The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

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Vilsack announces promotions at USDA

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the following appointments late today: Read More...

Dallas Tonsager resigning from Rural Development

Agriculture Undersecretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager announced today that he would resign on May 3. Tonsager, who co-chaired the private sector rural and agriculture Obama campaign committee in 2008, told The Hagstrom Report today he had decided that four more years as undersecretary would be “a bit much.” Read More...

Stallman: Cutting crop insurance would anger farmers

If Congress decides to cut the crop insurance program, “you’ll get farmers coming out of the woodwork,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman told reporters today in a wide-ranging news briefing. Read More...

Poultry and egg growers refute charges on work safety

The U.S. Poultry & Egg Association and the National Chicken Council today released a paper intended to refute claims that poultry and egg workers are frequently in danger that were made in a report recently released by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Alabama Appleseed Center for Law & Justice.
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SNA endorses school nutrition flexibility bills

The School Nutrition Association this week endorsed a House bill introduced by Reps. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, and Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, that would permanently eliminate weekly maximums on grains and proteins served with school meals and make changes to the rules on charges to students. Read More...

EU farm ministers strike deal on CAP

Agriculture ministers from the European Union member countries this week struck a deal on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy that paves the way for a final accord among the ministers, the European Commission and the European Parliament in June. Read More...

USDA to extend deadline for Hispanic, female farmers to file discrimination claims

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will announce Monday that the deadline for Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers who allege discrimination by the USDA in past decades to file claims has been extended until May 1. Read More...

Merrigan: Administration has four years to institutionalize her ideas

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said Wednesday that her upcoming departure will give the Obama administration four years to institutionalize the ideas she has promoted through the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative. Read More...

House passes budget, Senate debates

The House of Representatives today passed a long-term budget resolution while the Senate continued to debate its resolution, with a vote expected Friday. Read More...

USDA defers farm payments to deal with sequester

The Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency temporarily suspended disbursement of payments for many FSA programs starting on March 1 as part of reducing expenditures that went into effect under the sequestration provision of the Budget Control Act, a USDA source said today.
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AFT: 3 million acres now protected in private trusts

Private land trusts have permanently protected 3 million acres of U.S. farm and ranch land, the American Farmland Trust said in a new report issued today. Read More...

House passes CR with meat inspector provision, Vilsack will implement

The House of Representatives today passed an appropriations bill to fund the government through September 30, which includes additional funds to pay meat inspectors so that the Agriculture Department will not need to furlough them to comply with the sequestration provisions of the Budget Control Act. Read More...

Senate passes CR with meat inspection amendment, without Toomey biofuels amendment

The Senate today approved the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations to fund the government through September 30. The bill includes an amendment to pay the salaries of meat inspectors who would have been furloughed under the Budget Control Act if it had not been included. Read More...

House Ag Committee approves Dodd-Frank bills

The House Agriculture Committee today approved seven legislative proposals amending Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Read More...

Vilsack endorses Blunt-Pryor meat inspector measure

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today endorsed a measure introduced by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., that would avoid furloughs for meat inspectors this summer. Read More...

Secretary calls for job training for SNAP beneficiaries

Congress and the Obama administration should have an “honest debate” on the future of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP or food stamps, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today in a major speech on the administration’s second-term priorities.
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USDA to claw back payments by cutting direct payments

The Agriculture Department will be required to ask farmers to pay back $151 million under the sequester and will get that money mostly by reducing the direct payments that crop farmers get whether prices are high or low, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today.
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Vilsack: USDA cut more than other agencies

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack complained today that Congress has cut the Agriculture Department more than other agencies.
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Secretary seeks horse-slaughter alternative

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called on Congress to come up with other ways to handle aging horses than to slaughter for meat for human consumption. Read More...

Vilsack: Sugar-to-ethanol reports incorrect

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters today that recent reports that USDA is planning to buy sugar to turn it into ethanol were incorrect and premature. Read More...

