The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

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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...

Humanitarian coalition fights food aid cuts

A coalition of humanitarian groups today urged Congress not to cut food aid as it finalizes the fiscal year 2011 budget. Read More...

Lugar sweetens sugar program repeal plan with cartoon

In an odd political twist, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., under pressure from the tea party in his 2012 re-election campaign, has released a cartoon titled “Lugar’s Sweet Tea Party.” Read More...

POET's Broin: Blender pumps key to ethanol competition

If 200,000 blender pumps were constructed at gasoline stations around the country in five years, ethanol could compete “head on” with petroleum, the head of the world’s largest producer of renewable fuel told the Senate Agriculture Committee today. Read More...

EWG: 23 members of Congress got farm subsidies

Twenty-three members of Congress or their family members received farm subsidies between 1995 and 2009, and the Republican farmer members got much bigger subsidies than the Democratic farmer members, according to a study released by the Environmental Working Group today. Read More...

New administrator at Animal and Plant Health Inspection

Dr. Gregory Parham has been named the new administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, succeeding Cindy Smith, who will become an adviser on government, academia, and industry partnerships. 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...

School Nutrition Association objects to some meal standards

The School Nutrition Association told the Agriculture Department today that it objects to many of the key changes in school meal standards that the agency has proposed following the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in December. Read More...

Elanco mounts campaign to defend its agricultural technologies

The animal health division of Eli Lilly and Company is launching a major initiative to defend new and existing agricultural technologies and oppose campaigns it views as limiting technology and consumer choice, Elanco President Jeff Simmons said at a Washington news conference today. Read More...

Senate Ag staffer joins Torrey Associates

Christy Seyfert, a senior professional staffer on the Senate Agriculture Committee, has left to join Michael Torrey Associates, a government relations and association management firm, Torrey announced Monday. Read More...

SPECIAL REPORT | Stabenow: Senate will proceed on its own schedule to write, finish farm bill

Senate Agriculture Commitee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., says the Senate will proceed on its own schedule on the farm bill and should finish the bill as quickly as possible, but she will not promise to finish the bill in 2012. 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...

Lucas announces beef industry hearing

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., announced Thursday that the House Agriculture Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Subcommittee will hold a hearing on April 6 at 9:30 a.m. to review the state of the beef industry. Read More...

Senate Ag's first farm bill hearing set for Michigan

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., announced today that the committee's first farm bill hearing will be held held on April 9 at Michigan State University in East Lansing. Read More...

Foreign Ag Services highlights British food/farming report

A British government report that calls for transformation of the world food system on the scale of the industrial revolution “is much more forthright than ever before on contentious agriculture and food topics,” according to a USDA Foreign Agricultural Service analysis posted Thursday. Read More...

Farmers & Ranchers hire P.R. firm to boost image

U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, the coalition of more than 30 farm and ranch groups formed to improve the image of agriculture, has hired Ketchum, the New York-based public relations firm, as its primary communications agent, Ketchum announced today. Read More...

Farming, ag market hearings set in Senate

Both the Senate and Senate agriculture committee will hold hearings next week. Read More...

Threatened food aid cuts prompt personal fasts in protest

Three anti-hunger leaders plan personal fasts to call attention to budgetary threats to international food and agriculture programs, launching a campaign that asks others to “join in fasting, prayer and personal sacrifice to form a circle of protection around programs benefiting vulnerable people here and abroad.” Read More...

Iowa honoring 'Green Revolution' founder with statue

A statue of Dr. Norman Borlaug, the father of the "Green Revolution," will represent Iowa in the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall under a bill that Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad signed today. Read More...

World Food Program, USAID struggle with rising food costs

For food aid and agricultural development advocates trying to help the Third World cope with food price spikes, waiting for Congress to cut the budget is like being in the car at the end of the movie "Thelma and Louise," the Washington representative of The U.N. World Food Program said at a Capitol Hill briefing today. Read More...

USDA starts discrimination settlement process, but another suit filed, Senate hearing proposed

In an attempt to end the discrimination cases that female and Hispanic farmers have brought against the Agriculture Department, the federal government has begun accepting requests for settlement information. But a lawyer for the Hispanic farmers has filed another case, and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, asked today for a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on civil rights practices at USDA. Read More...

Stroschein moves to Green Capitol

Ryan Stroschein, who has been the director of governmental relations at the Air Transport Association, has joined Green Capitol, a consulting firm specializing in “green” agriculture, energy and environmental policy. Read More...

