The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens
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SPECIAL REPORT: An Interview with Jim Miller

Farm programs need to be simplified so the Agriculture Department can run them more efficiently, but crop insurance should remain a public-private partnership rather than return to USDA, according to Jim Miller, the former Agriculture undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services who is now a senior adviser to Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D. Read More...

Farm bill proposals continue to come in

As the Tuesday deadline for congressional agriculture leaders to submit a farm bill proposal nears, lobbying and letter writing is intensifying to the 12 members of the super committee and to what the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is calling “the Big 4” — Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kans., House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn. Read More...

Judge certifies Pigford II settlement

Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia late Thursday issued a motion to certify and approve the settlement in the Pigford II black farmers' discrimination case against the Agriculture Department. Read More...

Coalitions seek extension of child farm labor comment

A coalition of 60 agriculture groups and a congressional coalition this week called on the Labor Department to extend the comment period on a proposed rule to restrict the role of minors under the age of 16 in farm work. Read More...

House, Senate ag leaders face Tuesday deadline

Leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees and their staffs — particularly their staffs — are expected to work through the weekend to try to complete a farm bill proposal for the super committee in charge of deficit reduction by Tuesday, aides have told The Hagstrom Report in a series of interviews this week. Read More...

First lady highlights new 'food oasis' at a Chicago Walgreens

CHICAGO — First Lady Michelle Obama brought the issue of food deserts to her hometown on Tuesday, participating in a food summit organized by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff. Read More...

House Ag subcommittee sets hearing on Chesapeake Bay

The House Agriculture Conservation, Energy and Forestry Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on Nov. 3 on the implementation of Phase II of the Chesapeake Bay total maximum daily load watershed implementation plans and their impacts on rural communities. Read More...

Farm groups step up with farm bill proposals

Farm groups that have not played a major role in the debate over the recommendations that the agriculture committees will send to the super committee on deficit reduction have been inundating Capitol Hill this week with detailed recommendations. Read More...

IPC publishes paper on biotech regulations

The International Food & Agriculture Trade Policy Council has published a paper pointing out that trade conflicts are likely to occur when countries do not adopt regulations on biotechnology at the same time, and recommending a “practical” approach to dealing with biotech crops that have been approved in the exporting country and may not have been approved in the importing country. Read More...

Another New Zealander to head WTO ag committee

John Adank, the New Zealand ambassador to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, has been appointed chairman of the WTO committee in charge of agricultural negotiations in the Doha round, the WTO has announced. Read More...

Vilsack: Conservation compliance up to Congress

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday declined to wade into the battle over whether participation in federal crop insurance should be linked to conservation compliance. Read More...

Gates: Countries behind on global food security pledges

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates said Monday that the G20 countries that two years ago pledged to spend $22 billion on food security have disbursed or made plans to disburse only half that amount, and that he will tell G20 leaders next week in Cannes, France, that they must live up to those pledges. Read More...

Baenig, others take new positions at USDA

BrIan Baenig has assumed the position of Agriculture assistant secretary for congressional relations, a USDA spokesman said today. He was sworn in by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Oct. 17 after being confirmed by the Senate, the spokesman said. Read More...

Conference pitches agribusiness, farmland to investors

Investors from around the world gathered in Miami last week for the Agriculture Investment Summit for the Americas, a three-day senior-level conference for U.S., Canadian, and Latin American investors to learn about global agribusiness and farmland opportunities. The event was organized by Terrapinn Inc., a New York based company. Read More...

Fed officer: Growing world market may not always be there

MIAMI — American farmers whose production is exported should be aware that the so-called BRIC countries — Brazil, Russia, India and China — will all want to grow their own food and export in the future, a key Federal Reserve official said here last week at the Agriculture Investment Summit of the Americas. Read More...

Commodity price future may hinge on Chinese market

MIAMI — U.S. commodities appear to be appropriately priced and ethanol is unlikely to suffer if the tax credit expires, but farm prices could depend on what kind of market China turns out to be in the future, the chairman of the Agriculture Department’s World Agricultural Outlook Board said here last week. Read More...

Farmland opportunities are out there, adviser says

MIAMI — There are few or no bargains in U.S. farmland, but investors should look for land that is not being farmed up to its full potential, a prominent adviser said here last week as investors discussed farmland investment worldwide at the Agriculture Investment Summit of the Americas. Read More...

Senate adjourns without final Ag appropriations vote

The Senate adjourned early today for a week without a final vote on the fiscal year 2012 Agriculture appropriations bill. The agriculture appropriations bill is part of a “minibus” of appropriations bills which face Senate vote when members return. Read More...

