The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

Navigation

Stabenow, Concannon stay strict on fresh fruit and vegetables, sodium

Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., today repeated her commitments to maintaining fresh fruits and vegetables in the nation’s school meals programs and also to reducing sodium in the meals. Read More...

Inspector General recommends changes to SNAP error rate calculation

The Agriculture Department’s Office of Inspector General today released a report recommending changes to the way USDA calculates the error rate for delivery of benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP or food stamps. Read More...

House approves CR, keeping government open until December 11

The House of Representatives has approved a continuing resolution to keep the government open until December 11.
Read More...

A Minneapolis school food service director's views on nutrition bill, school meal changes

Bertrand Weber, director of the Minneapolis Public Schools Culinary and Nutrition Services, said today that he believes House Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline, R-Minn., is determined to write a child nutrition reauthorization bill with the flexibility that the School Nutrition Association has asked for. Read More...

Talent starts new pro-RFS group, wins praise

New lobbying groups usually pose a competitive challenge to those already in existence, but Americans for Energy Security and Innovation, the pro-Renewal Fuel Standard group launched today by former Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., won praise from Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association. Read More...

Foundation report: Government spending on produce doesn’t equal public health needs

The Produce for Better Health Foundation, an industry-backed group, has released a report that says the government’s policies fall short of meeting public health needs.
Read More...

UFW at White House for pope’s arrival, as pontiff touches on immigration and climate change

United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez and Paul Chavez, president of the Cesar Chavez Foundation, were invited to join President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the arrival ceremony for Pope Francis at the White House today, the UFW said in a news release. Read More...

USDA extends dairy market protection program deadline

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Tuesday that the deadline to enroll for the dairy Margin Protection Program for coverage in 2016 has been extended until November 20. Read More...

Merkley, Stabenow release USDA memo to states on food stamps and shutdown

Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., have released the memo that the Agriculture Department sent to state officials asking them to tell vendors not to load October food stamp benefits until the issue of government funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program after the end of the fiscal year on September 30 is resolved. Read More...

NSAC publishes FSMA series

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has published a series on the Food and Drug Administration's rules for the Food Safety Modernization Act. Read More...

USTR releases TPP negotiating objectives

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on Tuesday released a detailed summary of the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiating objectives. The list includes a special section on addressing sanitary and phytosanitary measures that are used as barriers to trade. Read More...

Torrey celebrates 10th anniversary in business

Michael Torrey Associates celebrated 10 years in business last Wednesday with a party on the undeveloped top floor of 440 First Street N.W. in Washington.
Read More...

Merkely, Stabenow explain food stamp shutdown problem, oppose Cochran CR to restrict Planned Parenthood funding

Republicans should resolve the issue of a government shutdown as soon as possible because the Agriculture Department does not have enough money in the food stamp contingency fund to pay for a full month of benefits, Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said today. Read More...

Clinton declares opposition to Keystone pipeline

In a key development in Democratic presidential politics, Hillary Rodham Clinton today announced that she opposes the Keystone pipeline, The Washington Post reported today. Read More...

Merkley, Stabenow: Shutdown will cutoff food stamps; Cochran introduces short-term funding bill

Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., are scheduled to begin a press conference momentarily at which they will announce that the Agriculture Department will be unable to distribute food stamps to 45 million people on October 1 if the government shutdown goes into effect. Read More...

Cousin: Ending hunger among U.N. sustainable development goals

NEW YORK — The World Food Program has prevailed in its quest to have the United Nations establish ending hunger as a separate goal in the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said here Monday. Read More...

Judge sentences peanut executive to 28 years

A federal judge in Georgia on Monday sentenced Stewart Parnell, former CEO of the Peanut Corporation of America, to a 28-year prison sentence, the harshest sentence ever in a U.S. food safety case, USA Today reported. Read More...

Senate passes reauthorization bill for livestock marketing, grain standards, forest foundation

The Senate passed a single bill to reauthorize the Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting Act, the U.S. Grain Standards Act and the National Forest Foundation Act, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said late Monday evening. Read More...

USDA to remain open during pope’s visit

The Agriculture Department will be open during the visit of Pope Francis, but employees are being encouraged to work from home, a spokeswoman for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said late Monday. Read More...

USDA avian influenza response may include vaccine

The Agriculture Department’s plan to deal with avian influenza if it reoccurs this fall includes conditional licensing of a vaccine developed by Harrisvaccines, the Iowa company announced Monday. Read More...

Cousin available for reappointment to WFP post

NEW YORK — Ertharin Cousin, an American who is executive director of the United Nations World Food Program, said here today that she will be available for reappointment when her five-year term ends in April 2017. Read More...