Smithsonian unveils new ag website

In honor of National Agriculture Day today, the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History is unveiling a new website where the public can upload stories about technologies and innovation that have changed their work lives in agriculture — stories about everything from precision farming and food-borne illness tracking to environmental concerns, government practices, irrigation, biotechnology and hybrid seeds. Read More...

Prospects dim for ag amendments on CR

Prospects for including agriculture-related amendments on the continuing resolution to fund the government through September 30 appeared to dim Monday evening as the Senate voted 63 to 35 to limit further debate on the measure. Read More...

New York museum’s ‘Global Kitchen’ exhibit shows how food is farmed and people fed

NEW YORK CITY — As farmers and agribusiness around the country prepared to celebrate National Agriculture Day on Tuesday with the hope that children would learn more about farming, school children in the nation’s biggest city were learning Monday about food at the American Museum of Natural History, one of the world’s preeminent scientific and cultural institutions. Read More...

Crop insurance payments reach $15.9 billion

Crop insurance indemnities — payments to farmers for losses — have reached $15.9 billion for crop year 2012, the Agriculture Department’s Risk Management Agency announced this week. Read More...

Brill to head ActionAid

ActionAid USA, a development group involved in agriculture, has appointed Marie Brill as executive director, succeeding Heather Paul. Read More...

Cohen new communications director for AGree

The Meridian Institute has hired Steven Cohen to be the communications director of AGree: Transforming Food and Ag Policy. Read More...

Corn Growers do not mention ARC in statement

In a statement issued today, the National Corn Growers Association said its farm bill priorities are a five-year bill, protection of crop insurance, and a market-oriented risk-management program, but it did not mention the Agricultural Risk Coverage program that it championed in last year’s farm bill. Read More...

Japan plan to join TPP talks has implications for beef, wheat, dairy, sugar and rice

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe formally announced today that Japan will join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks, and Bloomberg News wrote that Japan is likely to try to protect its rice, sugar and dairy industries while making concessions on beef and wheat. Read More...

National Chicken Council opposes Packers and Stockyards amendment

The National Chicken Council issued a statement today defending a provision in an appropriations bill to stop the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration from issuing a final rule to make changes in how the Packers and Stockyards Act is interpreted, and opposing an amendment offered by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and others that would strike the provision from the continuing resolution that is under consideration in the Senate. Read More...

Senate Budget passes its bill with farm and SNAP provisions

The Senate Budget Committee passed a budget resolution late Thursday that provides for a farm bill that cuts $23 billion in farm spending over 10 years and praises the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program better known as SNAP or food stamps. Read More...

House Ag to take up Dodd-Frank bills

The House Agriculture Committee will hold a markup session on Wednesday on a series of bills related to the implementation of the Dodd-Frank bill. Read More...

Two House Ag Approps hearings scheduled

The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee will hold two hearings next week.
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Peterson, Lucas comment on House GOP budget proposal

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said today that the budget proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would cut commodity programs by $32 billion over 10 years, conservation programs by $18 billion over 10 years and food stamps by $130 to $150 billion over 10 years. Read More...

Vilsack thanks Merrigan for service

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today thanked Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan for her service at USDA, shortly after she announced that she will leave the department. Read More...

Four ag-related amendments in CR debate

As the Senate considers a continuing resolution to fund the government through September 30, four amendments affecting the Agriculture Department are in play, but it is unclear whether or not the Senate will vote on them.
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Marantis to become acting trade representative on Friday

Departing U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced today that Deputy Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis will assume the post of acting trade representative on Friday when Kirk leaves after four years in the position.
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United States asks for WTO panel on dispute with Indonesia

The United States has asked the World Trade Organization to establish a dispute settlement panel to examine Indonesia’s trade-restrictive measures applied to horticultural products, animals, and animal products, Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced today. Read More...