Russia reaches deal with EU over WTO application

The European Union and Russia have reached agreement for the European Union to support Russia’s application to join the World Trade Organization, the EU announced today. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said he believes the United States and Russia will also be able to resolve their differences over a number of issues, including agriculture. Read More...

Ag leaders get farm bill letters on energy title, farm safety net and dairy supply control

A coalition of nearly 50 trade groups and organizations representing energy, farm, environmental and forest interests today asked leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees to include an energy title in any new farm bill, including one that might be written by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, known as the super committee. Read More...

Vilsack heads to Midwest for farm bill remarks

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will give remarks regarding USDA priorities for the 2012 farm bill at John Deere Des Moines Works in Ankeny, Iowa, on Monday, USDA said. Read More...

Courts uphold 'roadless conservation rule'

Environmental and hunting groups today praised a federal court decision to uphold the U.S. Forest Service's “Roadless Conservation Rule,” a Clinton era multiple-use national forest management regulation that was designed to limit road building and timber harvesting on undeveloped public lands managed by the Agriculture Department. Read More...

Obama signs free trade agreements, preferences, TAA

President Barack Obama today signed the bills approving the implementation of free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama, as well as a bill extending the generalized system of preferences program through July 31, 2013, and reauthorizing the trade adjustment assistance program through Dec. 31, 2013. Read More...

Senate confirms Wetjen, Punke and Siddiqui

The Senate late Thursday confirmed three key presidential nominees who have roles in agriculture. Read More...

Mexico lifts tariffs as U.S. permits trucks

Mexico has lifted the tariffs on U.S. exports, including pork, that it had imposed in 2010 in the dispute over Mexican trucks being allowed on U.S. roads, the National Pork Producers Council announced today. Read More...

USDA announces first NIFA fellowships

The Agriculture Department’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture today announced the names of the first class of NIFA fellows. Read More...

Sweetener Users study criticizes sugar program

Reps. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., and Danny Davis, D-Ill., have released a study critical of the U.S. sugar program. Read More...

National Restaurant Association hires Melchert

The National Restaurant Association has hired Christopher Melchert as senior manager for food safety and quality assurance, a new position within the government affairs and policy team. Read More...

National Grain and Feed supports CFTC spec limits decision

The National Grain and Feed Association said today it “conceptually” supports the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s decision Tuesday on final regulations implementing speculative position limits for agricultural and other commodities under the Dodd-Frank regulatory reform law. Read More...

Hagstrom joins farm bill discussion on NPR show

Hagstrom Report executive editor Jerry Hagstrom was among the guests on a National Public Radio show today for a discussion of the proposals to cut farm program spending and write a new five-year farm bill in conjunction with the congressional super committee's effort to come up with a plan to reduce the federal deficit. Read More...

Healthy school initiative tops goal

The Obama administration has exceeded its goal in convincing schools to take part in the Agriculture Department’s Healthier U.S. School Challenge, First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said this week. Read More...

Battle continues over farm bill safety net

The battle over the next farm bill continued today, with the American Soybean Association, the National Corn Growers Association and the National Farmers Union sending Congressional agriculture leaders a letter formally stating their support for a “revenue-based risk management program” to replace parts of the existing farm safety net. Read More...

Senate passes Collins-Udall potato amendment

The Agriculture Department would not be able to limit the number of times per week that schools can serve potatoes and other starchy vegetables for the next year under an amendment proposed by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo. and passed by the Senate by unanimous consent late today. Read More...

Obama to sign free trade agreements, TAA on Friday

President Barack Obama will sign the Korea, Panama and Colombia free trade agreements and the renewal of trade adjustment assistance workers and farmers hurt by trade on Friday, the White House announced today. Read More...

Agricultural interests start to rumble over future of farm bill in super committee

Fights began breaking out today among agriculture interests over what the super committee might do with the farm bill, even though no one knows what the leaders of the agriculture committees are planning to do with the proposal that they sent to the super committee on Monday. Read More...

National Ag Statistics cutting back on reports

The National Agricultural Statistics Service has decided to eliminate or cut back on a long list of reports it issues due to budget constraints, while users of those reports and others said that more information, not less, is needed in a period of tight global food stocks.
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Samson joins Agricultural and Food Transporters Conference

The Agricultural and Food Transporters Conference of American Trucking Associations has hired Jon Samson as its new executive director. Read More...

Former presidents of Brazil, Ghana win World Food Prize

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and former Ghanian President John Agyekum Kufuor have been awarded the World Food Prize. Read More...

Alan Bjerga reading from 'Endless Appetites' tonight

Alan Bjerga, Bloomberg News agriculture reporter, will read from his new book Endless Appetites tonight at the National Press Club in Washington. Read More...

