The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

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Sequester to go into effect Friday

Following the failure of Democratic and Republican bills in the Senate to delay the sequestration of government funds, the sequester that will cut funding in all federal agencies for the remainder of the fiscal year including the Agriculture Department will go into effect on Friday, but no immediate effects are expected. Read More...

Farm leader: Crop insurance industry needs black agents

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — The crop insurance industry needs black insurance agents in order to convince more black farmers to participate in the crop insurance program, a farm leader told the Crop Insurance Industry Convention here earlier this month. Read More...

Small farm groups support Reid-Stabenow proposal

A coalition of 153 small farm groups organized by the Rural Coalition and the National Family Farm Coalition said Thursday they supported the sequester avoidance proposal written by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., that would have ended the direct payments program but provided money for a range of farm programs that were not extended with the rest of the 2008 farm bill. Read More...

Food hardship remains the same

The Food Research and Action Center’s annual food hardship report released today showed that 18.2 percent of the nation’s households experienced times in the past year when they did not have money to buy food. That rate has been the same since 2009. Read More...

Vickers honored by crop insurance industry

Raised on a cattle and wheat farm in northwest Oklahoma and educated in Oklahoma, she joined what is now the Agriculture Department’s Risk Management Agency in 1978 as a congressional liaison, and that same year joined Agriculture Secretary Bob Bergland’s staff, with responsibility for passing the Federal Crop Insurance Act, which expanded the crop insurance program. Read More...

Four key groups praise Senate ag plan

As the Senate prepared to vote on a bill to avert the sequester partly by eliminating the direct payments that farmers get whether prices are high or low, four farm bill advocates praised the measure. Read More...

House Judiciary hears united front on immigration

Farmers, food processors and the United Farm Workers on Tuesday presented a united front on immigration reform to a House Judiciary subcommittee, even though they disagreed on some of the details of the proposals.
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Stabenow to start CFTC reauthorization

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., announced today that she and ranking member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., will begin the process of reauthorizing the Commodity Futures Trading Commission later this year. Read More...

Food aid debate continues

Defenders of current food aid programs have written the Office of Management and Budget this week urging no changes to the program or its budget, while advocates for change have urged the Obama administration to hold an open debate on changing the programs, although some also have reservations about cuts to funding levels. Read More...

State Department pursues post-harvest losses to improve global food security

With nearly one-third of the food the world produces wasted due to post-harvest inefficiencies, the Obama administration is making a major push to improve storage and transportation facilities in developing countries to achieve global food security.
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Government, companies face obstacles in addressing post-harvest losses

The U.S. government, nongovernmental organizations and private companies are already trying to address post-harvest losses in developing countries, but they also face difficulties, a range of experts said at the State Department conference on the subject. Read More...

House Ag pledges to pass another farm bill

In its annual letter to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the House Agriculture Committee today said it would pass another “fiscally responsible” farm bill that “improves on the product the committee passed last year” and also put pressure on the House leadership to bring it to the floor. Read More...

Senate Ag sets CFTC hearing for Wednesday

The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold an oversight hearing on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission on Wednesday. Read More...

Willis to head Risk Management Agency

Brandon Willis, who has been serving as the acting administrator of the Risk Management Agency, was appointed as administrator today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced. Read More...

Oxfam ‘Behind the Brands’ campaign scores food and beverage company policies

Oxfam America, a division of the British-based charity and development organization, today released a scorecard on the world’s 10 largest food companies based on their social and environmental impact, including their treatment of developing country farmers who are their suppliers. Read More...

Lucas, Peterson concerned about rural definitions report

Reacting to the release Friday of a long-awaited report on the various definitions of rural at the Agriculture Department, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said today they are worried that the conclusions of the report could shift money away from certain parts of rural America. Read More...

Martin appointed in USDA congressional relations

Ashley Martin has been appointed as legislative director for the Office of Congressional Relations at the Agriculture Department, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today. Read More...

House ag postpones Vilsack hearing, will hold meeting

The House Agriculture Committee has postponed a hearing with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as witness that was scheduled for Tuesday until next Tuesday. Read More...

Bittleman new ag adviser at EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency announced today that the Obama administration has selected Sarah Bittleman, a senior adviser to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, as EPA’s new senior agricultural counselor. Read More...

