The Hagstrom Report

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Late summer reading: Catch up here on recent reports

Many organizations and government agencies have issued important reports over the summer on issues ranging from farm income and the farm bill to nutrition and obesity. Here is a list of reports and links to them. Read More...

Groups fight over COOL in court

Two coalitions of defenders of country-of-origin labeling for meat have asked to intervene in a court case filed by nine meat groups to stop the program, just as the groups led by the American Meat Institute told a judge Tuesday that the labeling requirement would cause an undue burden and compel speech in violation of the Constitution.
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AARP: Bill Clinton is vegan, but eats salmon and eggs

Former President Bill Clinton, once known for his great appetites, now eats a vegan diet regularly, but still eats salmon and eggs occasionally, AARP has reported in its magazine. Read More...

Pork producers release ag groups’ TPP letter

An ad hoc coalition of 37 agriculture and food organizations has written a letter to U.S. officials stating the principles that they believe should be followed in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, the National Pork Producers Council said this week. Read More...

FSIS officials cancel China trip

The two Agriculture Department Food Safety and Inspection Service officials who were scheduled to travel to China last week to discuss Chinese handling of U.S. chicken to be re-exported to the United States did not make that trip, an FSIS official said today. Read More...

American Feed hires new communications manager

The American Feed Industry Association has hired Miranda McDaniel as its new communications manager. Read More...

Cantor talks farm bill, nutrition in North Dakota

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., after being pressed to talk about the farm bill in North Dakota on Wednesday, said he expects the House to pass a nutrition bill and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to appoint conferees on the farm bill, the Grand Forks Herald reported. Read More...

Obama, Fudge raise hunger at MLK march commemoration

President Barack Obama, Rep. Marcia Fudge, who is chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and a member of the House Agriculture Committee, and others brought up the issue of hunger at the 50th anniversary commemoration of the March on Washington on Wednesday. Read More...

OIG, FNS at odds over SNAP retailer control report

The Agriculture Department’s Office of the Inspector General has issued a report charging that USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service has not updated its controls on retailers in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP or food stamps. Read More...

Justice Department issues guidance on marijuana

The Justice Department has paved the way for states to regulate marijuana farming. Read More...

Michigan State promoting its distilling program

Michigan State University has decided to promote a little-known beverage technology and artisan distilling program, according to an article by food and sustainability writer Bob Benenson in Symposium Magazine. Read More...

Groups sue EPA over decision to withdraw factory farm rule

A coalition of community, animal welfare and environmental organizations has filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency, challenging the agency’s withdrawal of a proposed rule that allowed EPA to collect information such as locations and animal population sizes from production facilities the groups call factory farms. Read More...

National Journal: Republican Study Committee bans Heritage Action over farm bill actions

In a blowup over Heritage Action for America’s decision to oppose the farm-only farm bill last month, the Republican Study Committee — a group of 172 conservative House members — has barred Heritage Foundation employees from attending its weekly meeting in the Capitol building, National Journal reported today. Read More...

USDA releases climate change report, seeks comments

The Climate Change Program Office of the Agriculture Department’s Office of the Chief Economist Tuesday released a report that outlines scientific methods for quantifying greenhouse gas emissions and carbon storage on farms and ranches and in forests. Read More...

NRDC report seeks RMA program to reward soil management

The Natural Resources Defense Council said today that “water-smart” strategies could have prevented much of the 2012 crop losses that resulted in $17.3 billion in federal crop insurance payments that year, and called on the Agriculture Department’s Risk Management Agency to establish a pilot program that would reward farmers who adopt “soil-building management practices.” Read More...

Growth Energy launches media blitz to counter RFS critics

Growth Energy, the group that represents ethanol plant builders and operators, has launched a multimillion media campaign to counter the oil industry’s criticism of the Renewable Fuel Standard. “Our message is simple — You’re no dummy. Don’t let the oil industry treat you like one,” Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis told reporters in a call on Monday. Read More...

Hassebrook leaving Center for Rural Affairs, Depew named

The Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Neb., announced this week that Chuck Hassebrook, the center’s longtime executive director, will leave September 1 and that he will be replaced by Brian Depew, the assistant executive director. Read More...

NGFA hires new legislative affairs director

The National Grain and Feed Association has hired Jared Hill as its new director of legislative affairs.
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USDA communications director also acting as chief of staff

Matt Paul, the communications director at the Agriculture Department, is doubling as the acting chief of staff to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Read More...

