May 2014 Farm News

Tuesday, May 27 2014
Farm News
--With the Senate in recess all week, agricultural stakeholders will be focused on the House Appropriations Committee which meets on to consider the FY 2015 spending bill for the USDA and FDA.  The panel's agriculture subcommittee last week approved a measure that authorizes $20.9 billion in discretionary spending and includes a controversial provision that would set up a waiver process for school districts that say they are unable to comply with tougher nutrition standards for school meal programs. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the provision would be a step backward in the effort to combat childhood obesity. The bill would also add white potatoes to the list of vegetables participants could purchase under the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its funding bill last week. Eventually, House and Senate bills will have to be reconciled in a conference committee.  In other House action, the Small Business Committee on Thursday will hold a hearing to examine EPA's proposed rule to broaden the scope of waters subject to federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.




Friday, May 23rd 2014
Farm News
--The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) presented a positive outlook for U.S. meat exports, bringing more than 125 members and international buyers together during the organization's board of directors meeting in Kansas City, Mo., this week.  The U.S. is among 12 counties trying to create a free trade zone with 40 percent of the world economy in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, which will meet again in July with a heightened concentration on relations between the U.S. and Japan. Stalemates remain regarding GMO and growth hormone polices. Seng said he expects a meaningful outcome to the beef and pork industries from negotiations.

--The South Dakota Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from television network ABC challenging a lower court's refusal to throw out Beef Products Inc.'s (BPI) lawsuit.  The beef processing company is suing ABC in a $1.2 billion defamation lawsuit over news reports in 2012, in which ABC reporters refer to BPI's lean finely textured beef (LFTB) as “pink slime.”  The circuit court's ruling in March rejected the network's motion to throw out the case.  BPI, based in Dakota Dunes, said ABC's reports misled consumers into believing LFTB was unhealthy and unsafe. Defendants in the case include ABC as well as anchor Diane Sawyer.  In the court order issued Thursday, the state's high court also lifted a stay it had granted during ABC's motion to appeal. The case may now move onto discovery phase.




Thursday, May 22nd 2014
Farm News
--The Senate approved the Water Resources and Reform Development Act (WRRDA)conference report by a huge margin, 91-7 today, just two days after the House of Representatives passed the $12.3 billion package with a vote of 412-4. President Obama is expected to sign the bill within a few days.  Members of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association applauded a provision in the bill that will ease the burden of the EPA's Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure rule.  The current EPA SPCC rule for farms requires compliance if an operation has 1,320 gallons, or more, of aboveground fuel storage and allows self-certification up to 10,000 gallons. This not only includes fuel storage but requires aboveground feed storage to be included in the total if it meets the broad definition of “oil” which includes the base of many liquid cattle feeds.  Under the provision in the WRRDA legislation, the aggregate aboveground fuel exemption limit is raised to 6,000 gallons for operations with no history of spills and no single tank with a capacity of 10,000 gallons or more from having to develop a plan.  The provision will require a self-certified plan for operations that have aggregate aboveground fuel storage above 6,000 and below 20,000 gallons with no history of spills and no single tank capacity of 10,000 gallons or more. Moreover, the legislation exempts fuel tanks with a capacity of 1,000 gallons or less and all tanks that hold animal feed ingredients from the aggregate calculations.  Those operations that do not meet these exemptions will require a Spill Containment Plan, certified by a professional engineer.  Still, there were several critics of bill, including Sen. Jeff Flake, R- Ariz., and conservative lobbying groups like Heritage Action.




Wednesday, May 21st 2014
Farm News
--It may not be a “cure-all,” but USDA's newest effort to revamp “whole farm” insurance policies represents a “great step forward” that could really help smaller and more diversified operations with their risk management needs. At least that's the perspective from Brandon Willis, USDA's Administrator of the Risk Management Agency (RMA). Even more remarkable, the changes were proposed by potential customers and approved in less than a year - the equivalent of “light speed” for a federal agency.  At the urging of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last year, and armed with reforms included in the new farm bill, RMA embarked on a mission to address some of the barriers that farmers confronted with whole farm plans. These plans, which aim to protect against low farm income based on historical Internal Revenue Service filings of Form 1040 (Schedule F), haven't gotten much respect or attention since they were first introduced in 1999.  During the May 7-8 board meeting, the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) approved changes that will create the new “Whole Farm Revenue Protection” insurance product in areas where AGR and AGRLT had been available.