Studies: Obesity rates level off in most states; poor, obese, smokers die younger

U.S. adult obesity rates remained stable in most states this past year, but increased in Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio and Utah, according to “The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America,” a report released today by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Read More...

Harden to lead trade mission to Ghana; FSIS proposes Namibian meat imports

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden will lead a trade mission to Accra, Ghana, in November to expand export opportunities for U.S. agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa, USDA announced Friday. Read More...

FDA sets public meeting on FSMA preventive controls

The Food and Drug Administration today announced detailed scheduling of a public meeting on the Food Safety Modernization Act preventive controls for animal and human food on October 20 in Chicago. Read More...

FMI launches family eat-at-home campaign

The Food Marketing institute, which represents food retailers, has launched a campaign to encourage families eat one more meal per week at the family dinner table, and has established a Gold Plate awards program for grocers that launch campaigns with their customers. Read More...

Vilsack names Thiemann chief of staff

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today the appointment of Karla Thieman as chief of staff. Read More...

American flower growers promote locally grown

Americans may have gotten so used to the idea of cheap, imported flowers from Colombia and Ecuador that they don’t realize there are still flower farms all over the country. Read More...

Pork Producers: Livestock reporting won’t be ‘essential service‘

When Congress finalizes reauthorization of the Mandatory Livestock Report Act, the program won’t be identified as an “essential service,” members of the National Pork Producers Council told reporters today. Read More...

White House hires new floral designer

The White House on Thursday announced that Hedieh “Roshan” Ghaffarian has been selected as the White House chief floral designer.
Read More...

Confectioners release study on candy’s economic impact

The National Confectioners Association this week unveiled a study designed to show the industry’s economic importance and commitments to social goals.
Read More...

Farm, conservation groups oppose cuts to conservation

More than 100 organizations sent a letter Thursday urging congressional appropriators not to cut conservation programs as they finalize appropriations for fiscal 2016, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition said in a news release. Read More...

Commerce expected to release Cuba business regs today

Arkansas-based Riceland Foods could have a sales office, Sysco could provide food products to independent restaurants. and Illinois-based John Deere could have a showroom under new regulations on U.S. firms doing business with Cuba expected to be released today by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Security and Industry, the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council said late Thursday. Read More...

Commerce rules Mexican sugar was dumped

The Commerce Department ruled Thursday that Mexico dumped sugar in the United States, The Advocate, a Baton Rouge, La., newspaper reported.
Read More...

Neugebauer won’t seek re-election

Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, the vice chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and the chairman of the House Financial Services Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee, announced Thursday that he will not seek re-election in 2016. Read More...

Stabenow standing firm on school meal rules

Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said today she is unwilling to roll back provisions in the healthier school meal rules in order to reach a bipartisan consensus for reauthorization of the child nutrition programs. Read More...

Michelle Obama: ‘Double down’ on fight against childhood obesity

First Lady Michelle Obama told leaders of her Let’s Move! Towns and Counties campaign Wednesday that they should “double down” on their efforts to fight childhood obesity and create healthier environments in their cities. Read More...

House Ag finishes USDA organizational hearings

The House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday completed its hearings with Agriculture Department undersecretaries and division heads.
Read More...

House Ag to grill Vilsack, Burwell on dietary guidelines

The House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on October 7 to hear the views of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell on the development of the dietary guidelines. Read More...

Senate Ag marks up bipartisan, mandatory price reporting, grain standards, Forest Foundation bill

The Senate Agriculture Committee today unanimously approved a combined bill to reauthorize the Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting Act, the U.S. Grain Standards Act and the National Forest Foundation Act.

The three measures were formally combined into the Agriculture Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 2051).

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Senate Agriculture ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., both said there had been bipartisan, bicameral agreement on the measures, which should allow them to be enacted quickly.

The House approved the bills by voice vote on the suspension calendar, but House agriculture leaders agreed to some changes that are included in the Senate bill. The House must take up the measure again, however, because their measure has been amended.

Both the Livestock Price Reporting Act and the U.S. Grain Standards Act are set to expire on September 30 without reauthorization, and the act reauthorizes both through 2020.

The National Forest Foundation Act, which establishes a nonprofit partner of the U.S. Forest Service, expired in 1997, but has been funded through appropriations. The reauthorization act, which authorizes appropriations of $3 million, continues it through 2018.

In a statement, Roberts noted that the Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting Act requires packers to inform the Agriculture Department of the prices they pay livestock producers for cattle, hogs and lambs and the prices they receive for wholesale meat cuts, and also makes technical changes to swine and lamb reporting that will result in more transactions being captured and more accurate reports.

Jess Peterson of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association said his group was not completely satisfied with the livestock reporting provision because his rancher members believe reporting should be more reflective of market conditions, including cattle that are delivered on a formula price basis rather than a negotiated basis.

