PASSAGE OF THE FARM BILL.” Philip Brasher reported on Friday at Roll Call Online that, “Farmers know they’ll lose $5 billion in annual direct payments when a new farm bill passes. But up until now, few growers have complained about that prospect, because they know they can still count on buying federally subsidized crop insurance. “However, those popular crop insurance policies may start coming with some strings attached. The Senate farm bill (S 954) would ADD a means test to the insurance program for the first time and would also begin REQUIRING POLICYHOLDERS TO COMPLY with rules for protecting wetlands and preventing soil erosion. “‘There is consternation out here in the countryside,’ said DAVID MILLER, director of research and commodity services for the Iowa Farm Bureau, that state’s largest and most powerful farm organization. The crop insurance restrictions are ‘making the Senate bill less attractive to people,’ he said.” Mr. Brasher explained that, “The House Agriculture Committee’s farm bill (HR 1947) contains no new restrictions on crop insurance. But SEVERAL AMENDMENTS expected to be debated on the House floor include proposals to cap the amount of premium subsidies any one farmer can receive. The conservation compliance measure and adjusted gross income limit also are likely to be proposed as amendments.” In a separate note on crop insurance, Iowa farmer Mark Gerdes explained on Friday at the Ames Tribune Online that, “Critics are quick to point out that more than $17 billion will be paid out to farmers and ranchers who purchased crop insurance for their losses in 2012. The implication here is that the $17 billion is some sort of windfall being bestowed upon farmers by the federal government. “But the math tells a very different story. Insurance policies must first be purchased, and then policy holders must absorb the policy’s deductible after suffering a verifiable loss, before they can collect a single dime. In 2012, farmers PAID $4.1 BILLION out of their own pockets to purchase crop insurance policies. Then, farmers SHOULDERED $12.7 BILLION IN LOSSES as part of their crop insurance policy deductibles. Together, these total about $17 billion.” Meanwhile, Abbie Fentress Swanson reported on Friday at the Field Notes Blog (Harvest Public Media) that, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture first began designating funds for RURAL DEVELOPMENT in 1933 as part of the New Deal. More federal funds were allocated in the Agricultural Act of 1970. During this fiscal year, the rural development program is administering approximately $38 billion in loans, loan guarantees and grants. It’s being used to construct or improve 48 rural libraries, assist 243 projects in the delivery of healthcare and help more than 270,000 low income families get affordable housing, according to the USDA. “But how are decisions made about projects that benefit rural America? On a recent visit to Washington, [Abbie Fentress Swanson] spoke with DOUG O’BRIEN, acting under secretary for the USDA’s Rural Development program. He explained how the rural development program is implemented and how its funds are dispersed.” In addition, David A. Fahrenthold reported in yesterday’s Washington Post that, “The problem is that the U.S. government has at least 15 official definitions of the word ‘RURAL,’ two of which apply only to Puerto Rico and parts of Hawaii…[T]here are 11 definitions of ‘rural’ in use within the U.S. Department of Agriculture alone.” The Post article indicated that, “‘If you were starting from a blank slate, providing one definition would be optimal,’ said DOUG O’BRIEN, the USDA official in charge of rural development programs. “But optimal is not happening. This week, as soon as Monday, the Senate is expected to pass a bill that would pare down the list of definitions. Not down to one, however. “Down to nine.” Mr. Fahrenthold added that, “Now, the U.S. Senate is considering a farm bill that would knock six definitions off the list by settling on a single population cap for ‘rural’ areas. The Senate bill decrees that any place that has fewer than 50,000 residents, and isn’t adjacent to a big city, should be counted as rural. “That’s simpler. The USDA supports the idea. But in the House, both Republicans and Democrats have said the population cap is too high and the bill’s vision of ‘rural’ is too expansive.” On Friday, veteran agricultural reporter Jerry Hagstrom and Senate Roll Call reporter NIELS LESNIEWSKI interviewed Senate Ag Comm. Chairwoman DEBBIE STABENOW on C-SPANS weekly _Newsmakers_ program (video replay here, and _FarmPolicy.com_ TRANSCRIPT of the discussion available here). One topic of particular interest during the interview was the proposed sale of Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, to the Chinese (Shuanghui). Mr. Lesniewski reported on Friday at Roll Call Online that, “‘This is the largest sale of a company in the United States to a Chinese state-owned enterprise,’ the Michigan Democrat [Chairwoman Stabenow] said in an interview Friday about the proposed sale of Smithfield Foods to Shuanghui International. SHE SAID SHE HAS A NUMBER OF CONCERNS ABOUT THE DEAL AT THIS POINT, but declined to oppose it outright. “Speaking at length about the proposed purchase for the first time, Stabenow raised the possibility that the Chinese entity might cause problems for the U.S.-Japanese pork trade. “‘Pork producers are dependent upon exports, and so I totally understand that. My concern is our biggest export market in the U.S. is Japan, right next door to China. So, what happens when you have a Chinese company now owning [Smithfield],’ Stabenow said during an interview that will air Sunday on C-SPAN’s ‘Newmakers.’” More details on this subject can be found on pages 5-7 of the _FarmPolicy_ transcript of the _Newsmakers_ interview. In remarks on _Newsmakers_ after the detailed discussion with Chairwoman Stabenow, Mr. Hagstrom noted that, “I’m still betting that the House and Senate will come together [to pass a Farm Bill]. “Now, if they don’t, most likely then they would pass another extension. And there are some people WHO LIKE THE EXTENSION because the extension doesn’t cut the big farm programs and the extension also doesn’t make any cut in food stamps. But the thing is, that’s not reform. And also it leaves out any changes in agricultural policy that would respond to what’s happened to agriculture in the last five years. So really, it would be a better idea if they can pass a bill.” Similarly, Corey Boles reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “A FAILURE BY LAWMAKERS TO REACH A COMPROMISE WOULD ALMOST CERTAINLY SEE THE CURRENT FARM AND NUTRITION PROGRAMS CONTINUE ON AUTOPILOT FOR AT LEAST ANOTHER YEAR.” _Farm Bill: House_ Linda Vanderwerf reported on Saturday at the West Central Tribune (Willmar, Minn.) Online that, “U.S. Rep. COLLIN PETERSON believes a new federal Farm Bill could be approved before Congress’ August recess.” The article added that, “[P]eterson said he believes the House will FINISH VOTING ON A FINAL BILL BY JULY 1. A conference committee would meet in July, giving both chambers a chance to approve a bill before the August recess.” Brett Neely reported last week at Minnesota Public Radio Online that, “Privately, Democratic sources say the newest [Farm] bill MAY ONLY RECEIVE THE VOTES OF 30 OUT OF 201 HOUSE DEMOCRATS BECAUSE THE LEGISLATION CUTS TOO MUCH SPENDING ON THE FEDERAL SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM -- nearly $21 billion over the next decade. “U.S. Rep. COLLIN PETERSON, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, admits he's having trouble convincing many Democrats to back the bill. But Peterson, who co-authored the farm bill with the committee's Republican chairman, U.S. Rep. FRANK LUCAS of Oklahoma, said the GOP is also having trouble drawing support because conservatives want even deeper food stamp cuts.” The update noted that, “‘I've had some Republicans tell me they only have 150 votes,’ said Peterson, who represents