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Hall appointed next director of CBO

House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., today announced that Keith Hall has been appointed the next director of the Congressional Budget Office. Read More...

Former Ag secretaries promote TPA as Vilsack makes another pitch

PHOENIX — All eight former Agriculture secretaries have signed a letter urging Congress to grant trade promotion authority to President Barack Obama.
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Broin, Buis focus on battle between ethanol and oil

PHOENIX — Ethanol prices may be down, but Jeff Broin, the chairman of Growth Energy and Tom Buis, the CEO, chose to focus on their organization’s accomplishments in 2014 in their annual report to the membership here on Thursday. Read More...

Cochran names Clarke clerk for Senate Ag Approps

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., today named Carlisle Clark as the majority clerk on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. Cochran also announced the clerks for other subcommittees. Read More...

Vilsack extends base reallocation and yield updates

PHOENIX — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said here today that the Agriculture Department will extend the deadline for farmers to reallocate their base acreages and update their yields from today to March 31. Read More...

House Ag nutrition subcommittee hearing signals difference on SNAP

Opening statements by House Agriculture Nutrition Subcommittee Chairwoman Jackie Walorksi, R-Ind., and ranking member Jim McGovern, D-Mass., before the subcommittee's first hearing on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Thursday signaled that there are major differences in the approach Republicans and Democrats will take to what House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, calls a "top-to-bottom review" of the program. Read More...

Healthier eating at Growth Energy event

PHOENIX — Coffee breaks at farm meetings are known for big cookies with hundreds of calories, but the Growth Energy Executive Leadership Forum showed a trend toward healthier eating. Read More...

Vilsack likens dietary guidelines committee to 3-year-old

PHOENIX — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack compared the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee that recently sent him recommendations for rewriting the dietary guidelines to a 3-year-old, and said he would stick to nutrition and diet in writing those guidelines. Read More...

Aderholt questions food safety merger

House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., said Thursday he questions the wisdom of President Barack Obama’s proposal to merge all the federal food safety agencies into one agency under the Health and Human Services Department. Read More...

First lady asks supporters to rally behind healthier meals rules

At a celebration of five years of the Let’s Move! program against childhood obesity, First Lady Michelle Obama today told supporters of her campaign they would have to work hard to stop congressional efforts to roll back some of the rules. Read More...

USDA, White House release state-by-state fact sheets on TPP and TPA

The Agriculture Department today released a set of state-by-state fact sheets that it says show that the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement would create opportunities that would help boost agricultural exports across all 50 states. Read More...

House Ag to hold WOTUS hearing

The House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing next Thursday on the proposed Waters of the United States rule and its impact on rural America.
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Growth Energy to support TPA

PHOENIX — Growth Energy, the organization of ethanol plant builders and operators, supports granting trade promotion authority to President Barack Obama so that the administration can complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and work on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis told The Hagstrom Report today. Read More...

Feinstein, Toomey introduce anti-ethanol bill

PHOENIX — Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., today reintroduced the Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act, but members of Growth Energy, an ethanol group meeting here quickly criticized the move. Read More...

White House pushes rural lawmakers on TPA

PHOENIX — The Obama administration today ramped up its campaign to convince rural lawmakers to vote for trade promotion authority while opponents on Capitol Hill increased their campaign to stop it. Read More...

Farm worker to join Obama on immigration town hall

A United Farm Workers member and farm worker leader from eastern Oregon, Raul Esparza de la Paz, will take part in President Barack Obama’s bilingual town hall meeting on immigration tonight, the United Farm Workers said in an news release. Read More...

House Ag holds first hearing on SNAP program

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, today presided over what he described as the first hearing in a “top-to-bottom review” of the Agriculture Department’s largest program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP or food stamps. Read More...

Aderholt talks dietary guidelines and budget to Vilsack

House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., told Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today that he expects the 2015 dietary guidelines to be limited to nutrition and diet recommendations, Aderholt said in a news release. Read More...

Farm group questions EWG pesticide report

The Alliance for Food and Farming, a California group, has questioned the Environmental Working Groups’s guide to pesticides on fruits and vegetables released earlier today.
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RMA proposes insurance for underserved, specialty crops

The Agriculture Department’s Risk Management Agency today proposed changes to existing regulations to expand crop insurance to farmers who currently don’t have coverage available for their crops, including many fruit and vegetable growers. Read More...