Tuesday, May 20th 2014
Farm News
--The selection of the 12 finalists who will compete for Princess Kay of the Milky Way were announced Sunday in St. Cloud. The newest and 61st Princess Kay will be named just before the opening of the Minnesota State Fair in August, and each of the 12 finalists for the title will be sculpted in butter throughout the Fair.  The finalists were named at the conclusion of a three-day workshop attended by more than 70 county dairy princesses. They include: Meghan Connelly of Rochester, representing Olmsted County, daughter of Kevin and Kathy Connelly; Annie Culbertson, Pine Island, representing Olmsted  County, daughter of Scott and Tina Culbertson; Jeni Haler, Norwood Young America, representing Carver County, daughter of Rick Haler and Connie Haasken; Nicole Krumrie, Litchfield, representing Meeker County, daughter of Dan and Beth Krumrie;  Audrey Lane, Prior Lake, representing Scott and LeSueur Counties, daughter of Burel and Norleen Lane; Christine Leonard, Norwood Young America, representing Carver County, daughter of Tim and Amy Leonard; Sabrina Ley, Belgrade, representing Stearns County, daughter of Kenny and Cheryl Ley; Leah Middendorf, Sauk Centre, representing Stearns County, daughter of Steve and Julie Middendorf; Sarah Post, Chandler, representing Murray County, daughter of Bill and Merri Post; Chelsea Schossow, Houston, representing Winona County, daughter of Keith Schossow and Cindy Terrill; Gabriella Sorg, Hastings, representing Dakota County, daughter of William and Juanita Sorg; and McCayla Thoe, Hayfield, representing Dodge County, daughter of Jeff and Susie Thoe. On behalf of Minnesota’s dairy farmers, Princess Kay makes appearances to help explain their commitment to taking care of the animals and resources while providing wholesome, nutritious and affordable dairy products.  Midwest Dairy Association manages the program.

--Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that $15 million in targeted assistance will be provided to help farmers, ranchers and private forest owners in rural areas of 20 states that experience “persistent poverty.”  The funding,  part of USDA's StrikeForce initiative, was announced on the Secretary's behalf by Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller during a visit to predominantly Native American and Hispanic American communities in New Mexico.  Through NRCS, USDA will provide technical and financial assistance in StrikeForce areas, including $450,000 in rural New Mexico. Weller said that through StrikeForce USDA is now working with 80 percent more farmers and ranchers than before in persistent poverty counties and has invested a total of $652 million in targeted conservation funding since 2010.  StrikeForce funds, provided through the USDA Environmental Quality Incentives Program, can be used for conservation activities, including water conservation improvements and soil protection. Applications are accepted at local USDA Service Centers.  USDA's StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity provides assistance in rural communities with a special emphasis on historically underserved farmers, ranchers and communities in counties with persistent poverty.  More than 700 rural counties, parishes, boroughs and tribal reservations are part of the StrikeForce effort, in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.




Monday, May 19th 2014
Farm News
--President Obama has proclaimed this week as World Trade Week, shining a spotlight on several important commerce-related events in and around the nation's capital.  Firstly, all week long officials for the U.S. and Europe will be meeting in Arlington, Virginia, in the fifth round of negotiations aimed at forging a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union and creating one of the world's biggest free trade zones.  Also this week, the House of Representatives will take up the recently agreed to Conference Report to H.R. 3080, the$8.2 billion Water Resources Reform and Development Act, which would fund improvements and construction projects for the nation's ports and inland waterway system, facilitating movement of the nation's agricultural products to markets at home and abroad. The Senate may also consider the bill.  Note also that the agriculture subcommittees from both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are scheduled to meet separately Tuesday to markup FY15 Agriculture Appropriations legislation.





Thursday, May 15th 2014
Farm News
--The Morrison County FSA reminds farmers that while planting has been delayed due to the cooler and wetter spring, eventually farmers will be done planting and will need to report your acreage to your county FSA office. As soon as farmers complete planting they should schedule an appointment with their FSA office as the FSA Acreage reporting deadline is July 15th. Late fees apply after the deadline. Filing your reports at FSA before you file with your crop insurance agent will reduce the risk of errors as most agents prefer to have a copy of the FSA acreage report when you file your acres with them. Planted crop acres cannot be reported to FSA until planting is completed. The final planting date for corn is May 31st and the final planting date for soybeans in June 10th. FSA will be unable to accept a prevent plant report until the final planting ate for that crop has passed. For more information contact your local FSA office, in Morrison County it is 632-5477 and www.fsa.usda.gov.

--After announcing an agreement last week, House and Senate negotiators released details of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA). The far-reaching legislation would authorize projects aimed at fixing ailing locks and dams, improving ports and waterways, restoring damaged ecosystems, and creating an estimated 500,000 new jobs.  Votes are expected on the conference report to H.R. 3080 as early as next week when both chambers are back in Washington. The House is in recess this week.  Both the House and Senate bills considered in conference enjoyed wide-bipartisan support when they were passed. The Senate approved its $12.5 billion version almost a year ago and the House followed suit with its $8.2 billion bill in October.  

