Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Just in from Washington

Simpson: Reducing Fuels Prevents Catastrophic Fires
Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman expresses great concern over Forest Service budget proposal
Washington – Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson today blasted a Forest Service budget proposal that cut funding for active forest management in favor of funding the fire budget and new land acquisition. U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell testified on the budget in front of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, which Simpson chairs. The hearing covered a variety of issues, including fire borrowing, Secure Rural Schools, and the states’ role in managing public lands.
Chairman Simpson started the hearing by expressing his concern about the impact that the forest fire budget has on the ability of the Forest Service to manage healthy forests. Because the Forest Service must borrow from other accounts to pay for fire costs when those costs exceed the agency’s budget, the Service’s ability to prevent catastrophic fires in the future could be jeopardized.  Simpson noted that today only 30% of the Forest Service’s budget is dedicated to actually managing the national forests, compared to 70% in the mid-1980’s. “Every time I’m in Idaho I hear from Forest Supervisors, District Rangers, and other Forest Service employees that they cannot manage their forests with the shrinking amount of funding they receive,” he said.
Simpson noted that the Senate's decision to strip funding intended to reimburse the agency for fire borrowing during the devastating 2012 fire season left the Forest Service with holes to fill in FY14 but expressed concern about the fire budget in the President’s request. “The Senate’s decision not to fund fire in the CR did not do you any favors, but this budget proposal doesn’t seem to help you either,” said Simpson. “Generally, we know that projects reducing the threats of catastrophic fire also create jobs, generate revenue for the Treasury and reduce future fire suppression expenditures.  So I am extremely disheartened by the dramatic cuts in hazardous fuels funding. It seems like this budget has enacted fire borrowing before it is needed, stripping funding from other accounts to put it into fire fighting. That concerns me.”
“These cuts have real consequences,” he continued, “and they will be felt acutely in communities that depend on public lands for their economic vitality and way of life. In many counties in my district and across the country, public lands make up the vast majority of the land base and are one of the only sources of income for residents. [Yet this] budget proposes to cut recreation, livestock grazing, minerals and energy, and forest products. Essentially the Administration is cutting the programs that have the most positive impact on the economy.”               
During the hearing, Simpson also expressed support for extending the Secure Rural Schools program, which provides an alternative source of education funding for counties with a high percentage of national forests or federal land, and encouraged the Forest Service to partner with states to improve forest management. “States have public forests and therefore foresters and public land managers who are already doing some of this work right next to national forests,” said Simpson.  “I think there needs to be some way to improve the relationship between the Forest Service and the states so you can partner with state foresters to get some of this work done.”

Monday, April 29, 2013

Just in

New Legislation Needed to Maintain Movement of Grains

WASHINGTON – New legislation introduced in the House, H.R. 1152, The Mississippi River Navigation Sustainment Act, would maintain the critical movement of goods during periods of extreme weather, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.
“The Mississippi River is a critical national transportation artery on which hundreds of millions of tons of essential commodities are shipped, such as corn, grain, oilseeds and agricultural inputs,” AFBF President Bob Stallman wrote in a letter to sponsors of the bill, Reps. Bill Enyart (D-Ill.) and Rodney Davis (R-Ill.).
“Recent low water events on the Mississippi River created great uncertainty for those who depend on our waterway systems. Whether it is low water conditions or devastating floods, we need to be proactive in planning and preparing to keep the Mississippi River open for commerce,” Stallman said. He praised the recently introduced legislation because it will improve understanding of the Mississippi River system while providing additional flexibility for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to respond to extreme weather events through better water management, improved river forecasting and more effective environmental management.
“An efficient and reliable inland waterway system linked to competitive ports is vital to America’s ability to provide affordable agricultural products domestically and to compete internationally,” Stallman concluded.
Farm Bureau encourages other members of Congress to support the bill.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Just in

Challenges Lie Ahead on Path to Farm Bill
Washington--Mary Kay Thatcher, AFBF’s senior director of congressional relations, discussed some of the challenges ahead related to passage of a new farm bill on the AgriTalk radio program.

 “The House is going to be a problem again,” Thatcher said, although she also noted that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), has said at least twice recently that a farm bill will be done this year.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Just in

Caldwell--Asparagus is on! At Sunnyside Farm in Payette they started picking last Friday and will continue to pick fresh daily asparagus until early June.  Current price at the farm stand...$1.85 per pound.

