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Russia in WTO: Beef, chicken producers react differently

Two U.S. meat groups have had remarkably different reactions to the agreement for Russia to join the World Trade Organization. Read More...

Peterson urges CFTC to use MF Global lessons in reform

As the Commodity Futures Trading Commission considered a rule on swaps today, House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., wrote the commissioners that the loss of customers’ funds in the MF Global Holdings Inc. bankruptcy shows the need to protect swaps users from similar problems. Read More...

Lamy assembling panel to study trade changes, relax tensions

GENEVA — World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy’s plan to assemble a panel of stakeholders to examine “the real drivers” of trade and obstacles to it won an endorsement from a key group that represents major international agribusinesses, but the statement also reveals a list of issues that member countries may find difficult to agree on. Read More...

Lamy urges return to Doha round, announces end of his term

GENEVA — World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy announced tonight that he will not seek re-election when his current term expires on Sept. 1, 2013. Read More...

World Trade Organization accepts Russia as new member

GENEVA — Member countries of the World Trade Organization accepted Russia as the WTO’s latest member today, but the immediate impact on U.S. agricultural exports to Russia is uncertain. Read More...

MF Global: Corzine denies knowledge of transfer

Former MF Global CEO Jon Corzine today denied he had any knowledge of a transfer of customer money to a European affiliate, but faith in the self-regulatory system under which the futures industry operates appears to be diminishing. Read More...

TPP talks spark enthusiasm over Japan, but inclusion not without complications

The excitement that Japan might join the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations was apparent today at a House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee hearing, but so were the complications that the inclusion of Japan and differences over agriculture present for an agreement that is already in progress. Read More...

MF Global: Court rules against customers, Duffy says Corzine knew of loan from segregated accounts

A New York bankruptcy court today ruled against the farmers and others who were customers of MF Global Holdings Inc., allowing MF Global to use about $21 million in cash collateral from JP Morgan Chase & Co., its largest lender, Bloomberg has reported. Read More...

Trans-Pacific Partnership more exciting than Doha, trade experts say

As trade ministers prepare to gather in Geneva this week to discuss the Doha round and the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee holds a hearing Wednesday on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a panel of trade experts has declared the TPP as more exciting to American business, while a coalition of 60 agriculture groups urged the Obama administration to include Japan in the TPP group. Read More...

No easy answers figuring out what happened at MF Global

Jon Corzine, the former Democratic senator and governor from New Jersey and former CEO of the bankrupt firm MF Global, was the star witness today at what must be the most widely publicized House Agriculture Committee hearing in decades. Read More...

MF Global hearings begin amidst report of possible wider financial scandal

The House Agriculture Committee holds a hearing today on the MF Global bankruptcy, only hours after the Senate Agriculture Committee published its list of witnesses for an MF Global hearing next week and Thomson Reuters reported that the diversion of client money may be much broader on Wall Street. Read More...

Sommers, Kobak, Corzine lead MF Global witness list

Jill Sommers, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission commissioner in charge of the MF Global investigation, James Kobak, the lead counsel for the trustee in charge of the MF Global liquidation, and Jon Corzine, the company’s former CEO, will be the lead witnesses when the House Agriculture Committee holds a hearing Thursday on the MF Global bankruptcy. Read More...

Corzine to testify before House Ag Committee Thursday

Former MFGlobal CEO Jon Corzine has responded positively to the subpoena from the House Agriculture Committee and will testify at a hearing Thursday, a committee spokeswoman said. Read More...

WTO leaders issue guidance for trade ministers

As the world’s trade ministers prepare to gather in Geneva Dec. 15 to 17 for a trade ministerial meeting, WTO leaders have issued what they call “guidance” to the ministers. Read More...

Punke: China's lack of transparency remains a concern

China remains “among the least transparent and predictable” of the world’s agriculture markets, a key U.S. trade official said last week in making remarks in Geneva at the tenth and final review of China’s transition to WTO membership. Read More...

Corzine balks at testifying before Ag committees

Jon Corzine, the recently resigned CEO of now bankrupt commodities firm MF Global, is apparently not going to testify voluntarily before congressional committees investigating the bankruptcy and the loss of customers’ funds. Read More...