Minnesota's 7th District. “If the Republican and Democratic vote tallies are accurate, the farm bill is far short of the 218 votes needed to pass the House.” Dan Voorhis reported on Friday at The Wichita Eagle Online that, “The Senate is expected to vote on its version of a farm bill on Monday, [Rep. KEVIN YODER (R., Kans.)] said, and he expects the House to vote on its version sometime this month.” The article added that, “The Senate bill would cut about $400 million a year from the SNAP program, or about 0.5 percent. The House bill would cut SNAP spending by about $2 billion a year, about 3 percent, and partially eliminate the practice of automatically awarding food stamps when people sign up for certain other welfare programs. “Yoder said he expects the two bills to be sent to a conference committee to determine a single version before the August recess.” Jerry Hagstrom reported yesterday at National Journal Online that, “That cantankerous body [House] did not take up the farm bill last year, so the argument that members have already voted on the farm bill will not work. BUT THE MAJOR ISSUES THAT SUPPOSEDLY STOPPED THE HOUSE LEADERSHIP FROM BRINGING THE BILL TO THE FLOOR HAVE BEEN KNOWN FOR TWO YEARS: whether the House will consider the Agriculture Committee’s $20.5 billion cut to food stamps over 10 years too much or too little; whether a majority will go along with a proposal for a dairy program written by Agriculture Committee ranking member COLLIN PETERSON, D-Minn., and beloved by dairy farmers, or prefer an alternative sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman BOB GOODLATTE, R-Va., and favored by dairy processors; and finally, whether the full House will go along with the Agriculture Committee’s generosity toward crop insurance or want to restrict subsidies and impose conservation compliance, as the Senate has done. “With the farm bill expected to come to the House floor the week of June 17, HOUSE LEADERS MUST DECIDE WHETHER TO HAVE AN OPEN RULE OR LIMIT AMENDMENTS. If the bill passes on the House floor, strong leadership from both the Senate and the House will be needed to complete a conference report and send a bill to President Obama before the current extension of the farm bill expires Sept. 30. The decision of more than three-quarters of the Senate to end debate on the farm bill might signal that there is a point at which all legislators will beg for someone to whip them into line.” In a recent bipartisan, bicameral discussion on the Farm Bill hosted by Sen. MARK PRYOR (D), where he interviewed his fellow federal lawmakers from Arkansas Sen. JOHN BOOZMAN (R) and Rep. RICK CRAWFORD (R), Rep. Crawford indicated that, “Our big issue is probably going to be nutrition.” He added that, “I think what we are going to see is kind of jockeying for position on what amendments are in order on the floor.” _Farm Bill- Regulations, Egg Bill, GMO Labeling_ An update Friday from the House Agriculture Committee indicated that, “This week during _The Ag Minute_, guest host Rep. Rodney Davis discusses a key REGULATORY RELIEF MEASURE that is contained in H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2013. The measure, which Rep. Davis sponsored and introduced during the House Agriculture Committee markup of FARRM, would ensure that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reviews the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) regulatory proposals that could negatively impact farmers and ranchers.” Attorney ERIKA HAROLD, who is challenging Rep. Davis in the GOP Congressional primary, has similarly noted that: “I will oppose the passage and implementation of burdensome regulations that undermine the agricultural industry and unnecessarily increase production costs.” And Ben Goad reported on Friday at The Hill’s RegWatch Blog that, “PRESIDENT OBAMA DEFENDED HIS ADMINISTRATION’S REGULATORY RECORD during a speech on this week’s California swing, saying he favors in a ‘light touch’ when it comes to federal rules.” Meanwhile, in more specific developments regarding regulations, Richard Simon reported on Saturday at the Los Angeles Times Online that, “A FIGHT HAS BROKEN OUT OVER HOW EGG-LAYING HENS SHOULD BE TREATED — and specifically whether California can be blocked from requiring that eggs imported into the state be produced under voter-approved standards ensuring that the chickens can spread their wings. “This being Congress, the measure pushed by Rep. STEVE KING (R-Iowa) is not just about eggs. It has morphed into a dispute over the rights of the states versus those of the federal government, with a host of laws governing food and even animal welfare potentially in the balance.” Mr. Simon noted that, “King persuaded House Agriculture Committee colleagues to include in the proposed farm bill a prohibition on states imposing conditions on another state's production of agricultural goods. The bill is expected to come before the House this month.” [Note that a video replay and _FarmPolicy.com_ TRANSCRIPT of this issue during the Ag Comm. Farm Bill debate is available here]. “King is taking aim at California's Proposition 2, a much-debated 2008 initiative that requires California farmers to give egg-laying birds enough room to stand and spread their wings. Although the measure does not specify cage size, industry officials believe it will require that hens be given about twice as much room and perhaps more than the current standard of 67 square inches per bird, about as much space as a sheet of letter paper, while the Humane Society of the United States contends it will effectively lead to cage-free production.” Also on this issue, an editorial yesterday at the Ventura County Star (Calif.) “Don't take away states' right to make food laws,” stated that, “KAREN ROSS, head of California’s Department of Food and Agriculture, wrote to California’s congressional representatives in opposition to Rep. King’s idea. She said it’s a ‘SIGNIFICANT THREAT’ to our nation’s food supply and ‘SEVERELY UNDERMINES STATES’ RIGHTS.’” And Julian Hattem reported on Friday at The Hill’s RegWatch Blog that, “The federal government should take a cue from Connecticut and require special labels on that foods containing genetically modified products, says Sen. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-Conn.).” Dan D’Ambrosio penned an interesting article on Friday at the Burlington Free Press Online titled, “The battle over GMOs.” The subtitle to the article stated: “STATES ARE TAKING THE LEAD in requiring labels on genetically engineered food as legal battles with the biotech industry loom. The main question: Are GMOs safe?” _Agricultural Economy- Trade_ Ricardo Lopez reported recently at the Los Angeles Times Online that, “A decade or so ago, dozens of California dairy farmers built million-dollar systems called methane digesters that convert manure into power. Then, unexpected pollution problems, regulatory roadblocks and low rates of return killed most such digester systems, leaving only a handful in operation. “ALL THAT COULD BE CHANGING AS RENEWABLE ENERGY COMPANIES DEVELOP NEW WAYS OF RUNNING DIGESTERS TO BOOST PROFITS. They're improving technology to meet tough smog-control rules. At the same time, the state is trying out a streamlined permitting process to help remove costly regulatory hurdles.” Reuters writer Sam Nelson reported on Friday that, “Rain showers over the next week will present a challenge to U.S. farmers trying to finish up planting this season's corn and soybean crops, an agricultural meteorologist said on Friday,” while a separate Reuters article from Friday stated: “U.S. hog producers are losing hope for an early harvest of this year's expected bumper corn crop, which could lower feed costs sooner rather than later, as wet fields continue to impede planting in parts of the Midwest, producers and analysts at a pork industry meeting here [Des Moines] said on Friday.” And a news release Friday from University of Missouri Extension indicated that, “Soybean yields may be lower this year as