Toomey files anti-ethanol amendment

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., filed an amendment to the Senate version of the continuing resolution bill today that would zero-out the Navy's $60 million portion of an interagency program to build commercial-scale biofuel refineries so that the money could be used for other purposes. Read More...

Merrigan leaving Agriculture Department

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced today that she will be leaving the department. Merrigan, who is best known for developing USDA’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative and her support for local and regional agriculture, did not say when she would leave or announce future plans. Read More...

Republican senators sponsor meat inspection amendment

Eight Republican senators have introduced an amendment to keep essential federal employees, including meat inspectors, from being furloughed under the sequester budget cuts, DTN, an Omaha-based satellite news service, reported today. Read More...

Murray releases Senate budget bill

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., released a budget proposal today that provides for “deficit neutral” reserve funds to replace the sequester, write a new farm bill and make investments in water infrastructure. Read More...

FSIS considering application for horse meat inspection

Contrary to media reports, the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has not approved a New Mexico plant to slaughter horses for human consumption, but is considering an application, Agriculture Undersecretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen said today. Read More...

Hagen: Meat inspector furloughs to be simultaneous, beginning in July

To fulfill the requirements of the sequester, federal meat inspectors will be furloughed in July on the same day in every part of the country, and each inspector will be furloughed for a total of 11 days before September 20, Agriculture Undersecretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen told the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee today. Read More...

Ryan budget leaves Ag cuts up to committee, but calls for food stamp block grant

The budget unveiled by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., today called for $31 billion in cuts to Agriculture programs over 10 years, but leaves the decisions about farm program cuts up to the House Agriculture Committee, while calling for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP or food stamps, to be turned into a block grant to the states. Read More...

AMI disappointed at no USDA authority on meat inspectors

The American Meat Institute said today its members are “disappointed” that the Senate appropriations bill to fund the government through September 30 did not include any specific authority for the Agriculture Department to avoid furloughs for meat inspectors. Read More...

NASS suspends some reports, citing sequestration cutbacks

The Agriculture Department’s National Agricultural Statistics Service announced today it is suspending a number of statistical surveys and reports for the remainder of the fiscal year due to reduced funding caused by sequestration. Read More...

Peterson says GOP budget may lead to farm bill extension; Lucas praises Ryan for producing it

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., called the budget proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., “political messaging,” and said it might be better to extend the farm bill than try to write a new one. Read More...

Senate approps bill funds Food Safety Modernization Act

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., pointed out today that the appropriations bill she introduced Monday to fund the government through September 30 would provide money for the Food and Drug Administration to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act, which the House-passed appropriations bill does not. Read More...

Jett retires, MacMillan, Gonzales promoted

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that he has appointed Anne MacMillan and Oscar Gonzales, Jr. as deputy chiefs of staff and that Carole Jett, who has been a deputy chief of staff, will depart USDA in early April. Read More...

Approps bill would fund WIC, unclear on meat inspectors

All pregnant women and their children who apply for the special nutrition program for women, infants and children known as WIC would get benefits through September 30 under a Senate bill released Monday night. Read More...

Bloomberg plans to appeal soda ruling

New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg plans to appeal a judge’s ruling that overturned the city’s plan to limit the size of sugary drinks to 16 ounces at restaurants, theaters and food carts, The New York Times reported late Monday. Read More...

Soybean growers abandon ARC, favor updated target prices

In the first major development of the 2013 farm bill debate, the American Soybean Association board voted today to support extending the current Counter-Cyclical Program (CCP) with updated target prices and withdraw its support for the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) program it championed in 2012. Read More...

Judge strikes down NYC’s large sugary-drink rule

A judge invalidated New York City’s ban on the sale of large sugary drinks on Monday, one day before it was to go into effect, the New York Times reported today. Read More...