NGFA, others urge review of financial protections

The National Grain and Feed Association and 18 other groups have written Congress and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission letters urging reviews of the protections in place for farmers and other businesses using trading firms, and proposing increased regulation. Read More...

MF Global troubles dominate Senate Ag hearing

The bankruptcy of MF Global, the missing $1.2 billion from its customer accounts, and whether futures markets are safe places to transact business may have become bigger issues than the next farm bill in rural America, but neither federal regulators nor senators today seemed able to reassure farmers and other users of the futures markets that those markets are safe right now. Read More...

House Ag MF Global subpoena markup Friday

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., announced late today that his committee will hold a business meeting Friday to consider issuing a subpoena to compel the attendance of a witness at its hearing next Thursday on the MF Global bankruptcy. Read More...

Summers speaks on critical state of global finance

World finance is in its most perilous state since World War II, former National Economic Council director Lawrence Summers said late Tuesday at an event at the French Embassy in Washington. Read More...

Stabenow sets second hearing on MF Global

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., announced today that she will hold a second hearing on bankruptcy of MF Global Holdings Ltd., and that she has called on MF Global CEO Jon Corzine, a former U.S. senator from New Jersey and former governor of that state, to testify. Read More...

U.S.: China makes some concessions, more work needed

The Agriculture Department and China's Ministry of Agriculture are finalizing the framework of a five-year strategic plan focused on food security, food safety and sustainable agriculture to build a stronger foundation for critical cooperation in agriculture. Read More...

Stabenow: December 1 hearing will cover MF Global

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., sent Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, a letter today assuring him that the December 1 hearing she has scheduled will cover the issues surrounding MF Global. Read More...

USTR may appeal WTO country-of-origin labeling ruling

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said today that the United States may appeal a World Trade Organization ruling finding fault with its country-of-origin labeling program for red meat. Read More...

Center for Democracy in Americas reports on Cuban reform

The Center for Democracy in the Americas, a group that advocates a more liberal relationship between the United States and Cuba, last week published a report on economic reform in Cuba, including a section on agriculture. Read More...

USDA reports farm exports reach record high

Farm exports in fiscal year 2011 reached a record high of $137.4 billion, exceeding past highs by $22.5 billion, the Agriculture Department said today. The agriculture trade surplus for the fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, hit $42.7 billion. Read More...

G20 Summit ends without strong commodity market reform

CANNES, France — Leaders of the G20 countries ended their meeting in this Mediterranean resort city today by endorsing an end to tariffs and restrictions on food purchased for humanitarian purposes and backing a food reserve pilot project in West Africa. Read More...

Finance, Ways and Means leaders write Kirk on Russia, WTO

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., ranking member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., and ranking member Sander Levin, D-Mich, are all urging U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to insist that Russia meet a high standard and ensure a level playing field for U.S. businesses and workers, including meat producers, in the negotiations for Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization. Read More...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

'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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

U.S.: China makes progress on trade rules, concerns remain

At the World Trade Organization headquarters in Geneva today, China underwent the eighth and final review of the agricultural trade policy required under its 2001 membership agreement to join the organization, a source close to the WTO has told The Hagstrom Report. Read More...

Boehner: No House action on Senate TAA bill until free-trade pacts sent to Congress

The Senate today paved the way for congressional consideration of the pending free-trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama by passing a bill that extends trade adjustment assistance for workers and farmers hurt by international trade. But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the House will not take up the trade adjustment bill until President Barack Obama formally sends the agreements to Congress for consideration. Read More...

U.S. files chicken trade case against China with WTO

The United States has filed a case in the World Trade Organization over China’s threat to impose duties on imports of American chicken parts, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said today at a news conference. Read More...

Senate Appropriations OKs direct cash transfers with Cuba

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson on Thursday praised a Senate Appropriations Committee vote to allow direct cash transfers between U.S. and Cuban financial institutions. The vote was 20 to 10, NFU said. Read More...

Baucus urges confirmation vote on trade appointees

Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., urged his colleagues on Monday to vote for confirmation of key Obama administration trade officials who have been serving in recess appointments, and told reporters he knows of no holds on the nominations. Read More...

