The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

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CBO: Costs of SNAP go down as child nutrition costs go up

Federal outlays on food stamps — the largest item in the Agriculture Department budget — will drop from $80.1 billion in fiscal year 2012 to $72.6 billion in fiscal year 2022, while costs for school meals and other child nutrition programs will rise from $18.2 billion to $28.2 billion during the same time period, the Congressional Budget Office said today as it released its latest 10-year federal budget projections. Read More...

Crop insurance payments reached new high in 2011

In a demonstration of the up-and-down nature of the crop insurance industry, payments to farmers for crop losses in 2011 have totaled $9.1 billion so far, the highest in American history, according to charts released by the Agriculture Department Risk Management Agency. Read More...

Food industry writes against food safety taxes

The American Frozen Food Institute and a coalition of more than 30 food groups today urged the Obama administration not to include any user fees in writing the budget request for the Food and Drug Administration. Read More...

First lady boosts new guidelines to school meal professionals

In a letter with political overtones, First Lady Michelle Obama has appealed to the nation’s school food service professionals to implement the Agriculture Department's new healthier meal guidelines. Read More...

SPECIAL REPORT: American corn, soybeans born and bred in Hawaii

KUNIA, Hawaii — Corn and soybeans seem like the most Midwestern of crops, but almost every corn and soybean plant on the mainland of the United States now owes its parentage to research and breeding done here in Hawaii. Read More...

SPECIAL REPORT: Hawaiian chefs and farmers tell their tale

HONOLULU — Two hundred and fifty years ago, the Hawaiian islands had a population of at least 800,000 people and between farming and fishing were completely food self-sufficient, notes Ed Kenney, a chef who has cooked for First Lady Michelle Obama when she entertained foreign dignitaries during the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting last November. Read More...

SPECIAL REPORT: Guide to favorite Obama restaurants in Hawaii

Headed to Hawaii? Interested in dining where President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama dine? Want to eat the same foods served to world leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in November? Read More...

Vilsack releases EIS for national forest rule

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today released the final environmental impact statement for the National Forest System Land Management Planning rule, the basic document governing federally owned forests. Read More...

House Ag approves six Dodd-Frank amendments

The House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday approved by voice vote six bills that amend Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Read More...

Conrad preparing to introduce commodity title crop revenue guarantee

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., is preparing to introduce a farm bill commodity title that would guarantee farmers 90 percent of crop revenue on their individual operations, a top aide says. Read More...

Congressmen hatch bipartisan chicken caucus

Reps. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., and Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., have co-founded the bipartisan Congressional Chicken Caucus. Read More...

Administration not 'confirming' food safety consolidation

Although Jeff Zients, who is now White House Office of Management and Budget director, said recently that consolidation of food safety agencies would be one of those “addressed in subsequent, specific proposals,” an OMB spokeswoman has told The Hagstrom Report that the administration has not confirmed which areas of the government might be consolidated beyond the consolidation of the six business agencies that was announced last week. Read More...

USDA increases claim size for female and Hispanic farmers

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the Obama administration has increased the maximum size of claims that female and Hispanic farmers and ranchers can get under a process instituted to settle the Love and Garcia cases for past discrimination, but reaction to the offer was mixed. Read More...

New school lunch standards served up for fall 2012

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited an elementary school here today to unveil new school meal standards intended to improve the health and nutrition of children by increasing offerings of fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods, limiting milk to fat-free and low-fat varieties, ensuring proper portion size by age, and reducing the amounts of saturated fats, trans fats and sodium. Read More...

NASS announces reporting changes to meet budget

The Agriculture Department’s National Agricultural Statistics Service announced today that it would reduce or eliminate a number of reports in order to remain within its budget. Following are the changes: Read More...

Bergsten to leave Peterson Institute position

C. Fred Bergsten, founding director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics since its creation in 1981, announced today he will step down from that position at the end of this year. Read More...