Bloomberg: Food stamp rolls grew in Republican counties

The number of beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program doubled in 254 counties between 2007 and 2011, and Republican Mitt Romney won 213 of those counties in the 2012 presidential election, according to a recent analysis of Agriculture Department data by Bloomberg. Read More...

CBPP: House proposal would cut millions from food stamps

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has published a report showing that the proposal of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to make changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program would cut 4 million to 6 million people from the food stamp program’s rolls. Read More...

Knipling to retire from ARS

Agriculture Research Service Administrator Ed Knipling will retire on September 1 after 48 years of federal service of which 46 were spent at USDA, Agriculture Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics Catherine Woteki announced in a letter to ARS employees on Thursday. Read More...

Americans worried again about sugar, panels tells nation’s sugar growers

NAPA, Calif. — After a period of worrying about fat, Americans are once again worried about sugar, a panel of consumer trend analysts told the nation’s sugar growers here last week. Read More...

McCarthy promises to improve EPA relations with farmers

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy visited Iowa Thursday and promised to improve EPA’s relations with farmers. Read More...

FSIS officials will visit China to talk chicken

Two key Agriculture Department food safety officials will visit China next week to discuss the conditions under which U.S. chicken might be processed in China and Chinese chicken might be imported to the United States, Politico reported today. Read More...

USDA to purchase sugar for ethanol

The Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency announced Thursday that the Commodity Credit Corporation has solicited bids to purchase sugar under the provisions of the Feedstock Flexibility Program to be sold on a competitive basis to bioenergy producers to produce biofuels. Read More...

International Sugar Organization director reflects on global supply as he prepares to retire

NAPA, Calif. — The world has more sugar than it needs today, but will need a bigger supply by 2020, according to Peter Baron, the outgoing executive director of the London-based International Sugar Organization. Read More...

Heritage Action favors farm bill extension

Heritage Action, the conservative group that encouraged House members to vote against the farm bill, favors a one-year extension of the farm bill, The Hill reported today. Read More...

Confectioners’ head urges joint effort to defend sugar, but disagreements with growers continue

NAPA, Calif. — National Confectioners Association President and CEO Larry Graham told the nation’s sugar growers here last week that the confectioners and other sweetener users will continue to fight the sugar program, but that the growers and the users should set aside their differences to defend the use of sugar in the American diet. Read More...

NCSL takes positions for nutrition title and against King amendment

ATLANTA — The National Conference of State Legislatures today passed a policy resolution urging Congress to reauthorize federal nutrition programs, and has also issued a letter opposing the provision in the farm bill authored by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. Read More...

Vilsack announces USDA energy efficiency recipients

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced funding for 631 projects across the nation intended to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce their energy consumption and costs, use renewable energy technologies and conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy projects. Read More...

Group reports on USDA energy efficiency programs

The Agriculture Department’s energy efficiency programs can help improve energy efficiency on farms, but can also be applied to other rural businesses, according to a paper published today by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Read More...

Sugar program incurs cost as Mexican imports surge

NAPA, Calif. — With Mexican sugar exports to the United States surging, the U.S. government goal of a no-cost sugar program is not feasible in the near future, but government officials and grower industry leaders said here last week that they are determined to operate the program at as low a cost to taxpayers as
possible. Read More...

USDA announces farm worker housing funds available

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today the availability of nearly $40 million to provide housing for farmworkers and their families, and again called on Congress to pass a comprehensive farm bill that would continue such programs. Read More...

Vilsack swears in Harden and Bonnie

2013_0812_Harden
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack swore in Krysta Harden as the new deputy secretary and Robert Bonnie as the new undersecretary for natural resource and environment on Monday.


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Vilsack swears in Robert Bonnie, center, as the new undersecretary for natural resources and environment. At right is Bonnie’s father, Ned. (USDA photos/Tom Witham)

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Democrats ask Boehner not to cut SNAP

House Democrats led by Rep. Rosa De Lauro, D-Conn., sent House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, a letter today urging him to include nutrition spending in any future farm bill that comes before the House and not to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP or food stamps. Read More...

Hightower joins United Fresh Produce Association

The United Fresh Produce Association has hired Lisa Hightower as its communications manager. Read More...