Obama jobs plan could impact trade, rural America

President Barack Obama’s speech on jobs to a joint session of Congress Thursday evening did not specifically mention agriculture, but his statements on trade and rebuilding roads and other infrastructure could have an impact on agriculture and rural America. Read More...

Senate committee to consider Obama trade nominations

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., announced today that his committee will hold a confirmation hearing Monday on the nominations of two administration trade officials — Michael Punke and Islam Siddiqui — who are serving under recess appointments, and David Johanson, a long-time Senate agriculture trade aide to the International Trade Commission. Read More...

Ripples, reactions from Obama's bus tour of the Midwest

President Barack Obama’s three-day bus trip to the Midwest continued to make news over the weekend with a series of developments. Read More...

Canadian-Colombian trade agreement goes into force

As the Canadian-Colombian free trade agreement entered into force today, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Senate Finance ranking member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, urged passage of the U.S.-Colombian free trade agreement, but emphasized different points. Read More...

U.S. sugar industry warned to avoid EU-style reform

STOWE, Vt. — The European Union’s sugar reform has caused such supply shortages and price volatility that the United States should be leery of any proposal that would reduce domestic production and make the country dependent on sugar from developing countries that may not be reliable suppliers, European sugar analysts and executives say. Read More...

Analysts: Demand will keep sugar prices high

STOWE, Vt. — World sugar prices are likely to remain high due to world demand and the difficulty of increasing supply, analysts said at the American Sugar Alliance International Sweetener Symposium here last week. Read More...

Punke: U.S. won't support Doha 'early harvest' idea

A key U.S. trade official said Tuesday that the U.S. government has lost faith in the idea that a smaller Doha round package known as an “early harvest” can be developed before a meeting of trade ministers in Geneva in December, and that the World Trade Organization should give member countries time to work on other issues that the ministers may wish to address at that time. Read More...

Punke defends U.S. role in Doha round

U.S. Ambassador to the World Trade Organization Michael Punke vigorously defended the U.S. role in the Doha round of trade talks today, in an apparent reaction to World Bank President Robert Zoellick’s comments at a meeting in Geneva on Monday. Read More...

IPC publishes briefs on impact of standards on trade

The International Food & Agricultural Trade Policy Council today published two issue briefs on the impact of animal and plant health safety standards on trade. Read More...

Senate Ag to consider CFTC nominee

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., announced today that the committee will hold a hearing next Thursday on the nomination of Mark P. Wetjen to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and another nominee, whose name has not been announced. Read More...

Soybean association hosts free trade diplomats

The American Soybean Association held a reception Wednesday evening to promote congressional approval of the pending free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and Korea. Read More...

FAS: Ag trade programs should stay at USDA

Agricultural trade programs should not be moved from USDA to a proposed combined trade agency the Obama administration is considering, the acting administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service said today, noting that she has so advised the White House Office of Management and Budget. Read More...

White House still hoping for FTAs before recess

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told agriculture leaders today that the Obama administration hopes Congress will approve the three pending free trade agreements and reauthorize trade adjustment assistance before the August recess. Read More...

Hatch calls on leadership to resolve FTA differences

Senate Finance Committee ranking member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, today urged House and Senate leaders to resolve Korean trade agreement differences in versions passed in “mock markups” by the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways & Means Committee. Read More...

Mexico cuts tariffs on U.S. products

The government of Mexico today officially reduced by half the retaliatory tariffs it had imposed on 89 U.S. products in the dispute over Mexican long haul trucks' access to the United States. Read More...

Senate Finance, House Ways and Means move FTAs forward

In “mock markups” to advise the Obama administration on implementing legislation, the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee today approved the Korea, Panama and Colombia free trade agreements without amendments, and Senate Finance also approved an extension of trade adjustment assistance for workers and farmers who have been hurt by trade agreements. Read More...

U.S., Mexico agree on trucking plan and end to tariffs

An agreement between the Obama administration and the Mexican government to resolve a two-year long cross-border long-haul trucking dispute and end Mexico’s punitive tariffs on U.S. products announced today has won praise from a wide range of agricultural groups that export to Mexico.
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Baucus schedules FTA markup, Republicans to attend

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., announced late today that his committee will hold a “mock markup” on the implementing bills for the free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama and an extension of trade adjustment assistance on Thursday at 9 a.m. Read More...

