The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

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Wheat Growers hire Tonsager

The National Association of Wheat Growers has hired Josh Tonsager as its legislative director.
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NFU adopts special orders as convention ends

WICHITA — The National Farmers Union convention ended here today with the adoption of a series of special orders to its board on issues important to members, including country-of-origin labeling and the Renewable Fuel Standard. Read More...

House Budget would cut Ag $1 billion over 10 years

The House Budget Committee today released a budget resolution that would ask the House Agriculture Committee to cut $1 billion from programs within its jurisdiction over 10 years, but also calls for turning food stamps into a block grant to the states in 2021. Read More...

Dining in downtown Wichita

WICHITA — A rib dinner with two sides costs only $11.99 at the Bite Me BBQ here, where the National Farmers Union just ended its 2015 convention.
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Vilsack extends dietary guidelines comment period

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell have decided to extend the comment period on the report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee dietary guidelines for an additional 30 days until May 8. Read More...

Farm Credit Administration board officially complete

Jeffery Hall was sworn in today as a member of the Farm Credit Administration board, the FCA said in a news release today. Read More...

Aderholt and Concannon, Hoeven and Vilsack spar over school meals rules in Approps committees

House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., asked Agriculture Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Service Kevin Concannon today whether the Agriculture Department’s rules on the content of school meals are not “overly prescriptive,” but Concannon said the standards are “achievable. Read More...

Vilsack talks budget, presidential politics, avian influenza, USMARC, farm issues

WICHITA — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said here today he is worried Congress will try to cut the food stamp program, which would, in turn, lead to pressure to cut farm programs. Read More...

Video alleges poultry processing abuse; National Chicken Council panel disputes it

Mercy for Animals, a national animal rights organization, today released video footage of a North Carolina poultry slaughterhouse that it says shows workers breaking the wings and legs of chickens and sending ill and injured chickens to slaughter that should not have entered the food supply. Read More...

Obama designates Spearman as FCA chairman

President Barack Obama designated Kenneth Spearman, a member of the Farm Credit Administration board, as chairman, late Friday, the FCA announced today.
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McCarthy renames WOTUS, promises release of Clean Water Rule, RFS this spring

WICHITA — Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy today told the National Farmers Union that she is renaming the Waters of the United States rule “the Clean Water Rule” and promised to release both that rule and the volumetric requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard this spring. Read More...

Co-op leaders express concern over USDA reorganization

The National Cooperative Business Association, CLUSA International, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and the National Farmers Union are expressing concern that the Agriculture Department’s quiet proposals for reorganizing the Rural Business-Cooperative Service within the Rural Development mission area will lead to a reduction in services that USDA has performed for co-ops since 1926. Read More...

House Ag to hold markup Thursday

The House Agriculture Committee will hold a markup Thursday to consider H.R. 897, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2015, the committee announced today. Read More...

Roberts announces WOTUS (Clean Water Rule) hearing

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., today announced that the committee will hold a hearing on the Waters of the United States rule on Tuesday, March 24. Read More...

Obama names McBride to head Rural Utilities Service

President Barack Obama on Friday named Brandon McBride to be administrator of the Rural Utilities Service.
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USDA White House liaison announces departure date for Paul and other personnel changes

The Agriculture Department Office of the White House Liaison late Friday announced Matt Paul, the communications director for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, wlll leave the job on Monday, March 23. Read More...

NFU to EPA: ‘Get off the duff’ on RFS; still hopes WOTUS will work

WICHITA — National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson told his members today they should tell Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy on Monday that she should “get off the duff and fix the RFS,” a reference to the agency’s delay in issuing the volumetric requirements for renewable fuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard. Read More...

House Budget to release budget Tuesday

House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., announced today that the committee will release its fiscal year 2016 budget resolution on Tuesday. Read More...

Task force report on illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing emphasizes TPP

Today the Presidential Task Force on Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud, co-chaired by the departments of Commerce and State, released an action plan that emphasizes the importance of concluding the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Read More...