--Biodiesel producers joined a group of Democrat senators at a press conference Wednesday, calling for Congress to restore the biodiesel tax incentive and for the EPA and the Obama administration to rethink its plan to reduce mandated biofuel use under the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS).  Despite record biodiesel production last year of nearly 1.8 billion gallons, the EPA has proposed holding the biodiesel RFS volume at 1.28 billion gallons this year and next. Overall, the EPA is calling for 15.21 billion gallons of renewable fuel blending this year, down from 18.15 billion mandated in the 2007 law that set up the standard.  The senators said the EPA's proposal, if left unaltered, could force many biodiesel producers to shut down. Attending the press conference were Senators Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken of Minnesota, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.  They backed up their argument with the results of a survey of 54 biodiesel producers conducted by the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) that found nearly 80 percent have scaled back production this year and more than half have shut down a plant. Two-thirds of producers said they have already reduced or anticipate reducing their workforce. NBB says these cutbacks are partly due to the EPA's proposal for the RFS and Congress' failure to extend the biodiesel tax incentive.

--Almost three dozen advanced biofuel companies, led by the Advanced Ethanol Council and Biotechnology Industry Organization, sent a letter to President Barack Obama to express the industry's concern about the proposed rule for the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  The companies urged the president to maintain current RFS requirements. 





Wednesday, May 14th 2014
Farm News
--The Senate Agriculture Committee focused on the world of high frequency trading during a hearing Tuesday where Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow sought to clarify how high speed traders affect agricultural futures markets and whether regulators have the capacity to keep up.  Derivatives markets have evolved in recent years to use high frequency trading, a form of automated trading that uses computer algorithms to conduct trades in fractions of a second. The Senate Agriculture Committee is tasked with oversight of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and its role monitoring the futures markets.  

--Minnesota livestock producers can submit notices of animal loss and apply for payment to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) disaster programs, which were reinstated with the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill. Funding is retroactive and covers some losses back to October, 2011.  Claims from past years must have proper documentation to receive funding, which may include photos, ownership records or purchase and transportation receipts.  Questions and specific qualifications and deadlines to file for losses can be directed to your local FSA office.  

--USDA World Agricultural Outlook Board Chair Dr. Gerald Bange will be retiring as of May 31st and Dr. Seth Meyer has be been appointed as Acting Board Chair. Dr. Meyer is currently a Senior Economist in the Office of the Chief Economist (OCE) and will assume his new duties June 1st.




Tuesday, May 13th 2014
Farm News
--Legislation that would permanently ban horse slaughter in the U.S. and prohibit the sale of horses to other countries for human consumption may get increased traction in Congress as a temporary ban on slaughter facilities ends.  Currently, under the fiscal year 2014 omnibus appropriations bill, companies are effectively banned from conducting horse slaughter operations in the nation until Sept. 30. This was done by prohibiting funding for USDA inspectors to conduct work in the three facilities that were gearing up to begin operations. That legislation, however, did not ban the sales of horses to Canada and Mexico.




Monday, May 12th 2014
Farm News
--The House is in recess this week but the Senate has a busy schedule, with lots of news expected on the transportation front - both on water and on land.  Firstly, key lawmakers behind the long-awaited $8.2 billion Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) say they plan to finalize paperwork on a House-Senate conference agreement this week, allowing the measure to go before both chambers soon for final passage. The bill will fund projects that maintain and improve the nation's port and inland waterway system. The last water resources bill was enacted in 2007





Wednesday, May 7th 2014
Farm News
--The American Meat Institute today released the results of a survey that shows consumers are confused about the causes of antibiotic resistance and the use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry production. At the same time, AMI published a brochure to counter the misconceptions.  In the survey, more than 2,100 adults were asked to pick what the Centers for Disease Control sees as the “greatest contributing factor to human antibiotic resistance.” Only 41 percent correctly answered “health professionals over-prescribing to people,” while 18 percent thought use of antibiotics in livestock production was the main cause. About 7 percent blamed antimicrobial hand sanitizers, and 5 percent picked drinking water. Some 28 percent were unsure.





Monday, May 5th 2014
Farm News
--USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced that sign-up begins today for 2012 crop losses under the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) program. The program, established by the 2008 Farm Bill, provides for one final period of eligibility for producers suffering crop losses caused by natural disasters occurring through Sept. 30, 2011, for crops intended for 2012 harvest.

