The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

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Rural landowners urged to bequeath wealth to their communities

KANSAS CITY — Are you an aging farmer or landowner worried about population loss in your community, how it will fare in the future, and who will own and operate the farm and ranch land? You should consider leaving part of your money or land to community foundations or other local institutions when you transfer wealth to your children who have moved away, a panel of rural leaders and a former Republican congressman said here this week at a conference on rural philanthropy sponsored by the Council on Foundations. Read More...

Battle ahead over specialty crops on subsidized land

The battle over whether fruits and vegetables should be planted on acres eligible for crop farm subsidies will be revived in the 2012 farm bill debate, according to testimony delivered today at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on specialty crops and organics in the new farm bill. Read More...

House subcommittee to discuss rural development, biotech

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., announced today that the Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee will hold two hearings next week. Read More...

Dodd-Frank bill modification on margins introduced

Reps. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., Austin Scott, R-Ga., Bill Owens, D-N.Y., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., introduced a bill today to modify the Dodd-Frank financial services law so that if an entity qualifies for a clearing exemption, regulators cannot impose a margin requirement. Read More...

Stabenow: Reid plan would hold farm cuts to $11 billion

The battle over a bill to raise the debt ceiling is still very fluid in the House and the Senate today, but Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., claimed an initial victory in the budget proposal by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid., D-Nev., to cut farm spending by $11 billion over 10 years. Read More...

Senate Ag counsel Dave Johnson to retire

Dave Johnson, a Republican counsel on the Senate Agriculture Committee, will retire August 5, Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., announced today. Read More...

O'Brien named deputy undersecretary for rural development

KANSAS CITY — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said here today that Doug O’Brien will be appointed deputy undersecretary for rural development, effective Monday. Read More...

Vilsack: Rural Council, Congress should limit definitions of 'rural America'

KANSAS CITY — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today that he would ask the White House Rural Council to try to reduce the number of federal government definitions of rural America and also encouraged Congress to take up the issue since rural officials have complained they have a hard time figuring out what programs they qualify for. Read More...

Lucas: 'Safety net' needed to maintain food production

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said today that the basic farm programs known as the farm safety net should probably be called the food production safety net, and that eliminating them would not save much money in budgetary terms. Read More...

Punke: U.S. won't support Doha 'early harvest' idea

A key U.S. trade official said Tuesday that the U.S. government has lost faith in the idea that a smaller Doha round package known as an “early harvest” can be developed before a meeting of trade ministers in Geneva in December, and that the World Trade Organization should give member countries time to work on other issues that the ministers may wish to address at that time. Read More...

Vilsack announces four more BCAP contracts

One day after the Environmental Protection Agency announced it would lower the goal for cellulosic ethanol use in the nation’s energy supply because there is not enough available, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declared his faith in cellulosic energy, and announced $45 million in federal contracts for four additional Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) project areas in six states to expand the availability of non-food crops to be used in the manufacturing of liquid biofuels. Read More...

Keepseagle settlement claims due December 27

Native Americans have until December 27 to file claims in the Keepseagle class action settlement, the Agriculture Department said today. Read More...

Thompson named CFTC executive director

Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler today announced the appointment of Tony Thompson as the agency’s executive director. Read More...

Cousin: U.N. to provide food and farm aid in Horn of Africa

United Nations officials and world agricultural leaders plan to help the Horn of Africa with its drought through a twin-track program of food aid and agricultural development, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. food agencies Ertharin Cousin said today. Read More...

AgriBank names new v.p. for government affairs

AgriBank, FCB, the largest bank in the Farm Credit System, has named Vicki Hicks vice president for government affairs. Read More...

Conrad: Gang of Six plan would delay ag cuts until 2012 farm bill

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said today that the Gang of Six senators’ budget plan would allow farm program cuts to begin in the 2012 farm bill rather than earlier. Read More...

Emergency FAO meeting to discuss African drought

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, which this week declared a state of famine in two regions of southern Somalia, is convening an emergency ministerial-level meeting on Monday to address deteriorating drought conditions in the Horn of Africa and several other regions in the world. Read More...

Senate Ag hearings set for Thursday

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., announced today that the committee will hold a confirmation hearing and a hearing on fruits and vegetables in the 2012 farm bill on Thursday. Read More...