USDA uploads new web page on energy

The Department of Agriculture has launched, but not yet promoted, a new area of its website for energy resources. Read More...

New export barrier: EU work on geographical indication rules

LA QUINTA, Calif. — Just as the U.S. dairy industry is getting prepared to ramp up exports, a new barrier has appeared on the horizon: European Union efforts to use free-trade agreements to convince other countries to impose “geographical indication” rules that would make it illegal for U.S. companies to use the names of cheeses and other products that originated in Europe. Read More...

New school meal rules to be released Wednesday

New rules on improving school meals will be unveiled Wednesday by First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at an event in Alexandria, Va Read More...

Egg-layer housing bill introduced in House; Farm Bureau and other groups oppose

A bipartisan group of House members on Monday introduced a bill promoted by the United Egg Producers and the Human Society of the United States to resolve conflicts over the housing of egg-producing chickens, but six other agriculture groups quickly announced their opposition to the legislation. Read More...

State of Union will launch energy, food, rural issues tours

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address tonight will be only the beginning of an effort this week to promote the administration’s accomplishments in food and rural America and its proposals for the future. Read More...

Gates urges more global spending on ag research

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, urged global leaders to spend more money on agriculture, particularly agricultural research that would help developing countries in his annual letter. Read More...

'Home-grown energy' one focus of State of the Union

The need for “home-grown energy” will be one of the pillars of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address tonight, a senior White House official told reporters on Monday. Read More...

Glickman: Failure of farm bill in 2012 would be failure to face global competition

LA QUINTA, Calif. — If Congress cannot pass a farm bill in 2012 it will be a symbol of failure to address the national interest in a period of increasing global competition, former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said. Read More...

Gillibrand, NASCOE opposed to USDA office closures

Opposition to the closure of Agriculture Department offices announced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has begun. Read More...

50 years later, EU Common Agricultural Policy still debated

Copa, the largest EU farm group, and Cogeca, which represents European farm co-ops, recognized the 50th anniversary of the Common Agricultural Policy today by saying it needs to address price volatility and the relationship between producers and supermarkets. Read More...

Northern New Mexico ranchers sue U.S. Forest Service

Northern New Mexico ranchers have filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Santa Fe claiming the U.S. Forest Service engaged in a pattern of discriminatory punitive actions, culminating in a 2010 decision to impose an 18 percent reduction in grazing on federal allotment lands, the National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association said in a news release today. Read More...

U.S., Canada extend softwood lumber agreement

The United States and Canada today signed a two-year extension of the 2006 U.S.-Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement through October 12, 2015, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced. Read More...

Supreme Court rules against California slaughterhouse law

The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled unanimously against a California law that required slaughterhouses to deal with nonambulatory pigs in ways that are different from the Federal Meat Inspection Act. Read More...

Herbicide-resistant weed summit scheduled for May

A scientific summit on how to manage herbicide-resistant weeds will be held on May 10 in Washington, the Weed Science Society of America announced today. Read More...

Acting GIPSA administrator named; R-CALF decries lack of support for Butler

In the wake of USDA Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administrator J. Dudley Butler's announcement Thursday that he will resign, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced late in the day that Alan Christian, deputy administrator for the packers and stockyards program, will serve as acting administrator for GIPSA until an administrator is appointed. Read More...

Keystone pipeline decision stirs political waters

In signals of the complicated politics surrounding President Barack Obama’s decision to reject the application for construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline through Nebraska, the Obama-Biden campaign sent supporters an email promoting the decision, while Heidi Heidtkamp, the Democratic candidate to replace retiring Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., sent Obama a letter asking him to reverse the decision. Read More...

Proposed poultry inspection changes get mixed review

As the Agriculture Department today a proposed some changes in chicken and turkey inspection, the chicken industry expressed enthusiasm for the plan while some consumer groups were critical of it. Read More...

NOAA, USTR, food safety reorganization plans draw concern

Consumer and farm groups continue to expressed concerns about a reorganization that would move the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to the Interior Department, move the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative into a new agency that would replace the Commerce Department, and possibly consolidate the food safety agencies in the future. Read More...