World Food Programme helps in Libya, Japan

The United Nations World Food Programme has stepped up provision of food to hungry people crossing Libya’s borders and is helping deliver relief to victims of the Japanese earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis. 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...

Brazilian sugarcane group likes U.S. renewable energy pacts

Agreements between the United States and Brazil involving renewable energy that were announced during President Obama’s visit to South America have won praise from the Brazilian sugarcane industry association UNICA, and a more measured comment from the Renewable Fuels Association. Read More...

No risk of radiation from Japanese food products, feds say

Reacting to public concern about the impact of radiation on Japanese food products, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack noted today that the U.S. government will carefully monitor the small amount of food imported from Japan, while the Food and Drug Administration said there is no current threat to the U.S. food supply. 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...

Michelle Obama plants again, and plans book on garden

Michelle Obama planted her third White House vegetable garden Wednesday, just before a New York publisher announced that the first lady will write a book on the White House patch that will be published next year. Read More...

New leadership, re-organization for Feed the Future

The Obama administration’s Feed the Future program to encourage agricultural development in Third World countries will get new leadership and the bureau that runs it will be reorganized, U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah announced this week. Read More...

White House supports continued NPR funding

Although the House of Representatives voted today to prohibit federal funding of National Public Radio and the use of federal funds by public radio stations to buy content, the Obama administration said the need to fund rural radio stations is a key reason for its opposition to the bill. 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...

Governors say USDA corn reports misleading on ethanol

The Agriculture Department's monthly corn supply and demand reports are distorting perceptions of how much corn is being used for ethanol and should be changed, a 33-member coalition of governors told Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a letter sent Tuesday. 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...

USDA report: Conservation working in Chesapeake Bay

The Agriculture Department's Natural Resources Conservation Service released a study today showing that conservation practices are protecting water resources in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Read More...

House Ag to review food stamp, conservation costs

The House Agriculture Committee will review the food stamp and conservation programs as well as farm subsidies for possible cuts, it told the House Budget Committee today. Read More...

Tonsager: Funding programs for ethanol pumps on the way

SAN ANTONIO ­— Within a month, the Agriculture Department will announce a funding program to build ethanol pumps at gas stations around the country, Agriculture Undersecretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager said here today at the National Farmers Union convention. Read More...

North Bridge hires managing director

North Bridge Communications, a food and farm-oriented public relations firm, has hired Dave Ray as a managing director. Read More...

Matz launches ag effort for 2012 Obama campaign

SAN ANTONIO — Washington attorney Marshall Matz has begun setting up a private sector agriculture committee to support President Obama's re-election campaign. Read More...

Farmers Union president urges quick action on farm bill

SAN ANTONIO — It is vital to finish the next farm bill in 2012, said National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson. Read More...

CAST releases report on publicly-funded ag research

With pressures on the agriculture budget mounting, the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology today released a report on the performance of publicly funded agricultural research. Read More...

Stabenow: Ag budget decisions should wait

Reacting to speculation that a continuing resolution to fund the government for the remainder of fiscal year 2011 could include cuts to farm bill subsidies, Senate Agriculture Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said today that budget decisions regarding agriculture should not be made until after the 2012 farm bill is written. Read More...

Meat packers not happy with agency’s FOIA response

The National Meat Association is not satisfied with the response to its Freedom of Information Act request for documents related changes to the rule implementing the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act, and is considering an appeal. The NMA, which represents meat packers, requested the records from the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration. Read More...

The women of organic leadership

Major organic organizations today released a photo of the four women who now lead those organizations as executive director. Read More...

Another key USDA aide returns to the Hill

The Obama administration has lost another key Agriculture Department aide to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Read More...

Peterson slams EPA for changing policy through settlements

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., added a new twist to criticism of the Environmental Protection Agency today, telling EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson that the agency has been too quick to settle lawsuits. Read More...

Drought center, law center, catfish and white potatoes seek USDA’s ear

The potential impact of Congress’s decision not to include earmarks in the 2012 budget became apparent today at a Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, when Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., urged Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to continue the National Drought Mitigation Center in Omaha and Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., stressed the importance of the University of Arkansas’s National Agricultural Law Center. 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...