Farm Bureau would consider temporary supply management for dairy

The American Farm Bureau Federation today sent House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., a letter on his dairy reform proposal, stating that while it is opposed to the supply management provision, it would consider supporting a temporary supply management system. Read More...

Roberts: Wetjen likely to be confirmed

Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, signaled today that he believes that Mark Wetjen, President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, will be confirmed even though a partisan battle over his nomination might be expected. Read More...

Food stamp eligibility on House Ag Committee radar

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and House Agriculture Nutrition and Horticulture Subcommittee Chairman Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, signaled today that they intend to take a close look at tightening up on eligibility for food stamps, now known formally as the supplemental nutrition assistance program or SNAP. Read More...

Peterson not pushing for dairy reform in debt package

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said today he is not planning to try to add his dairy reform proposal to the bill to lift the debt ceiling and curb the federal debt. Read More...

Peterson begins farm bill research with Gang of Six plan

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., today endorsed the Gang of Six senators’ budget proposal and said he has instructed his staff to beginning researching a farm bill with the $11 billion in cuts that the proposal would involve. Read More...

New CGIAR research program aimed at productivity

A new $957 million agricultural research program to be announced Thursday by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research is designed to increase productivity in developing countries, but climate change may mean eventual implications for wheat and other crops in developed countries as well. Read More...

Retailers, foundations pledge more fresh produce

Flanked by executives from Walmart, Walgreens and other companies at a White House ceremony, First Lady Michelle Obama announced today that major retailers and foundations have pledged to build or expand 1,500 stores in communities that do not have fresh produce and other healthy food. Read More...

House Ag subcommittee sets USDA audit hearings

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., announced today that Agriculture subcommittees will hold two audit hearings on Agriculture Department programs next week. Read More...

Punke defends U.S. role in Doha round

U.S. Ambassador to the World Trade Organization Michael Punke vigorously defended the U.S. role in the Doha round of trade talks today, in an apparent reaction to World Bank President Robert Zoellick’s comments at a meeting in Geneva on Monday. Read More...

Gensler to testify at House Ag derivatives hearing

Hours after House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., announced that he will propose legislation to make changes in the Dodd-Frank financial regulations bill, Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler announced today that he will testify Thursday before Lucas’s committee and the Senate Housing, Banking and Urban Affairs. Read More...

Tidwell: Seek program support, not money

Farmers and conservationists should ask member of Congress to support programs rather than ask for specific amounts of money, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell told the National Association of Conservation Districts. Read More...

Christie Vilsack announces for Congress

Christie Vilsack, the wife of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, formally announced today that she will challenge Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, in the newly mapped fourth district of Iowa. Read More...

Farm broadcasters name new director

The National Association of Farm Broadcasting has named Tom Brand its new executive director. Read More...

Gang of Six proposal appears good for agriculture

The possibility that the budget proposal developed by the Gang of Six senators may be revived appears to be good news for agriculture compared with other, more radical budget-cutting measures. Read More...

IPC publishes briefs on impact of standards on trade

The International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council today published two issue briefs on the impact of animal and plant health safety standards on trade. Read More...

Lucas plans farm bill completion by September 2012

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., is planning regular order on the farm bill, with the series of audit hearings on federal agencies this summer, field hearings this fall and then writing of the bill next year. Read More...

EWG outlines environmental impact of meat consumption

The Environmental Working Group today released a Meat Eater's Guide to Climate Change and Health so that consumers can evaluate the environmental impact of eating meat and cheese. Read More...

Larson named new CEO of NACD

The National Association of Conference Districts board announced today it has hired John Larson as its new CEO. Read More...

AFT lobbyist warns of farmer apathy on farm bill

Farmers are apathetic about the next farm bill and need to get involved if key farm programs are going to be saved, a prominent farm and conservation lobbyist told the National Association of Conservation Districts board today. Read More...

Conservation programs need vocal advocates, Sherman says

Agriculture Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment Harris Sherman said today that conservationists and farmers need to do a better job of explaining farm conservation programs during the current budget battles in Congress while Homer Wilkes, the acting associate chief of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, explained the details of cuts on programs that affect working lands. Read More...

Lesher: USAID should focus on African corruption

The Obama administration’s “Feed the Future” initiative should focus more on fighting corruption and the rule of law in Africa, said a former Republican Agriculture Department official and lobbyist who now heads the Global Harvest Initiative. Read More...

