The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

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Conner commends Senate Ag Committee on bill

National Council of Farmer Cooperatives President Chuck Conner, a former Agriculture deputy secretary and Senate Agriculture Committee staffer, issued a news release late last week commending the Senate Agriculture Committee for approving a farm bill, even if it is not perfect at this point. Read More...

Sugar program extended, but challenges remain

Sugar growers won a victory in last week’s farm bill when the Senate Agriculture Committee extended the current sugar program for five years, but Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., announced plans to offer an amendment on the sugar program when the bill comes to the Senate floor, and 15 groups today called for sugar to be included in the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations. Read More...

Chicago Council praises administration food security effort

The State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Millenium Challenge Corporation all received “outstanding” evaluations in a Chicago Council on Global Affairs report on U.S. leadership in global agricultural development released last week, while the Agriculture Department and Congress received “good” grades. Read More...

United Fresh, Wholesome Wave support farm bill

The United Fresh Produce Association and Wholesome Wave, an organization that helps low-income people buy healthier foods, today praised the Senate Agriculture Committee for approving a bill that includes a number of provisions to help fruit and vegetable production and local agriculture. Read More...

Senate confirms Scuse as Ag undersecretary, as Johanns calls for study of USDA trade function

The Senate Thursday confirmed Michael Scuse as Agriculture undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services and as a member of the board of directors of the Commodity Credit Corporation. Read More...

Southern farm groups hope for farm bill changes

Southern farm groups have reacted to the Senate Agriculture Committee’s approval of a new farm bill by praising southern senators for voting against the measure they consider inequitable, but also by expressing hope that the committee will change the bill before it goes to the Senate floor. Read More...

Stabenow praises Labor decision; farmworker groups do not

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., today praised the Obama administration for withdrawing a controversial rule that would have restricted the employment of children on farms, while a farmworker group said the withdrawal would endanger children’s safety. Read More...

USDA unveils Secretary Schafer portrait

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today unveiled the official portrait of Ed Schafer, the 29th secretary of Agriculture, at a ceremony in the patio of the Whitten Building. Schafer, a former North Dakota governor, was the last Agriculture secretary in the George W. Bush administration. (USDA photo) Read More...

Senate Ag Committee passage noteworthy for strength of vote, dismay of southern members

The Senate Agriculture Committee today passed a farm bill that is remarkable for receiving a strong committee vote and for the unhappiness and isolation of southern members of the committee, who do not believe the bill treated cotton, rice and peanut farmers fairly and did not vote to send the bill to the full Senate. Read More...

Labor Department withdraws child farm labor rule

The Labor Department today announced it would withdraw its proposed rule dealing with children who work on farms and would not pursue its revision as long as President Barack Obama is in office. Read More...

Final Senate Ag farm bill vote 16-5

The final Senate Agriculture Committee vote on the farm bill was 16 to 5 of all committee members including those voting by proxy, 12 to 4 among those present. Read More...

Senate Ag Committee approves new farm bill

The Senate Agriculture Committee has approved a new farm bill to be sent to the Senate floor by a vote of 12 to 5. Read More...

Senate Ag takes up commodity title; others closed

The Senate Agriculture Committee has closed all titles of the farm bill except the commodity title, which it has just taken up. Read More...

Committee accepts Conrad energy amendment

The Senate Agriculture Committee has accepted an amendment offered by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., to continuing energy programs at the Agriculture Department with $800 million in mandatory funding over five years. Read More...

Agriculture committees adopt measures

The Senate Agriculture Committee has adopted the manager’s amendment to the farm bill by voice vote. Read More...

Senate Appropriations releases Ag budget summary

The Senate Appropriations Committee today released a statement on the contents of the fiscal year 2013 agriculture budget, which is reprinted below. Read More...

Stabenow, Roberts open markup summarizing bill, noting cooperation

Senate Agriculture Commitee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and ranking Pat Roberts, R-Kan., opened the farm bill markup today with statements highly supportive of each other's efforts. Read More...