Grandin: Animals should be bred for ‘optimal’ production

WICHITA — Reacting to the scandal surrounding the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska, meat industry consultant Temple Grandin said here on Saturday that meat animals should be bred for “optimal rather than maximum” production. Read More...

USDA announces expansion of school meals training programs

Agriculture Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon today announced the USDA is going nationwide with its program to help school food service providers figure out how to provide the new healthier school meals that are required under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. Read More...

Gordley hires trade and international ag aide

Gordley Associates has hired Hanna Abou-El-Seoud to focus on trade policy and international agricultural development issues for a range of clients, including the American Soybean Association, the U.S. Soybean Export and ASA’s World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH). Read More...

Question of the Day: Who will chair the FCA?

The confirmation late Monday of Dallas Tonsager and Jeffery Hall to become members of the Farm Credit Administration board has raised the question of who will chair the board.
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GAO: Farm workers need protection from recruiters

Foreign farm workers need protection from recruiters who charge fees that amount to abuse, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released Monday.
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USDA OIG investigating Nebraska meat research center

The Agriculture Department’s Office of the Inspector General is investigating the U.S. Animal Research Center in Nebraska, but that investigation is apparently not far along.
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Senate approves FCA nominations

The Senate confirmed the nominations of Jeffery Hall and Dallas Tonsager to serve on the Farm Credit Administration board, announced Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. Read More...

FAPRI projects farm payments under lower prices

Due to falling crop prices, the Agriculture Department is projected to pay out $3.9 billion in Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) payments for the 2014 crop after fiscal year 2016 begins on October 1, 2015, but those payments will decline by the 2018 crop year, the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute said today in its latest baseline outlook for U.S. agriculture. Read More...

Animal research report focuses on current care

An Agriculture Department review committee that investigated the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska focused only on current animal care practices and project approval processes, and an investigation of the historical background of abuse charges in a New York Times story will be handled by the USDA Office of the Inspector General, USDA officials said today. Read More...

Humane Society says report shows need for legislation

Humane Society of the United States President Wayne Pacelle said in a blog post today that the Agriculture Department panel’s report on the U.S. Animal Meat Research Center in Nebraska was “disappointing” and “anything but exhaustive.” Read More...

Vilsack serves school lunch

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today served school lunch at Woodville Elementary in Richmond, Va., to highlight projects to make sure children get healthy meals. Read More...

USDA releases animal welfare report

The Agriculture Department today released the report on animal treatment at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska that resulted from a New York Times investigation that found decades of abuse of animals at the center. Read More...

National Journal: RFS offers Clinton opportunity and danger in Iowa

Hillary Rodham Clinton could use the Renewable Fuel Standard in Iowa as an example of a program to reduce income inequality, but the Obama administration’s slowness in managing the RFS could cause her problems, Jerry Hagstrom writes in his National Journal column today. Read More...

Senate Ag Approps to hold FDA hearing

The Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee will hold a hearing Thursday on President Barack Obama’s budget request for the Food and Drug Administration, Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., the chairman of the subcommittee announced Friday. Read More...

Report: Food exports to Cuba total $5 billion, but down year-to-year

U.S. sales of food products to Cuba have totaled $5 billion since the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 went into effect, but U.S. sales to Cuba in January 2015 were 30 percent lower than in January 2014, the U.S. Cuba Trade and Economic Council reported over the weekend. Read More...

Most Republican candidates at Iowa Ag Summit endorse RFS

DES MOINES — Taking formal positions on the most sensitive agricultural issue in Iowa politics, six Republican presidential hopefuls today endorsed the Renewable Fuel Standard, while three said they oppose it. Read More...

Candidates discuss EPA, TPA, Cuba, GMOs, COOL, crop insurance, food stamps, wind tax breaks

DES MOINES — Bruce Rastetter, organizer of the Iowa Ag Summit here today, asked each Republican presidential hopeful who attended a range of questions on agriculture-related issues. Read More...