Petroleum groups ask EPA for lower RFS targets

The American Petroleum Institute and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers today formally asked the Environmental Protection Agency to set the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard targets at less than 10 percent percent of the anticipated total fuel supply, rather than follow the scheduled mandate of 18.15 billion gallons, Fuel Fix reported. Read More...

National Rural Housing Coalition releases report

The National Rural Housing Coalition today issued a report on the low-income housing tax credit in rural communities.
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San Franciscans spend double to savor corn smut at Alemany Farmers Market

SAN FRANCISCO — Most American farmers think of corn smut as a disease that ruins their crops, but at the Alemany Farmers’ Market here, sweet corn cobs festooned with the fungus sell for $1 a piece — twice the regular price — because there is an appreciation of the smut as an edible delicacy called huitlacoche. Read More...

USDA: Corn crop expected to be at record level

U.S. corn growers are expected to produce a record-high 13.8 billion bushels of corn in 2013, and a near-record soybean crop, but not quite as high a production level as expected in July, according to the Crop Progress report issued today by the Agriculture Department’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Read More...

New York anti-hunger advocate rebuts Fox SNAP special

Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, has issued a point-by-by rebuttal to an hour-long Fox News special “The Great Food Stamp Binge,” which was broadcast over the weekend. Read More...

Democratic farm aides say congressional staff needs direction from conferees

NAPA, Calif. — Democratic aides on the House and Senate Agriculture committees said here this week that congressional staff from both parties need direction from conferees in order to achieve agreement on a conference report on the farm bill. Read More...

FAO reports food price decline

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has reported a world food price decline for the third month in a row. Read More...

McCaskill asks constituents to write House about food stamps

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., has asked her campaign supporters to call or write their House members urging them not to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP or food stamps, Roll Call has reported. Read More...

Food stamp changes seen as GOP welfare reform

Through changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP or food stamps, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., is attempting what amounts to a second phase of welfare reform at a time when unemployment is much higher than when the first welfare reform bill passed in 1996, Politico reported today. Read More...

Peterson seeks farm-bill help from non-commodity states, says GOP has annoyed him into considering re-election

NAPA, Calif. — House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said in a telephone conference here Wednesday that for a farm bill to pass, pressure must come from states that produce non-commodity crops. He also said he is so annoyed by Republican pressures on him that he is inclined to run for re-election in 2014, even though he has talked about retiring. Read More...

CBPP: GOP SNAP plan would be hardship for poorest people

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program proposal by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., would cause hardship for some of the lowest income individuals in the United States, Robert Greenstein and his staff at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities wrote in a report issued Wednesday. Read More...

Rogers says food stamps will continue

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., has told his constituents that they will continue to get food stamps, according to the Somerset, Ky. Commonwealth Journal. Read More...

Biofuels groups plan trade mission to Brazil

The Renewable Fuels Association, the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (known as UNICA) and the Advanced Biofuel Association have announced a first-of-its-kind trade mission to Brazil beginning next month. Read More...

Vilsack to Brazil: No more cotton payments, buy wheat, beef and pork, and cooperate on biotechnology and biofuels

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has told Brazilian officials that the Agriculture Department is running out of money and authority to make payments in the WTO cotton subsidies agreement, but urged them to buy U.S. wheat, beef and pork exports and find ways to cooperate with the United States on biotechnology and biofuels policy. Read More...

Cochran joins Vilsack’s call for farm bill passage

Reacting to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s statement today that he does not have authority to continue cotton payments beyond October 1, Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., backed Vilsack’s renewed call for Congress to pass a farm bill. Read More...

House leadership faces more pressure on immigration reform

NAPA,Calif. — Amid reports that Hispanic groups are putting pressure on House members during the August recess, two Republican House members told the nation’s sugar growers here this week that they expect immigration reform bills as well as the farm bill conference report to come up on the House floor this fall Read More...

EPA release of RFS volumes praised by biofuel leaders

The Environmental Protection Agency today announced final 2013 volumes for renewable fuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard. Read More...

Scuse takes on Denham on trade statements

NAPA, Calif. — Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., said here today that he did not have a high opinion of the Obama administration’s performance on trade policy, prompting Agriculture Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Scuse to dispute the statement. Read More...