Farm to School bills introduced

Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Reps. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., and Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, today introduced a bipartisan Farm to School Act of 2015 to expand the USDA Farm to School grant grogram, the Farm to School Network and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition said. Read More...

Colorado, Western Growers form collaboration

The Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and Western Growers, which represents specialty crop growers in California and Arizona, today announced they have formed a “strategic collaboration,” Western Growers said in a news release. Read More...

National Journal: Agricultural science has troubles

The recent revelations about a government meat animal research center and reports on nutrition are raising questions about whether science can be trusted, Jerry Hagstrom writes in his National Journal column today. Read More...

Sheikh joins Corporate Council on Africa, leads upcoming agribusiness conference

The Corporate Council on Africa has hired Patricia Sheikh, a longtime executive in the Agriculture Department’s Foreign Agricultural Service, as director of agribusiness.
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NASS releases 2014 crop value report

The Agriculture Department’s National Agricultural Statistics Service has released a report detailing the value of each crop in 2014. The report is arranged by crop and by state. Read More...

CDC determines major sources of foodborne illness

The Centers for Disease Control has released a report that tells how most people got foodborne illnesses caused by four known pathogens:
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EWG releases produce pesticide report

The Environmental Working Group today released its 2015 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Read More...

Harden establishes women’s network

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden has established a Women in Agriculture Mentoring Network. Read More...

Vilsack monitors farm program signup on daily basis, mum on extension

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the Senate Agriculture Committee today that he monitors the rate of sign-up for the new crop farm program on a daily basis. He said he will not make a decision at this time about whether to extend the deadlines because there is a “registry” system that should allow all participants to start the process. Read More...

Greenstein, Besharov to testify at SNAP hearing

The House Agriculture Committee has announced that the witnesses for its hearing Wednesday on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will be Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Douglas Besharov, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. Read More...

Obama vetoes Keystone pipeline bill

In a matter of intense interest today, President Barack Obama vetoed the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act.
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Kass joins United Fresh to celebrate 4,000 salad bars

The coming battle over whether to continue fruit and vegetable requirements in school meals programs was evident today when Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools — a coalition of Whole Foods Market, the United Fresh Start Foundation, the Chef Ann Foundation, and the National Fruit and Vegetable Alliance — celebrated its 4,000th donation of a salad bar, to the Calvin M. Rodwell Elementary School in Baltimore. Read More...

White House announces healthy plans for Easter Egg Roll, opens ticket lottery

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama announced Monday that the theme of this year’s Easter Egg Roll will be #GimmeFive, part of the first lady’s campaign to encourage people to do five things for healthier eating. Read More...

Senate Ag holds confirmation hearing on FCA nominees

The Senate Agriculture Committee today held a hearing on two nominees to the board of the Farm Credit Administration, Dallas Tonsager and Jeffery Hall. Read More...

Farm, nutrition conservation groups oppose all cuts to farm bill programs

In an extraordinary display of unity, 392 farm, nutrition and conservation groups have written congressional budget letters urging no cuts in any programs within the jurisdiction of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees. Read More...

Kass to speak at MIT Media Lab today

Sam Kass, former White House nutrition adviser and executive director of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative against childhood obesity, will participate in a “conversation” today at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Mass. The event will be webcast. Read More...

National Journal: Congress has no plan to fund DHS; TSA agents may go unpaid; GOP candidates vary on positions

National Journal said today that even though funding for the Homeland Security Department expires Friday, Congress is returning with no plan to fund the agency.
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Obama joins first lady in video to celebrate Let's Move!

The White House today released a video in which President Barack Obama joins First Lady Michelle Obama in a somewhat comedic video to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Let's Move!, her campaign against childhood obesity. Read More...

Michelle Obama talks to two cooking publications

Two magazines — ChopChop and Cooking Light — have released interviews with First Lady Michelle Obama.
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National Grain and Feed urges limits on CRP

The National Grain and Feed Association has urged the Agriculture Department to enroll in the Conservation Reserve Program only land that addresses key environmental concerns, such as water quality and soil erosion. It seeks to avoid enrollment of large, productive tracts of land in the land-idling program. Read More...

Merrigan to succeed Hirshberg at AGree

Former Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan will succeed Gary Hirshberg, an organic farmer, as one of the co-chairs of AGree, the foundation-founded initiative on longterm agricultural issues. Read More...