Crop insurance costs could double as commodity prices rise

The government’s cost of insuring increasingly valuable crops could double this year to about $9 billion, but the amount of savings from the Obama administration’s renegotiation of the agreement with crop insurance companies may also be more than twice than what was expected, key industry leaders say. 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...

Administration change at Food and Nutrition Service

Audrey Rowe has been appointed administrator for USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, replacing Julie Paradis, who is retiring on April 1, Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon has announced. Read More...

Senate Ag members meet with Vilsack, Jackson on EPA regulations

Senate Agriculture Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, and other senators met with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson to form a working group on regulations. Read More...

Obama's USDA: Rural Utilities Service administrator: Broadband spending key to rural jobs

Rural Utilities Service Administrator Jonathan Adelstein runs an agency that is renowned for bringing electricity, telephone, water and sewer service to rural America, but that now has a new and challenging mission: to bring high-speed Internet service or broadband to those areas of rural America that have been left out of what has become a necessity for business and personal life. Read More...

ACRE author Zulauf: Interest rates, ethanol future and China pose systemic risks

TAMPA , Fla. — American agriculture faces more systemic risk than at any time since the 1970s, according to Carl Zulauf, an Ohio State University agriculture professor. 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...

Senate's proposed agriculture cuts detailed

The Senate Appropriations Committee has released a draft of its bill to fund the government through the remainder of fiscal year 2011, which would cut agricultural appropriations by $1.6 billion or 7 percent, compared to the House-passed bill that would cut agriculture by $5.3 billion or 23 percent, according to an analysis by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Read More...

Corn growers back ethanol reform, possible changes to direct payments program

TAMPA, Fla. — In breaks with past policy, the National Corn Growers Association has passed resolutions urging reform of ethanol and an “investigation” of changes to the direct payments program. Read More...

Vilsack: U.S. farms producing plenty for both food and fuel

TAMPA, Fla. — Agriculture Secretary Vilsack vigorously defended the biofuels industry today, saying it is not responsible for rising food costs and still needs subsidies to become a mature industry. Read More...

Lucas sets farm bill schedule, notes EPA hearing

TAMPA, Fla. — House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., laid out a schedule for the 2012 farm bill today and, assuring some of the nation’s biggest farmers that a new bill will be written, said he looks forward to an oversight hearing with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson next week. Read More...

USDA releases dairy policy report

The Agriculture Department Thursday released the report of the advisory committee appointed last year to propose changes in U.S. dairy policy. 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...

Former Ag secretary Glickman takes Aspen Institute post

Former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman today was named executive director of the Aspen Institute's Washington-based congressional program.
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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...

Milk producers rebut criticism of proposed dairy program

A study issued by the International Dairy Foods Association that criticized a portion of the National Milk Producers Federation's proposed dairy program was narrow and flawed, the NMPF said today. Read More...

Stabenow, House members address Cotton Council v EPA

Senate Agriculture Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., is seeking an extension of the stay the Supreme Court granted the Environmental Protection Agency in its decision in National Cotton Council v. EPA, while a bipartisan group of House members introduced a bill to resolve the issue. Read More...

Corn growers struggling with ethanol policy

TAMPA, Fla. — Delegates to the National Corn Growers Association’s Corn Congress struggled today to come up with a policy on the ethanol tax credit and protective tariff or an alternative while a key American Soybean Association official said that group would seek an extension of the biodiesel tax credit. Read More...

World Food Program launches Libya-Tunisia-Egypt effort

The United Nations World Food Program is launching a $38.7 million emergency operation to help 2.7 million people in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, and is asking for financial support for the effort, Executive Director Josette Sheeran said today from the region where thousands are evacuating countries with unsettled governments. Read More...

No ag program cuts in Senate-passed funding resolution

The Senate today passed a two-week government finance resolution that does not include any cuts in the agriculture programs, just as farm and nutrition groups launched campaigns to try to oppose the deep cuts in a longer term spending bill that the House passed on February 19. Read More...

DeLauro: GAO report shows need for one food safety agency

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on duplicative government programs shows the need to consolidate the responsibilities of the 15 federal agencies that have jurisdiction over the nation’s food safety system into a single independent agency, said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., the ranking member on House Labor, Health, and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee. Read More...

House Appropriations grills Vilsack on budget cut impact

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has come under pressure from the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee to be more specific about the impact the proposed Republican budget cuts and a possible government shutdown would have on USDA’s food safety inspections, and what the loss of earmarks would mean for agricultural research. Read More...