FSA releases office closure hearing dates, faces pressure

As the Farm Service Agency released a schedule of dates for hearings on plans to close county offices around the country, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, sent Agriculture Secretary Vilsack a letter this week asking him to provide a rationale for the closure of offices in Ohio and an assurance that farmers would continue to get the same level of service. Read More...

USDA approves $25 million loan for Iowa biorefinery plant

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that USDA has approved a conditional commitment for a $25 million guaranteed loan to build a biorefinery plant in Blairstown, Iowa, with funding support from USDA's Biorefinery Assistance Program. Read More...

Vilsack receives future farmer advice from FFA

FFA, formerly Future Farmers of America, has risen to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s challenge to tell him what’s needed in the next farm bill, as he encourages 100,000 young people to become farmers in the next few years. Read More...

GIPSA Administrator Butler resigns

J. Dudley Butler, the controversial administrator of the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration, announced today that he would resign. Read More...

Mayors getting involved with nutrition policy with new food policy task force

In a sign that mayors are going to get involved in the setting of nutrition policy in the farm bill, the U.S. Conference of Mayors has established a food policy task force headed by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. Read More...

FRAC poll shows support for hunger-ending efforts

More than three quarters of American voters oppose cutting food stamps as a way to reduce government spending, according to new poll data released today by the Food Research and Action Center. Read More...

Senators ask FCC to solve rural phone service problems

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., announced today that he and a bipartisan group of 23 other senators from rural states have called on the Federal Communications Commission to address excessive substandard phone service in North Dakota and throughout the most rural regions of the country. Read More...

Obama announces programs to increase travel, tourism

In an act that could have implications for the rural economy, President Barack Obama today signed an executive order and announced new initiatives to increase travel and tourism in the United States. Read More...

Stabenow seeks stakeholder insight after MF Global scandal

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has asked an array of financial stakeholders, market participants and consumer advocacy groups to provide insight and recommendations on how to create stronger, safer markets, and to provide customers with greater protections in the wake of the MF Global bankruptcy. Read More...

Lobbyists say there's a chance for farm bill in 2012

LA QUINTA, Calif. — Two key agricultural lobbyists said here today they believe Congress will make a serious effort to write the farm bill this year and have a chance of succeeding because the fiscal pressures will be worse in 2013 than in 2012. Read More...

USDA announces $308 million in disaster aid

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $308 million in disaster assistance to help farmers, landowners, communities and others recover and rebuild after flooding, drought, tornadoes and other natural disasters in 33 states and Puerto Rico. Read More...

Celebrities sign on for healthier school meal initiatives

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Teen television actor Reed Alexander and chef Lorena Garcia are collaborating with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to create healthier school meal recipes, while the Wasserman Foundation has pledged to back athletes’ visits to schools, the William J. Clinton Foundation has announced. Read More...

Two new reports decry global influence of agribusiness

Two groups critical of industrial agriculture, the ETC Group and the Global Development and Environment Institute, issued reports today detailing their views. Read More...

Barron joins government affairs at Greenberg Traurig

Ed Barron, who has been a partner in the lobbying and consulting firm of Russell & Barron, has left to join the government affairs practice in the Washington office of Greenberg Traurig, LLP. Read More...

Cousin named WFP's next executive director

The United Nations today appointed Ertharin Cousin, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. food agencies in Rome, as the next executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, and President Barack Obama and a host of Cabinet officials praised the appointment. Read More...

Exec points to dairy product growth at PepsiCo, in world

LA QUINTA, Calif. — Dairy product sales will grow faster than other foods in developing countries in the coming years, a key PepsiCo Inc. executive said here this week, while other experts said success in markets such as India and China will require more sensitivity to other countries’ consumer and business cultures. Read More...

