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Agriculture News As It Happens

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Judge blocks California's low-carbon fuel standard

A federal district court judge today ruled that California’s low-carbon fuel standard, known as LCFS, violates the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, a ruling that appears at least initially to be good news for the nation’s corn ethanol industry and bad news for environmental critics who have argued that corn-based ethanol leads to changes in land use in other countries. Read More...

Senators fight rule restricting teen farm workers

Thirty senators led by Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kans., and Ben Nelson, D-Neb., sent Labor Secretary Hilda Solis a letter this week urging her to withdraw a proposed rule that would restrict teenagers who are not the children of farm operators from working on farms. Read More...

Absent Doha agreement, African cotton growers wooed

The United States, China and the European Union appear to be vying for popularity with the West African cotton producing countries by offering new forms of assistance and attention in the absence of a World Trade Organization Doha round agreement that would reduce cotton subsidies around the world. Read More...

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...

Food safety group releases progress report

The Obama administration has released a report from the federal food safety working group.
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Ethanol coalition optimistic for 2012

Leaders of Growth Energy, the ethanol coalition, painted a positive portrait of the industry going into 2012 in a call to reporters today, even though the ethanol tax break and protective tariff will expire on Dec. 31 and there are campaigns to get rid of the renewable fuel standard. Read More...

Strong farm economy keeps ag issues off candidate radar

Remember the days when the Iowa presidential caucuses were marked by big, serious debates over farm policy and ethanol? Not this year. The farm economy is in possibly its best shape in American history and farm issues are not hot. Read More...

French Embassy website explains French food to U.S.

The French Embassy in Washington has launched a website to explain the importance of food and agriculture in France, in the world and in Franco-American relations. Read More...

Labor announces new adverse effect wage rates

The minimum hourly wage rates that employers must pay H-2A workers on temporary visas will go up in some states, down in others, and stay the same in some cases, the Labor Department announced today. 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...

Farm Bureau to present 'systemic risk reduction' policy

Delegates to the American Farm Bureau Federation convention in Honolulu early next month will consider a policy very similar to the one presented to the agriculture committees this fall when they were writing a bill to be presented to the supercommittee on deficit reduction, Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman said in an interview today. Read More...

Bertini: Food aid to North Korea would help relationship

The United States should provide food aid to North Korea as part of an effort to build a new relationship with that country after the death of its longtime leader, a former U.N. World Food Program executive director said today. Read More...

Kirk welcomes Japan's review of beef ban

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk today praised Japan's decision to review its ban on importation of certain cuts of beef, Reuters reported today. Read More...

Happy Holidays from CFA: Watch calories in what you drink

Noting that the federal government has declined to give consumers “the gift of information on alcoholic beverages,” the Consumer Federation of America today pointed to its chart revealing the caloric and carbohydrate content of some alcoholic beverages. 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...

Delaney moves to American Soybean Association

The American Soybean Association has hired Patrick Delaney, a communications officer for the United Fresh Produce Association, as its new communications director. 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...

Senators seek appeal of country-of-origin labeling decision

A bipartisan coalition of 19 senators led by Sens. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., today called on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to appeal a World Trade Organization decision that was critical of the U.S. country-of-origin food labeling program. 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...

Kirk: WTO not meeting needs of emerging nations

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said at the opening plenary session of the World Trade Organization ministers’ meeting in Geneva today that member countries should “celebrate” the organization’s long-term significance, but also understand that the Doha round is not working because growing developing countries are not acknowledging their responsibilities. Read More...

USDA: More farmers markets expanding to winter operation

The number of farmers markets operating in the winter increased 38 percent since 2010, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced today. 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...

Senate Ag hearing Thursday on Scuse, other nominees

The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on three of President Barack Obama’s nominees whose positions require Senate confirmation, a spokesman for Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said today. Read More...

Boehner invites Obama to give State of Union on Jan. 24

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, today invited President Barack Obama to deliver the State of the Union address on Jan. 24. 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...

Need for money-saving farm bill behind farm group conflicts

The need to write a new farm bill that saves money may result in some conflicts within and between farm groups next year, if the events of the last few days are any indication. Read More...

After review, NASS to bring back some of its reports

The Agriculture Department’s National Agricultural Statistics Service has decided to reinstate a series of reports it had said it could no longer produce. Read More...

Senate Ag Committee sets nomination hearing

The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on pending nominees next Thursday, said Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. Read More...

Farm groups have mixed reaction to final GIPSA rule

The Agriculture Department’s scheduled publication today of the final rule implementing the 2008 farm bill provisions of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration has elicited a wide range of reactions from farm groups. Read More...

Proposed House bill would fund CFTC through user fees

Democratic Reps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Peter Welch of Vermont and Leonard Boswell of Iowa said Thursday they would introduce a bill to fully fund the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Read More...

FRAC study shows average household food spending declining

The Food Research & Action Center has released a study showing that average household spending on food fell from 2000 to 2010, with particularly dramatic drops in Hispanic and African-American households. FRAC attributed the drop to overall declining household incomes. 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...

Native American farmer, rancher advisory board established

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the establishment of a special advisory board to help USDA officials make sure Native Americans participate in and benefit from USDA programs. Read More...

Corzine will testify before House Ag Committee Thursday

Former MF Global CEO Jon Corzine has responded to a subpoena from the House Agriculture Committee that he will testify about the bankrupt firm on Thursday, and the Senate Agriculture Committee voted unanimously to subpoena Corzine for a hearing on Dec. 13. Read More...

USDA launches measures to reduce food stamp fraud

Agriculture Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumers Services Kevin Concannon today unveiled a series of what he called “aggressive new steps” to cut down on fraud and abuse in the supplemental nutrition assistance program known as SNAP and still called food stamps by many Americans.
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Congress should consider adding farm bill proposal to payroll tax relief extension bill, Peterson says

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said today that Congress should consider adding the farm bill that was prepared for the failed supercommittee on deficit reduction to the bill to pay for an extension of payroll tax relief and unemployment insurance and prevent doctors who take Medicare patients from seeing a cut in their payments. Read More...

Stabenow: Ag leaders proposal to supercommittee will be sound basis for new farm bill in 2012

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said today that the farm bill proposal prepared for the failed supercommittee on deficit reduction fit within the budget allocated for it and will provide the basis for starting consideration of the farm bill next year, but that she does not plan to release a detailed copy of the bill. 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...

Peterson: Payroll tax relief bill should include farm bill

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said today that Congress should consider attaching the farm bill developed for the supercommittee to the bill to extend payroll tax relief and deal with other federal financial obligations. 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...

Vilsack: Increased efforts, economy drive lunch program rise

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has told The Hagstrom Report that the rise in the number of children receiving free and reduced price school meals is due to a combination of efforts to register the children for those meals and the increased number of children who are eligible because their parents have experienced unemployment or a loss of income. Read More...

Lucas: House Ag committee action on farm bill will wait

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., signaled today that his committee may not take up the next farm bill for several months. 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...

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...

Simpson goes to work for Sen. Johanns

Nick Simpson, who has been the communications director for Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and the Senate Republican Conference, has accepted a position as the communications director for Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., Simpson said in an email to reporters today. 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...