West Coast ports reopen amid longterm concerns

West Coast ports are near normal activity, Bloomberg reported today, but there will be backlogs. There are also concerns that similar problems may occur again in five years.
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First lady participates in Billy on the Street segment

The White House last week released a link to a segment of Billy on the Street in which First Lady Michelle Obama champions eating “brighter.” The segment was filmed in a Washington, D.C., Safeway in January. Read More...

Corker, Coons reintroduce bill to change food aid

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., have reintroduced their bill to make changes to the food aid program. They propose to transfer the food aid programs from the farm bill to foreign assistance programs. Read More...

USDA Food Market News celebrates centennial

2015_0223_AMS The Agricultural Marketing Service celebrated the 100th anniversary of USDA Market News at its booth at the 2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum last week. (Charles de Bourbon/The Hagstrom Report)

ARLINGTON, Va. — USDA Food Market News, the daily news service on the price of commodities, celebrated its 100th anniversary during the Agriculture Outlook Forum last week.

Anne Alonzo
“Today, farmers, ranchers, and the entire agricultural supply chain turn to USDA Market News for timely, reliable, unbiased data that serves as the information lifeline for America’s agricultural economy,” said Anne Alonzo, administrator of the Agriculture Marketing Service, which distributes the reports.

“But 100 years ago, everyone was in the dark about how much things cost,” Alonzo noted. “That’s why, in 1915, the first USDA Market News report was sent by telegraph, letting buyers and sellers across the country know the price of strawberries in Hammond, Louisiana.”

A century later, AMS issues more than 250,000 reports per year that get more than 53 million views. At a panel discussion, users of the data praised the fact that AMS gathers and releases the data free of charge within hours of collection, allowing all producers and marketers to quickly see which commodities are in demand and where.

“Market News provides the foundation for price discovery and risk management,” said Dave Lehman, the managing director for commodity research and new product development at the CME Group in Chicago. “I can’t overemphasize the value of market data to the CME Group.”

Miguel Garcia, the deputy director of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture, noted the role that Market News has played in helping other countries to develop market news reporting systems that are vital to producers and to international trade.

“Market information is the lifeblood of a market economy,” Garcia noted.

Bob Young, the chief economist at the American Farm Bureau Federation, noted that there are many private economic services offering information and that AMS might want to consider what other information it can provide in conjunction with those services and USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, which makes crop production reports and estimates.

But Young concluded, “It is very important for USDA to maintain the role of providing official estimates.”

Alonzo said in a blog post that AMS plans to continue innovations for Market News.

“From mobile apps and open data to on-demand custom analysis, we are excited to see what the next 100 years has in store,” Alonzo said. “Whatever changes come, USDA Market News will remain the trusted source for timely, reliable, unbiased information.”

USDA Market News
100 Years of USDA Market News: The Trusted Source Then, Now and Always

Report recommends end of food aid cargo preference

A George Mason University report released Friday recommends that Congress eliminate food aid cargo preference.
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AP: Deal reached on West Coast ports

Negotiators reached a tentative contract covering West Coast dockworkers on Friday evening, likely ending a protracted labor dispute that snarled international trade at seaports handling about $1 trillion worth of cargo annually, the Associated Press reported. Read More...

Lindsey Graham becomes 11th candidate to accept Iowa Ag Summit invite

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has become the 11th potential presidential candidate to accept an invitation to speak at the March 7 Iowa Agriculture Summit, the summit organizers said today. Read More...

Haass makes light comments at Ag Outlook Forum

ARLINGTON, Va. — Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass told the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum here Thursday that his presence signaled the importance of agriculture in international security, but he also provided a few lights moments at the event. Read More...

Roberts intends to propose school meal flexibility, hold hearing on Cuba

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., told the Kansas Ag Network this week that he intends to propose “flexibility” in school meals as part of the reauthorization of child nutrition programs, and to hold a hearing on U.S. relations with Cuba but not reopen the farm programs in the farm bill. Read More...

Stewart, Bell analyze role of WTO in food security

Washington lawyer Terence Stewart and Stephanie Bell, his associate, analyze the role of the World Trade Organization in international food security in an article published this month in the Penn State Journal of Law & International Affairs. Read More...

Dietary Guidelines Advisory: Egg, dairy laud it, CSPI gives mixed review, red meat groups criticize

The United Egg Producers and dairy groups have praised the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report released Thursday, while the Center for Science in the Public Interest praised it with some caveats and the National Pork Producers Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association criticized it. Read More...