USDA proposes new COOL rule

The Agriculture Department on Friday proposed a new rule for country of origin labeling in an attempt to resolve a World Trade Organization ruling that the current rule discriminates against Canadian and Mexican livestock and meat exports.
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U.N. agencies: Rural female food producers face violence

Although women produce much of the food in developing countries, they face violence and discrimination that reduce global food production, the heads of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Program, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the International Law Development Organization noted in a joint International Women’s Day proclamation Friday. Read More...

Oxfam hires USDA’s Herrick

Oxfam America, the international relief and development organization, has hired Matt Herrick, a civil servant communications official at the Agriculture Department, as director of media and public relations. Read More...

FSIS delivers meat inspection furlough notice to unions

The Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service today delivered to the National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals official notification to bargain on the impact and implementation of the furlough, the agency told The Hagstrom Report in an email. Read More...

Mikulski expected to announce CR proposal

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., is expected to announce a proposal Monday for a continuing resolution to fund the government for the rest of fiscal year 2013 that would give federal agency heads what she has called “enhanced transfer reprogramming authority,” according to various media reports. Read More...

First lady asks parents, companies to do more in ‘Let’s Move‘ fight against childhood obesity

First Lady Michelle Obama today challenged parents and corporations to do more to fight childhood obesity. “We know we can’t lie around on the couch eating French fries and candy bars and expect our kids to eat carrots and run around the block,” the first lady said in a speech to the Partnership for a Healthier America summit at George Washington University. Read More...

Kass named executive director of ‘Let’s Move’

White House Assistant Chef Sam Kass has been named executive director of “Let’s Move,” First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaign against child obesity, and has also been given the title senior policy adviser for healthy food. Read More...

Whole Foods to label for genetic engineering

Whole Foods announced today that by 2018, all products in its stores in the United States and Canada will have labels disclosing if they contain genetically engineered ingredients. Read More...

FAPRI sends baseline report to Congress

If normal weather returns, corn prices will drop to $5 to $7 per bushel, the University of Missouri Food and Agriculture Policy Research Institute said in a report sent to Congress today.
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Senate Ag leaders seek comment on CFTC reauthorization

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and ranking member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., today called on the reauthorization of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and announced they are seeking comment from stakeholders and the public. Read More...

House Ag sets hearings on forestry, Dodd-Frank

The House Agriculture Committee today announced there will be hearings next week on forestry and on the Dodd-Frank financial services bill. Read More...

Hospitals may be markets for healthier food to satisfy Obamacare

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Hospitals around the country should become new markets for farmers to provide healthy, often locally-produced food to comply with their legal requirements under the Affordable Care Act, a prominent health care consultant told the National Farmers Union at its annual convention here this week. Read More...

Morrison displays healthier hospital food

Morrison Health Care Food Services, which provides food to 450 acute-care facilities in 40 states, says it is providing healthier food to hospital patients and the cafeterias where hospital visitors eat. Read More...

Sen. Levin announces he won’t run next year

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., announced today that he will not run for re-election in 2014. Read More...

NFU encourages participation regardless of sexual orientation or religion

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — The National Farmers Union here Tuesday added a policy provision to “encourage qualified individuals, regardless of race, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion to serve on all committees, boards and in all offices.” Read More...

EWG, Organic Voice collaborating on GMO labeling push

The Environmental Working Group and Organic Voices, a group that promotes organic agriculture and last year launched the “Just Label It” campaign to require labeling of all foods with genetically modified or engineered ingredients, announced today they have formed a “collaboration” to promote GMO labeling and organic foods. Read More...

Farmers Union adopts pro-southern, conservation compliance, raw milk policies

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Delegates to the National Farmers Union convention here on Tuesday passed policy resolutions that gave special attention to southern crops, tied crop insurance to conservation compliance, and called for all consumers to be able to buy raw milk. Read More...

House passes CR to fund government through September 30

The House of Representatives today passed a continuing resolution that would fund government agencies including the Agriculture Department from March 27, when the current CR expires, through September 30. Read More...

Hoeven: Stabenow to mark up in April

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. intends to hold a markup of the farm bill in April, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said today. Read More...

