The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

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Farm Bureau backs Kaptur amendment on GIPSA rule

The American Farm Bureau Federation is opposing a House proposal to stop the Agriculture Department from proposing a new rule to govern the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration. Read More...

Stabenow hosts Michigan hearing; Kansas hearing planned

Senate Agriculture Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, held the first field hearing on the 2012 farm bill today at Michigan State University in East Lansing. Read More...

Matt Paul new communications director at USDA

Matt Paul, who served as Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's communications director and senior adviser when Vilsack was governor of Iowa, will become the communications director at the Agriculture Department on June 6. Read More...

House Appropriations approves FY2012 Ag amendments

In a signal of the growing unpopularity of farm programs, the House Appropriations Committee tonight approved amendments to the fiscal year 2012 Appropriations bill. Read More...

Vilsack: Both disaster program and crop insurance vital

American farmers and ranchers need a disaster program as well as crop insurance, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today at the Senate Agriculture Committee’s first hearing on the 2012 farm bill. Read More...

AGRA and USDA commit to helping small African farmers

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the Agriculture Department today signed a five-year memorandum of understanding to explore ways to help smallholder farmers in Africa through coordinated research, exchanges, training and development activities. Read More...

Court upholds Arizona employment verification requirement

In a ruling that could have an impact on agriculture businesses that have hired undocumented workers, the U.S. Supreme Court today upheld an Arizona law requiring all employers in the state to utilize E-Verify, a federal electronic employment eligibility verification system that had been, to date, voluntary nationwide. Read More...

Smith to join American Farmland Trust in August

Katherine "Kitty" Smith will join the American Farmland Trust as vice president of programs and chief economist on August 15, AFT announced today. Read More...

Baucus backs trade adjustment assistance with trade pacts

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., told a meat export group today that the pending trade agreements with Korea, Panama and Colombia must be passed together with trade adjustment assistance for American workers, and then proceeded to a lengthy and somewhat unexpected discussion of the 2012 farm bill. Read More...

Vilsack defends biofuels to Chicago Council

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told a gathering of international agricultural development activists Tuesday that U.S. biofuels should not blamed for most of the increases in food prices in recent years. Read More...

IDFA releases study aimed at Milk Producers dairy plan

The International Dairy Foods Association today released a study that it said showed a section of a National Milk Producers Federation proposal to revamp the dairy program would decrease U.S. jobs and dairy exports and increase price volatility. Read More...

FAS cuts would make export issues difficult, Vilsack says

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told a meat industry group today that a proposed cut in the budget for the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service would make it difficult for the agency to promote exports and fight trade barriers in other countries, and also explained the intricacies of trade negotiations with other countries. Read More...

Baucus backs farm disaster assistance continuation, says Senate should write new farm bill first

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said today that the permanent farm disaster assistance program he authored in the 2008 farm bill must be continued in the 2012 farm bill, and that it would make sense for the Senate to write the bill first, since members of the House Agriculture Committee are so inexperienced. Read More...

Farm leaders consider supporting TAA to get free trade agreements passed

If Congress needs to take up trade adjustment assistance for American workers to pass the free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama, members should do it, five farm leaders said Tuesday. Read More...

Crop insurance funding preserved, but other ag programs slashed in House bill

A fiscal year 2012 funding bill approved today by the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee would not cut the crop insurance program as the initial draft seemed to indicate, but many other agriculture, nutrition, international food aid programs would lose money, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission would not get the funding it was expecting to enforce the Dodd-Frank financial services bill, and USDA could not move forward with a proposed rule change for the program regulating the marketing of livestock and poultry. Read More...

Global food aid advocates plead against funding cuts

The gulf between the need for global food security programs and fiscal reality came into stark contrast in Washington today as Obama administration officials and Microsoft founder Bill Gates called on Congress to spend more money on international agricultural development, while the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee cut funding for international food aid and congressional Democrats warned of more cuts to come. Read More...

Chicago Council releases ag development report

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs today released a report on U.S. leadership in global agriculture development. It was written by former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and former United Nations World Food Program Executive Director Catherine Bertini, who chair the council’s global agricultural development initiative. Read More...