weather forces farmers to postpone planting, says a University of Missouri Extension agronomy specialist.” John Eligon reported in today’s New York Times that, “As farmers go through the ritual of examining every weather map and every tick on the futures boards, trying to divine if and how their pocketbooks can survive another curveball from nature, they are also keeping an eye on Washington, where Congress is still bickering over the farm bill. FARMERS ARE HOPING THAT LAWMAKERS WILL MAINTAIN TAXPAYER-SUBSIDIZED CROP INSURANCE AND OTHER SUPPORT PROGRAMS THAT WILL HELP THEM GET THROUGH DISASTERS LIKE FLOODS AND DROUGHT. “Another year of mediocre crop yields could well trickle down to consumers, though agriculture experts insist that it is too early to rule out a robust harvest of corn and soybeans for this year.” In trade news, Nirmala Menon reported on Friday at the Canada Real Time Blog (Wall Street Journal) that, “CANADA has declared war on new U.S. meat rules, and Friday unveiled a list of possible retaliatory tariffs on American imports. Some obvious items made the list: American meat, potatoes, fruit and cheese. “Some less obvious ones are also being considered: chocolate, corn flakes, spaghetti and ‘swivel seats with various height adjustment.’ See the full list here.” _ _ _Biofuels_ Amy Harder reported yesterday at National Journal Online that, “TWO SENATE COMMITTEES ARE WRESTLING OVER A CRITICAL ENERGY POLICY THAT INFLUENCES PRICES OF BOTH FUEL AND FOOD: the renewable-fuels standard that mandates an increasing amount of biofuels—mostly corn-based ethanol—to be blended with gasoline each year. “The two panels that set energy and environment policy both want jurisdiction over the mandate, which has come under intense scrutiny from both parties in the past year. The standard is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, which is squarely in the wheelhouse of the ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE. That puts the burden on the backs of ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE leaders to argue why they should have top billing on the issue.” _Immigration_ Ramsey Cox reported on Friday at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “Senate Majority Leader HARRY REID (D-Nev.) praised the bipartisan efforts of the Gang of Eight as the Senate began debating a comprehensive immigration reform package Friday…[R]eid said the Senate would complete work on the bill before the July 4 recess.” David Nakamura and Rosalind S. Helderman reported in Saturday’s Washington Post that, “Leading critics took to the floor [on Friday] to begin making their case against the proposal, which features a 13-year path to citizenship for immigrants who entered the country illegally, new visas for high-tech and low-skilled workers, increased border security investments and the elimination of some categories of visas for extended family members.” David Nakamura and Rosalind S. Helderman reported in yesterday’s Washington Post that, “As the full Senate engages in intensive deliberations over a landmark immigration bill this week, proponents are scrambling to maintain crucial bipartisan support in the face of Republican demands to strengthen border security.” And Michael D. Shear and Ashley Parker reported in today’s New York Times that, “Senator KELLY AYOTTE, Republican of New Hampshire, announced on Sunday that she would support the immigration bill, calling it a ‘thoughtful bipartisan solution to a tough problem.’ “At the same time, conservative Republican senators, led by JEFF SESSIONS of Alabama and TED CRUZ of Texas, are preparing an onslaught of amendments that threaten to unravel the carefully crafted compromise.” _Keith Good_
_Farm Bill_ DTN Ag Policy Editor CHRIS CLAYTON reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “In a strong showing of support, the U.S. Senate voted 75-22 on Thursday morning to close off debate on amendments to the farm bill and move ahead to final debate on the legislation and one more vote likely on Monday to send the bill to the House. “Thursday's cloture vote allowed leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee to avoid other possible changes to the legislation and broke the gridlock over just how many amendments warranted debate. TWENTY-TWO REPUBLICANS JOINED 53 DEMOCRATS IN VOTING FOR THE BILL. All 22 votes opposing the cloture vote were Republicans.” Mr. Clayton noted that, “The Senate bill would also tie conservation compliance to eligibility for crop-insurance premium subsidies. Following an amendment to the bill, people with more than $750,000 adjusted gross income would see their crop-insurance premium subsidies capped as well.” Prior to yesterday’s vote, Ag Committee Chairwoman DEBBIE STABENOW (D., Mich.) and Committee Ranking Member THAD COCHRAN (R., Miss.) urged their colleagues to vote for the cloture measure, a video replay of their floor remarks can be viewed here. There will be two votes in the Senate at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, one on the an amendment by PAT LEAHY (D., Vt.) -amendment #998 (rural gigabit internet projects)- and the second vote will be on passage of the Farm Bill. Bruce Alpert reported yesterday at the New Orleans Times-Picayune Online that, “The Senate won't consider an amendment to delay flood insurance premium rates as part of the 2013 Farm Bill. Senate Majority Leader HARRY REID, D-Nevada, announced Thursday that when the Senate resumes consideration of the bill Monday, it will debate just one amendment, one by Sen. PATRICK LEAHY, D-Vt. “That means 250 proposed amendments to the farm bill won't get a vote, including Sen. MARY LANDRIEU'S flood insurance proposal.” Recall that on the Senate floor Tuesday, Sen. Landrieu stymied the Farm Bill amendment process by raising objections to every GOP amendment that was offered because she could not get a vote on her flood insurance amendment (amendment #1113). A video replay of a portion of Sen. Landrieu’s remarks on this issue from Tuesday can be viewed here. In his Times-Picayune article, Mr. Alpert pointed out that, “One Senate aide said the two mangers of the Farm Bill decided the best way to move the legislation, critical to farmers, was to rule out consideration of all but one of the 250 pending amendments. The problem, the aide said, was that Democrats and Republicans couldn't agree on what amendments to eliminate. “‘THERE JUST ISN'T TIME TO SPEND WEEKS VOTING ON HUNDREDS OF AMENDMENTS TO EVERY BILL WHEN THERE ARE OTHER BILLS THE SENATE NEEDS TO WORK ON,’ another Senate staffer said. ‘After weeks of working toward a bipartisan agreement to vote on a reasonable number of amendments, and with the parties unable to reach a deal, Senate leaders made the decision to move to a final vote on the bill.’” Senator JOHN THUNE expressed frustration on the Farm Bill amendment process yesterday on the floor. During remarks that focused mostly on an amendment he had filed regarding target prices in Title I of the measure, the South Dakota Republican indicated that, “Several of my colleagues and I pointed out during the debate on the Farm Bill during the Ag. Committee, we have deep concerns over what we believe is a step backwards in the Commodity Title with the creation of the Adverse Market Payments, or what we refer to as the ‘AMP’ Program. “This program takes a step backward from last year’s Farm Bill by re-creating a program with countercyclical payments and FIXED TARGET PRICES. In fact, I would argue that this is a policy that goes back, this policy predates cell phones. This policy predates the Internet. This is going back to 1980s type farm policy” (video replay of Sen. Thune’s remarks here). Senator MIKE JOHANNS (R., Neb.), who had also expressed concerns about target prices in the Committee process, noted yesterday in a conference call with reporters that, “So the final thing I would say is this. And this is really what it came down to for me: Are we better off passing this bill than not having a farm bill? I think the answer to that is without a doubt yes. And so I decided to support the bill, even though it does have some warts to it. We're better off with this bill than not having a farm bill.” AP writer Mary Clare Jalonick reported yesterday that, “The Senate legislation would eliminate some subsidies paid to farmers whether they grow crops or not and WOULD MAKE A SMALL CUT TO FOOD STAMPS — ABOUT $400 MILLION A YEAR OUT OF THE PROGRAM'S ALMOST $80 BILLION ANNUAL COST, OR ABOUT HALF OF A PERCENT. The bill would also create new subsidy programs for Midwestern and Southern farmers.” Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader HARRY REID (D., Nev.) indicated yesterday that, “Unfortunately, last year the House of Representatives failed to take up the Senate's bipartisan farm bill. I hope this year Republican leadership will allow a vote in the House on the Senate's bipartisan legislation, which will create jobs, cut taxpayer subsidies and reduce the deficit by $23 billion. “America's farms and ranches are the most productive in the world. But to keep America's farms and America's economy strong, Congress must pass a strong farm bill and do it quickly.” At a news conference yesterday, House Speaker JOHN BOEHNER (R., Ohio) stated: “Leader Cantor announced that the House will be taking up the farm bill later this month. I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT FOR THE HOUSE TO WORK ITS WILL ON THE FARM BILL. I'M HOPEFUL THAT WE CAN PASS A FARM BILL AND GET TO CONFERENCE WITH THE SENATE AND RESOLVE THIS ISSUE FOR AMERICANS, FARMERS AND RANCHERS.” David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “A strong Farm Bill showing in the Senate Thursday clears the way for a final vote on passage Monday evening and puts added pressure on the House to move ahead this month with its own five-year plan to revamp major commodity programs.” Mr. Rogers indicated that, “A BLOODY, KNOCKDOWN FIGHT LIES AHEAD IN THE HOUSE, SCHEDULED TO TAKE UP ITS BILL THE WEEK OF JUNE 17TH. But having blocked floor action last year, Speaker JOHN BOEHNER (R-Ohio) will find it harder to justify more stalling after the bipartisan showing in the Senate Thursday.” More specifically on policy implications, University of Illinois Agricultural Economist NICK PAULSON indicated yesterday the _farmdoc daily_ blog (“Expected Price Support Payments for Corn and Soybeans”) that, “The current farm bill proposals being debated in the Senate and House continue to include price supports in the commodity title while repealing the current system of direct and countercyclical (DCP) payments. More detailed discussions of the modified price support programs - AMP in the Senate, and PLC in the House - were provided in recent posts (here and here). Today, ATTENTION IS TURNED TOWARDS COMPARING THE EXPECTED PAYMENTS EACH PROGRAM MIGHT GENERATE FOR CORN AND SOYBEAN PRODUCERS.” Also yesterday, a news release from Sen. HEIDI HEITKAMP (D., N.D.) stated that, “[Heitkamp] today pressed the U.S. Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency to honor its commitments to North Dakota farmers by ensuring crop insurance coverage for growers unable to plant due to wet conditions. “‘Missing a planting window can be as devastating to farm family’s bottom line as drought or midseason flooding. For insurance programs to function effectively as risk mitigation tools that serve the needs of all regions of the country, it is important that prevented planting coverage be made available whenever appropriate,’ wrote Senator Heitkamp in a letter to the Risk Management Agency at USDA.” _Agricultural Economy- Trade_ Lynn Hicks and Kyle Munson reported in yesterday’s Des Moines Register that, “Wang Cheng You came to Iowa to buy. He wants 1,000 breeding hogs, and he wants them in a hurry. “The farm manager from Iowa’s sister state in China, Hebei, quizzed breeders Wednesday at the World Pork Expo, trying to find who could accommodate such a large order. His desire could cost $3,000 per boar or $1,000 per sow, not including blood tests, quarantine costs, and a one-way ticket to fly the hogs, which could weigh 180 to 300 pounds by the time they’re ready. “Wang said he likes Iowa pork because of its high survivability rate and disease resistance. And he needs to double the size of his breeding herd to fulfill demand for protein in China, the world’s largest consumer of pork.” The Register article noted that, “China’s agriculture industry, still dominated by small farms, is under pressure. The world’s most populous nation needs to improve its productivity to prevent food shortages. AND AS ITS POPULATION GROWS WEALTHIER, IT’S EATING MORE PROTEIN. BUT CHRONIC WATER SHORTAGES, LACK OF ARABLE LAND AND OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL CONSTRAINTS WILL RESTRICT PRODUCTIVITY GAINS.” David Kesmodel reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “Tyson Foods Inc. Chief Executive DONNIE SMITH said the planned sale of rival Smithfield Foods Inc. to China's largest pork processor HIGHLIGHTS THE INTENSIFYING GLOBALIZATION OF THE AGRICULTURE INDUSTRY AND COULD HELP INCREASE TYSON'S PORK EXPORTS TO THE ASIAN NATION ALONG WITH SMITHFIELD'S. “‘Smithfield is commenting that this will be good for exports,’ Mr. Smith said. ‘We are the nation's second-largest pork processor. So if it's good for exports, that's a good thing for us.’” And Reuters writers Dominique Patton and Niu Shuping reported earlier this week that, “The need to feed the world's most populous nation has seen Chinese firms gobble up foreign dairy, sugar and cereal producers, and Shuanghui International's $4.7 billion bid last week for top U.S. pork producer Smithfield Foods is just the country's latest food 'land grab'. “BEEF COULD BE NEXT ON THE MENU AS CHINESE OPT FOR THE PROTEIN-RICH MEAT, WHICH IS SEEN AS A HIGHER QUALITY PRODUCT THAN PORK, THE NATION'S STAPLE. While pork and poultry remain China's meats of choice, beef consumption is growing rapidly as hot-pot restaurants, Korean barbecue joints and burger bars set up across the country.” In other trade related developments, James Politi reported yesterday at The Financial Times Online that, “BARACK OBAMA requested ‘fast track’ authority from Congress to swiftly pass trade deals through the US legislature for the first time since he took office, to help seal what MIKE FROMAN, his nominee for US trade representative, described as ‘among the most ambitious trade agendas in history’. “In testimony before the Senate finance committee, Mr Froman said such legislation – which allows trade deals to move quickly through Congress without amendments – was a ‘critical tool’ for negotiating agreements with the European Union and Asia-Pacific nations including Japan.” The FT article noted that, “Fast track authority, also known as TRADE PROMOTION AUTHORITY, lapsed in 2007 and Republicans and some Democrats have criticised the White House for being skittish about demanding this authority from US lawmakers. “‘If we can conclude these agreements – and let me be clear: my view is that it’s better to accept no agreement than a bad agreement – we will have positioned the United States at the centre of a network of agreements, creating free trade with 65 per cent of the global economy,’ Mr Froman said.” Reuters writer Doug Palmer reported yesterday that, “President Barack Obama's nominee to be U.S. trade representative on Thursday pledged to work with leaders of the Senate Finance Committee to craft major trade legislation needed by the White House to win approval of trade deals. “‘If confirmed, I will engage with you to renew Trade Promotion Authority. TPA is a critical tool. I look forward to working with you to craft a bill that achieves our shared goals,’ MIKE FROMAN, currently the White House international economic affairs adviser, said at his confirmation hearing.” Former U.S. Trade Representative ROB PORTMAN, now a GOP Senator from Ohio, highlighted the importance of TPA at yesterday’s Finance Committee confirmation hearing for Mr. Froman (audio- MP3- 1:09), while Sen. RON WYDEN (D., Ore.) specifically raised the GMO wheat issue and sought assurances from Mr. Froman that he would actively engage in agricultural related issues as Trade Representative (audio- MP3-0:52). Also at yesterday’s hearing, Sen. JOHN THUNE (R., S.D.) highlighted the TPA issue and also raised the issue of EU duties on U.S. ethanol imports, which Mr. Froman noted was a topic he was familiar with and was committed to reviewing (audio- MP3- 2:05). _GMO Wheat Issues_ Mateusz Perkowski reported yesterday at the Capital Press Online that, “SEVERAL WHEAT FARMS IN WASHINGTON ARE SEEKING A CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT AGAINST THE MONSANTO CO., ACCUSING THE BIOTECH DEVELOPER OF NEGLIGENCE FOR THE UNAUTHORIZED RELEASE OF TRANSGENIC WHEAT. “Dreger Enterprises of Creston, Wash., and Wahl Ranch of Lind, Wash., have filed a legal complaint seeking compensation for diminished wheat prices, loss of export markets and ‘contamination of the entire wheat farming and production chain.’” _Regulations_ A news release yesterday from Sen. JOHN THUNE (R., S.D.) indicated that, “[Thune] this week again CALLED ON THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION’S ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA) TO ANSWER FOR LEAKING APPROXIMATELY 80,000 FARMERS AND RANCHERS’ PERSONAL DATA TO LEFT-WING ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS. Thune joined a bipartisan group of senators in a letter to the EPA requesting answers on the leaked data. Thune first sent a letter in April objecting to the release of this sensitive information and questioning whether the agency had violated the Privacy Act.” Also yesterday, DTN writer Todd Neeley reported that, “THE SCOPE OF A RECENTLY DISMISSED MEGA PESTICIDES LAWSUIT INVOLVING HUNDREDS OF CHEMICALS AND THEIR POTENTIAL EFFECTS ON HUNDREDS OF ENDANGERED SPECIES HAS BEEN SCALED BACK IN A NEW COMPLAINT FILED WITH THE U.S. DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA ON WEDNESDAY. “In its April 22 dismissal of the pesticides case, the court ruled the plaintiffs, the Center for Biological Diversity, failed to show that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency actions on pesticide registrations specifically led to potential harm to endangered species. “In a 437-page amended complaint filed with the court, the CBD attempts to make the connection between how actual EPA actions on more than 80 chemicals used in hundreds of name-brand pesticides across the country could be harming hundreds of endangered species. The CBD asks the court to require EPA to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine potential harm to endangered species.” Meanwhile, Ben Goad reported yesterday at The Hill’s RegWatch Blog that, “THE CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION (CFTC) ON THURSDAY DEFENDED THE AGENCY’S WORK IN DEVELOPING RULES REQUIRED BY THE DODD-FRANK ACT BUT SAID MORE MUST BE DONE TO REGULATE THE INTERNATIONAL DERIVATIVES MARKET. “The CFTC has come under fire from public interest groups, who say new regulations on swaps and derivatives issued by the agency in accordance with the Wall Street reform law have been weakened under industry pressure. “But Chairman GARY GENSLER said the CFTC has completed 90 percent of its rules to bring more oversight to the previously unregulated swaps market, which was a significant contributor to the 2008 economic crisis.” _Immigration_ Meredith Shiner reported yesterday at Roll Call Online that, “Senate Majority Leader HARRY REID, D-Nev., on Thursday filed cloture on the motion to proceed to the immigration bill, setting up votes as early as June 10 on the landmark legislation. “A Senate Democratic aide said Thursday that the chamber would proceed to the immigration bill as soon as it wraps work on the pending farm bill.” Ms. Shiner noted that, “In layman’s terms, this means that NEXT WEEK IS WHEN THE REAL SHOW ON IMMIGRATION BEGINS.” Ashley Parker and Julia Preston reported in today’s New York Times that, “With the Senate beginning debate next week on an ambitious bill to overhaul the immigration system, Republicans in the House moved this week to set a tougher tone on the issue and to stake out their own course on legislation. “Late Wednesday, a bipartisan group of representatives who had been meeting to write a broad immigration bill announced they had completed their negotiations. But a prominent Republican in the group, RAúL LABRADOR of Idaho, said he was leaving. Mr. Labrador said that he disagreed with the other lawmakers over health care provisions for illegal immigrants who would gain legal status under the measure.” And Molly Hooper reported yesterday at The Hill Online that, “The top-ranking House Democrat is ‘optimistic’ that lawmakers can pass a comprehensive immigration reform measure. “Despite several setbacks in the lower chamber’s effort to move a comprehensive measure to the floor, House Minority Leader NANCY PELOSI (D-Calif.) said she remains ‘more optimistic and positive’ about the yet-to-be-seen bill’s prospects.” _Budget Issues_ Niels Lesniewski reported yesterday at Roll Call Online that, “The White House and Speaker John A. Boehner exchanged barbs Thursday over the potential for a shutdown showdown this fall, underscoring the yawning budget gap between the parties that threatens to TORPEDO THIS YEAR’S APPROPRIATIONS BILLS. “The House passed the first fiscal 2014 spending bills this week despite two veto threats, and the Senate is set to mark up funding measures in the coming weeks. But the two chambers are operating off vastly different numbers — given that the House and Senate haven’t come close to reaching a budget deal — setting the stage for another stopgap spending bill this fall and, theoretically, a shutdown fight if the two sides can’t agree. “The House is following a $967 billion spending level that assumes the budget sequester remains in effect. Senate Appropriations Chairwoman BARBARA A. MIKULSKI, D-Md., has said she is moving forward at a $1.058 trillion level that operates on the idea Congress will find a fix for the sequester.” _Keith Good_
On the Senate floor today, Sen. JOHN THUNE (R., S.D.) discussed the Farm Bill with a specific focus on Title I and target prices. -_kg_
On the Senate floor this morning, Sen. Ag. Comm. Chair DEBBIE STABENOW, and Comm. Ranking Member THAD COCHRAN, urged colleagues to vote "yes" on a Farm Bill cloture motion. Related article from Politico here. -_kg_
_Farm Bill- Senate_ A recent update at the _Senate Democrats_ Online indicated that today, starting at 10:00 a.m., there will be three roll call votes on the Senate floor. The first vote will be on a motion to invoke cloture on S.954, the FARM BILL. Over 100 agricultural related groups signed a letter to Senators yesterday, which stated in part that, “The undersigned organizations are writing to strongly urge you to vote for cloture tomorrow on the consideration of S. 954, _the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013_.” David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “THE SENATE’S FARM BILL CLOTURE VOTE THURSDAY MORNING POSES A CRITICAL TEST FOR THE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE LEADERSHIP, WHICH NEEDS A STRONG SHOWING TO CLEAR THE WAY FOR PASSAGE MONDAY AND BEGIN TO HEAL THE BREACH SPARKED BY REVISIONS IN THE COMMODITY TITLE.” The article noted that, “Impatient to move onto immigration reform, Majority Leader HARRY REID (D-Nev.) needs to have the decks cleared by early next week, and any Senate stall on the farm bill will be felt across the Capitol. “All signs there still indicate that the week of June 17 is being set aside for what promises to be a stormy floor debate. House Speaker JOHN BOEHNER (R-Ohio) is becoming more engaged — PURSUING HIS OWN CAMPAIGN AGAINST A NEW DAIRY PROGRAM. And House Agriculture Committee Chairman FRANK LUCAS (R-Okla.) appeared encouraged after a meeting with his conference Tuesday morning.” Mr. Rogers explained that, “But going forward, the most enduring challenge for [Sen. Ag. Comm. Chairwoman DEBBIE