Obama nominates Sherrick for FAMC board

President Barack Obama today announced his intention to nominate Bruce Sherrick as a member of the board of the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation. Read More...

Senate Ag to consider CFTC nominee

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., announced today that the committee will hold a hearing next Thursday on the nomination of Mark P. Wetjen to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and another nominee, whose name has not been announced. Read More...

House Ag looking at nutrition, energy/forestry, derivatives

House Agriculture subcommittees will examine federal nutrition programs and Agriculture Department energy and forestry programs next week while the full committee will examine implementation of the Dodd-Frank financial services bill. Read More...

Polymer exec backs bio-based products at hearing

Bio-based products are competitive with petroleum-based products at current petroleum price levels, a key polymer executive told the Senate Agriculture Committee today. Read More...

Soybean association hosts free trade diplomats

The American Soybean Association held a reception Wednesday evening to promote congressional approval of the pending free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and Korea. Read More...

FSA administrator defends agency's urban efforts

The Farm Service Agency makes loans to urban farmers as well as rural farmers, a key Agriculture Department official said today, facing questions from a congressional subcommittee about whether the FSA provides services to those who sell to farmers’ markets and are trying to farm in cities. Read More...

Former House Ag aide blasts AEI farm bill conference

The American Enterprise Institute’s “American Boondoggle” series of academic papers and conferences on the farm bill is a “week-long hatchet job” intended to “tar and feather” farm programs, a top House Agriculture Committee aide-turned-lobbyist said at an AEI event in the Capitol today. Read More...

Dairy groups disagree on Peterson's draft reform language

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., today released the draft legislative language of the dairy reform bill on which he has been working for more than a year. Read More...

Management of national beef checkoff program in question

The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association and the National Farmers Union are calling for federal intervention in the management of the beef checkoff following the resignation on Sunday of Cattlemen’s Beef Board chairman Tom Jones and the resignation on June 29 of CEO Tom Ramey. Read More...

Newpher retiring from Farm Bureau; Potts named successor

American Farm Bureau Foundation Executive Vice President Richard Newpher will retire this fall and be succeeded by Julie Anna Potts, Farm Bureau announced today. Read More...

FAS: Ag trade programs should stay at USDA

Agricultural trade programs should not be moved from USDA to a proposed combined trade agency the Obama administration is considering, the acting administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service said today, noting that she has so advised the White House Office of Management and Budget. Read More...

Stabenow: House budget bill no friend to agriculture

The House-passed budget bill containing $48 billion in cuts to farm programs over 10 years has made it much more difficult to protect agriculture in current deficit reduction negotiations, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said today. Read More...

House-passed pesticide bill on hold in Senate

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will not bring up a House-passed bill to eliminate a pesticide permit requirement until senators who have placed holds on the bill and advocates for it have worked out a deal, Senate Agriculture Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said today. Read More...

Senate Ag holding rural jobs hearing Thursday

The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on growing jobs in rural America, Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., announced today. Read More...

Justice will help USDA with GIPSA

The Justice Department will continue to advise the Agriculture Department on the USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration’s rewrite of the rule governing the Packers and Stockyards Act, outgoing Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney said today. Read More...

White House still hoping for FTAs before recess

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told agriculture leaders today that the Obama administration hopes Congress will approve the three pending free trade agreements and reauthorize trade adjustment assistance before the August recess. Read More...

Hatch calls on leadership to resolve FTA differences

Senate Finance Committee ranking member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, today urged House and Senate leaders to resolve Korean trade agreement differences in versions passed in “mock markups” by the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways & Means Committee. Read More...

UCS concerned with APHIS decisions on GE bluegrass

A July 1 news release from the Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service regarding the regulation of genetically-engineered Kentucky bluegrass “could drastically reduce the number [of] genetically engineered plants subject to regulatory oversight,” the Union of Concerned Scientists said today. Read More...

G20 food reserve proposal seems weak

ROME — When the agriculture ministers from the G20 countries met in Paris last month, they assigned the World Food Program the job of developing a pilot program for an emergency food reserve, but the language surrounding the reserve is so tepid it will be surprising if it amounts to much. Read More...

Mexico cuts tariffs on U.S. products

The government of Mexico today officially reduced by half the retaliatory tariffs it had imposed on 89 U.S. products in the dispute over Mexican long haul trucks' access to the United States. Read More...