Governors back trade agreements, adjustment assistance

Congress should pass the South Korean, Colombian and Panamanian free trade agreements and reauthorize trade adjustment assistance for American workers, a bipartisan coalition of governors from 20 states and two territories wrote congressional leaders on Monday. Read More...

Ag programs, CFTC take cuts in House agriculture appropriations bill

Crop insurance, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, nutrition programs and other key Agriculture Department programs would take cuts under the fiscal year 2012 appropriations bill that the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee released late Monday in anticipation of a markup today. Read More...

Merrigan warns that budget cut expectations are high

Expectations of budget cuts to get the debt ceiling lifted are very high, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said today, emphasizing that groups worried about the future of federal nutrition programs will have to defend them and make them as efficient as possible. Read More...

USDA seeks summer food sources for schoolchildren

The Obama administration is worried that children who depend on free and reduced price school meals will go hungry this summer, and is trying to work with church groups and others to develop more summer feeding sites this summer, Agriculture Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon said today. Read More...

Nell Newman named new chair of Wholesome Wave

Nell Newman, co-founder and president of Newman's Own Organics, has become the chair of the board of directors of Wholesome Wave, a nonprofit organization that supports small and medium scale farmers and helps make fruits and vegetables available to people at all income levels. The appointment was announced today at Wholesome Wave's annual conference in Washington. Read More...

Stabenow, Conrad, others seek Obama support for ag budge

A letter sent to President Obama by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and eight other Democratic senators is intended to counter Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal and discourage the administration from supporting large cuts in farm programs, a knowledgeable Senate source told The Hagstrom Report today. Read More...

GIPSA livestock, poultry marketing rule won't be withdrawn

The Obama administration will not withdraw the proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration rule regarding the marketing of livestock and poultry, even though a bipartisan group of 147 House members wrote Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging that it be rewritten, a USDA spokesman said. Read More...

USDA announces a number of appointments

The appointments of Brian Baenig as deputy undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs and Bobbi Jeanquart as a deputy assistant secretary for congressional relations top a series of personnel changes at the Agriculture Department, according to sources in the USDA Office of White House Liaison. Read More...

Deputy Undersecretary Jensen heads to the White House

Deputy Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment Jay Jensen will move to the White House, the Agriculture Department announced today. Read More...

Stabenow schedules farm bill hearing on world food demands

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has scheduled a farm bill hearing next week that will focus on the role of American agriculture in meeting world food demands. Read More...

Oxfam, ActionAid blast aid inaction in wake of G8 accountability report

The United States is doing better than most countries in meeting the commitments it made during the 2008-2009 food security crisis to provide development aid, but all need to do more, two key development groups said after an official accountability report on the pledges was released. Read More...

Grain barges moving again – slowly – on Mississippi

The flooded Mississippi River has been reopened to barges carrying grain headed for export from the Gulf of Mexico, but the Coast Guard ordered travel at the slowest possible speed to alleviate the threat of levee breaches along the way, the Associated Press reported. Read More...

New food import inspections to have wide-ranging impact

The biggest impact of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act will be on the inspection of imported food, the federal official in charge of implementing the new bill and a key food safety advocate agree. Read More...

Cochran, De Lauro seek better imported seafood inspections

Following the release of a report critical of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s inspection of imported seafood, including catfish varieties, Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Rep. Rosa De Lauro, D-Conn., have called on the government to do a better job. Read More...

Correction: Federal dairy spending at $355 million

Contrary to a story in The Hagstrom Report on Tuesday, federal dairy spending is now much less than the nearly $1 billion at the height of the dairy crisis in 2009. Federal spending on dairy programs was $994 million in fiscal year 2009, but fell to $355 million in fiscal year 2010, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Read More...

Dairy industry continues debate on National Milk proposal

OMAHA — National Milk Producers Federation President Jerry Kozak said his group will continue to push its “Foundation for the Future” plan to revamp the dairy program in Congress, even though dairy processors and some left-leaning dairy and farm groups oppose it. Read More...

