At the annual meeting of the Nebraska Farmers Union in Grand Island on Friday, we visited with National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson about several topics. In this excerpt, Johnson expresses optimism that a new farm bill will finally come to fruition, although it may not happen until January. But Johnson adds that, if the final farm bill includes language modifying or repealing country-of-origin-labeling, his organization may oppose it.
The Board of Directors of the American Soybean Association held their annual meeting in St. Louis this week. Ray Gaesser of Corning, Iowa was confirmed as president, Danny Murphy of Canton Mississippi becomes Chairman of the Board. Wade Cowan of Brownfield, Texas will serve as first vice president putting him in line to be the next ASA president.
Elected to the nine-member executive committee: Secretary Wyatt Whitford of Ernul, North Carolina, Treasurer Richard Wilkins of Greenwood, Delaware and vice presidents Bob Worth of Lake Benton, Minnesota, Ron Moore of Roseville, Illinois, Bob Henry of Robinson, Kansas and Kevin Hoyer of West Salem, Wisconsin.
The Executive Committee will meet in Iowa next week to finalize plans for 2014 and name appointees to ASA’s various boards, task forces and committees.
Signs of some success in the farm bill negotiations on Wednesday. Both Ag Committee chairs, Frank Lucas and Debbie Stabenow reported “great progress.”
Politico reports the House moved off its position that all commodity subsidies be a function of a farmer’s planted acres. As a result, “the framework for the commodity title appeared to be largely in place if the compromise holds regarding base vs. planted acres.”
There was a move by the Senate to narrow the gap on SNAP funding, with a change in the so-called “heat-and-eat” practice. Currently if states give $1 in fuel assistance to a party, they qualify for food stamps. The Senate bill raised the fuel minimum to $10, the compromise on Wednesday would increase the minimum to $20 minimum assistance. That change in effect would double the $4 billion in SNAP savings in the Senate package.
Stabenow told the Washington Post, “We are coming closer on every part of the bill.”
House Ag Committee Chair Frank Lucas concedes that the farm bill may not be ready for a vote before the end of the year. Reuters quotes Lucas saying a broad framework of the bill could be hammered out this month, but the conference committee isn’t quite there yet. He says passing a bill in the next ten days is impossible. But he says it’s possible to have a set of principles laid out and a text that lawyers and economists could complete so the final bill can be finished in January.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman says it’s time once and for all to unify behind a farm bill that works for all of American agriculture. Stallman says the nation can’t afford to do otherwise. He says AFBF strongly supports congressional agriculture committee leadership and believes a farm bill will get done.
The NAFB News Service contributed this article.
Testimony from those in favor of changes to the Renewable Fuels Standard and those against is being given at an Environmental Protection Agency hearing today.
Mike Brown, president of the National Chicken Council, testified in favor of the EPA’s proposed one-year volume reduction in the RFS but said “chicken producers need a much longer term and permanent solution.”
In short, he said Congress must act to repeal the RFS. Brown said resulting high prices for corn have, in part, forced more than a dozen poultry companies to file for bankruptcy, sell out or close their doors since 2007.
Corn farmers and other ethanol supporters will be in Washington, DC for Thursday’s hearing on the EPA’s proposal to cut the amount of corn ethanol required under the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard by 10 percent. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad will be among those testifying against the proposal. In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Branstad said the reduction would have dramatic implications not only on corn prices but on the economic viability of communities all across the Corn Belt, “I’m concerned that this would be devastating to what has been a robust economic recovery here in the strongest region of the United States.”
And, Branstad says, he’s got a message for President Obama,“I’m also going to remind the president that Iowa launched his campaign for the White House and he was a supporter of renewable fuels. He ran against John McCain who wasn’t. He beat John McCain in Iowa because of that – that was one of the factors, anyway, that played in the election and I think the president has made a terrible mistake caving in to big oil on this issue.”
Branstad says the oil industry is again trying to block ethanol, “Well, they were wrong when they promoted MTBE. They’re wrong again when they said ethanol couldn’t fill the bill and we’ve been able to do that. And, now, of course, they’re resisting because they don’t want something they don’t control.”
Bob Dinneen with the Renewable Fuels Association, who held the call with the governor, told reporters he is hopeful that the EPA will listen to Branstad and other stakeholders who are concerned about the impact of the RFS proposal and will change it.
The National Corn Growers Association says grower members from 13 states will be at the hearing Thursday – from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Iowa Senator Charles Grassley says he is not giving up on passing a farm bill this year. He adds that he won’t give up until December 19.