Senate Finance to hold trade hearing, but Wyden says it is premature

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said today he will convene a hearing on “Congress and U.S. tariff policy” next Thursday. Read More...

Fish and Wildlife Service reinstates gray wolf protections

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday officially reinstated Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in Wyoming and the western Great Lakes, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and surrounding states. Read More...

Port talks continue today, but no deal so far

Company executives, union leaders and Labor Secretary Tom Perez are scheduled to meet again today in San Francisco after not reaching a settlement on Thursday, Reuters reported. Read More...

Vilsack, Harden, Vetter to travel to Phoenix

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will speak at the Growth Energy Executive Leadership Conference in Phoenix on Thursday and at the Commodity Classic on Friday, the Agriculture Department said today. Read More...

Conservation groups oppose Obama’s proposed cuts

A coalition of conservation groups and the National Farmers Union on Thursday sent a letter to congressional budget leaders opposing the cuts to conservation programs that President Barack Obama proposed in his fiscal year 2016 budget. Read More...

Vilsack, Vetter promote trade promotion authority

ARLINGTON, Va. — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Thursday that congressional votes on granting President Barack Obama trade promotion authority are still “a close call,” although he and Darci Vetter, the chief agriculture negotiator, both said they are working hard to convince Congress to vote for it. Read More...

Vilsack says he participates in daily West Coast port calls

ARLINGTON, Va. — As employers appealed directly to dockworkers at West Coast ports today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he has been participating in daily calls organized by the White House for the last two weeks in the attempt to settle the labor dispute. Read More...

House Ag to hold two hearings on SNAP

The House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP or food stamps. The hearing will “launch the top-to-bottom review of the SNAP program,” a committee announcement said. Read More...

Shah leaves USAID, deputy to be interim administrator

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah, who announced in December that he would resign, left the job Wednesday, and Alfonso Lenhardt, his deputy, is serving as the acting administrator. Read More...

Hogan attempts to downplay geographic indicators, but Vilsack pushes back on importance

ARLINGTON, Va. — European Union Commissioner of Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan attempted to downplay the importance of the issue of geographic indicators in the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations today, but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters that the issue is significant. Read More...

Senate Ag to hear from farmers, Vilsack, nominees

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., announced today that the committee's first hearing of the 114th Congress, scheduled for Tuesday, will feature testimony from farmers, from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and from nominees for the Farm Credit Administration. Read More...

Conaway: Prayer will open House Ag hearings, meetings

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, plans to open every committee hearing and meeting with a prayer, Roll Call reported today. Read More...

Vilsack on dietary guidelines: Officials have less latitude than committee

Reacting to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s release of its report, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today that he had spent a “lot of time” reviewing the law that sets up the guidelines and the charter of the committee and concluded that he and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell will have a narrower mandate to write the dietary guidelines than the committee had in analyzing nutrition and providing advice. Read More...

Vilsack to appear before House Ag Approps

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will testify before the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee has announced. Read More...

2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Report: Sodium, saturated fats, added sugars, alcohol, caffeine, sustainability featured

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell today released the long-awaited report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC). Read More...

U.S. acceptance of Cuban exports doesn’t include agriculture

The State Department has announced that Cuban goods produced by the nearly nonexistent private sector in Cuba can be imported into the United States, but the list does not include agricultural products. Read More...

Nine GOP candidates confirmed for Iowa Ag Summit; leftist farm groups plan alternative forums

Nine Republican presidential candidates have confirmed that they will attend the Iowa Ag Summit on March 7. The Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement has announced its counter-programming, the Food & Ag Justice Summit, on March 6-7, The Des Moines Register reported today. Read More...

Some school food service directors sign letter protesting SNA position

Eighty-six members of the School Nutrition Association have signed a letter to SNA leadership, protesting the organization’s position in favor of rolling back healthier meal standards in the reauthorization of child nutrition programs, The Lunch Tray, a website, reported this week. Read More...

Larson moves from NACD to AFT; Peters to be interim CEO at NACD

The American Farmland Trust today named John Larson as executive director for programs. Read More...

Vilsack, Yoder, Roberts express views on immigration

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack; Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan.; and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, took differing positions Tuesday on whether Congress should block funding for immigration enforcement over President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration, The Kansas City Star reported. Read More...