Mississippi closure at Natchez blocking grain barges

Barges moving grain from Midwest farms were stopped on their way to the Gulf of Mexico when the Coast Guard closed the flooded Mississippi River at the port of Natchez, Miss., trying to avoid increasing pressure on already strained levees, the Associated Press reported. Read More...

Rep. Fortenberry: Freshmen Ag members need educating

OMAHA — Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., said today he is not sure that freshmen on the House Agriculture Committee will support farm policy, and urged a group of dairy producers meeting here to engage in a strong educational effort with freshmen members. Read More...

USDA urges washed-out farmers to pursue insurance claims

Farmers in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio who have experienced crop damage due to heavy rainfall and flooding should contact their insurance agents about possible claims, the Agriculture Department said today. Read More...

Stabenow names Michigan panels for first farm bill hearing

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has announced an all-Michigan witness list for her first farm bill hearing, to be held May 31 at Michigan State University and titled “Opportunities for Growth: Michigan and the 2012 Farm Bill.” Read More...

ERS Administrator Kitty Smith to retire

USDA Economic Research Service Administrator Kitty Smith will retire August 13, Agriculture Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics Cathie Woteki has announced. Read More...

Food, Inc. director urges food democracy

In a city with a constant stream of dull agricultural conferences that make their invited audiences feel good about themselves, CropLife America President and CEO Jay Vroom offered Washington a respite when he invited Robert Kenner, director of the 2009 documentary _Food, Inc_., to speak at his group’s annual policy conference, which was titled “Lost in Translation: Deciphering the Discourse of Modern Agriculture.” Read More...

Dates set for Appropriations markups

The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee markup on the fiscal year 2012 Agriculture appropriations bill will be held on May 24, and the full Appropriations Committee markup will be May 31, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., announced today. Read More...

Stabenow cites weather woes as need for farmer safety net

Recent natural disasters around the country show the need for continuing strong support for farmers in the 2012 farm bill, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow said today. Read More...

Kirk says free trade agreements could be passed by August

In a wide-ranging discussion of trade policy before the House Agriculture Committee today, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said that the pending trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama could be passed by August “if not sooner” if Congress agrees also to reauthorize trade adjustment assistance for workers whose jobs have been displaced by free trade. Read More...

Baucus endorses Colombia pact, but side issues could slow it down

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., enthusiastically endorsed the U.S. free trade agreement with Colombia today, but he and Obama administration officials signaled that Colombia will have to prove its commitment to labor rights and Congress will have to agree to reauthorize trade adjustment assistance for American workers before it will be approved. Read More...

Vilsack weighs recommendations in civil rights report

A civil rights consulting firm hired to recommend ways to make sure everyone has equal access to USDA programs has suggested that Farm Service Agency state directors take over the supervision of county executive directors from county committees, and that crop insurance agents be given incentives to make more sales to minority and female farmers. Read More...

Reid adviser Wetjen nominated to CFTC

The White House announced today that President Barack Obama has nominated Mark P. Wetjen, a counsel and senior policy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., as a commissioner on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Read More...

Cattle, pork groups call for passage of trade agreements

With hearings on the pending U.S. free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and Korea starting this week, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the National Pork Producers Council are calling for quick congressional approval of the pacts. Read More...

Canal expansion raises port concerns with soybean group

The pending expansion of the Panama Canal is raising questions of whether U.S. ports can handle the larger ships that will start using the canal in 2014, the United Soybean Board said in a news release Monday as a soy group signed a memorandum of understanding with the Panama Canal Authority. Read More...

Roosevelt Partnership launches video campaign

As part of a campaign to influence the finalization of the national forest planning rule, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership has launched a video blog campaign and is providing viewers with a way to comment on the rule. Read More...

Farm Programs deputy becomes Vilsack adviser

USDA Farm Service Agency Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs Brandon Willis has accepted a position as senior adviser to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, it was announced today. Read More...

Child nutritionists push accord for school meals in Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya — Gene White, a former director of child nutrition for California, and Namanga Ngongi, president of a Gates Foundation agriculture development effort here, come from very different worlds, but they have a dream in common: that every child in Africa will be offered a school lunch and that as much of the food as possible will be produced by local farmers. Read More...