Just in

Farm Bureau Urges Support for Fruit, Veggie Farmers

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2013 – Providing new farm bill programs for fruit and vegetable farmers would help ensure a strong agricultural economy and benefit the health of the entire nation, American Farm Bureau Federation Vice President Barry Bushue told Congress today.
“The farm bill helps farmers and ranchers deal with the risks that threaten their ability to produce the food, fiber and fuel we all need,” Bushue testified to the House’s Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture.
Farm Bureau urged lawmakers to extend some programs normally available only to growers of crops such as corn, soybeans and wheat, to farmers who grow specialty crops such as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture/nursery crops and floriculture.
The value of specialty crop production in the U.S. is significant, accounting for approximately 17 percent of the $391 billion in agriculture cash receipts collected in 2012, Bushue noted.
Starting with the next farm bill, Farm Bureau has proposed the extension of a new program – Stacked Income Protection Plan or STAX for short – for growers of the so-called program crops including field corn for livestock, soybeans and wheat, as well as apples, potatoes, tomatoes, grapes and sweet corn.
“The program would be administered by USDA’s Risk Management Agency in a manner consistent with the current crop insurance delivery system,” said Bushue. “It is designed to complement existing crop insurance programs. It does not change any features of existing insurance policies,” he explained.
The five specialty crops Farm Bureau proposed for STAX coverage each rank in the top 13 in value of production for the country; represent at least 2 percent of the nation’s value of production; and are grown in at least 13 states. In addition, insurance is currently available for each of the crops. If STAX is used to cover these five specialty crops, fruit and vegetable farmers in 44 states would benefit.
Farm Bureau also urged Congress to continue some programs for fruit and vegetable growers that were first included in the farm bill in 2008. Those programs include the Farmers’ Market Promotion Program, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program in elementary schools and initiatives that help bring fruits and vegetables produced within a state to local schools.
Other programs for specialty crop farmers Farm Bureau would like to see continued in the next farm bill include outreach and training on Good Agriculture Practices aimed at improving food safety, traceability and productivity; initiatives for pest and plant disease control; and improving direct-to-consumer retail opportunities.
“We encourage the House Agriculture Committee to continue to invest in our specialty crop producers,” concluded Bushue.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Just in

Drought, Low Snowpack Totals Forces
Pioneer Irrigation District To Reduce Deliveries

Caldwell--A vanishing snowpack coupled with drought like weather has forced Pioneer Irrigation District to reduce water deliveries by 30 percent compared to the amount of water it normally supplies to its 5,800 patrons.  Unless conditions change dramatically, Pioneer could also be forced to completely end deliveries of irrigation water in mid-August, almost two months earlier than normal, Pioneer officials announced today.
Pioneer is hopeful that the natural flow will last until mid-May, and are currently drawing on water rights it holds for that natural flow from the Boise River. When natural flow is no longer available Pioneer will supplement with storage waters, according to Pioneer Irrigation District Water Superintendent Mark Zirschky.
The District currently has about 52,000 acre feet of storage water available.  By cutting the amount of water provided to individual water users by 30 percent, that amount of water could be stretched to last about 90 days, meaning the District would be out of water by the middle of August.  Normally, the irrigation season lasts until the first week of October.
That prompted the Pioneer Board at a meeting today to cut back deliveries by 30 percent.
“We will be running the system as lean as we possibly can. We will also need the cooperation of our users to be as conservative as possible.  But this clear is a low water year and we felt it was critical that we put in place a plan that will hopefully prove a compromise between water supply and demand,” said Board Chairman Alan Newbill.
Conditions could change should the spring temperatures be cooler than normal or if there is substantial precipitation in May. However, Pioneer Irrigation District does not plan to back away from the 30 percent cutback. Instead, Pioneer would extend the irrigation season.  Newbill said the Board of Directors want to use any improved water supply conditions to stretch supplies into a longer irrigation season if possible.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