Stabenow expects final vote during markup today; chairman's amendment to farm bill posted

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., just announced she expects her committee to take a final vote on the farm bill during markup today. Read More...

Report: More transparency needed in Third World land sales

The surge in land sales in developing countries has increased the need for transparency in those transactions, three private groups in California, London and Rome studying the issue said in a report issued Tuesday at a conference in Washington. Read More...

Senate Ag approps markup Thursday

The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a markup Thursday on the fiscal year 2013 Agriculture appropriations bill.
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Pingree, Ribble present different views to organic group

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, and Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., gave the organic food industry remarkably different perspectives today on how the industry is viewed in Congress and how organic producers and processors should approach members. Read More...

Stabenow: Senate farm bill markup Thursday

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., announced late tonight that the markup on the farm bill will proceed Thursday at 10:30 a.m. in the committee hearing room, 328-A, of the Russell Senate Office Building. Read More...

Taylor: Produce rule will have 120-day comment period

Michael Taylor, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration deputy commissioner for food, said today that the FDA rule to implement the produce food safety section of the Food Safety Modernization Act will have a 120-day comment period. Read More...

Dairy groups spar over Bennet amendment

A proposed amendment to the farm bill draft would cost dairy farmers more than $400 million over five years in additional expenses, the National Milk Producers Federation said late today. Read More...

Cook: 'Right to know' labeling movement successful

A campaign to require labeling of food for genetically modified ingredients based on people’s “right to know” what is in their food is succeeding, Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said Wednesday. Read More...

Stabenow postpones farm bill markup

The markup on the 2012 farm bill scheduled for Wednesday morning has been postponed, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., announced late tonight. Read More...

Senate Ag Committee proceeding with farm bill markup

The Senate Agriculture Committee will proceed with a markup of the proposed 2012 farm bill on Wednesday, taking the advice of the American Farm Bureau Federation to proceed with the bill and ignoring pleas from some farm groups to wait until after the one-week congressional recess that begins this weekend. Read More...

NRCS chiefs back conservation compliance for crop insurance

Four former chiefs of the Agriculture Department’s Natural Resources Conservation Service have told congressional agriculture leaders that the new farm bill should require farmers participating in the subsidized crop insurance program to comply with USDA conservation rules. Read More...

Merrigan praises Senate efforts at nutrition cuts

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said today that the Senate is taking a much better approach to cutting food stamp benefits than the House Agriculture Committee did last week in approving a reconciliation proposal to cut the program by more than $33 billion over 10 years, and also said USDA expects markup on Wednesday. Read More...

Wendell Berry urges 'affection' for the land

More than 2,000 people turned out at the Kennedy Center in Washington Monday evening to hear Wendell Berry, the noted poet, essayist, novelist and farmer and conservation, deliver the National Endowment for the Humanities’ 41st annual Jefferson Lecture. Read More...

Dairy groups take sides on market stabilization program

The International Dairy Foods Association said today that Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., would introduce an amendment to strike the dairy market stabilization program that is included in the draft of the Senate farm bill and replace it with a stand-alone margin insurance proposal, while the National Milk Producers Federation praised the dairy title as written and said a study shows that the program would work. Read More...

USDA reports fourth case of BSE found

The nation’s fourth case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) has been found in a dead dairy cow in California, the Agriculture Department announced today. Read More...

Prospects looking up for greater sage grouse as administration works across agency lines

The federal government probably won’t have to list the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, the head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said last week, as Obama administration officials discussed their efforts to work across agency lines for the betterment of rural America. Read More...

Southern farmers raise farm bill concerns, seek delay

A coalition of southern farm groups late today asked Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. and ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., to postpone Wednesday’s scheduled farm bill markup until at least after the weeklong recess that begins Friday. Read More...

Stabenow formally announces markup, staff briefs lobbyists

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., today formally announced that her committee will mark up the farm bill on Wednesday, and a bipartisan team of committee staff aides briefed farm lobbyists on the proposal that she and Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., have written. Read More...