Global Child Nutrition Forum reports on 2014 meeting

The Global Child Nutrition Foundation, which promotes better child nutrition and school meals in developing countries, has published on its website an executive summary and detailed presentations by speakers and country reports from its 2014 Global Nutrition Forum. Read More...

UFW vows to continue battle on immigration as rights groups tell immigrants to be patient

Leaders of the United Farm Workers and its foundation said Tuesday that they remain confident that President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration will prevail in the courts. National Journal reported that immigrant rights groups are urging immigrants who expected to sign up for administrative relief to be patient. Read More...

Newhouse, retailers glad labor secretary will intervene in West Coast ports dispute

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., and the National Retail Federation over the weekend praised President Barack Obama’s decision to send Labor Secretary Tom Perez to California to help mediate negotiations in the labor conflict at the West Coast ports. Read More...

Federal judge halts Obama immigration plan

A federal judge in Texas has halted implementation of President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration, but the White House has responded that Obama was within his legal authority, The New York Times has reported. Read More...

USDA approves genetically engineered apple; Food & Water Watch raises issues

The Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service late last week deregulated apples that are genetically engineered to resist browning. Read More...

Poe introduces bake sale bill; USDA says it’s not necessary

Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, announced Friday that he is introducing a bill that would prohibit any funds from being used to implement USDA’s new regulations on school fundraisers and bake sales during school hours, but USDA officials said the matter is really up to state governments. Read More...

DOT, FAA issue drone regulations

The Transportation Department and the Federal Aviation Administration over the weekend issued proposed regulations on the use of the small, unmanned aircraft systems known as drones. Read More...

Washington Post: Processed foods profits down as consumer choices change

Profits for processed foods have gone down as consumers have shifted their choices toward fresh, unprocessed foods, The Washington Post reported Friday. Read More...

Ag art at Art Wynwood in Miami

MIAMI, Fla. — Agriculture and food have been favorite subjects of artists for centuries. At the Art Wynwood show here over the Presidents Day weekend, ag-inspired paintings, sculpture and other works were among the most prominent on exhibit. Read More...

Senate Ag to hold hearing on farm bill and Farm Credit nominees

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., announced today that the committee will hold a hearing February 24 on the implementation of the 2014 farm bill and on two nominees to the board of the Farm Credit Administration board. Read More...

National Journal: GOP candidates come running to Iowa ag forum’s organizer

Bruce Rastetter is virtually unknown outside Iowa, but he has attracted a who’s who of presidential candidates to his Iowa Agriculture Summit on March 7, National Journal reports. Read More...

USDA IG offers Aderholt questions for Vilsack

Agriculture Department Inspector General Phyllis Fong told House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., today that he should ask Vilsack about management issues, improper payments and new information technology systems. Read More...

First House Ag hearing on food stamps February 25

The House Agriculture Committee will hold the first hearing on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP or food stamps, on February 25, a spokesman for House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, confirmed late Thursday. Read More...

National Journal: Female marijuana entrepreneurs push banking, tax law changes

Women Grow, a newly launched national network of female marijuana entrepreneurs, is encouraging Congress to change the tax code regarding marijuana business expenses, National Journal reports. Read More...

Soybean growers like House Ag letter and Cuban bill, want Europeans to approve biotech traits

The American Soybean Association has praised the House Agriculture Committee for urging the House Budget Committee to take farm bill savings into account when planning for reconciliation, and also praised Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and others for introducing a bill to end the U.S. embargo on Cuba. Read More...

Irish beef arrives at Irish Embassy

Irish beef — legal in the United States for the first time in 16 years — arrived at the Irish ambassador’s residence this week, brought by Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney. Read More...

USDA releases sage-grouse report

The Agriculture Department today released a report showing that, since 2010, USDA and its partners in the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) have worked with private landowners to restore 4.4 million acres of habitat for sage grouse while maintaining working landscapes across the West. Read More...

Flake, Shaheen, Duncan introduce bill to cut crop insurance

Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; and Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn., today introduced companion bills that would eliminate subsidies for the harvest price option in the crop insurance program. Read More...

Peterson backs wolf legislation; environmentalists object

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., today joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers to introduce legislation that would return management of the Western Great Lakes gray wolf population to state control, but the Center for Biological Diversity announced its opposition to the legislation. Read More...