WASHINGTONPoultry and livestock farmers scored a win Monday when a federal court rejected efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to dismiss a case brought by West Virginia poultry farmer Lois Alt, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Alt had challenged an EPA order demanding that she obtain a Clean Water Act discharge permit for ordinary stormwater runoff from her farmyard. Despite EPA’s recent withdrawal of the Alt order, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia ruled that the case should go forward to clarify for the benefit of Alt and other farmers whether, as EPA contends, discharge permits are required for “ordinary precipitation runoff from a typical farmyard.”
“EPA seems to have believed if it withdrew the order against Ms. Alt, the court would dismiss her lawsuit,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “The tactic failed because the court recognized EPA wasn’t changing its underlying legal position, but just trying to avoid having to defend that position.”
Alt filed suit against EPA in June 2012 after the agency threatened her with $37,500 in fines each time stormwater came into contact with dust, feathers or small amounts of manure on the ground outside of her poultry houses as a result of normal farm operations. EPA also threatened separate fines of $37,500 per day if Alt failed to apply for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for such stormwater discharges.
Alt responded with a lawsuit challenging the EPA order. AFBF and the West Virginia Farm Bureau intervened as co-plaintiffs with Alt to help resolve the issue for the benefit of other poultry and livestock farmers. EPA withdrew its order in December 2012, about six weeks before briefing on the legal issues was set to begin. The same month, five environmental groups, including Waterkeeper Alliance, Center for Food Safety and Food & Water Watch, moved to join the lawsuit on the side of EPA.
In opposing EPA’s motion to dismiss, Alt and Farm Bureau argued that farmers remain vulnerable to similar EPA orders, because EPA stands by its contention that the Clean Water Act statutory exemption for “agricultural stormwater” does not apply to stormwater from the farmyard at a concentrated animal feeding operation. The court agreed, noting that “[t]his Court’s ultimate decision on the merits will benefit all parties, including EPA and many thousands of farmers, by clarifying the extent of federal CWA ‘discharge’ liability and permit requirements for ordinary precipitation runoff from a typical farmyard.”
“Ms. Alt has courageously taken on EPA not just for her own benefit, but for the benefit of other farmers,” said Stallman. “She refused to back down from her principles despite the best efforts of EPA and environmental groups. We are pleased that the court agreed that the stakes are high for all poultry and livestock farmers and this issue should be resolved.”
In addition to denying EPA’s motion to dismiss, the court allowed the environmental groups to intervene and ordered briefing on the Alt and Farm Bureau claims to begin by June 1. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Just in from the Capital Press

Adding Japan trade pact would grow sales

Capital Press
The National Potato Council estimates annual U.S. potato exports would grow roughly $275 million within five years through Japan's inclusion in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
Japan's prime minister asked to join in March. This month, President Obama offered his support of welcoming Japan to the bargaining table. All 10 other negotiating countries must consent for Japan to be added.

Japan is already the largest foreign market for U.S. spuds, importing $400 million in potato products in fiscal year 2012, up 10 percent from the prior year.

NPC joined leaders with national milk, pork and rice organizations, along with the American Farm Bureau Federation and Cargill, Inc., during a Monday afternoon press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., in support of adding Japan to the agreement.

NPC spokesman Mark Szymanski said the agreement stands to eliminate Japan's tariff's on U.S. spuds -- 8.5 percent on frozen products and 20 percent on dehydrated products -- and open doors for fresh imports. Currently, Japan allows only a small amount of U.S. fresh imports for coastal potato chip production and prohibits table stock imports.

NPC predicts removing trade restrictions with Japan would increase frozen potato exports by $140 million, with total sales approaching $500 million, by 2017. Also during that timeframe, NPC expects annual dehydrated exports would grow 10 percent per year to about $50 million, fresh chip potato exports would grow 25 percent per year to $25 million, and annual fresh table-stock spud exports would reach $100 million.

Oakley, Idaho, grower Randy Hardy, NPC's vice president of trade affairs, said the U.S. must keep pace with Europe, which is also negotiating a free trade agreement with Japan. He's visited Japan's potato growing region and believes the country has ample unmet demand.

"Japan doesn't have storage or the variety we have, and their growing area is limited," Hardy said.
Increasing exports to Japan would drive production at Washington processing plants strategically located for the export market, said Washington Potato Commission Executive Director Chris Voigt.
"Because of our emphasis on the Pacific Rim, that's why this is going to be a very good situation for Washington," Voigt said.

Idaho Barley Commission Administrator Kelly Olson said Japan is a major market for U.S. feed barley and is the No. 1 importer of U.S. corn. Though Japan has no import quotas on U.S. grain, Olson said the agreement could remove tariffs and address certain Japanese practices adding to the cost of imported grain.