Iowa Ag Summit to mix presidential interviews with Iowa speeches

DES MOINES — For Hagstrom Report readers planning to watch the Iowa Ag Summit live on The Des Moines Register website, here is a tentative schedule of the speakers. Read More...

Scenes from the Friday night reception

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad welcomed reporters to Des Moines at a reception at the 801 Steak & Chop House, a Des Moines establishment made famous by a 2004 story in The New York Times in connection with the Iowa presidential caucuses. Read More...

WSJ: EPA plans corn seed restrictions due to rootworm

Concerned about the increasing presence of rootworm in Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska, the Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to restrict the continuous planting of genetically modified seed corn, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. Read More...

Hagstrom Report to cover Iowa Ag Summit on email, Twitter

As Republican presidential candidates and journalists head to Des Moines for the Iowa Ag Summit on Saturday at which businessman and Republican donor Bruce Ratsetter will interview each of the candidates in attendance, The Hagstrom Report is preparing to cover the event by sending emails to subscribers and shorter accounts on Twitter @hagstromreport. Read More...

Reuters: Costco to follow McDonald’s in eliminating sale of antibiotic-raised chicken

Costco is working to eliminate the sale of chicken and meat from other animals raised with antibiotics that are also used to fight human diseases, Reuters reported Thursday.
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FDA releases milk survey

The Food and Drug Administration has released a survey that shows milk is generally free of residues.
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Vilsack announces $25 million in school equipment grants

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA will provide $25 million to state governments for grants to schools to buy new kitchen equipment.
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Farm to School survey shows states consider more bills

The national Farm to School Network on Thursday released a state-by-state survey of farm-to-school policies and trends.
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Vilsack issues statement on Matt Paul departure

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued the following statement on the departure of Matt Paul, his communications director, from USDA to head former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign in Iowa. Read More...

Judiciary Committee passes E-Verify bill

The House Judiciary Committee late Wednesday approved by a vote of 20-13 the Legal Workforce Act that would require employers to use a national E-Verify system to verify the legal status of employees. Read More...

EWG cites Iowa Ag Summit organizer for farm subsidies and RFS as Rubio bows out

The Environmental Working Group today said that Bruce Rastetter, the organizer of Saturday’s Iowa Ag Summit for presidential candidates, has collected more than $300,000 in farm subsidies and benefited from the Renewable Fuel Standard. Read More...

Roberts plans bipartisan child nutrition bill soon

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said Wednesday that he is planning to develop a bipartisan bill to reauthorize child nutrition programs.
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Study: Students are throwing away less food now

Students are eating more fruit and throwing away less of their entrees and vegetables since the new healthier school meals rules went into effect, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Childhood Obesity. Read More...

Republican House Ag leaders write letter to Vilsack, Burwell on dietary guidelines

Three Republican House agriculture leaders have written Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell to tell them that the issues raised by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee are so “complex” that the comment period on the recommendations should be extended from 45 days to 120 days. Read More...

Heitkamp, Collins introduce school food equipment bill

Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, on Wednesday introduced the School Food Modernization Act, which would establish a loan guarantee, grant, and technical assistance program within the Agriculture Department to help schools acquire the new equipment needed to prepare healthier, more nutritious meals. Read More...

Alonzo talks agriculture and Women’s History Month

In a blog post Wednesday, Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Anne Alonzo talked about women in agriculture, her life and her reading habits, which include The Hagstrom Report. Read More...

Washington Post: Vilsack communications director to head Clinton campaign in Iowa

Matt Paul, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s communications director, has resigned to head former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign for president in Iowa, The Washington Post reported today. Read More...

National Journal: Vilsack plans ‘comprehensive’ nutrition strategy

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack plans several announcements this month to complete a “comprehensive” nutrition strategy as Republicans mount efforts to consider limits on food stamps and rollbacks of healthier school meals rules, Jerry Hagstrom writes Thursday in his National Journal column. Read More...

