The Hagstrom Report

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Obama's USDA: Undersecretary Tonsager says Recovery Act a big help through Rural Development

Agriculture Undersecretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager runs what former President Clinton last week called “an underappreciated division of USDA that will become more important in the years ahead.” Many economists and develop experts would agree. Read More...

Female, Hispanic farmers not satisfied with loan discrimination case resolution

The Obama administration today announced a process to resolve the claims of female and Hispanic farmers who have sued the Agriculture Department for loan program discrimination, but lawyers for the plaintiffs signaled they were not yet satisfied because the settlement does not match earlier settlements for black and Native American farmers. Read More...

Groups urge Senate to oppose anti-ethanol measures

Seven farm and ethanol groups have sent a letter to all senators urging them to defeat “any efforts that would damage the American ethanol industry’s growth,” Growth Energy, an ethanol lobbying group announced today. 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...

Clinton jokes lighten up Outlook Forum

CRYSTAL CITY, Va. — When former President Bill Clinton spoke to the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack noted that Clinton was the first president to address the meeting. But he might have said Clinton was the outlook conference's first comedian. Read More...

President Clinton urges balance in food-vs.-fuel debate

CRYSTAL CITY, Va. — Former President Bill Clinton seemed to join the food-versus-fuel debate today, saying that a balance should be struck in the use of corn for food and ethanol to avoid food riots, a statement that won quick retorts from the Renewable Fuels Association and the National Corn Growers Association. Read More...

'Feed the Future' not competition, Vilsack and Clinton say

CRYSTAL CITY, Va. — American farmers do not need to be worried that the Obama administration’s efforts to improve agriculture in poor countries will lead to more competition, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and former President Bill Clinton said today. Read More...

Stabenow talks production agriculture, need to push principles in farm bill

CRYSTAL CITY, Va. — Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said today she wants to make farm programs established in the 2012 farm bill “work for production agriculture,” and that her committee, the Agriculture Department and the Environmental Protection Agency are putting together a joint working group on EPA’s agriculture regulation. Read More...

Dinneen, Grassley call for ethanol unity

PHOENIX — The ethanol industry needs to quickly get behind a reform program to take to Congress and has key meetings planned in Washington later this week, industry leaders said here at the National Ethanol Conference Monday and Tuesday. 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...

USDA issues proposed rule to start inspecting catfish

Nearly three years after the 2008 farm bill mandated that the inspection of catfish be shifted from the Food and Drug Administration to the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, FSIS today announced a proposed rule under which it would inspect catfish. Read More...

Clinton sends cable on food safety

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today sent U.S. overseas missions a cable detailing plans to implement the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act that Congress passed in December and President Obama signed in early January. 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...

Food security advocates fighting aid cutbacks in H.R. 1

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., has urged food aid advocates to insist that members of Congress not vote to cut international food aid, as the House Republican bill to finance the government through September 30 would do. 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...

Aggies urge Vilsack to rein in Jackson at EPA

A series of House and Senate Agriculture committee members today told Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory zeal is the biggest problem in rural America, and urged him to try to influence EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s decision making. Read More...

House Ag Chairman seeks industry consensus on dairy program rewrite

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and key House Democrats said today that Congress should consider rewriting the dairy program this year, but House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said he will bring up a bill only if the dairy farmers and processors agree on how the program should be changed. Read More...

Ag, renewable fuels groups protest GOP budget cuts

Thirty-two agriculture groups representing the breadth of food production and ideology have asked each member to reconsider the Republican continuing resolution now moving through the House of Representatives, saying agriculture is being asked to bear too much of the budget cuts. The groups range from the American Farm Bureau Federation to the National Farmers Union, and include commodity, credit and crop insurance groups. Read More...

USDA announces temporary appointments

Karis Gutter, a senior adviser to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, will serve as acting deputy undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services. Read More...

OMB threatens veto over House GOP spending resolution

The White House Office of Management and Budget threatened today that President Obama would veto a spending bill similar to the continuing resolution that the House of Representatives is considering, while two key renewable fuels groups came down hard on anti-ethanol amendments offered to that bill. Read More...

Stabenow appoints Adamo, Coppess as senior Senate Ag staff

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has named two key senior staffers for the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. Read More...

Vilsack: Deficit-cutting budget must preserve U.S. competitiveness

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today presented an Obama administration budget proposal with few surprises, but also warned House Republicans, who are proposing a big cut in USDA programs for the remainder of this fiscal year, that cutting the budget deficit should not reduce American competitiveness. Read More...

Food aid, farmer interests protest proposed ag budget cuts

If the budget cuts proposed by House Republicans for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year go into effect, nearly 18 million hungry people worldwide will lose American food aid and farmers will lose benefits guaranteed to them under the 2008 farm bill, key lobbyists said over the weekend as they began campaigns to try to stop the cuts in either the House or the Senate. Read More...

Families of peanut poisoning victims urge Justice to file charges

Relatives of people killed or sickened by peanut salmonella poisoning in 2008 and 2009 today urged the Justice Department to file criminal charges against Stewart Parnell, owner of the Peanut Corporation of America, the source of the tainted peanuts and peanut products. Read More...

Battle begins over deregulation of amylase corn

The Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced today its decision to deregulate corn genetically engineered to produce a common enzyme called alpha-amylase that breaks down starch into sugar. It is used in ethanol production. Read More...