AGree posts farm policy videos from its co-chairs

AGree, the multi-foundation effort on long-term farm policy, has released a series of microdocumentaries in which its four chairmen discuss the challenges for modern farm policy. Read More...

Clinton: 'Feed the Future' working; Chicago Council brief questions funding

In a World Food Day statement issued Sunday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Obama administration’s “Feed the Future” initiative is improving access to and availability of food in developing countries. But the Chicago Council on Global Affairs has published an issue brief that says the program’s record is “mixed” and endangered by budget constraints. Read More...

Baucus, Brady, Merrigan celebrate trade agreements

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, and Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan all celebrated the congressional approval of the free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama on Friday. Read More...

Jackson proposing retention of dusty roads standard

In an action that could have implications for this week’s Senate debate on the fiscal year 2012 Agriculture appropriations bill, Environmental Protection Agency Adminsitrator Lisa Jackson wrote that she plans to keep regulations on dust on country roads the same as they are now. Read More...

Still no ag letter to the super committee

The staffs of the House and Senate agriculture committees are still finalizing a letter on farm program cuts and a new farm bill that the four leaders of those committees plan to send to the super committee in charge of deficit reduction, a knowledgeable Capitol Hill source told The Hagstrom Report early today. Read More...

Senate to take up Ag appropriations on Monday

The Senate will take up the fiscal year 2012 Agriculture appropriations bill on Monday at 4 p.m., a spokeswoman for Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Herb Kohl, D-Wis., said today. Read More...

Vilsack to give farm bill speech next weekend

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will give a speech on the next farm bill on Saturday, Oct. 22, the USDA announced today. Read More...

Ag leader letter to super committee delayed

House and Senate agriculture committee leaders are still finalizing the details of the letter on proposed farm bill budget cuts and a rewrite of farm programs that they were planning to send to the super committee on deficit reduction, a Senate Agriculture Committee aide told The Hagstrom Report late today. Read More...

Specialty crop, farmers market promotion grants announced

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan this week announced grants for specialty crop research and for the promotion of farmers markets. Read More...

Free trade agreements easily pass Senate, House

The three trade agreements passed the Senate with solid majorities Wednesday evening, following House passage. Read More...

National Cattlemen's president gets White House invite

When President Obama welcomed South Korean President Lee Myung-bak for a state visit early today and celebrated the congressional approval of the Korea, Colombia and Panama free trade agreements, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Bill Donald was among the invited guests at the arrival ceremony. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman were among the guests at tonight’s state dinner. Read More...

Ag leaders' deficit reduction proposal coming Friday

The chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate agriculture committees are scheduled to send the super committee in charge of deficit reduction a letter Friday, telling them they will support a reduction of $23 billion in farm bill spending over 10 years in exchange for changing farm programs within the bill that the committee is supposed to produce, a key Senate source told The Hagstrom Report. Read More...

'Endless Appetites' explores market connection to global food production

NEW YORK — Have you wondered how the free trade agreements, the World Food Prize, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s derivatives regulations, and the famine in the Horn of Africa all add up to one global agricultural system … or don’t add up? The answers may be found in the new book Endless Appetites: How the Commodities Casino Creates Hunger and Unrest by Alan Bjerga, the Bloomberg News agriculture reporter in Washington. Read More...

House passes FTAs; Senate approval expected shortly

The House of Representatives passed the free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama tonight, while the Senate is expected to approve the agreements later this evening. Read More...

EC releases Common Agricultural Policy reform proposal

The European Commission today formally published its proposal on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy post-2013. Read More...

Ag committee leaders working on proposal, Peterson says

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said today that the four leaders of the agriculture committees are working on a proposal for spending cuts and a new five-year farm bill to be presented to the super committee in charge of deficit reduction as early as this weekend. Read More...

USDA sending out $1.7 billion in CRP payments

The Agriculture Department is distributing $1.7 billion in annual Conservation Reserve Program payments for 417,000 farms throughout the country, USDA’s Farm Service Agency said late last week. Read More...

Roberts hopeful on bipartisan, bicameral ag agreement

Senate Agriculture ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kans., confirmed today that the leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees are attempting to reach a joint agreement to send the super committee in charge of deficit reduction. Read More...

National Wildlife Federation: Farm bill proposal bad for wildlife

The National Wildlife Federation said last week that the farm bill proposal announced by Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., to cut the authorized size of the Conservation Reserve Program by 8 million acres to 24 million acres would reduce the wildlife population significantly. Read More...

Economists sign letter against food commodity speculation

A group of 461 economists from around the world has called for the G20 countries to take action against “excessive” speculation on food commodities, Oxfam America said today. Read More...