Energy Outlook highlights natural gas production increases

Biofuels and other renewable fuel sources from agriculture took a back seat to discussion of natural gas production as U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) Administrator Adam Sieminski discussed energy projections Thursday night at the Agriculture department’s 2013 Agricultural Outlook Forum. Read More...

Food aid defenders write Obama

Seventy farm, humanitarian, shipping and labor groups wrote President Barack Obama Thursday urging him to sustain funding for the current Food for Peace (PL 480) and Food for Progress international food assistance programs and telling him they “strongly oppose proposals to eliminate or drastically reduce program funding or to shift these resources to overseas commodity procurement.” Read More...

Congress needs to address risks it has created for agriculture, Vilsack says

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today appealed to some of the most powerful people in world of agriculture to put pressure on Congress to address the impact of the sequester on the Agriculture Department, and to pass a bill guaranteeing funding for the agency for the rest of fiscal year 2013, a five-year farm bill and immigration reform. Read More...

Vilsack: Sequester would give USDA no choice on meat inspector furloughs

The Agriculture Department has no choice but to furlough meat inspectors if sequestration goes into effect on March 1, but the date on which the furloughs would begin for inspectors and other government employees would depend on labor agreements, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today. Read More...

Justice unseals indictment against Peanut Corporation of America

A 76-count indictment was unsealed yesterday charging four former officials of the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) and a related company with numerous charges relating to salmonella-tainted peanuts and peanut products, the Justice Department announced today. Read More...

House Ag schedules events Tuesday

The House Agriculture Committee today scheduled a business meeting and a hearing for Tuesday. Read More...

Senators oppose Obama proposal to eliminate food aid funding

Amidst rumors that the Obama administration’s draft budget for fiscal year 2014 would eliminate the food aid programs that provide U.S. commodities in low-income countries and replace them with a smaller program to provide money to buy commodities on the international markets, 21 senators are urging President Barack Obama to maintain funding for the Food for Peace program. Read More...

OIE panel: U.S. mad cow risk ‘negligible’

In what could be an important development for U.S. beef exports, the Scientific Commission for the World Organization for Animal Health recommended today that the U.S. risk classification for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), better known as mad cow disease, should be upgraded from “controlled” to “negligible” risk. Read More...

First lady to embark on ‘Let's Move’ 3rd anniversary tour

First Lady Michelle Obama will celebrate the third anniversary of her “Let's Move” campaign against childhood obesity by appearing on three television talk shows, making three personal appearances and hosting online discussions. Read More...

Almost all fathers cook, Kraft survey says

Ninety-six percent of fathers now cook, according to a survey released by Kraft Foods that was featured in a story in the Progressive Grocer that was, in turn, posted online today by the Food Marketing Institute. Read More...

More oppose Reid-Stabenow plan amidst speculation about sequestration and the continuing resolution

Fourteen key commodity groups today joined the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives in opposing the proposal to avoid sequestration that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., last week. Read More...

Supreme Court seems sympathetic to Monsanto

Supreme Court justices seemed skeptical Tuesday of arguments by a farmer whose attorney argued isn't violating a Monsanto patent by buying soybeans to plant with the expectation that those plants would carry the Roundup Ready trait, DTN reported today. Read More...

Vilsack: Sequestration would affect FSA, other divisions

Sequestration would affect the Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency by requiring a hiring freeze and furloughs for employees, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wrote Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee Chairman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., earlier this month. Read More...

USDA to conduct CRP general signup

The Agriculture Department will conduct a four-week general sign-up for the Conservation Reserve Program, beginning May 20 and ending on June 14, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Saturday at the National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic in Minneapolis. Read More...

ASTA promotes Slutsky, reorganizes office

As part of a larger reorganization, the American Seed Trade Association has promoted Bernice Slutsky to the new position of senior vice president for domestic and international policy. Read More...

Senators urge USTR to act on Russia meat import ban

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., ranking member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and 31 other senators today urged U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to take “swift action” in opposing Russia’s decision to ban U.S. meat. Read More...

Organic Center names Shade science director

The Organic Center, a non-profit affiliate science center housed in the Washington office of the Organic Trade Association (OTA), today named Jessica Shade to serve as director of science programs, a new position. Read More...