House Ag committees cancel hearings on Thursday

Due to the expected inclement weather and the House leadership’s decision to hold no votes on Thursday, the House Agriculture Committee has postponed a hearing scheduled on the Waters of the U.S. rule. Read More...

Bloomberg: Pizza industry lobbying hard

The pizza industry has mounted some of the most extraordinary lobbying efforts on menu labeling and school meals, Bloomberg Business reporter Andrew Martin reported in a lengthy article published Monday. Read More...

Vetter asks crop farmers to lobby for TPA as Hill disagreements continue

PHOENIX — Chief U.S. Agriculture Negotiator Darci Vetter asked crop farmers attending the Commodity Classic here this weekend to help her convince Congress to grant President Barack Obama trade promotion authority so that the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreements can be completed.
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Anti-hunger leaders optimistic about Walorski-McGovern cooperation on SNAP review

Leaders of the nation’s largest anti-hunger groups today expressed optimism about the cooperation between House Agriculture Nutrition Subcommittee Chairwoman Jackie Walorksi, R-Ind., and subcommittee ranking member Jim McGovern, D-Mass., in the House Agriculture Committee review of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. Read More...

Hatch: TPA delayed until April

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said today that legislation to grant trade promotion authority to President Barack Obama is not likely to emerge before April, Washington Trade Daily reported. Read More...

House Judiciary consider bill ag leaders don’t like

The House Judiciary Committee today is considering a bill that would require all employers in the country to use the E-Verify system to check whether a potential employee is in the United States legally. Read More...

House passes clean DHS bill

The House today passed a clean bill to provide appropriations for the Homeland Security Department, thus ending the attempt by Republican conservatives to block funding for President Barack Obama to carry out his executive actions on immigration. Read More...

Reuters: Crop insurance floor prices to drop this year

Grain analysts said crop insurance price guarantees for U.S. corn, soybeans and spring wheat in 2015 will fall 10 percent or more based on futures settlement prices for February, Reuters reported Friday. Read More...

USDA will launch new childhood anti-hunger pilot projects

The Agriculture Department will make $27 million available to fund innovative projects designed help end childhood hunger, especially in rural areas, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today. Read More...

Study: Developing countries increasing farm subsidies as issue arises at WTO

A study released Friday found that large developing countries have been increasing their trade-distorting farm subsidies, even as Inside U.S. Trade was reporting that U.S. Ambassador to the World Trade Organization Michael Punke was saying that any change to agriculture negotiations in the WTO Doha round would have to include concessions from developing countries that have been increasing subsidies. Read More...

Vilsack defends food stamp program

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack defended the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program against Republican attacks today, The Des Moines Register reported. Read More...

National Journal: One-week DHS funding means immigration debate continues

Congress’s action to fund the Department of Homeland Security for only one week means that funding for that agency and the debate over President Barack Obama’s immigration executive action will continue to dominate Congress this week, National Journal reports. Read More...

Hoeven introduces school meals flexibility act

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., today introduced the Healthy School Meals Flexibility Act, legislation that would provide permanent flexibility to school districts in complying with the Agriculture Department’s school meals rules on sodium and whole grains. Read More...

Gilmore makes it 12 at the Iowa Ag Summit

Former Gov. Jim Gilmore of Virginia has committed to appearing at the Iowa Ag Summit in Des Moines on Saturday, raising the number of potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates speaking at the event to 12, according to organizers. Read More...

House Ag Approps to hold three hearings

The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee will hold three hearings this week.
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Fine dining in the desert

TUCSON — The Southwest may be known for Mexican food, but Feast, a former carryout here that has become a 110-seat restaurant, has proven there is fine dining even in a place on a street called Speedway. Read More...

Feinstein, Collins introduce antibiotics bill

Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, today introduced a bill to combat the overuse of medically-important antibiotics in agriculture. Read More...