STABENOW] may be the regional and ideological divide, which cost her precious Southern votes last June and now, could mean the loss of well-placed allies from the Midwest. “Stabenow’s former partner, Sen. PAT ROBERTS (R-Kan.), appears to be off the reservation. More important are Sens. JOHN THUNE (R-S.D.), chairman of the Republican Conference, and MIKE JOHANNS (R-Neb.), who was Agriculture Secretary under President George W. Bush. “Behind this split is a decade of change in which net farm income in the Midwest had increased much faster than the national average while income for the Southeast and Southern Plains has trailed behind — or even declined.” Meanwhile, in a colloquy with CHAIRWOMAN STABENOW on the Senate floor Tuesday, Sen. JEFF MERKLEY (D., Ore.) discussed the “Monsanto Protection Act,” which he noted “refers to a policy rider the House slipped into the recently passed continuing resolution and sent over to the Senate.” During the floor discussion, Chairwoman Stabenow stated that, “I wish to assure my friend that I think it would be inappropriate for that language to be adopted in a conference committee or otherwise adopted in a manner designed to bypass open debate in the relevant committees and this Chamber.” Sen. Merkley noted that, “I deeply appreciate the commitment of my colleague to ensure that the Monsanto Protection Act is not tucked into subsequent legislation in a manner that bypasses full committee examination and Senate debate.” _Farm Bill- House_ A news release yesterday from Rep. MIKE THOMPSON (D., Calif.) stated that, “U.S. Reps. [Thompson] and JEFF FORTENBERRY (R-NE-1) today introduced H.R. 2260, The Crop Insurance Accountability Act of 2013. The bipartisan legislation enhances conservation by incentivizing responsible farming practices. UNDER THIS LEGISLATION, IN ORDER FOR FARMERS TO QUALIFY FOR TAXPAYER SUBSIDIES OF CROP INSURANCE, THEY MUST MEET BASIC CONSERVATION REQUIREMENTS THAT MINIMIZE THE IMPACT TO SOME OF OUR MOST SENSITIVE AREAS SUCH AS HIGHLY ERODIBLE LANDS AND WETLANDS.” Meanwhile, yesterday afternoon the House Judiciary Committee held a brief markup of the 2012 Farm Bill, where one amendment was considered and passed by a voice vote. A news release yesterday from Committee Chairman BOB GOODLATTE (R., Va.) noted in part that, “[Chairman Goodlatte] introduced an amendment that would ensure regulations imposed under the FARRM Act are subject to promulgation under the Administrative Procedure Act and the Congressional Review Act, which falls under the jurisdiction of the House Judiciary Committee. The version of the bill reported by the House Agriculture Committee last month waived this requirement. Congressman Goodlatte’s amendment passed the House Judiciary Committee by voice vote with bipartisan support.” An unofficial _FarmPolicy.com_ TRANSCRIPT of a large portion of yesterday’s hearing is available here. During yesterday’s markup, Rep. SUZAN DELBENE (D., Wash.), who also serves on the Agriculture Committee and opposed the amendment, indicated that, “One of the things in this amendment includes studies on the impact of the dairy stabilization program. If we’re going to do studies on things, then let’s do studies also on food nutrition programs. There’s nothing unique to dairy in this particular case, and that seems to be singled out in this amendment. And frankly, that’s not—this isn’t appropriate use of this amendment.” Chairman Goodlatte noted that, “I just want to assure her that we do not take out the dairy stabilization program. In fact, we simply allow more public comment input by using the Administrative Procedure Act, which is the standard process for examining any new program, as well as the Congressional Review Act. “So all we’re asking is that when this program, if it is still in the farm bill when the farm bill finally passes the House and the Senate, and they work out their differences, and pass a conference report and send it to the President, that when the department gets the new programs—and not just dairy. We haven’t singled out dairy, because new conservation programs in here and others are required to go through the Administrative Procedure Act. “Now, a part of that process is to request that the agency do studies, but those studies do not dictate finding any outcome. The outcome might well be that this program will do great things, will reduce prices or will stabilize prices or do other things. IT SIMPLY SAYS THAT THEY SHOULD BE STUDIED SO THAT AS THE RULE-MAKING PROCESS IS DONE IT CAN BE DONE IN A FAIR WAY with consumers, consumer groups, agricultural groups, dairy processors and others have the opportunity to be heard on the issue. But it does not in any way impair what occurred in the Agriculture Committee in terms of having the dairy stabilization program in the farm bill. We don’t have jurisdiction over that and we’re not attempting to exercise jurisdiction beyond what this committee has jurisdiction for.” A news release yesterday from the INTERNATIONAL DAIRY FOODS ASSOCIATION noted in part that, “The action of the Judiciary Committee reflects growing opposition to a new program that artificially increases milk prices, which is included in the Dairy Security Act. Called the Dairy Market Stabilization Program, the proposal will limit milk supplies by periodically requiring food manufacturers to withhold payments from dairy farmers and to remit the revenues to the USDA.” _Farm Bill- Executive Branch_ Leslie Reed reported yesterday at the Omaha World-Herald Online that, “A TOP USDA OFFICIAL DEFENDED THE FEDERAL CROP INSURANCE PROGRAM AND FOOD STAMP EXPENDITURES WEDNESDAY…[S]ome critics say the U.S. should reduce taxpayer subsidies of crop insurance premiums and cap benefits, particularly in light of recent record-high farm revenue.” The article noted that, “Acting Deputy Secretary MICHAEL SCUSE spoke with reporters at the conclusion of two days of meetings with Nebraska agricultural producers. HE SAID THE CROP INSURANCE CLAIMS RESULTING FROM LAST YEAR'S DROUGHT PROVED THE WORTH OF THE FEDERAL PROGRAM.” An update yesterday at Brownfield included an audio replay of an interview with JULIE HARKER and DEP. SEC. SCUSE, this interview can be heard here. Also, DTN writer Todd Neeley penned a detailed article that also covered the visit to Nebraska by Dep. Sec. Scuse and partially focused on PREVENTED PLANTED issues: “Scuse said while there may be many farmers who elect not to plant a corn crop because of the prevented planting provision, the program is working as designed. “‘Prevented planting is working better,’ he said.” The DTN article added that, “Though the crop insurance system has faced much scrutiny following THE 2012 DROUGHT, Scuse said the program is doing what it was designed to do. “‘I THINK THAT PROVED TO EVERYONE THAT THE CROP INSURANCE PROGRAM IS A GREAT PROGRAM,’ he said.” For additional information on prevented planting, see this recent update from MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY EXTENSION. _Appropriations- Agriculture_ Yesterday, the House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee, on a voice vote, passed its FY14 Appropriations Bill to the Full Committee. Committee Chairman HAL ROGERS (R., Ky.) pointed out at the Subcommittee markup that, “This bill is also representative of the stark reality with which our committee is confronted: WHILE WE CONTINUE TO CUT DISCRETIONARY SPENDING IN THIS COMMITTEE, MANDATORY SPENDING CONTINUES TO RISE. Some of you may have heard me say this before – mandatory spending, which constitutes 64% of our whole budget and 86% of this bill, cannot continue to grow unchecked. Despite our efforts to control DISCRETIONARY SPENDING in this bill by making difficult but thoughtful cuts totaling $1.3 billion, the MANDATORY PORTION of this bill, which this committee has no power to control, increases by $1.1 billion.” Reps. ROSA DELAURO (D., Conn.) (audio - MP3- 3:00) and SAM FARR (D., Calif.) (audio- MP3- 3:30) lamented cuts to nutrition programs, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and