Republicans, southerners, farm groups oppose sequester package as details surface

Opposition to the farm provisions in the Senate Democrats’ sequester package began to surface late Thursday as The Hagstrom Report also learned some details behind the bill. Read More...

Obama, EU leaders announce trade negotiation plans

President Barack Obama, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso issued a joint statement Wednesday on plans for negotiations on the U.S.-EU comprehensive trade agreement, while other officials held a news conference and trade groups began to respond. Read More...

Ag issues visible and hidden in U.S.-EU negotiations

Animal and plant health issues are likely to be addressed openly in negotiations between the United States and the European Union for a comprehensive trade agreement, while the issues of biotechnology and rules over the geographic origin of certain products may be hidden in negotiations over intellectual property, U.S. and EU officials have told The Hagstrom Report. Read More...

Garamendi to rejoin House Ag Committee

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., announced Wednesday that the Democratic Caucus has selected him as a member of the House Agriculture Committee. Read More...

Cowan to Senate Ag, Casey to Finance

Sen. William “Mo” Cowan, D-Mass., who is filling the remainder of the term of John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who resigned to become secretary of State, has joined the Senate Agriculture Committee. Read More...

House Agriculture Committee approves oversight plan

The House Agriculture Committee approved its oversight plan for the 113th Congress on Wednesday, setting its agenda and highlighting key policy issues in its jurisdiction. Read More...

Stabenow: Continuing drought shows need for new farm bill

As federal officials said today that the drought is continuing, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said the situation shows the importance of passing a farm bill this year. Read More...

Freshmen to chair Senate Ag subcommittees

Three freshmen Democrats will chair Senate Agriculture subcommittees, according to a full list of subcommittee membership released today by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and ranking member Thad Cochran, R-Miss. Read More...

Democratic package would drop direct payments, avoid USDA cuts, fund rest of farm bill

Senate Democrats will offer a sequestration package that would eliminate the direct payments package for savings of $27.5 billion, avoid all sequestration-related Agriculture Department cuts including meat inspections, and fund disaster assistance and all the programs that were left out of the extension of the farm bill, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said late today. Read More...

Vilsack: Meat inspector furloughs necessary to meet budget

The Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service will have to furlough meat, poultry and egg product inspections if sequestration goes into effect on March 1, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wrote American Meat Institute in a letter Tuesday. Read More...

Obama: Free-trade negotiations with the European Union to go forward

In what could be the most significant development for agriculture in his State of the Union message, President Barack Obama on Tuesday said that he intends to complete the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement and that negotiations for a free-trade agreement between the United States and the European Union would move forward. Read More...

Economists call for changes in crop insurance gain/loss reporting

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — The former chief economist of the House Agriculture Committee this week endorsed a call to make note of the government’s participation in the underwriting gains and losses of the federal crop insurance program. Read More...

Roberts hires press secretary

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has hired Sean Fitzpatrick as press secretary. Read More...

National Milk Producers reorganizes staff

The National Milk Producers Federation, which recently hired Jim Mulhern as chief operating officer, has announced a reorganization of its staff. Read More...

National Restaurant Association hires Walker

The National Restaurant Association has hired Matt Walker as vice president of government affairs. Read More...

Hipp joins OFW Law

Janie Hipp, a senior adviser to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Indian matters, has joined the OFW Law firm in Washington.
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Udall, Merkley, Tester join Senate Ag Approps Subcommittee

The Senate Appropriations Committee today unveiled its memberships in the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee for the 113th Congress.
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‘Let’s Move’ advocate, brewer, wind technician, former farm workers guests at State of the Union

There has been no indication whether President Barack Obama will mention agriculture or the farm bill in the State of the Union address tonight, but the White House has announced that several people with connections to agriculture and food will sit in the box with First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden. Read More...

USDA releases agricultural projections to 2022

In anticipation of the Agriculture Department Outlook Conference next week, USDA on Monday released its agricultural projections to 2022. Read More...

Senators introduce payment limit bill

Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Tim Johnson, D-S.D., Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, today introduced a bill to place a hard cap on farm payments that a farmer can receive in a year, and to close what they consider to be loopholes in farm payments. Read More...