FTAs head for votes after Senate Finance approves agreements, nominees

The House and the Senate are expected to vote Wednesday on bills to implement the pending free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia. Read More...

Report: Ag training for girls could increase productivity in developing countries

The United States and other donor countries could increase agricultural production in developing countries by providing more services to adolescent girls, according to a report released today the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Read More...

McKenna named to head 'Feed the Future' at USAID

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah announced today that Tjada McKenna will head the agency’s “Feed the Future” program and that Julie Howard, who has been heading that effort, will become the chief scientist for the Bureau of Food Security, the USAID division in which the program is located, and his senior adviser on agricultural research, extension and education. Read More...

State Department adds $5 million gender program

The State Department has allocated $5 million for a new gender program within “Feed the Future,” the Obama administration’s global food security initiative, and is encouraging developing countries to give women more equitable land ownership rights. Read More...

Baucus schedules session on trade agreements, nominations

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., will hold a markup session Tuesday on the pending free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama, and to vote on four nominations President Barack Obama has made for positions that require Senate confirmation. Read More...

Indiana lawmakers introduce farm bill proposal

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., a former chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., on Wednesday introduced a farm bill proposal that they emphasized would save taxpayers $40 billion. Read More...

European farm groups fight tying subsidies to green plans

In a move that could have implications for the development of the next U.S. farm bill, the presidents of the largest European farm and co-op groups said this week they are resisting efforts to tie European farm subsidies more closely to “green proposals” as part of the next Common Agricultural Policy reform, and say the CAP should help farmers become more productive and get a bigger share of the food dollar, according to a news release from both organizations. Read More...

Potts elected executive V.P. of AFBF

The American Farm Bureau Federation board of directors Wednesday elected Julie Anna Potts executive vice president. Read More...

Lucas, Schmidt urge agriculture to find united voice

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., today urged the agriculture community to stick together as the process of cutting the federal deficit unfolds. Read More...

Meat producers back RFS Flexibility Act, biofuel groups and corn growers fight it

Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Jim Costa, D-Calif., have introduced the Renewable Fuel Standard Flexibility Act, which would reduce or eliminate the volumes of renewable fuel use required by the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) based upon corn stocks-to-use ratios. Read More...

Collins backs potatoes, asks for rewrite of school meal rule

A long-standing behind-the-scenes battle over the Obama administration’s writing of the rule governing food served in the school lunch and breakfast programs broke into the open today when Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, urged the Agriculture Department to rewrite the proposed rule to make it easier to serve white potatoes and other starchy vegetables or face legislative restrictions. Read More...

House Ag to review Dodd-Frank proposals Wednesday

The House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday to review legislative proposals amending Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Read More...

Ways and Means approves trade agreements

The House Ways and Means Committee today approved the free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama, clearing them for floor action, Ways and Means trade subcommittee chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said late this afternoon. Read More...

USDA OK with food safety budget; FDA is not

The nation’s food safety inspection programs for meat and poultry at the Agriculture Department may be safe from budget cuts, but similar programs at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are vulnerable and cutbacks at the state and local level may also endanger food safety, three key federal officials said Tuesday. Read More...

Free trade agreements head to markup as supporters urge quick passage

The Republican-controlled House Ways and Means Committee will hold a markup Wednesday on the Korea, Colombia and Panama free trade agreements that President Barack Obama submitted to Congress on Monday for approval, but two key Democrats on the committee say they will oppose the Colombia agreement. Read More...

Vilsack, ag leaders step up talk on farm bill

Despite his earlier statements that the Obama administration would let Congress write the next farm bill, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack commented today and Monday on several sections of the bill, while there were indications that congressional leaders are preparing for the super committee in charge of deficit reduction to take some action on agriculture. Read More...

Report: Meeting cellulosic biofuel mandate in doubt

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today he still believes the United States will be able to meet the congressional mandate to produce 16 billion gallons of cellulosic biofuels for the national fuel supply by 2022, even though a major government study released today said the production is unlikely to be met unless innovative technologies are developed or policies change. Read More...

USDA offers early retirement

The Agriculture Department today offered its employees a program of buyouts and early retirement, Secretary Tom Vilsack said today. Read More...

Obama sends free trade agreements to Congress

President Barack Obama today submitted the pending free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama to Congress for approval. The president’s submission of the agreements is a signal that the administration has confidence that the House will approve trade adjustment assistance (TAA) for workers and farmers hurt by free trade. The Senate has already passed TAA. Read More...

SPECIAL REPORT: An Interview with Rep. Frank D. Lucas

Reflecting on the turbulent weather that continues in his home state, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said the country still needs a strong, comprehensive farm bill. Read More...