AEI schedules farm bill briefings

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. and two longtime critics of farm policy, Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Ron Kind, D-Wis., are scheduled to lead off a week-long American Enterprise Institute series of briefings on Capitol Hill next week to release original research AEI has commissioned on the 2012 farm bill. Read More...

House Ag Committee schedules hearings

House Agriculture subcommittees will hold two hearings next week as part of the overall committee’s series of audits of programs under the farm bill. Read More...

Bell named farm policy director at NAWG

The National Association of Wheat Growers has hired Benjamin Bell as director of farm policy, crop insurance, transportation and trade issues. Read More...

Senate Finance, House Ways and Means move FTAs forward

In “mock markups” to advise the Obama administration on implementing legislation, the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee today approved the Korea, Panama and Colombia free trade agreements without amendments, and Senate Finance also approved an extension of trade adjustment assistance for workers and farmers who have been hurt by trade agreements. Read More...

Senate biofuels proposal gets support, but future uncertain

A bipartisan Senate agreement to end the ethanol tax break and the protective tariff but extend the tax credit for cellulosic biofuels production and infrastructure development won praise from producer groups today, but the agreement’s path to becoming law is unclear. Read More...

U.S. Wheat announces personnel changes

U.S. Wheat Associates has hired Casey Chumrau as a market analyst on global wheat market trends and activity, produce weekly price reports and provide contract, quality specification and price assistance to U.S. wheat exporters and importers. Read More...

U.S., Mexico agree on trucking plan and end to tariffs

An agreement between the Obama administration and the Mexican government to resolve a two-year long cross-border long-haul trucking dispute and end Mexico’s punitive tariffs on U.S. products announced today has won praise from a wide range of agricultural groups that export to Mexico.
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Baucus schedules FTA markup, Republicans to attend

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., announced late today that his committee will hold a “mock markup” on the implementing bills for the free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama and an extension of trade adjustment assistance on Thursday at 9 a.m. Read More...

California farmer planted roots for today's FAO

ROME — The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s role as a collector and disseminator of agricultural statistics has its roots in an American merchant-turned-farmer’s campaign to get worldwide farm production in the hands of farmers so that traders could not take advantage of them. Read More...

FAO sets up work on Agricultural Market Information System

ROME — U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization officials have expressed enthusiasm for a new global agricultural information system to improve global food security established by the G20 agriculture ministers, but it’s unclear how well the new system or what impact it will have. Read More...

Ways and Means schedules FTA 'mock markup'

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., has scheduled a “mock markup” on implementing legislation for the pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Korea and Panama, on Thursday but the conflicts between Democrats and Repbublicans on how to handle the issue of trade adjustment assistance for workers and farmers hurt by trade agreements appears to be continuing. Read More...

Roberts to host Senate farm bill hearing in Kansas in August

Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, announced today that a field hearing on the next farm bill will be held in Wichita, Kan., on Thursday, August 25. Read More...

Biotech labeling agreement interpretations differ

Consumer groups and the biotech industry are issuing different interpretations of a new Codex Alimentarius Commission agreement on biotech labeling. Read More...

FAO conference approves $1.06 billion budget

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s governing conference has unanimously approved a regular program budget of $1.06 billion for the 2012-13 biennium, equivalent to a 1.4 percent increase over the current biennium, the agency said in a news release Saturday. Read More...

G20 countries launching initiative on wheat research

PARIS — The wheat research initiative that the agriculture ministers from the G20 countries launched at their meeting here on June 23 is strongly supported by U.S. growers and appears likely to put wheat research on a faster track. Read More...

Farm Bureau, NFTC blast inaction on FTAs

Reacting to Senate Finance Committee Republicans boycotting a markup of implementing legislation for the free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama and renewal of trade adjustment assistance, American Farm Bureau Federation trade lobbyist Chris Garza said Friday that Congress should stop playing politics, and National Foreign Trade Council President Bill Reinsch said that Republicans were inadvertently helping labor unions that want to stop the agreements. Read More...

Nelson named Farm Service Agency administrator

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today appointed Bruce Nelson as the administrator of the Farm Service Agency. Read More...

Vilsack visits People's Garden at Paris embassy residence

PARIS — When Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited Paris last week for the G20 meeting of agriculture ministers, he stopped to tour something at the American ambassador's residence: an organic vegetable garden inspired by the USDA People's Garden program and First Lady Michelle Obama's kitchen garden at the White House. Read More...