--Agricultural stakeholders are expected this week to focus on USDA implementation of the farm bill and international trade negotiations.  On Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is scheduled to address the Senate Agriculture Committee about USDA progress on the farm bill. Vilsack has released several implementation dates for farm programs, and has said he expects “everything to be in place” for the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and the Agricultural Risk Coverage programs by the fall. Vilsack also will likely address commodity title program rules during the hearing.  Vilsack has said that some crop insurance provisions, like conservation compliance rules, may be delayed until 2015. And, the definition of “actively engaged” producers is likely to be actively discussed at the hearing. “This is a very difficult issue to provide the kind of clarity and certainty that people would like to have,” Vilsack said at a recent hearing. USDA began the application process for the livestock disaster assistance program recently, and senators will certainly want to know how that is progressing.  On trade, USDA is kicking off a mission to promote U.S. agricultural goods in northeast China. The mission, which runs through May 13, is being led by Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse. Leaders from state departments of agriculture in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Washington are participating, as are representatives from 28 agriculture-related companies and organizations, including the U.S. Soybean Export Council, the U.S. Grains Council, the National Farmers Union, Growth Energy and the U.S. Rice Producers Association.  U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman will be making his rounds to press for the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) during visits to Berlin and Paris.  Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler will deliver a keynote address Wednesday on the Obama administration's trade policy agenda and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) at a trade policy conference organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council.






Friday, May 2nd 2014

Farm News
--Legislation to authorize construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline was introduced late Thursday by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.  The legislation also would finalize the long-running environmental review process while respecting existing private property rights, Landrieu said. Supporters say construction of the pipeline would create more than 42,000 jobs and generate more than $20 billion in economic activity.  The proposed pipeline would transport oil from the Alberta tar oil sands in Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast. Opponents argue the 1,700-mile project would increase global warming and make the U.S. more dependent on “dirty fossil fuel.” The Obama administration has repeatedly said the pipeline needs more study, while supporters have said it would create thousands of jobs and lower U.S. reliance on foreign oil.  The bill introduction came about a week after Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., urged the State Department to conduct an “independent, comprehensive” study of potential health impacts associated with the project.  In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Boxer and Whitehouse requested a human health study of tar sands and the proposed pipeline. The senators said the letter was in response to a recent statement by a State Department official that the department's forthcoming national interest determinations report for the pipeline “will address health impacts,” but did not specify whether it would include an independent, comprehensive look the impacts.  The State Department recently announced that it is extending the comment period for federal agencies to submit views on the project. The move prompted immediate criticism from several lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, some of whom have accused the administration of trying to delay making a decision on the project until after the mid-term elections in November. Other lawmakers and stakeholders argue that more review of the project is necessary.




Thursday, May 1st 2014

Farm News
--Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that applications are now being accepted for new, landmark conservation initiatives created by the 2014 Farm Bill. The programs will provide up to $386 million to help farmers restore wetlands, protect working agriculture lands, support outdoor recreation activities and boost the economy.  Vilsack made the announcement at Kuhn Orchards in Orrtanna, Pennsylvania. The farm's owners participate in the USDA Conservation Stewardship Program, have worked to encourage pollinator health through planting practices, and used USDA program support to construct a high tunnel.  The new programs announced today are the Agricultural Conservation Easements Program (ACEP) and the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP). Applications for ACEP funding consideration in fiscal year 2014 must be submitted by the individual state deadline or June 6, 2014, whichever is earlier. Applications and state deadline information can be obtained at the local USDA Service Center or at www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted. Applications for VPA-HIP are due by June 16 and should be completed at Grants.gov. For more information, view the notice on Grants.gov or the program's website.  Through the 2014 Farm Bill's new conservation programs, USDA is making available up to $366 million for conservation easements under ACEP to state and local governments, Indian tribes, non-governmental organizations and private landowners. ACEP consolidates three former easement programs-the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program, the Grassland Reserve Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program-into one to make conservation efforts more efficient while strengthening tools to protect land and water.

--The president of the European Commission urged negotiators in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks to reach a deal quickly, before critics can drum up more opposition to the proposed pact.  In an address at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Jose Manuel Barroso called on “both parties, America and the European Union, to devote a lot of political energy” to completing the free trade treaty. Prolonging negotiations would give naysayers time to “highlight what they perceive as negative,” he said.  Barroso told an audience of business leaders from Europe and the U.S. that both sides must be ready to compromise, keeping an eye on the overall benefits of a free trade zone, rather than concentrating on separate sectors such as agriculture.  Europeans at the Chamber event said they were particularly worried about public support for the TTIP deal. Public dialogue on the proposed treaty - which some Europeans worry will lower food safety standards - is more negative in Europe than in the U.S.