Pro-GMO labeling senators plan amendment

Senators who favor the labeling of foods with genetically modified ingredients hope to use the amendment process to pass a labeling measure in the Senate, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said today. Read More...

Senators introduce bill to cut sugar program

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; Mark Kirk, R-Ill.; and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., today reintroduced the Sugar Reform Act, which would change domestic supply restrictions and lower price support levels. Read More...

Klobuchar introduces bipartisan bill to lift Cuba embargo

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., today led a bipartisan coalition to introduce a bill to lift the Cuba trade embargo. Read More...

WSJ: SNAP hearing scheduled for February 15

The House Agriculture Committee has not announced hearings on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, but the first hearing will be held February 25, The Wall Street Journal reported today. Read More...

Price announces Members' Day hearing

The House Budget Committee will hold a hearing February 25 at which individual members can testify about their suggested policies and priorities, House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., announced today. Read More...

House Ag urges Budget Committee to avoid cuts to its programs

The House Agriculture Committee today approved a letter to House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., that urges the Budget Committee to consider the savings that already occurred under its programs, and not to make additional cuts under any reconciliation measure. Read More...

USDA Outlook Forum registration ends Thursday; attendee list online

The Agriculture Department today announced that registration closes Thursday for its Outlook Forum, to be held Feb. 19-20 in Arlington, Va. Read More...

House Ag members quiz Vilsack on wide range of issues

Members of the House Agriculture Committee today quizzed Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on many issues in a hearing on the rural economy that lasted more than two hours. Read More...

Roberts announces new hires for Senate Agriculture Committee

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., announced tadditions to the committee staff this week. Read More...

National Journal: Vilsack faces farm bill scrutiny; Stabenow vows defense

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack may face questions from the House Agriculture Committee today about food stamps and crop insurance, but Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., says she will oppose all cuts, Jerry Hagstrom writes in his National Journal column today. Read More...

Economists monitor farmers’ choices in crop insurance programs

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — Economists at the crop insurance convention here today said that it’s too early for Congress to estimate which commodity program most farmers will adopt, and that farmers will make decisions on the programs depending on their own personal goals. Read More...

32 senators urge EPA to set levels for biodiesel industry

U.S. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), with a bipartisan group of 30 other senators, on Monday pressed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reassure the biodiesel industry and its workers. Read More...

ERS: Farm income to drop nearly one third

Farm income will drop 32 percent in 2014, the Agriculture Department's Economic Research Service said today.
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Crop insurance industry says profits have fallen

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — The crop insurance industry said today that its rate of return on retained premiums for the four years since the inception of the 2011 Standard Reinsurance Agreement (SRA) — the business contract between the industry and the federal government — has fallen to 6 percent. Read More...

Scuse defends Mexico sugar suspension agreements

ORLANDO, Fla. — Agriculture Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse today vigorously defended the suspension agreements that the Obama administration has negotiated with Mexico to settle cases that U.S. sugar growers brought saying Mexico was shipping subsidized sugar to the United States. Read More...

The Fires of Love

ORLANDO, Fla. — Randy Green, a former Capitol Hill and Agriculture Department official who is now a principal in Watson Green LLC, a consulting firm, and his wife, Mary, celebrated their 31st anniversary by a fire at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel here Read More...

Cotton Council announces election of Adams, Langley, and retirement of Lang and Maguire

The National Cotton Council announced today that its board has elected Gary Adams, who has served as the council’s vice president of economics and policy analysis since 2002, to be the organization’s president and chief executive officer. Read More...

Cotton growers intend to reduce plantings in difficult year ahead

U.S. cotton producers intend to plant 9.4 million acres of cotton this spring, down 14.6 percent from 2014, as they face global cotton stocks at very high levels and uncertainties regarding global mill cotton use, the National Cotton Council said in a news release. Read More...

AP: Lawsuits against Syngenta total more than 360

More than 360 farmers and businesses in 20 states have filed lawsuits against Syngenta over its sale of the corn seed Agrisure Viptera, which the Chinese had not approved when Syngenta began selling it, the Associated Press reported Read More...

Willis clarifies Vilsack statement on crop insurance rate of return

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — A statement by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week that crop insurance companies are making a 14 to 15 percent return on investment raised eyebrows here at a crop insurance industry meeting, but Brandon Willis, the administrator of the Risk Management Agency, said Vilsack was referring to the program’s goal of rate of return on retained premiums and to the historical rates of returns. Read More...