But Peterson noted that USDA will engage in rulemaking on the bill and said he was also pleased that the bill calls on the Agriculture Department to conduct a study, with input from the livestock and meat community, on the workability of the reporting program before the next reauthorization in 2020.

“I understand the importance of these reports to the constituent community, and I strongly encourage USDA to use the authority they have to keep these reports on schedule any day that the markets are open so that livestock and futures markets aren’t thrown into disarray,” Roberts said.

Roberts said that the changes to the U.S. Grains Standard Act “are focused on improving transparency and predictability throughout the federal grain inspection system. They help maintain our positive global reputation.”

The bill also includes provisions reflecting farmers’ anger over the lack of shipments from the Port of Vancouver, Wash., in last year’s labor situation.

“Specifically, we require the secretary of Agriculture to take immediate action and to notify Congress if there is ever another disruption in inspection like we saw in the Port of Vancouver last summer, and to keep us up-to-date on what is being done to resolve the disruption until inspections resume,” Roberts said.

“Further, we require the secretary to waive inspection requirements if certain conditions are met and report to Congress on the changes made to ensure that situation does not happen again. The Department of Agriculture has a statutory obligation to inspect grain exports, and we won’t let this responsibility lapse again.”

The National Grain and Feed Association and the North American Export Grain Association commended the Senate for including the requirement that USDA approve requests for waivers of the official grain inspection requirement if the Federal Grain Inspection Service fails to restore inspection service, unless the disruption is caused by an emergency, and the requirement that Congress be notified about any disruptions in service.

The organizations said they were disappointed that neither the House-passed bill nor the Senate Agriculture Committee’s version includes language preferred by NGFA and NAEGA that would require USDA to use qualified third-party inspectors licensed and overseen by FGIS to perform official inspections at export facilities in the event of a disruption, something that both organizations plan to reemphasize during future reauthorizations of the law.

Grain groups had objected to that provision on the grounds that foreign buyers might not respect the certification by third-party inspectors.

“These highly qualified experts already are working at U.S. export elevators — often at the request of international customers — to perform non-U.S. official grade-determining testing services that often are requested,” the NGFA and NAEGA said.

But NGFA and NAEGA praised the following provisions:

  • State agencies that are delegated official inspection duties at export ports would be required to undergo the same notice-and-comment rulemaking process that already applies to domestic state and private entities that provide official inspection services in the domestic market.
  • Changes to the formula now used by USDA to set user fees charged to export elevators, which NGFA and NAEGA estimated will result in up to $12 million in overcharges during the current and immediately preceding fiscal years.
  • A shortening of the reauthorization period from the current 10 years to five years, which NGFA and NAEGA believes is essential given the rapidly changing international marketplace and different approaches to government-based grain inspections by the United States' foreign competitors.

Stabenow noted that the changes in the bill had been requested by producers.

“Each of these bills helps to strengthen our economy — whether it’s ensuring our farmers and ranchers have the tools they need to be competitive in the global marketplace or helping to revitalize the 193 million acres in our national forest system,” Stabenow said.

Peterson, sugar growers, Mexico seek continuation of suspension agreements

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., U.S. sugar growers and a Mexican government official all testified today in support of allowing the continuation of the agreements that the United States and the Mexican government reached earlier this year to suspend the U.S. investigations of Mexican sugar. Read More...

Moran wants more money for FSMA as FDA says lack would imperil foreign food safety and fairness

Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said today that if congressional budget caps are raised he favors more funding for the Food and Drug Administration to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act. Read More...

NFU lobbying on Hill today

National Farmers Union members will head to Capitol Hill Thursday to lobby primarily on five issues, NFU Vice President Chandler Goule said today at a briefing at the Agriculture Department. Read More...

Obama sends FDA nomination to Senate

In a sign that the Obama administration hopes for quick action on its nomination of new commissioner to head the Food and Drug Administration, the White House announced today that President Barack Obama had sent to the Senate his nomination of Robert McKinnon Califf of South Carolina to be commissioner of food and drugs. Read More...

Huelskamp signs letter of intent with Taiwan

In a sign that he is trying to improve his relations with the agriculture community, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., announced today that he has signed letters with a Taiwanese agricultural delegation and American grain representatives, in which Taiwan declared its intent to purchase more than $3 billion in American agricultural products over the next two years. Read More...

Obama nominates Califf to head FDA

President Barack Obama today announced his intent to nominate Rob Califf as the commissioner of food and drugs, the highest ranking post at the Food And Drug Administration. Read More...

Vilsack: USDA to hold agribusiness employment conference

The Agriculture Department will host a conference next month to help agribusiness companies learn how to find new employees, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today.
Read More...