Ways and Means schedules FTA 'mock markup'

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., has scheduled a “mock markup” on implementing legislation for the pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Korea and Panama, on Thursday but the conflicts between Democrats and Repbublicans on how to handle the issue of trade adjustment assistance for workers and farmers hurt by trade agreements appears to be continuing. Read More...

Farm Bureau, NFTC blast inaction on FTAs

Reacting to Senate Finance Committee Republicans boycotting a markup of implementing legislation for the free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama and renewal of trade adjustment assistance, American Farm Bureau Federation trade lobbyist Chris Garza said Friday that Congress should stop playing politics, and National Foreign Trade Council President Bill Reinsch said that Republicans were inadvertently helping labor unions that want to stop the agreements. Read More...

Republicans boycott trade 'mock markup,' forcing Senate Finance to cancel

The Senate Finance Committee “mock markup” on pending trade agreements with Korea, Panama and Colombia and trade adjustment assistance is not being held because all Republican members of the committee are boycotting it. Read More...

TAA gets ag industry support as Senate Finance heads to 'mock markup'

As a Senate Finance Committee “mock markup” of implementation legislation for the Korea, Panama and Colombia free trade agreements approaches this afternoon, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the American Feed Industry Association have endorsed a plan to seek congressional approval of the agreements and reauthorization of trade adjustment authority (TAA) for workers hurt by imports, even as Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and some Senate Republicans continue to spar over the inclusion of TAA in the package. Read More...

Free trade deal, including TAA, not fully embraced by GOP

Farm and business groups have begun pushing for congressional approval of the free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama, even though House Republican leaders and conservative groups are still expressing some concerns about the deal with congressional Republicans that the White House announced Tuesday. Read More...

Baucus schedules mock markup on draft free trade bills

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., will hold a “mock” markup on Thursday of the draft implementing bills for the South Korea, Colombia, and Panama free trade agreements that include an extension of trade adjustment assistance (TAA). Read More...

Graziano da Silva supports GMOs, but not seed monopolies

ROME — José Graziano da Silva, the director general-elect of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, said today that he believes in genetic modification in agriculture but is opposed to individual companies being granted monopolies on genetically modified seeds. Read More...

Kofi Annan tells FAO higher food prices help production

ROME — Farmers around the world should continue to get higher commodity prices in order to increase food production in future years, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan told the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in a lecture here today. Read More...

G20 ag ministers come to agreement on global food issues

PARIS — In an attempt to reduce global food price volatility, the agriculture ministers from the G20 countries, including the United States, agreed today to launch a new wheat research initiative, convinced China and India to participate in a new food market supply and demand system, and released a proposal for a pilot project on humanitarian food reserves. But the group did not take a position opposing biofuels subsidies. Read More...

Senators cite pork trade issues in Russia's WTO application

Twenty-six senators led by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ben Nelson, D-Neb., have written U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to urge him not to support Russia’s application to join the World Trade Organization until it address barriers to U.S. pork products. Read More...

Vilsack heads to France for G-20, Paris Air Show

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack heads to Paris this week for a meeting of the agricultural ministers of the Group of 20 countries. The focus of the summit Wednesday and Thursday is on international efforts to ensure global food security. Read More...

European Parliament delegation meeting with farm leaders

A delegation of 10 members of the European Parliament led by Italian MEP Paolo de Castro, who chairs the Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, is scheduled to meet with congressional and Obama administration farm leaders today, only days after the European Parliament voted to propose a 5 percent increase in funding for the European Union budget and to at least maintain the current budget for agriculture. Read More...

Leaders continue to urge movement on free trade pacts

The Obama administration’s announcement that Colombia has completed the second stage of action items on a labor rights plan related to its proposed free trade agreement with the United States prompted Democrats to call for advancing the agreement in conjunction with trade adjustment assistance for American workers and Republicans to ask President Obama to send the agreement to Capitol Hill immediately. Read More...