Dairy Forum speakers urge market understanding, innovation

LA QUINTA, Calif. — Opportunities lie in countries with growing populations and growing incomes that will not be able to supply all their own food, but only if suppliers learn how to do business there, those attending the Dairy Forum heard. Read More...

Vilsack on the road for civil rights, biofuel, conservation

In a series of events that could be considered related to President Barack Obama’s campaign for re-election, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack traveled to Chicago on Monday to talk civil rights and promote biofuels, and continued on to St. Paul today to unveil a conservation program while the USDA released a report on rural development. Read More...

Conrad proposes combination of ACRE and SURE

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., unveiled his own commodity title Monday at events in North Dakota, his office said in a news release. Read More...

Reorganization proposal could impact food safety, USTR

President Barack Obama’s proposal, announced today, to reorganize six agencies that promote business and trade would not have an immediate impact on agriculture, but it could have an impact down the line on trade agencies and on food safety inspections if Congress grants Obama “consolidation authority.” Read More...

FAO to host food and nutrition security symposium

U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Director General Jose Graziano da Silva has announced an international scientific symposium on food and nutrition security information next week in Rome. Read More...

House Ag Committee schedules Dodd-Frank markup

The House Agriculture Committee will hold a markup session on January 25 on legislation to amend Title VII of the Dodd-Frank financial services reform act. Read More...

White House declines support for interstate raw milk sales

The White House, responding to an online petition on its "We The People" page, has declined to support a move to allow interstate sales of unpasteurized milk, Obama Foodorama has reported. Read More...

Visit to World War II memorial personal for Vilsack

HONOLULU — For Tom Vilsack, visiting Pearl Harbor was about more than fulfilling his duty as secretary of Agriculture. The biodiesel-powered boat on which Vilsack toured the Pearl Harbor memorial was named for his maternal great uncle, Cassin Young, who served with great distinction on Dec. 7, 1941, and was awarded the Medal of Honor. Read More...

Pearl Harbor visit highlights USDA/Navy biofuel initiative

HONOLULU — U.S. Navy boats taking tourists to visit the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor are powered by biodiesel, and if Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Navy officials are right, this is the beginning of the U.S. military’s shift from petroleum to biofuels. Read More...

Moore named to Farm Bureau public policy post

Dale Moore, a former chief of staff to four Agriculture secretaries, has become deputy executive director for public policy for the American Farm Bureau Federation. Read More...

Farm Bureau delegates end support for direct payments

HONOLULU — Delegates to the American Farm Bureau Federation convention here ended their support for the $5 billion annual direct payments program that crop farmers get whether prices are high or low on Tuesday, but the new policy they passed reflected continued differences between regions and commodities that make it difficult for the nation’s largest general farm group to develop policy on a new farm bill. Read More...

Vilsack announces office closures, retirements

HONOLULU — The Agriculture Department will close 259 offices, facilities and laboratories across the country, including 131 Farm Service Agency offices in 32 states, as well as seven foreign offices as part of a plan to streamline operations and cut costs, Agricutlure Secretary Tom Vilsack said here Monday in a speech to the American Farm Bureau Federation. Read More...

Vilsack, Stallman see big farm bill cuts, difficulty in passing bill in 2012

HONOLULU — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman may not agree on all the issues facing agriculture, but the two men made the same points on farm bill spending and its schedule here on Sunday.
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Stallman pleads for clear direction, Thatcher says ARC program likely to be challenged

HONOLULU — In a sign of the continuing splits among farm groups over the crop program in the next farm bill, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman appealed to the delegates at the convention here to give him and the board “clear direction” in telling Congress what Farm Bureau members want in the next bill. Read More...

Sheeran bows out of WFP post, new FAO head eyes eradication of world hunger

United Nations World Food Program executive director Josette Sheeran announced today she will leave her post when her term expires in April, while Jose Graziano da Silva, the new director general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, announced that eradication of world hunger will be the goal of his three-and-a-half year term, rather than the previous U.N. goal of halving hunger by 2015. Read More...