Interior releases $50 million for California drought

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced Friday that the Bureau of Reclamation is making $50 million available immediately for drought relief projects throughout the West — including nearly $20 million for California’s Central Valley Project. Read More...

House Ag Approps to hold hearings with Massad, USDA IG

The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee will hold two hearings this week.
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National Journal: When president had cow, interview was difficult

Interviewing the White House cow during the Taft administration was difficult, National Journal reported today. Read More...

Is the bloom off the rose of big data?

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — A year ago the potential for big data — the gathering of information from individual farmers and combining it with other information to come up with prescriptions for farming — was all the rage. Read More...

Ag exports to Cuba totalled $291 million in 2014

U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba totaled $291 million in 2014, the second lowest in the 13 years that selling U.S. food to Cuba has been legal, the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council said in its Economic Eye on Cuba report released today. Read More...

For everything there is a season ...

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — The Hyatt Resort and Spa here serves “seasonally inspired fruits and berries” in its breakfast buffet.
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First Lady continues challenging schools, companies, people on school meals, obesity

First Lady Michelle Obama signaled Thursday that she will work hard this year to defend the healthier school meal rules and continue to challenge the country to improve eating habits. Read More...

FDA posts Hamburg resignation letter

The Food and Drug Administration has posted FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg's letter to employees about her resignation.
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Rep. Alan Nunnelee dead at 56

Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R-Miss., a member of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, died today, The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss., reported.
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USDA publishes Outlook Forum schedule

The Agriculture Department on Wednesday published the full schedule for its annual Agricultural Outlook Forum to be held Feb. 20 and 21 in Arlington, Va.
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ERS uses new benchmark to show impact of trade

A new benchmark used by the Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service shows that agricultural trade supports more than 1 million jobs, the ERS said today.
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Thatcher: Congressional challenges to crop insurance likely

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — As a long list of farm groups today sent Congress a letter opposing any cuts to the crop insurance program, a key American Farm Bureau Federation official told an industry conference here that the program is a “bull’s eye” for critics. Read More...

Stabenow to oppose any farm bill cuts in reconciliation

Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said today that she will oppose any cuts to the farm bill in the budget reconciliation process.
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Vilsack urges crop farmers to sign up for new programs

In a phone call to reporters to celebrate the anniversary of the 2014 farm bill coming up on Saturday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today urged farmers to sign up for the new commodity title programs by their deadlines — and asked them to sign up before then, if possible. Read More...

FDA Commissioner Hamburg to resign

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg has announced she will resign, Reuters reported today.
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Ethanol repeal bill reintroduced

Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., has reintroduced a bill to repeal the federal corn ethanol mandate, with co-sponsorship by Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark. and Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif. Read More...

Roberts, Conaway meet on agenda

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan. and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, met Wednesday to discuss the agriculture agenda, and issued statements praising each other. Read More...

House Ag to consider budget estimates letter as well as hold Vilsack, Massad hearings

The House Agriculture Committee will hold a business meeting next Thursday to consider the annual budget and estimates letter for the agencies and programs under its jurisdiction for fiscal 2016, as well as other organizational matters. Read More...

Conaway: Froman is ‘committed’ to free trade

After meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman Wednesday, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, said he was “encouraged.” Read More...

The Hill: Ryan predicts TPA passage this spring

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Wednesday he expects Congress to pass a bill this spring to provide President Barack Obama with trade promotion authority, The Hill reported. Read More...

IOM says white potatoes OK for WIC program

An Institute of Medicine panel has reversed an earlier recommendation and said that participants in the supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children should be able to get white potatoes with their benefits. Read More...

Court upholds California egg measure

A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld the constitutionality of Proposition 2, the California ballot measure banning the confinement of egg-laying hens, breeding pigs and veal calves in small cages. Read More...

King reintroduces interstate commerce bill

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, this week reintroduced his bill that would prevent the states from enacting laws that would prohibit restrictions on the sale of an agricultural product from other states based on its means of production. Read More...

HSUS: Blumenauer introduces farm animal experiment bill

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., today introduced a bill to require protections for farm animals used for agricultural research at federal facilities, the Humane Society of the United States said Wednesday Read More...

NASDA releases biotech labeling resolution

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture has released the resolution the group passed this week encouraging Congress to make the Food and Drug Administration the agency that would write any labels for food containing genetically modified ingredients. Read More...