During a conference call Tuesday morning, Grassley expressed confidence because of the principles he associates with the legislative process.
“When you get down to a deadline, it tends to get people to compromise a lot sooner than they do at the beginning of negotiations,” said Grassley.
There are still differences to be settled by the Farm Bill Conference Committee, such as payment limits, defining a farmer, base acres versus planted acres and the values assigned to target prices, he said.
“But if those were agreed to, you still got the 900-pound gorilla in the room, and that is how much money do you want to spend on food stamps?” said Grassley. “There’s a big difference between the House and Senate.”
Grassley said that he favors a five-year farm bill over another shorter term extension of current legislation.
Researchers at Cornell University have released a paper analyzing the growth of the Greek Yogurt business in New York as well as projecting whether the Empire State can maintain that leadership.
The paper, authored by Robert D. Boynton and Andrew M. Novakovic notes the key player in the Greek Yogurt boon has undoubtedly been Chobani whose founder lives in New York City. While Wisconsin, Idaho and California could have been good sources for milk, New York offered ample milk production not far from the metropolitan area and plenty of access to good roads to get the product there.
As for the future, the research notes the expected limited growth or even decline of milk production in New York State does present a challenge to future growth for Greek yogurt. Many are pressing Albany to improve the business climate and promote growth in milk production in the state. Another is to facilitate the building of large-scale digesters including tax and investment incentives for such facilities.
Read the Cornell report here:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of Rural Development has awarded a third year of funding to Cooperative Network and the University of Wisconsin Center for
Cooperatives (UWCC) to develop rural economies through cooperatives in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The $200,000 grant will focus on health care, local food systems, energy efficiency, senior housing, cooperative education, conversions to employee-owned businesses, and a transportation fuel purchasing co-op for Wisconsin school districts.
Cooperative Network president and CEO Bill Oemichen says, “Much of this work to build local communities is unique and innovative.” The USDA grants provide funding for nonprofit groups and higher education institutions to create and operate centers that help establish, expand, or operate rural businesses, particularly cooperatives and mutually-owned enterprises.
With this funding, Cooperative Network and UWCC’s Great Lakes Cooperative Center will support seven main areas of rural development:
- Increasing rural health care access and quality, including the development of national Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans (CO-OP), 40 Square Cooperative Solutions in Minnesota and the Farmers’ Health Cooperative of Wisconsin, as well as potential development of cooperative insurance for rural Wisconsin hospitals;
- Developing local food systems in both states;
- Exploring new energy efficiency models, including mutual ownership of local renewable electric generation projects;
- Enhancing senior housing outreach through the annual Senior Cooperative Housing Conference as well as quarterly education programs;
- Targeting cooperative education outreach to state and local economic development professionals;
- Developing employee ownership of businesses in transition; and
- Working with the Wisconsin Cooperative Educational Service Agencies (CESAs) to establish a transportation fuel purchasing cooperative for the state’s school districts.
Cooperative Network serves more than 600 Wisconsin and Minnesota member-cooperatives by providing government relations, education, marketing, and technical services for a wide variety of cooperatives including farm supply, health, dairy marketing, consumer, financial, livestock marketing, telecommunications, electric, housing, insurance, worker-owned cooperatives, and more. For more information about Cooperative Network, visit http://www.cooperativenetwork.coop/index.html.
Established in 1962, the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives focuses on education, research, and outreach on all aspects of the cooperative business model, including development, finance, structure, and governance. The Center’s interdisciplinary programs build on the resources of the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the University of Wisconsin Extension, and are implemented through partnerships with UW faculty, staff, and extension agents, federal and state agencies, state cooperative councils, cooperative business groups, and others. For more information, visit http://www.uwcc.wisc.edu/.
The new country of origin labeling (COOL) rules have officially taken effect, but meat and livestock industry groups continue their efforts to modify or repeal the law.
“There’s a very, very good chance that WTO rules against us in the spring and summer—then we’re in the retaliation phase,” says Giordano. “There’s going to be a lot of U.S. products, companies and workers, farmers and ranchers hurt if it comes to that.”
Giordano says Canada and Mexico are important markets for U.S. pork.
“If you get restrictions on our exports there, there’s going to be a lot of blood on the floor,” he says. “So we’re working hard in the farm bill conference and we hope that the train gets back on the tracks here so we can avoid retaliation.
“If it doesn’t, we’re looking down the barrel of a gun here.”
Under COOL, meat labels must state where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.