Merrigan: Food deserts are real

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said today that she believes there are places where people do not have access to healthy food, even though the New York Times published a story this week questioning whether “food deserts” exist. Read More...

Potato plants coming up in White House garden

White potatoes are growing in First Lady Michelle Obama’s White House kitchen garden. The potato plants were visible this week when Sam Kass, the deputy White House chef and senior policy adviser on healthy food initiatives, gave members of the North American Agricultural Journalists a tour of the garden, which is now in its fourth season. Read More...

FDA releases food division strategic plan

The Food and Drug Administration has released a strategic plan for its food division, Michael Taylor, the deputy commissioner for food, told the National Restaurant Association Thursday. Read More...

House wraps up farm bill field hearings

The House Agriculture Committee held its final farm bill field hearing today in Dodge City, Kan. "There are some challenges that vary by region, and we need to tailor farm policy to fit those unique requirements," committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Ok., said in a statement. Read More...

Hamburg: Slow going on FDA user fees for food companies

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg signaled today the FDA has not made much progress on writing a proposal for user fees on food companies, but said that if the fees are established they will apply to foreign as well as domestic companies. Read More...

Farm Bureau, northern commodities voice farm bill concerns as markup approaches

The American Farm Bureau Federation and seven agricultural groups that represent commodities grown mostly in the North sent Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., a farm bill advice letter today, urging them not to tie current-year production to fixed price supports and to maintain planting flexibility. Read More...

Reconciliation measure hints of farm bill proposals

The reconciliation measure to cut food stamps by $35 billion that was passed by the House Agriculture Committee today is unlikely ever to become law, but the measure and the debate surrounding it gave hints of the proposals that will come up when the committee takes up the farm bill later this year. Read More...

EWG report calls for free crop insurance plan

The Environmental Working Group released a report today calling on Congress to replace the current crop insurance program with a free program that would cover 70 percent of crop yield and and compensate producers for a financial loss caused by bad weather at 100 percent of current market prices. Read More...

Lucas pleased with CFTC rule

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., signaled today that he was pleased with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s rule on swap dealers released today. Read More...

House Ag passes reconciliation measure

The House Agriculture Committee today passed a reconciliation measure that would cut federal nutrition spending by $33 billion over 10 years, and forwarded it to the House Budget Committee. Read More...

House Ag sets seven farm bill hearings

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., announced late Tuesday that his committee will hold seven farm bill hearings in Washington in April and May, following the last field hearing this Friday in Dodge City, Kansas. Read More...

Congressional ag leaders present united effort to get farm bill passed in 2012

As the House Agriculture Committee approaches a potentially divisive markup on farm program reconciliation on Wednesday and the Senate Agriculture Committee plans a markup on a new farm bill beginning a week later, the four leaders of the committees today presented a united front that they will work together to pass a new farm bill this year. Read More...

FRAC report shows higher food insecurity in rural districts

The Food Research and Action Center today released an analysis of food security in the districts of members of the House Agriculture Committee that showed rural districts are slightly more likely than other districts to be food insecure. Read More...

USDA back at work despite problems after electrical fire

All Agriculture Department employees will be expected to report to work today, but the USDA headquarters and the South Building may still not have electricity or other services, a spokesman for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told The Hagstrom Report late Monday. Read More...

Vilsack: Food security a national advantage

Food stamps put more money in farmers' pockets than crop insurance and farm subsidies, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday, as the House Agriculture Committee prepares for a reconciliation markup Wednesday at which Republicans are likely to offer a proposal for a big cut in that program, now known formally as the supplemental nutrition assistance program or SNAP. Read More...

Peterson predicts GOP food stamp cuts, opposition to commodity target price increase

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., believes Republicans on the committee will attempt to cut as much as $33 billion from the food stamp program over 10 years during a markup on reconciliation instructions Wednesday, but said he will advise Democrats on the committee not to take that exercise seriously because the House budget resolution will not become law. Read More...