Cotton plantings projected to go down

U.S. cotton producers intend to plant 9.01 million acres of cotton this spring, down 26.8 percent from 2012, according to the National Cotton Council’s 30th Annual Early Season Planting Intentions Survey, which was released this weekend at the National Cotton Council meeting in Memphis. Read More...

Meat groups to USDA: Continue plant inspections

The Agriculture Department should declare federal meat, poultry and egg product inspectors essential government employees and continue meat inspections even if sequestration of government funds goes into effect, the National Chicken Council and 37 other agriculture groups wrote Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today. Read More...

Acting RMA administrator urges crop insurance industry to promote benefits

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — The industry needs to do a more aggressive job of convincing the American public that crop insurance is a wise public investment, the acting administrator of the Risk Management Agency told crop insurance agency officials here in speeches today and on Friday. Read More...

2013 farm income forecast at $128.2 billion

After adjusting for inflation, 2013’s net farm income, forecast at $128.2 billion, is expected to be the highest since 1973, the Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service reported today in its 2013 farm income forecast. Read More...

Vilsack, Kirk, Baucus respond to Russian suspension of U.S. meat imports

As Russia’s ban on meat imports from the United States went into effect today, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a joint statement that Russia is not abiding by its obligations under membership in the World Trade Organization. Read More...

Peterson leaves National Association of Wheat Growers

National Association of Wheat Growers CEO Dana Peterson left the organization on Friday. Read More...

White House: Sequestration would cut WIC, senior meals, FDA, FSIS inspections

Sequestration would result in approximately 600,000 low-income women and children being dropped from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children known as WIC and fewer senior meals, the White House said in a fact sheet released today. Read More...

White House, Congressional Republicans play sequestration blame game

The White House today urged Congress to develop a plan to avoid sequestration taking place on March 1, while House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called it “Obama’s sequester” and said Republicans are waiting for President Barack Obama to come up with a plan. Read More...

House Ag announces events

The House Agriculture Committee will hold a business meeting on Wednesday to consider its oversight plan for the 113th Congress and other organizational matters, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., announced today. Read More...

WTO Profile: Roberto de Azevêdo, Brazil

GENEVA — Roberto Azevêdo, the Brazilian ambassador to the World Trade Organization, said here last week that his candidacy to become the WTO director-general has been motivated by the fact that the trade organization has not finished a new round of trade talks since the Uruguay Round in 1994 and needs to finish the Doha round to show its continued relevance. Read More...

Vilsack details sequestration plan to USDA employees

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack sent Agriculture Department employees a memo today detailing how sequestration will be handled if it goes into effect on March 1. Read More...

Senate Ag sets hearing on disasters

The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on “Drought, Fire and Freeze: The Economics of Disasters for America’s Agricultural Producers,” on Thursday, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., announced this week. Read More...

Farm worker jobs program grant competition announced

The Department of Labor this week announced a grant competition for the National Farmworker Jobs Program, which provides training, employment and support services for migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their families. Read More...

Baucus names Campbell general counsel

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., announced Thursday that he has hired Mac Campbell as general counsel and senior adviser for the committee.
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Vilsack: Sequestration could force 6,000 meat inspectors to be furloughed

LAS VEGAS — Sequestration could force the Agriculture Department to furlough up to 6,000 meat inspectors for up to two weeks, plunging the meat industry into chaos and raising consumer prices, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said here today in wide-ranging comments on the sequestration and the prospects for a new farm bill.
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Vilsack: Reaction to climate change depends on approach

LAS VEGAS — Following the Agriculture Department’s release of two climate change reports and the agency’s own climate change strategy this week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said here today that the way people react to the subject of climate change depends on how it is brought up. Read More...

Jagger, NSAC analyze CBO farm bill baseline

The February 2013 Congressional Budget Office baseline for farm programs shows that the amount of budget authority available to write a new farm bill is likely to be a little bit less and that most of the reduction will be in the nutrition programs, former House Agriculture Committee economist Craig Jagger said in an analysis emailed to The Hagstrom Report. Read More...