WTO seeks successor for Doha ag talk chairman

A World Trade Organization official confirmed today the departure of David Walker, the New Zealand ambassador who has been serving as chairman of the agriculture negotiating committee in the Doha round, and said that the WTO is looking for a new agriculture chairman. Read More...

WTO ag chairman summoned to New Zealand

In new signals of the dire prospects for the decade-old Doha round of trade talks, the New Zealand government has summoned home David Walker, the ambassador who has been chairing negotiations, while Clayton Yeutter, a former U.S. trade representative and agriculture secretary, said today that the Doha round should be allowed to die, but will probably linger on. Read More...

IFPRI: More farm subsidy monitoring needed by WTO

The World Trade Organization needs a stricter system of monitoring members’ levels of farm subsidies and should consider more restrictions on conservation payments, biofuels programs and other farm policies that are not now considered trade distorting, the editors of a new book published by the International Food Policy Research Institute said today at a seminar in Washington.
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House Appropriations approves FY2012 Ag amendments

In a signal of the growing unpopularity of farm programs, the House Appropriations Committee tonight approved amendments to the fiscal year 2012 Appropriations bill. Read More...

Baucus backs trade adjustment assistance with trade pacts

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., told a meat export group today that the pending trade agreements with Korea, Panama and Colombia must be passed together with trade adjustment assistance for American workers, and then proceeded to a lengthy and somewhat unexpected discussion of the 2012 farm bill. Read More...

Baucus backs farm disaster assistance continuation, says Senate should write new farm bill first

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said today that the permanent farm disaster assistance program he authored in the 2008 farm bill must be continued in the 2012 farm bill, and that it would make sense for the Senate to write the bill first, since members of the House Agriculture Committee are so inexperienced. Read More...

Farm leaders consider supporting TAA to get free trade agreements passed

If Congress needs to take up trade adjustment assistance for American workers to pass the free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama, members should do it, five farm leaders said Tuesday. Read More...

Governors back trade agreements, adjustment assistance

Congress should pass the South Korean, Colombian and Panamanian free trade agreements and reauthorize trade adjustment assistance for American workers, a bipartisan coalition of governors from 20 states and two territories wrote congressional leaders on Monday. Read More...

Kirk says free trade agreements could be passed by August

In a wide-ranging discussion of trade policy before the House Agriculture Committee today, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said that the pending trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama could be passed by August “if not sooner” if Congress agrees also to reauthorize trade adjustment assistance for workers whose jobs have been displaced by free trade. Read More...

Baucus endorses Colombia pact, but side issues could slow it down

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., enthusiastically endorsed the U.S. free trade agreement with Colombia today, but he and Obama administration officials signaled that Colombia will have to prove its commitment to labor rights and Congress will have to agree to reauthorize trade adjustment assistance for American workers before it will be approved. Read More...

Cattle, pork groups call for passage of trade agreements

With hearings on the pending U.S. free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and Korea starting this week, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the National Pork Producers Council are calling for quick congressional approval of the pacts. Read More...

Canal expansion raises port concerns with soybean group

The pending expansion of the Panama Canal is raising questions of whether U.S. ports can handle the larger ships that will start using the canal in 2014, the United Soybean Board said in a news release Monday as a soy group signed a memorandum of understanding with the Panama Canal Authority. Read More...

Trade hearings this week on Capitol Hill

The Senate Finance Committee and the House Agriculture Committee have both scheduled trade hearings this week: Read More...

Clinton seeks world food support; Oxfam chides lack of aid

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today asked the world to join the United States in addressing rising food prices and long-term agricultural development in the Third World, but Oxfam, the international charity, said the Obama administration has not lived up to commitments it has made for global food security. Read More...

Obama to push all three trade agreements

The Obama administration is moving forward to gain congressional approval of the three pending trade agreements, expects Congress to renew trade adjustment assistance for workers who have lost jobs due to free trade, and has granted $1 million to the U.S. Meat Export Federation to encourage meat exports to Korea, according to a memo from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative today. Read More...

End direct payments, reduce deficit, Center for American Progress says

The $4.9 billion direct payments program to farmers should be eliminated, with all but $650 million per year going to deficit reduction, a key Washington liberal think tank says in a report to be released today. Read More...