international food aid programs yesterday. And Committee Ranking Member, NITA LOWEY (D., N.Y.) expressed frustration over cuts to the Food and Drug Administration to implement food safety modernizations (audio (MP3- 1:30). Subcommittee Chairman ROBERT ADERHOLT (R., Ala.) noted that, “The bill ensures that the Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission have adequate resources to complete their missions successfully and demonstrates our commitment to good stewardship of taxpayers’ limited dollars.” Erik Wasson reported yesterday at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “A House Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday approved a 2014 spending bill that prevents the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) from implementing President Obama’s financial reform law… [T]he measure would CUT $10 MILLION from the agency's 2013 budget level INSTEAD OF GIVING IT A $120 MILLION BOOST that Obama wanted to implement the Dodd-Frank law.” _Agricultural Economy- Immigration, Trade_ Yesterday, the FEDERAL RESERVE BOARD released its Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions. Commonly referred to as the “Beige Book,” the report included several district observations with respect to the U.S. agricultural economy- a summary of these sections of the report have been posted at _FarmPolicy.com_ Online. Leslie Hook and Emiko Terazono reported today at The Financial Times Online that, “CHINA IS SET TO BECOME MORE DEPENDENT ON IMPORTED GRAINS, OILSEEDS AND MEAT DURING THE NEXT 10 YEARS, A DEVELOPMENT THAT IS LIKELY TO SUPPORT PRICES AND FUEL FURTHER DEALMAKING IN THE GLOBAL AGRIBUSINESS INDUSTRY. “The Food and Agriculture Organization and the OECD on Thursday painted a bullish view for Chinese food demand in their closely watched annual agricultural outlook. The report for the first time devotes a full chapter to China. “The country’s imports of coarse grains, used mostly for fattening herds, are expected to double by 2022. Imports of soyabeans will grow 40 per cent, while meat imports are set to soar – beef imports nearly doubling.” For additional current analysis on the U.S. corn and soybean markets, see this brief interview from yesterday with University of Illinois Agricultural Economist DARREL GOOD. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal editorial board indicated today (“The Farm Worker Shortage”) that, “The Senate begins floor debate on immigration reform next week, and our hope is that it can improve the Gang of Eight bill that emerged from the Judiciary Committee with the U.S. economy foremost in mind. ONE PLACE TO START IS ENDING AMERICA'S FARM-WORKER SHORTAGE… [I]n 2010, farmers reported more than $320 million in losses because they didn't get the workers they needed. Illegal workers fill most of the gap, but increasingly the bigger companies are moving production to Latin America. Growers estimate that 80,000 acres of fruit and vegetable production have moved out of California alone because of the labor shortage.” With respect to TRADE RELATED ISSUES, Richard McGregor and James Politi reported yesterday at The Financial Times Online that, “Some Republicans will use the confirmation hearing of MICHAEL FROMAN, Barack Obama’s pick to be the next US Trade Representative, on Thursday to try to embarrass the White House over taxes. “Mr Froman’s records reviewed by the Senate Finance committee show he had nearly $500,000 in a Citigroup fund based in the Cayman Islands, a location used as a symbol of tax avoidance by the Obama campaign in attacks on Republican candidate Mitt Romney in last year’s election. “The tax issue is unlikely to derail Mr Froman’s nomination, ensuring any controversy will be eclipsed quickly by much weightier policy problems, over how to negotiate two large trade deals with Europe and Asia.” Vicki Needham reported yesterday at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “Sens. ROB PORTMAN (Ohio) and ROY BLUNT (Mo.) said they will push Mike Froman's nomination in the Senate while urging the White House to get to work on fast-track authority, during the Emergency Committee for American Trade (ECAT) annual meeting in Washington.” Meanwhile, a news release yesterday from Chairwoman DEBBIE STABENOW indicated that, “[Stabenow], along with a bipartisan group of her colleagues, today UNVEILED NEW LEGISLATION THAT WILL CRACK DOWN ON CURRENCY MANIPULATION BY JAPAN, CHINA, AND OTHER NATIONS. Currency manipulation costs millions of U.S. jobs and drives up the U.S. trade deficit. The Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act of 2013 counters the economic harm to American manufacturers and workers caused by currency manipulation, and creates consequences for countries that break international laws against currency manipulation.” _GMO Wheat Issues_ Ian Berry reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “MONSANTO CO. SAID IT IS CONSIDERING SABOTAGE AS A POSSIBLE CAUSE of the finding of unapproved genetically modified wheat in an Oregon field and that its testing reaffirms the incident is isolated. “The presence of genetically modified wheat in the eastern Oregon field, announced last week by the USDA, is likely due to the ‘accidental or purposeful mixing of seed’ that was planted in the field, said ROBB FRALEY, Monsanto's chief technology officer. Mr. Fraley wouldn't rule out the possibility of sabotage in a conference call with reporters.” The Journal article noted that, “MONSANTO EXECUTIVES SAID WEDNESDAY THAT THE COMPANY HAS WHAT IT CONSIDERS TO BE THE ONLY RELIABLE TEST TO DETECT THE GENE IN QUESTION, which enables a crop to survive applications of the herbicide glyphosate. THE COMPANY WARNED THAT OTHER TESTS COULD RESULT IN FALSE POSITIVES.” Veteran agricultural reporter Jerry Hagstrom tweeted yesterday that, “Ag Secretary Vilsack told me USDA will use independent test, not Monsanto, to reassure wheat importers of no gmo wheat in their purchases” Bloomberg writers Mark Drajem and Jack Kaskey indicated yesterday that, “Scientists say they are befuddled about how this wheat could have gotten into the field after so many years.” The Monsanto conference call replay and related slides on this issue was posted yesterday at the company’s webpage. _Sec. Vilsack Speech on Climate_ Zack Colman reported yesterday at The Hill’s Energy Blog that, “Agriculture Secretary TOM VILSACK said Wednesday that climate change is ‘new and different than anything we’ve ever tackled’ in the farming industry… ‘So the fact is, across America, farmers and ranchers and forest landowners are seeing the beginning chapter of what will be a long-term challenge posed by a changing climate. This problem is not going to go away on its own. That's why America must take steps now to adapt,’ Vilsack said at a Washington, D.C., event hosted by the National Press Club” [text of prepared comments here]. The Hill update added that, “Vilsack said the Agriculture Department (USDA) has taken several steps to mitigate the effects of climate change. “He noted USDA has doubled down on climate-related research, including developing more drought-resistant seed technologies. It also is promoting cover-cropping and multi-cropping, which help curtail soil erosion and conserve water.” Meanwhile, Jennifer Jacobs reported yesterday at The Des Moines Register Online that, “Democrat Tom Vilsack considered making a comeback as Iowa governor, but said today he has decided against challenging the likely GOP foe, Terry Branstad.” _Smithfield Issues_ Michael J. de la Merced reported yesterday at The New York Times Online that, “ANOTHER PROMINENT LAWMAKER IS PUBLICLY URGING REGULATORS TO CAREFULLY REVIEW SMITHFIELD FOODS‘ PLANNED $4.7 BILLION SALE TO SHUANGHUI INTERNATIONAL, one of China’s biggest meat producers. “Senator DEBBIE STABENOW, Democrat of Michigan and the chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said on Wednesday that she still had concerns about any potential effect that the deal might have on food safety in the United States. Like other