House Ag Committee approves oversight agenda

The House Agriculture Committee Thursday approved an agenda of oversight hearings that includes all USDA functions and those of some agencies over which the committee does not have direct jurisdiction, such as the Environmental Protection Agency. Read More...

Vilsack proposes new U.S. Forest Service planning rule

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today released a new planning rule for the national forests. The proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement are subject to a 90-day public comment period that will end on May 16. Read More...

House Ag considers impact of Dodd-Frank swaps and derivatives title

The Republican and Democratic lines of questioning couldn’t have been more different Thursday when the House Agriculture Committee held a hearing to review the impact of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s implementation of the swaps and derivatives title of the Dodd-Frank financial services bill on farmers, co-ops, agribusinesses and other entities. Read More...

Leahy, Grassley want action on agricultural competitiveness

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the new ranking member of the committee, wrote Attorney General Eric Holder and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today to ask what steps they plan to take on competitiveness issues in agriculture after holding a series of workshops on the subject last year. Read More...

Gensler to testify at House Ag Committee

Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler will be the lead witness when the House Agriculture Committee holds a hearing Thursday on implementation of Title VII of the Dodd-Frank bill, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said in an advisory today. Read More...

Stabenow schedules first Senate Ag Committee hearing

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., announced today that her first hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 17 on the topic “Agriculture: Growing America’s Economy.” Read More...

Prices too high for countercyclical payments

Prices were too high for the Agriculture Department to issue countercyclical payments on a range of commodities and peanuts in 2010 and for rice in 2009, USDA Farm Service Agency Administrator Jonathan Coppess announced today. 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...

National Cotton Council holds off on farm bill, monitors trade issues

SAN ANTONIO — With action on the farm bill not unexpected until 2012, trade negotiations in flux, cotton prices at record levels and the outcome of federal budget battles uncertain, the National Cotton Council has postponed any decisions about farm bill priorities and is focusing on trade issues in the short term. Read More...

Cotton producers to increase plantings

SAN ANTONIO – U.S. cotton producers intend to plant 12.5 million acres of cotton this spring, up 14 percent from 2010, and less corn, soybeans, specialty crops and peanuts, according to the National Cotton Council’s 28th Annual Early Season Planting Intentions Survey released at the council’s annual meeting here last weekend. Read More...

National Cattlemen elect pony-tailed president with ties to rival group

DENVER — On paper, Bill Donald looks like a typical National Cattlemen’s Beef Association president. A third-generation Montana rancher, Donald runs his operation with the help of his wife and two sons. But in person, he is something quite different. He sports a ponytail and relishes explaining his role in the founding of R-CALF USA, NCBA’s philosophical and membership rival. Read More...

USDA partially deregulates GMO sugar beets

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service today partially deregulated genetically modified sugar beet seed for planting. The decision will allow farmers to move ahead with planting while USDA works on its environmental analysis of the crop. Read More...

Subsidy cuts could mean coverage cutbacks, crop insurers told

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — USDA Risk Management Agency Administrator Bill Murphy said today that the cost of the producer premium subsidy for crop insurance could reach $5.5 billion in 2011, but that if Congress cuts the subsidy, farmers are likely to cut back on their coverage for potential losses. Read More...

Roberts: Food stamps should be on table in deficit reduction

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Senate Agriculture ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, said today that food stamps should be on the table along with farm subsidies in federal budget deficit reduction, but a key Farm Bureau lobbyist said it is unlikely Congress will make a substantial cut in a program that is feeding 43 million people during a recession. Read More...

Crop insurance subsidies could face cuts, Farm Bureau lobbyist says

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Federal subsidies for crop insurance premiums could be a target for cuts as Congress tries to reduce the budget deficit and wrestles with a new farm bill in 2012, a key Farm Bureau lobbyist said here today at the annual meeting of the Crop Insurance Research Bureau. Read More...

House Agriculture Committee schedules hearings

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., announced today that the committee will hold a business meeting next Thursday to consider his plan for overseeing the executive branch during this Congress. Read More...

New York Times begins new Bittman food column

The New York Times has debuted a new food opinion column written by Mark Bittman, food columnist for the Times’ Sunday magazine who for 13 years wrote a column called “Minimalist.” Read More...

Seyfert to head Senate GOP Ag Committee staff

Senate Agriculture ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, announced today that Mike Seyfert, his legislative director since 2005 and an aide for 14 years, will be minority staff director of the Agriculture committee. Read More...

USDA releases state food stamp participation rate report

The Agriculture Department today released a study on food stamp participation rates in each of the 50 states as of 2008, the latest year for which figures are available. Read More...

Obama's USDA: Undersecretary Kevin Concannon: No food stamp cut expected

The Agriculture Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services says he does not expect a funding challenge to the food stamp program, even though Congress and the Office of Management and Budget will be combing through the federal budget looking for cuts and a presidential commission said all programs had to be on the table in the attempt to balance the budget. Read More...

FAO announces six candidates for next director general

Former European Union Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler is the most notable of six candidates for the job of director general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. 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...

GOP Caucus votes Roberts in as ranking member of Senate Ag Committee

The Senate Republican Caucus voted Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, to be the ranking Republican member of the Senate Agriculture Committee today, making him the first member of Congress to have served as both chairman and ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee and ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Read More...