Trade hearings this week on Capitol Hill

The Senate Finance Committee and the House Agriculture Committee have both scheduled trade hearings this week: Read More...

Clinton seeks world food support; Oxfam chides lack of aid

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today asked the world to join the United States in addressing rising food prices and long-term agricultural development in the Third World, but Oxfam, the international charity, said the Obama administration has not lived up to commitments it has made for global food security. Read More...

USDA promotes settlement offer in Hispanic/women claims

The Obama administration sent high-level officials to Arizona and Florida last week to inform Hispanic and female farmers of its offer to resolve claims of farm loan discrimination, even though cases are still being heard in court. Read More...

Native Americans can begin filing settlement claims soon

Native American farmers have until December 24 to file for claims and debt relief totaling $760 million under the settlement of the Keepseagle farmer discrimination case against the Agriculture Department that received final court approval last week. Read More...

Obama to push all three trade agreements

The Obama administration is moving forward to gain congressional approval of the three pending trade agreements, expects Congress to renew trade adjustment assistance for workers who have lost jobs due to free trade, and has granted $1 million to the U.S. Meat Export Federation to encourage meat exports to Korea, according to a memo from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative today. Read More...

House Ag approves Dodd-Frank bill along party lines

After bitter partisan debate, the House Agriculture Committee today voted along party lines to approve a bill to delay implementation of the Dodd-Frank financial services bill provision that regulates the futures and derivatives industry. The vote was 25 to 20, with all Republicans present voting for the bill and all Democrats against. Read More...

School Nutrition Association names new CEO

The School Nutrition Association has hired Frank DiPasquale as its chief executive officer, to take over from Barbara Belmont, who is retiring after 18 years of service. Read More...

End direct payments, reduce deficit, Center for American Progress says

The $4.9 billion direct payments program to farmers should be eliminated, with all but $650 million per year going to deficit reduction, a key Washington liberal think tank says in a report to be released today. Read More...

Federation offers its center for tornado victims

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund is making its Rural Training Center in Epes, Ala., available as a staging center for victims of last week's tornadoes. Read More...

New USDA online tool maps food deserts

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today introduced an Internet-based mapping tool that pinpoints the location of "food deserts" around the country and provides data on population characteristics of census tracts where residents have limited access to affordable and nutritious foods. Read More...

USAID opens centers to help Haitian farmers

The U.S. Agency for International Development has opened eight agricultural development centers in Haiti, USAID announced. Read More...

Rural fight looms over Clean Water Act guidance

Signaling a battle within rural America, a coalition of hunting and fishing groups has announced they support the Obama administration’s Clean Water Act guidance on streams and wetlands, while some farm and ranch leaders and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., criticized the proposal. Read More...

Foreign Ag Service administrator changes jobs; Heinen intermin leader

Foreign Agricultural Service administrator John Brewer will become special assistant to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on intelligence issues, Acting Undersecretary Michael Scuse told staff in an email. Read More...

Pork Producers Council names chief veterinarian

The National Pork Producers Council announced today that Dr. Liz Wagstrom will join the organization as its chief veterinarian, and be located in NPPC’s Washington office. Read More...

House Ag staffer joins Monsanto

Scott Kuschmider, a former staff director of a House Agriculture Committee subcommittee, has joined Monsanto’s Washington office as director of government relations. Read More...

USDA staff changes at FSA, FSIS, Congressional Relations

In the latest of a series of personnel changes at the Agriculture Department, Acting Agriculture Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse announced today that Val Dolcini, acting administrator of the Farm Service Agency, is leaving and that Bruce Nelson, the state executive director in Montana, will become acting administrator. Read More...

Farm Bureau, business groups decry lack of Doha progress

The American Farm Bureau Federation joined other U.S. business groups today in a statement expressing regret on the lack of progress with the Doha round of talks, urging rethinking and stating their continued surpport for the World Trade Organization. Read More...

Busy week for House Ag Committee

Congress is back this week, and the House Agriculture Committee is planning a busy schedule. Read More...