critics, she pointed to possible lapses in food quality, citing incidents of Chinese companies that illegally added chemicals like clenbuterol to their meat and the images of thousands of dead hogs floating down the Huangpu River in Shanghai.” The Times article added that, “In an e-mailed statement, a spokeswoman for Smithfield reiterated that the deal will benefit American hog farmers and that the company will not import Chinese pork products.” _Biofuels_ Reuters writer Ayesha Rascoe reported yesterday that, “THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY PLANS TO ANNOUNCE TARGETS FOR U.S. ETHANOL USE IN 2013 AND 2014 THIS SUMMER, an EPA official told lawmakers on Wednesday, even as critics of the program warned of a brewing fuel crisis. “The United States is nearing the point where the law will require use of more ethanol than can be physically blended into the fuel supply at the most prevalent level of 10 percent ethanol per gallon.” The article noted that, “[CHRISTOPHER GRUNDLER, the EPAs director of the office of transportation and air quality] said EPA, which has the authority to lower ethanol use targets or waive them completely, will determine the best way to address the issue of the so-called ‘blend wall’ and will release the targets by the end of summer.” And Julian Hattem reported yesterday at The Hill’s RegWatch Blog that, “REPUBLICAN MEMBERS OF CONGRESS TOOK AIM AT AN ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATION REQUIRING THAT GASOLINE BE MIXED WITH BIOFUEL, claiming it kills jobs and is hurting American families.” A news release yesterday from Sen. JIM INHOFE (R., Okla.) indicated that, “[Inhofe], senior member of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today made the following statement on his amendment number 961 to the Senate farm bill (S. 954) that would ALLOW STATES TO OPT-OUT OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY'S (EPA) RENEWABLE FUEL STANDARD (RFS). “‘I applaud Chairman Lankford for highlighting the many problems that are inherent with the RFS during today's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing,’ said Inhofe. ‘THE RFS HAS MAJOR PROBLEMS AND IS IN DIRE NEED OF REPEAL.’” In a related item, University of Illinois Agricultural Economists SCOTT IRWIN and DARREL GOOD provided an interesting analysis yesterday on some associated biofuels issues at the _farmdoc daily_ blog- see “What Price of Corn is Required to Make E85 Competitive?” _Keith Good_
From University of Illinois Extension, June 5, 2013 - University of Illinois Ag Economist DARREL GOOD discusses the corn and soybean markets with TODD GLEASON. -_kg_
Today the Federal Reserve Board released its Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions. Commonly referred to as the “Beige Book,” the report included the following observations with respect to the U.S. agricultural economy: * _Fifth District- Richmond_- "FLUCTUATING TEMPERATURES COUPLED WITH HEAVY RAINFALL TEMPERED PLANT GROWTH AND DELAYED SPRING PLANTINGS THROUGHOUT THE DISTRICT. Despite wet conditions, forage crops were having a great spring, and pastures and hayfields were in good condition." * _Sixth District- Atlanta_- "Additional rains continued to improve drought conditions in Georgia and Florida. However, PROLONGED RAINY PERIODS AND COOL TEMPERATURES DELAYED PLANTING OF SOME CROPS. Since our last report, monthly prices paid to farmers for beef, broilers, corn for grain, and soybeans decreased while cotton prices increased slightly. Contacts continued to voice concern about CITRUS GREENING and its effect on Florida citrus crops while cotton producers reported CHINA’S LARGE COTTON STOCKS WERE BECOMING A GROWING RISK FACTOR FOR DOMESTIC COTTON PRODUCTION. Agricultural producers also reported that they are turning more and more to technology and other capital investments to improve production and reduce the need for labor." * _Seventh District- Chicago_- "Heavy precipitation in the District aided the recovery from last year’s drought by replenishing subsoil moisture. THE RAIN ALSO DRAMATICALLY SLOWED PLANTING OF CORN; FARMERS ALMOST CAUGHT UP, OFTEN BY WORKING AROUND THE CLOCK ONCE FIELDS HAD DRIED SUFFICIENTLY. However, the emergence of corn plants significantly lagged that of a typical year. Soybean planting progressed at about its normal pace once the corn crop was in the ground. FLOODING FROM THE HEAVY RAINS ALSO RESULTED IN RIVER CLOSURES, DELAYING DELIVERIES OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS AND FARM INPUTS, PARTICULARLY FERTILIZER. Current corn and soybean prices rose, as stocks remained low. Late planting pushed back the availability of new supplies into September. However, price declines were anticipated for the new crop in the fall, as concerns over major yield losses abated. Milk and hog prices moved higher; cattle prices were flat." * _Eighth District- St. Louis_- "BECAUSE OF PERSISTENT RAINS, DISTRICT FARMERS ARE BEHIND THEIR AVERAGE PLANTING SCHEDULES. Planting progress for cotton, rice, and soybeans in Mississippi was approximately half the 5-year average. Across all other District states, soybean planting progress was approximately 15 percent slower than its 5-year average. As of mid-May, well over 90 percent of the District’s winter wheat crop was rated in fair or better condition and close to 70 percent was rated as good or excellent." * _Ninth District- Minneapolis_- "WHILE A LATE SPRING DELAYED PLANTING, RECENT RAINS BROUGHT DROUGHT RELIEF FOR DISTRICT AGRICULTURAL PRODUCERS. According to the Minneapolis Fed’s first-quarter (April) survey of agricultural credit conditions, NEARLY 90 PERCENT OF RESPONDENTS SAID FARM INCOMES INCREASED OR HELD STEADY OVER THE PREVIOUS THREE MONTHS, with similar results for farm household and farm capital spending. Expectations for the second quarter were more moderate. District corn, soybean and spring wheat PLANTING PROGRESS WAS BEHIND AVERAGE FOR LATE MAY, but producers were catching up quickly after a delayed spring. Prices increased from a year earlier for corn, wheat, soybeans, hay, eggs, chicken and dairy products; prices fell for hogs, turkey and dry beans, while cattle prices were flat. USDA forecasts call for substantially lower prices for corn and soybeans for the coming year, with slight reductions in wheat prices." * _Tenth District- Kansas City_- "FARM INCOME GROWTH SOFTENED SINCE THE LAST SURVEY PERIOD, AND FARMLAND VALUE GAINS MODERATED SLIGHTLY. Farm income growth was limited by FALLING CROP AND LIVESTOCK PRICES AND BY HIGH PRODUCTION COSTS, PARTICULARLY FOR FERTILIZER, SEED AND LIVESTOCK FEED AND FORAGE. Crop prices fell in early April with an announcement that grain supplies were higher than earlier estimates, although some District contacts expressed concerns about crop progress. Winter wheat crop conditions deteriorated further with much of the crop in relatively poor condition. THE CORN AND SOYBEAN CROPS WERE BEHIND SCHEDULE AS UNSEASONABLY COLD WEATHER AND LATE SNOWS DELAYED SPRING PLANTING IN MANY AREAS. Demand for new farm loans remained weak, and contacts reported fewer requests for farm loan renewals and extensions. Farmland values continued to rise, but at a slightly slower pace than last year." * _Eleventh District- Dallas_- "DROUGHT CONDITIONS CONTINUED TO WORSEN SLIGHTLY ACROSS MOST OF THE DISTRICT OVER THE REPORTING PERIOD, DESPITE SCATTERED RAINFALL. The Texas wheat crop suffered from dry weather and late freezes and production is expected to be significantly below average. Conditions for other crops are generally worse than at this same time last year but not quite as bad as in 2011." * _Twelfth District- San Francisco_- "Agricultural sales and production increased modestly. Demand for most crop and livestock products grew further. Grain production was robust, but contacts reported some variability in vegetable production. SOME CONTACTS REMAINED CONCERNED THAT LIMITED WATER AVAILABILITY IN PARTS OF THE DISTRICT COULD PASS THROUGH TO LOWER SEASONAL HIRING AND REDUCED AGRICULTURAL OUTPUT IN COMING MONTHS." -_kg_