Animal ag groups send budget requests

A wide-ranging coalition of 42 agriculture groups has sent congressional appropriators a detailed proposal for funding programs that affect animal agriculture. Read More...

House Ag to meet on budget reconciliation

The House Agriculture Committee will hold a business meeting Wednesday to consider a proposal to satisfy the committee's reconciliation instructions in the recently passed House budget resolution, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., announced late Friday. Read More...

White House Easter Egg Roll highlights activity, nutrition

“Let’s go, let’s play, let’s move!,” First Lady Michelle Obama said today as she opened the White House Easter Egg Roll. Read More...

National Grain and Feed Association recommends safeguards on segregated funds

The National Grain and Feed Association, whose members are missing money in the wake of the MF Global bankruptcy, has today issued a long list of recommendations for safeguarding customer funds in the future. Read More...

NASS releases study of farm youth injuries

As the Labor Department and members of Congress battle over whether the federal government rule on child labor on farms should be rewritten, they may want to take into consideration the following findings from a survey released today by the Agriculture Department’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Read More...

Wheat leaders: No more cuts to research

Wheat research has been vital to the crop’s continued success, but cutbacks in federal research could endanger its future, wheat farmers, researchers and millers told members of Congress last week. Read More...

Dairy report moves from NASS to AMS

The weekly dairy products prices report that has been published by the Agriculture Department’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will be published in the future by the Agricultural Marketing Service, the USDA Agricultural Statistics Board said today.
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International group forms to protect common food names

A new international coalition formed to preserve the right to use general food names will introduce itself to the dairy industry next week in Milwaukee. Read More...

New World wine coalition could be trade model

A little-known coalition of New World wine producing countries and producers has achieved major goals in liberalizing wine trade since 1998 and could offer a model for other agriculture groups, a panel of trade officials and experts said at a recent seminar at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Read More...

Senate group supports continued specialty crop funding

Thirty-two senators wrote Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., this week that they should keep the 2008 farm bill level of programming and funding for specialty crops in the 2012 bill and if possible “build” on those programs. Read More...

NWF: Bioenergy feedstocks could be invasive species

The National Wildlife Federation today released a report saying that the planting of exotic and genetically engineered reeds, weeds, grasses and algae to grow feedstocks for bioenergy production could interfere with local ecosystems in the long run, and potentially cause expenses to taxpayers if the feedstocks turn out to be invasive species that must be controlled. Read More...

Vilsack to answer energy questions on Twitter Thursday

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will hold USDA’s first “virtual office hours” on Twitter at 1:30 p.m. Thursday. USDA said in a news release today. Read More...

Coalition forms to monitor Dow deregulation plans

A group of Midwestern fruit and vegetable producers, canners and food processors today announced the formation of a Save Our Crops Coalition to monitor regulatory actions surrounding Dow AgroScience’s plans to seek deregulation of its genetically engineered corn, soybean and cotton crops that tolerate applications of the 2,4-D herbicide. Read More...

Thorne heads up communication at Beer Institute

The Beer Institute has hired Chris Thorne as vice president of communications, it announced Monday. Read More...

Vilsack asks biofuel industry to take a stand

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today urged the advanced biofuels industry to fight charges that biofuels take people’s food and to defend the renewable fuel standard. Read More...

NGFA again urging reduction of Conservation Reserve

The National Grain and Feed Association is urging the Senate Agriculture Committee to make dramatic changes to reduce the size of the Conservation Reserve Program, which is currently authorized to pay farmers to idle up to 36 million acres of farm land. Read More...

EPA approves E15 registrations

The Environmental Protection Agency today approved the first applications for registration of ethanol for use in making gasoline that contains up to 15 percent ethanol – known as E15. Read More...

USTR releases three reports on trade

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk today released three reports on achievements in reducing or removing foreign government barriers to American exports. Read More...

Farm Credit Administration appoints chief economist

The Farm Credit Administration today appointed Steve Gabriel as chief economist and associate director of its agricultural and economic policy team. Read More...