Farm Bureau, business groups decry lack of Doha progress

The American Farm Bureau Federation joined other U.S. business groups today in a statement expressing regret on the lack of progress with the Doha round of talks, urging rethinking and stating their continued surpport for the World Trade Organization. Read More...

WTO releases report on ag talks in Doha round

The World Trade Organization today published a report on the status of the agriculture negotiations in the Doha round of multilateral trade talks. Read More...

Trade pact approval talks have begun

Obama administration officials have begun discussions with congressional leaders on how to gain approval of the three pending free trade agreements — Korea, Colombia and Panama — as well as achieve the administration’s other trade goals, senior officials told reporters in a conference call today. Read More...

Panama meets U.S. concerns; trade pact headed to Hill

In a move that may make it possible for Congress to consider all three pending free trade agreements soon, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced today that Panama has satisfied U.S. concerns for completion of a free trade pact, and that the Obama administration is preparing to send the Panama agreement to Capitol Hill for ratification. Read More...

Doha talks still getting nowhere

Negotiators on agriculture in the Doha round of trade talks made no progress in the last two weeks, according to a source close to the World Trade Organization in Geneva and U.S. farm leaders who recently visited there. Read More...

Korea, other pacts may wait for other trade goals

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said today that the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement is “ready to go,” but also made it clear that the Obama administration wants to advance it in the context of other trade goals. Read More...

Colombian agreement reached; some conditions remain

The Obama administration announced today that U.S. negotiators have reached agreement with the Colombian government on a free trade agreement that should boost farm exports, but there are still questions about the conditions under which the administration will send it to Congress for approval. Read More...

Doha talks resume; reaction mixed to import plan

Food security, price volatility and export restrictions are receiving a higher profile in the World Trade Organization Doha round agriculture negotiation that opened today in Geneva, a source close to the WTO said. Read More...

NFU joins new World Farmers Organization

The National Farmers Union has joined more than 50 agricultural groups and cooperative organizations from across the world to create the World Farmers Organization (WFO), NFU President Roger Johnson announced today. Read More...

WTO schedules two more weeks of Doha talks

The World Trade Organization will hold another two weeks of Doha round multilateral negotiations between April 4 and 15, according to a source close to the WTO. Read More...

Rep. Levin: Send Korean trade pact to Congress

The Obama administration should send the Korean-U.S. free trade agreement to Congress for approval even if the Republicans do not agree in advance to support it, House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Sander Levin, D-Mich., said today, adding that Congress should approve it before Memorial Day. Read More...

Grains Council: Japanese mills should recover within months

Agricultural market analysts have issued conflicting reports on the prospects for U.S. sales to Japan following its earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant problems, but the U.S. Grains Council said it expects Japanese industry will be able to regain its normal feed mill production capacity within the next few months. Read More...

Grassley: Trade report shows harm of Chinese policies

The U.S. International Trade Commission today issued a report on Chinese government measures that limit U.S. agricultural exports to China. Read More...

Cotton Council worries trade reorg may hurt FAS, USTR

The National Cotton Council is concerned that the Obama administration’s plans to reorganize U.S. trade agencies might undermine the effectiveness of the Agriculture Department’s Foreign Agricultural Service and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. However, the Obama administration says it is not yet considering any specific proposals and will consult with stakeholders, including exporters, before making any decisions. Read More...

Dairy checkoff fees to apply to imports

Dairy importers and producers in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico will have to pay the checkoff fees that are applied to producers in the 48 continental states under a rule that the Agriculture Department’s Agricultural Marketing Service published in the Federal Register today. The assessment on Alaskan, Hawaii and Puerto Rican producers goes into effect on April 1 and on imports on August 1. Read More...

No breakthroughs reported in Doha ag talks

Ten days of negotiations on agriculture in the Doha Round of trade talks have produced no new breakthroughs, according to a source close to the World Trade Organization. Read More...

Farmers Union backs off blast at USTR over Korea pact

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said that the organization’s decision to oppose the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement was based primarily on its longstanding views, rather than the failure of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to send a speaker to its convention this week in San Antonio, but a USTR spokeswoman said that USTR regretted any confusion surrounding Farmers Union’s request for a speaker. Read More...