"It's always better to have them at the table in negotiations than outside of the process," Olson said.
According to the U.S. Dairy Export Council, Japan is the fifth largest U.S. dairy export market, purchasing $284 million in U.S. dairy products in 2012, despite "substantial market access barriers in many of the biggest dairy categories."

The 17th round of TPP negotiations will commence in Peru May 15-24. The U.S. auto industry and Ford Motor Co. have voiced opposition to Japan's participation, worried an agreement wouldn't adequately address an automotive trade discrepancy and would "lock in one-way, unfair trade."

Friday, April 19, 2013

Sustainability Not a Buzz Word for Farmers

Cleveland--Ohio crop farmer and cattle rancher Mike Haley blogs about sustainability this week in  The Biofortified Blog.  “Lately it seems the term sustainability has become more of a buzz word that implies something better, thus opening the doors for advertising and marketers to take advantage of certain elements of their products that seem more sustainable than their competitors,” writes Haley. “Sustainability is not a buzz word to farmers, as agriculture has always focused on producing food for our communities while caring for the environment in which we live.”

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Simpson Examines National Park Service Budget
Questions impacts of budget cuts on park access and gateway communities
Washington - Congressman Mike Simpson expressed his deep concern over the impacts of cuts to the National Park Service’s operating budget during a budget hearing with the agency.  Simpson, who chairs the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, noted that private funding was required for Yellowstone National Park to open on time this spring, and that gateway communities in Idaho are concerned about impacts to their economies.
Simpson blasted the $22 million reduction to the Park Service’s operating accounts—which comes on top of the five percent across-the-board cut under sequestration—included in the Senate continuing resolution. “It’s no secret that sequestration is having a detrimental effect on a number of Park Service functions,” Simpson said. “It’s for this reason that the House actually proposed in its version of the FY13 Continuing Resolution freezing the Park Service operating accounts—in other words, not making additional cuts beyond sequestration. Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out as the House would have liked with regard to your budget.”
Simpson asked about the maintenance backlog throughout the Park Service, and the pressure that adding new units may create in a constrained budget environment. He pointed out that he sees no end in sight to the current environment of austere federal budgets, and also questioned how the Park Service is “looking outside the box” in order to create a more stable, long term financial footing for itself. 
Simpson is a strong advocate for an all-of-the-above approach to our nation’s fiscal challenges.  As such, he has supported reducing spending in discretionary accounts to find billions in savings over the past few years. However, discretionary accounts only make up about one-third of federal spending.  The other two-thirds comes from mandatory programs like Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid.  Even if Congress completely eliminated discretionary spending, without reforms to mandatory spending, the nation would still have a budget deficit.
After the hearing, Simpson said, “Our budget situation requires us to make difficult decisions.  It will force us to set careful priorities and do more with the limited resources available. We can either continue trying to offer the same services but be less and less effective at them or we can simply decide not to do certain things any more. I am hopeful that we will not have to completely abandon our national parks, which have rightly been called “America’s best idea,” because we fail to take major steps to reform our entitlement programs.”

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Statement by Bob Stallman, President, American Farm Bureau Federation, Regarding U.S. Approval of Japan TTP

WASHINGTON – “The American Farm Bureau Federation is pleased with the decision of the U.S. to approve the addition of Japan as a negotiating partner in the Trans Pacific Partnership. As a major U.S. trading partner, Japan would bolster the reach of the TPP for U.S. agriculture.
“As the fourth-largest U.S. agricultural export market, with nearly $14 billion in purchases in 2012, trade with Japan is important to America’s farmers and ranchers. Both the United States and Japan will benefit from Japan being a TPP partner, and by sharing in improved sanitary and phytosanitary standards for agricultural trade and expanded market access with TPP nations.
“The recent decision by Japan to increase access for U.S. beef shows that Japan can act to improve market access for U.S. agricultural products based on sound science. A comprehensive TPP agreement that includes Japan will strengthen trade relationships, address remaining barriers and improve the competitiveness of the Asia/Pacific market.”