House to get earlier start on Wednesday

Due to the forecast for winter weather, the House will convene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced. Read More...

Meat inspection furloughs months away, Vilsack says

The Agriculture Department will not begin sequester-related furloughs of meat inspectors for several months and will concentrate them in the last quarter of the fiscal year that ends September 30, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today. Read More...

Vilsack, Stabenow: New definitions of ‘rural’ will be positive

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today defended the Agriculture Department’s recommendation that “rural” communities applying for USDA grants can be as large as 50,000 people. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., praised the recommendation last week. Read More...

Roberts introduces bill to cut SNAP spending; anti-hunger advocates critical

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., today introduced a bill to make changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, that would cut spending on the program by $36 billion over 10 years, but it was immediately criticized by anti-hunger advocates. Read More...

SNA favors elimination of grains, proteins limits

The School Nutrition Association, which represents the makers of school meals, has announced it favors a bill eliminating weekly limits on grains and proteins in school meals, just as Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack testified on the school meals issue before the House Agriculture Committee. Read More...

Wheat growers want farm bill, open to options

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — The National Association of Wheat Growers is “open” to options to get a farm bill passed in 2013, Erik Younggren, the outgoing NAWG president, said in an interview here. Read More...

Sorghum growers continue drive for farm bill ‘options’

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Last year the National Sorghum Producers favored giving farmers “a choice” of farm programs, but they still haven’t decided whether the payments should be tied to current production or not, CEO Tim Lust said in an interview on Saturday.
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Vilsack sends Hagel email on biofuels, urges farmers to form alliances

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has offered to help incoming Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel continue to use biofuels to reduce the military’s dependence on foreign fossils fuels, Vilsack said here Friday in a wide-ranging speech to the Commodity Classic, a gathering of corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum producers. Read More...

Soybean, corn growers take different approaches to farm bill

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Delegates to the American Soybean Association annual meting here Saturday voted to rethink the Agricultural Risk Coverage program it backed in the 2012 farm bill debate, while the National Corn Growers Association’s Corn Congress voted to continue to support ARC at least for the present time.
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CBO: 2012 farm bills would save less, cost more for dairy in 2013

The farm bills proposed last year in the Senate and the House would produce smaller savings, the change to the utility allowance in both bills would produce no savings, and and the dairy titles would cost more if those bills were enacted this year, the Congressional Budget Office said in revised estimates released on Friday. Read More...

Vilsack: USDA must furlough meat inspectors under sequestration

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — The Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service must furlough meat inspectors under sequestration because 87 percent of the FSIS budget is for inspection, and the Budget Control Act requires cuts in each program, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters here today after a speech to the Commodity Classic. Read More...

Vilsack: Ag biotech industry had White House meeting

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — The biotechnology industry had a meeting with high-level White House officials on Thursday to talk about the benefits of that industry, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said here today in a speech at the Commodity Classic. Read More...

FSA county employees want to administer crop reports and conservation programs

Members of NASCOE — the National Association of Farm Service Agency County Employees — have told members of Congress this week that the next farm bill should give the local county offices the jobs of collecting farmers’ crop production data for crop insurance companies and the administration of additional conservation programs. Read More...

First Lady praises Walmart, others on ‘Let’s Move’ tour

First Lady Michelle Obama on Thursday finished a tour celebrating the third anniversary of her “Let’s Move” campaign agains childhood obesity, Obama Foodorama reported. Read More...

Secretary details furlough notices and program cuts

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Agriculture Department employees and bargaining units will be advised next week of plans for furloughing employees in the various divisions of USDA, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters here today after a speech to corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum farmers gathered for the Commodity Classic. Read More...

House passes Violence Against Women Act with tribal provisions

The House on Thursday passed the Violence Against Women Act, a measure that could have a significant impact on law enforcement in rural America because it provides significant additional protections for American Indian women. Read More...