Farmers Union votes against Korea pact after USTR snub

SAN ANTONIO — The National Farmers Union has voted to oppose the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, partly because the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative did not send an official to their convention here to discuss trade, Farmers Union President Roger Johnson told The Hagstrom Report. Read More...

Discord continues over Korean trade agreement timing

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today urged Congress to ratify the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement soon rather than wait for the Colombian and Panamanian agreements to be submitted, even though Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Senate Finance ranking member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Wednesday that all three trade agreements should be submitted at once. Read More...

Vilsack urges ratification of U.S.-Korea trade agreement

Citing the importance of a free trade pact with Korea, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is urging Congress to ratify the U.S.-Korea agreement before July 1, when a European Union-Korean free trade agreement goes into effect. Read More...

Farm Bureau, Farmers Union await CBO budget score

TAMPA, Fla. — Farm groups won’t really be able to figure out their priorities for the 2012 farm bill until the Congressional Budget Office releases its 10-year forward-looking budget score in March 2012, key lobbyists for the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union agree. Read More...

Vilsack, Lucas agree, disagree on trade

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today that the Obama administration will send Congress the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement shortly and urged quick approval, but House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, D-Okla., said the White House should send the free trade agreements with Panama and Colombia at the same time. Read More...

Online map shows countries at risk from rising food prices

The Environmental Working Group and ActionAid USA today released an interactive map of countries that are at risk of a food crisis due to rising prices. Read More...

U.S., Mexico announce agreement on Mexican trade impasse

President Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon announced today that the United States and Mexico have announced an agreement in principle to resolve a trade impasse over allowing Mexican trucks to haul goods into the United States. Read More...

Ag exports expected to break record, with China top destination

U.S. agricultural exports for fiscal year 2011 will reach $135.5 billion by Sept. 30, breaking the U.S. one-year record by $20.6 billion, the Agriculture Department said Thursday at its annual Agricultural Outlook Forum. Read More...

Sugar users, growers prepare for farm bill battle

SAN DIEGO — World sugar prices are way above the U.S. support price, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a battle over the sugar program during the 2012 farm bill debate. Read More...

Little progress in latest Doha Round ag talks

Agriculture officials from around the world completed 10 days of negotiations on the World Trade Organization Doha Round agriculture talks in Geneva on Thursday, but made little or no progress, a source close to the WTO has told The Hagstrom Report. Read More...

Vilsack, Baucus spar over Korean trade agreement

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., exchanged words today over the proposed Korea-U.S. free trade agreement. Read More...

EU Ag Commissioner hopes to keep farm budget steady

In a statement with implications for the 2012 U.S. farm bill debate, European Union Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos said today that he hopes to keep the EU farm budget at the current level after the rewrite of the Common Agricultural Policy that is scheduled to go into effect in 2014. Read More...

Foreign Ag Service names new general sales manager

USDA Foreign Agriculture Service Administrator John Brewer today named Suzanne Heinen, a career FAS officer, as general sales manager and associate administrator of the agency, and said that Janet Nuzum, a politically appointed associate administrator who has been the general sales manager would shift her duties to associate administrator for policy. Read More...

Obama's USDA: Interview with Agriculture Secretary Vilsack

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said despite the Democrats’ losses in rural America in the 2010 congressional elections, he believes President Obama will do well when he runs for re-election in 2012. Even though the president is criticized by both organic and conventional farmers for not favoring one approach to agriculture, Vilsack said farmers will recognize that the Obama administration’s attempt to aid all types of agricultural production is the best way to proceed. Vilsack also said he still enjoys his job and has no plans to leave. Read More...

Obama loosens Cuban travel rules

The White House announced late today that President Obama has directed the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Homeland Security to take a series of steps to ease American travel to Cuba. The new rules will allow religious organizations to sponsor religious travel to Cuba, make educational and academic exchanges easier, and make it easier for Cuban Americans to see their families in Cuba and send money to people outside their families. “The president believes these actions, combined with the continuation of the embargo, are important steps in reaching the widely shared goal of a Cuba that respects the basic rights of all its citizens,” the White House statement said. Read More...