WTO Profile: Taeho Bark, Korea

GENEVA — Korean trade minister Taeho Bark said his own life experience watching his country grow from poverty to affluence would help him convince other countries to complete the Doha Round of trade negotiations if he becomes the next director-general of the World Trade Organization. Read More...

Vilsack backs ethanol and biodiesel, tells leaders they need to get their message out

LAS VEGAS — If the ethanol and biodiesel industries need reassurance of support from the Obama administration, they got it here today from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. But they also got some advice on how to convince people outside their industry to support them.
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Dinneen: RFA fighting back agains RFS opponents

LAS VEGAS — Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen declared here Wednesday that the American ethanol industry’s “greatest challenge” is the oil industry’s campaign to end the Renewable Fuel Standard, but he and other speakers at the National Ethanol Conference also acknowledged that the industry faces a range of other problems. Read More...

USDA extends Ag Census deadline

The Agriculture Department’s National Agricultural Statistics Service announced today that it even though the official deadline for farmers to submit forms for the 2012 Census of Agriculture has passed, NASS is still accepting them. Read More...

WTO Profile: Heminio Blanco, Mexico

GENEVA — Herminio Blanco, Mexico’s chief negotiator in the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Uruguay Round, said here last week that his success in those negotiations show that he could be a successful director-general of the World Trade Organization. Read More...

Obama nominates REI executive for Interior

President Barack Obama today nominated Sally Jewell, the president of outdoor retailer REI, as Interior secretary. Jewell’s nomination came as a surprise and may be an indication that other nominations to replace Cabinet officers may not be predictable. Read More...

Immigration reform debate takes spotlight

The immigration debate seemed to take off today, with a House Judiciary Committee hearing, meetings at the White House about immigration reform, and two news conferences held by immigrant advocates. Read More...

Mexico appoints new agriculture officials

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who took office on December 1, has named Enrique Martinez y Martinez as minister of Mexico’s Secretariat of Agriculture Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA), the National Meat Association has reported in its publication, Lean Trimmings. Read More...

WTO Profile: Ahman Hindawi, Jordan

GENEVA — Ahmad Hindawi, a Jordanian government official for most of the past 25 years, told the World Trade Organization General Council and the media last week that the issues facing the WTO are the conclusion of the Doha Round and internal reform. Read More...

RFS opponents launch new Hill campaign

A coalition of opponents of the Renewable Fuel Standard held a telephone news conference today to announce they are launching a new campaign to convince Congress to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard. Read More...

Mexico, U.S. appear to resolve tomato dispute

The Commerce Department has initialed a proposed agreement with the Mexican tomato industry suspending the antidumping duty investigation of fresh tomatoes from Mexico, the department announced Saturday. Read More...

Cochran announces Ag Committee staff

Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., announced Friday that he has appointed his chief of staff T.A. Hawks as Republican staff director for the committee. Read More...

House Chicken Caucus reorganized

Reps. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., and Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., announced Friday that the Congressional Chicken Caucus has been reorganized under their leadership.
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Super Bowl farm ad for Chrysler truck benefits FFA

Chrysler Group LLC used images of rural America and commentary by the late radio broadcaster Paul Harvey in an ad to sell its Ram truck during Super Bowl XLVll on Sunday evening. Read More...

WTO Profile: Amina C. Mohamed, Kenya

GENEVA — Kenyan diplomat Aminda Mohamed told journalists at the World Trade Organization last week that while her candidacy for director-general is not based on her being an African woman, “it would be a wonderful signal if the organization decided [to choose] a woman, an African woman … that Africa is doing well, [with] high growth and the leadership of an organization like this.” Read More...

DeMarchi moves from NAWG to ASTA

The American Seed Trade Association has hired Jane DeMarchi, government affairs director for research and technology at the National Association of Wheat Growers, as its vice president for government affairs. Read More...

USDA releases ‘Smart Snacks in Schools’ rule

Snacks sold in school vending machines would be limited to 200 calories and beverages would be controlled for sugar content and size, but these standards would not apply to a limited number of school fundraisers under a long-anticipated rule the Agriculture Department released today to bring the foods sold in school vending machines and a la carte lines nutritionally in line with regular school meals. Read More...

Highlights of USDA’s ‘Smart Snacks’ proposal

  • Promoting availability of snack foods with whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables or protein foods as their main ingredients.
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