Stabenow names new press secretary for Senate Ag

Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has hired Ben Famous as her new spokesman on the committee.
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Shaheen, Toomey introduce bill to cut crop insurance

As the crop insurance industry gathers for its annual meeting this week in Bonita Springs, Fla., Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., on Tuesday introduced a bill to cap crop insurance premium subsidies at $50,000. Read More...

EWG releases report on Iowa water problems and buffer strips

Requiring farmers to plant 50-foot wide grass strips, or buffers, between cropland and streams would jumpstart progress toward cleaning Iowa’s dirty water while affecting only a handful of growers and a minuscule number of acres, according to a new report from Environmental Working Group. Read More...

NASDA passes resolution supporting FDA as biotech labeler

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture on Tuesday passed a resolution to support “a national uniform labeling policy for foods derived from genetic engineering” and to reaffirm the Food and Drug Administration “as the authority in uniform food labeling.” Read More...

National Journal: Red meat battle grows as consumption declines

The battle over red meat is heating up in Washington as consumption of red meat has declined, National Journal reported Tuesday. Read More...

Conaway talks Vilsack testimony, crop insurance, farm bill coalition, biotech and morals

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, discussed a wide range of issues today in a speech to the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture Winter Policy Conference and in remarks to reporters afterward. Read More...

Roberts talks politics to NASDA

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., used most of his speech to the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture today to explain where he thinks the nation stands politically. Read More...

Scuse recants opposition to CAFTA-DR agreement in quest for TPA

Agriculture Undersecretary Michael Scuse today told the nation’s state agriculture commissioners they should support trade promotion authority for President Barack Obama, and recanted his own opposition to the free-trade agreement with Central America and the Dominican Republic that led the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture to oppose it. Read More...

Global Child Nutrition chooses Vilsack as honoree

The Global Child Nutrition Foundation announced today that it has chosen Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as the recipient of the 2015 Gene White Lifetime Achievement Award for Child Nutrition. Read More...

AGree releases healthy watersheds paper

AGree, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies and the U.S. Water Alliance today released a white paper that describes partnership models between municipalities and farmers that help attain water quality goals and reduce nutrient pollution in the nation’s surface waters.
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Froman talks Super Bowl and trade to NASDA

Trade Representative Michael Froman told the nation’s agriculture commissioners today that the Super Bowl and exports are good for America’s farmers and their states — and added that President Barack Obama needs their support to gain trade promotion authority in the fourth quarter of his presidency. Read More...

Obama crop insurance proposal criticized

The Obama administration today released an Agriculture budget with few new proposals other than a single food safety agency, but it included a crop insurance proposal from last year. Read More...

Obama proposes single food safety agency, but consumer groups oppose it

In his fiscal year 2016 budget proposal released today, President Barack Obama proposed merging the food safety functions of the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, the Food and Drug Administration and other agencies into a single agency within the Health and Human Services Department, but consumer groups whose support would be vital to moving it forward immediately denounced the proposal. Read More...

O’Brien moves to White House, McKalip returns to USDA

Doug O’Brien, the Agriculture deputy undersecretary for rural development, will today join the White House Domestic Policy Council, where he will coordinate the White House Rural Council and lead on various administration initiatives regarding rural economic development, a spokesman for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has told The Hagstrom Report in email. Read More...

Aspen ski restaurants urge kids to eat healthy

ASPEN, Colo. — First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaign to convince children to eat healthy has reached the restaurants on Aspen’s ski slopes this year, but only on top of the hot dogs, chicken fingers, cheeseburger and French fries that kids like. Read More...

The Hagstrom Report cited in The New York Times

In a New York Times Sunday Review profile today, Michel Nishan, the James Beard award-winning chef who heads Wholesome Wave, said he is following The Hagstrom Report because it “is all about what Congress and government agencies are doing about agriculture. It’s very nonpartisan as well as factual and real time.” Read More...

Hinton leaves Ag committee to form firm

Tamara Hinton, communications director and spokesperson for former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla, has left the committee staff to open Comunicado, a public relations firm Read More...

Budget scenarios, politics complicated for food stamps, crop insurance, farm program payments in 2015

As the Obama administration prepares to release its fiscal year 2016 budget proposal today and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack plans a briefing for reporters, a series of analyses of the Congressional Budget Office projections released last week show a complicated picture for USDA spending in the coming year that will also complicate any efforts to change those programs. Read More...