Greenstein: Cantor food stamp proposal harsh on top of other cuts

The proposal to restrict eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program outlined last week by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., is “stunningly harsh” on top of cuts in benefits that are already scheduled to go into effect, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities President Robert Greenstein said Friday. Read More...

Conaway endorses ‘zero-for-zero’ trade bill, but not leaving sugar out of TPP

NAPA, Calif. — House Agriculture General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, today endorsed the proposed “zero for zero” sugar policy that would tell U.S. trade negotiators to agree to a free market in sugar only if other countries drop their sugar subsidies and restrictions on imports. Read More...

Conaway predicts farm bill passage, makes pitch for Cantor nutrition bill

NAPA, Calif. — House Agriculture General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, told the nation’s sugar growers here today that he expects Congress to pass the farm bill, but he also made a pitch for the bill with big cuts to the nutrition program that House Majority Eric Cantor, R-Va., plans to bring to the House floor in September. Read More...

Vilsack to visit three Brazilian cities

An Agriculture Department spokeswoman has confirmed that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will visit three Brazilian cities next week. Read More...

Congress heads off to recess; fate of SNAP, farm bill conference uncertain

The Senate adjourned late Thursday for a five-week recess until September 9, while the House plans to leave today for the same period after making plans for a vote in early September on a bill that would make $40 billion in cuts over 10 years in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP or food stamps. Read More...

More than 8,000 farmers’ markets on USDA registry

The number of farmers’ markets registered with the Agriculture Department has grown to more than 8,000 around the country, Agriculture Marketing Service Administrator Anne Alonzo will announce on Saturday. In an exclusive interview with The Hagstrom Report on Thursday, Alonzo said she will announce that 8,144 markets have now registered and will be included in USDA’s Farmers Market Directory, which will be updated on the USDA website and can be used, along with an application for hand-held devices, to help consumers find farmers’ markets. Read More...

Senate confirms Harden, Bonnie, names farm bill conferees

The Senate late Thursday confirmed President Barack Obama’s nominations of Krysta Harden to be Agriculture deputy secretary and Robert Bonnie to be undersecretary for natural resources and environment. Read More...

Flake and Stabenow engage in direct payment colloquy

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., got reassurances from Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., that she would oppose any continuation of the direct payments program in the farm bill conference, but he declined to commit himself to vote for the farm bill, saying only that he would oppose an extension that includes direct payments. Read More...

Farm bill symbol of Washington dysfunction

The failure of Congress to negotiate a farm bill is an example of Washington's inability today to build bipartisan coalitions, National Journal Editor-in-chief Reid Wilson writes today. Read More...

EU to continue zero tariff on U.S. non-hormone-treated beef

The European Union will continue to allow significant quantities of U.S. beef produced from non-hormone-treated beef to enter the union for another two years, Trade Representative Michael Froman and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today. Read More...

Lucas: House members outside Ag committee need educating

In a speech that was overwhelmed by his announcement that the House is expected to take up a bill to cut food stamp benefits by $40 billion over 10 years, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., told agriculture lobbyists today that members of the House who had not voted on a farm bill this year still need more education on its importance.
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UFW uses cantaloupes, arrests to push House on immigration reform

The United Farm Workers distributed cantaloupes and used civil disobedience that resulted in the arrest of one of their leaders on Capitol Hill today to make their case that the House should vote on a comprehensive immigration bill. Read More...

Stabenow: House food stamp bill means farm bill conference can’t proceed

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said today that the decision of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to bring up a bill to cut food stamps by $40 billion over 10 years means that conference on the farm bill cannot proceed in August as planned and that it will be very difficult to finish a farm bill this year.
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Walz leads coalition calling for farm bill conference

Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn. led a group of 50 House members in sending a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, asking for the farm bill conference to begin immediately. Read More...

Stabenow, Vilsack heading to Brazil

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., will travel together to Brazil next week to discuss agriculture issues with Brazilian officials, Stabenow said today. Read More...

Peterson: GOP leadership has ‘no interest in compromise’

Reacting to reports that the House leadership plans to bring a bill cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by $40 billion to the floor in September, House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., that such a bill would kill any chance of passing a farm bill this year. Read More...

Cantor working group reaches agreement on nutrition bill

The working group on nutrition established by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has reached agreement on a nutrition bill with $40 billion in food stamp cuts to be brought up in September, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said today. Read More...