McCarthy: EPA will stick to schedule on the RFS

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said today that EPA is determined to stick to its promise to issue the volumetric requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard, but she declined to provide any details of the proposals that would reassure ethanol producers that they will be satisfied with the final result. Read More...

Vilsack, Jewell, Donovan ask Congress to change wildfire funding

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan sent a joint letter to Congress today requesting they act to change the way the nation pays for the cost of fighting wildfires. Read More...

Obama cites USDA in use of research to improve federal programs

In announcing actions to improve the effectiveness of federal programs by using research into how people participate in them, President Barack Obama today cited the Agriculture Department’s use of letters to farmers that included instructions on how to apply for loan options. Read More...

Senate Ag announces three-bill markup

The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a business meeting on Thursday at 10 a.m. on bills to mark up and vote on bipartisan legislation reauthorizing Mandatory Price Reporting, the National Forest Foundation Act and the U.S. Grain Standards Act, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., announced today. Read More...

USDA at hearing: Crop payments will total $6.5 billion

Payments to crop farmers for the 2014 crop year are projected to total $6.5 billion, largely to corn producers who signed up for the Agricultural Risk Coverage program, Alexis Taylor, the deputy secretary for farm and foreign agricultural services said today at a House Agriculture Committee hearing on USDA programs. Read More...

U.S.-Cuba Trade Council: Vilsack should visit Cuba

Amidst the news that Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker is planning to visit Cuba in conjunction with a trade show, the U.S.-Cuba Trade Council today called on Agriculture Secretary Vilsack also to visit Cuba. Read More...

Beard Foundation announces conference agenda

School lunch and the connections between food, science and technology will be the topics at the James Beard Foundation's sixth anual food conference in New York City October 19 to 20, the foundation announced today. Read More...

Wheat groups says overseas subsidies costing U.S. farmers $1 billion per year

Farm subsidies in the advanced developing countries of China, India, Turkey and Brazil are costing U.S. wheat farmers $1 billion per year in lost exports and lower prices, according to a study released today by U.S. Wheat Associates and the National Association of Wheat Growers. Read More...

Debate over school meals continues as Senate child nutrition markup postponed

Debate continued today over school meals rules as Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., postponed a markup of a child nutrition reauthorization bill scheduled for Thursday. Read More...

Sorghum industry contributing to USDA renewable infrastructure program

The U.S. sorghum industry will contribute $250,000 towards the partnership that USDA announced last week to make grants to states to build pumps and other infrastructure to deliver higher blends of renewable fuels, the United Sorghum Checkoff Program announced today. Read More...

DOD integrating agriculture into career counseling

The Defense Department will integrate agriculture into the career training and counseling programs that service members get as they transition out of the military, Agriculture Secretary Krysta Harden and Susan Kelly, director of DOD’s Transition to Veterans Program Office, announced today. Read More...

Financial Times: U.S. shale oil production will fall

In a development that could have a major impact on the U.S. rural economy, oil shale production is expected to fall next year, the Financial Times reported over the weekend.
Read More...

Senate Ag to mark up three bills Thursday

The Senate Agriculture Committee will mark up legislation reauthorizing Mandatory Price Reporting, the National Forest Foundation Act and the U.S. Grain Standards Act on Thursday, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., announced today. Read More...

Senate Ag Approps schedules FDA food safety hearing

Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Moran, R-Kan., announced today that the subcommittee will hold a hearing Wednesday
to review the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s food safety programs. Read More...

Bittman to end NYT column, go into business

Mark Bittman, food columnist for The New York Times for five years, announced this weekend in a farewell column that he would stop writing for the Times on a regular basis and that he is joining a food company in California. Read More...

Senate Ag postpones child nutrition markup as debate over school meals continues

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., announced today that the markup of the child nutrition reauthorization bill planned for Thursday will have to be rescheduled. Read More...

Council on Aging encouraging SNAP sign ups

The National Council on Aging has launched a campaign to encourage senior citizens to sign up for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Read More...

Heitkamp won’t run for governor

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, announced this week that she will not run for governor in 2016. Read More...

Obama presents Humanities medals to Waters, McMurtry, Fly and Ruiz

President Barack Obama presented the National Humanities Medal on Thursday to four people important to agriculture, food and rural America.
Read More...

Vilsack to announce U.S. food waste goals

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will join Environmental Protection Agency Acting Deputy Administrator Stan Meiburg and officials from private industry and charitable organizations to announce the United States’ first food waste reduction goals on Tuesday. Read More...

Poe wants to ease Cuba financing, but unsure it will happen

Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade Subcommittee, said this week that he favors making it easier for Cuba to finance food purchases from the United States, but he said he has “no idea” when that might happen. Read More...

Gillibrand hosts New York Farm Day

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., on Wednesday hosted her annual New York Farm Day to showcase New York food and farms. Read More...