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Just in

 Just 2 Percent of U.S. Corn Crop Planted  
Washington--Just 2 percent of the U.S. corn crop is in the ground, according to the Agriculture Department’s first report of the season. That’s well below the nation’s five-year average of 7 percent and dramatically down compared to one year ago when 16 percent of the crop was in the ground. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

 ‘Tax Day’ Serves as Reminder of Need for Tax Reform
Washington--“Tax Day” (April 15) is not exactly a favorite holiday for most folks, but it does spotlight the need for a simpler, more transparent tax code. According to Pat Wolff, American Farm Bureau Federation tax specialist, changes that would make the tax code more fair for farmers and ranchers include special provisions for farmland where the farm family agrees to keep it in agriculture. Also on the wish list: lowering the capital gains tax rate to 15 percent for all taxpayers and a further change to estate taxes.  

Friday, April 12, 2013

Just in

Dow AgroSciences, Monsanto Announce Cross-License
Soda Springs--Monsanto Company and Dow AgroSciences have reached new cross-licensing agreements for creation of the next generation of advanced weed and insect control technology in corn. 

Monsanto will license Dow AgroSciences’ new Enlist Weed Control System herbicide-tolerant trait for use in field corn. Dow AgroSciences will license Monsanto’s third-generation corn rootworm technology, Corn Rootworm III, which is presently under development by Monsanto and offers a new mode of action for rootworm control. 

The agreement paves the way for introduction (pending regulatory approvals) of next-generation products that build off the current SmartStax platform, which includes Dow’s Herculex and Monsanto’s insect resistance and herbicide-tolerance traits. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Just in

April Report Forecasts Tight Corn and Soybean Supply

WASHINGTON – The April World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report released today by the Agriculture Department forecast tight corn and soybean stocks for the U.S., confirming the ongoing impact of the extensive drought of 2012, according to analysis by the American Farm Bureau Federation.
This month’s WASDE report estimated an increase in 2012-13 corn ending stocks; however, the increase was not as drastic as predicted in the March stocks report. AFBF economist Todd Davis said the stocks report found 400 million bushels more than the pre-stocks report forecast. Today’s WASDE report showed ending stocks at 757 million bushels, up only 125 million bushels from the March estimate. And although the projected corn stocks are up slightly from the March projection the stocks-to-use ratio is still straggling, at 6.8 percent.
“There is not a large buffer of corn available to withstand weather or other production related problems for this year’s crop,” said Davis. “Planting will start in the Midwest in the next few weeks, and the latest report, if realized, shows ending stocks to be the smallest since 1995-96.”
The USDA reduced feed and residual use by 150 million bushels but increased the corn for ethanol demand by 50 million bushels to 4.55 billion bushels. Davis said an expected element of the report is the decrease in export use.
“USDA lowered export use predictions by 25 million bushels to 800 million. That is a 48-percent decrease from the 2011-12 marketing year, and if realized, would be the lowest corn export since 1971-72,” said Davis. “This is a reflection of our already elevated corn prices.”
While corn showed an increase in ending stocks, the report left soybean ending stocks unchanged from the March estimate of 125 million bushels, despite the pre-reports indicating a slight increase. The stocks-to-use ratio for soybeans is tighter than corn at 4.1 percent, and there is approximately 15 days of soybean supply on hand on Sept. 1.
Davis said wheat, corn and soybean world ending stocks increased from the March estimates.
“The majority of world wheat and corn increases will come from China,” said Davis. “The increase in the world soybean crop will come from South America. Both Brazil and Argentina rebounded from drought and are expected to handle much of the world demand until the U.S. can harvest and become competitive again.”
The May WASDE report will be released May 10 and will provide the first supply and demand projections for the 2013 crop.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Just in from Washington

AFBF Lays Out Tax Reform Wish List

WASHINGTON– Individual tax code reform is essential for farmers and ranchers, the American Farm Bureau Federation said today in a statement submitted to the House Small Business Committee. According to AFBF, tax reform must be simple, transparent, revenue-neutral and fair to farmers and ranchers.
“Any tax reform proposal considered by Congress must be comprehensive and include individual tax reform,” AFBF stated. “More than 96 percent of farms and 75 percent of farm sales are taxed under IRS provisions for individual taxpayers.”
Although broadening the tax base and lowering the rate are important parts of tax reform, lawmakers should note that lowering rates will impact farms and ranches differently than other businesses because farmers’ and ranchers’ income can swing wildly as a result of unpredictable weather and uncontrollable markets, cautioned AFBF. Farm and ranch income varies greatly from year to year with loss years often outnumbering those that are profitable.
Farm Bureau also supports the continuation of unrestricted cash accounting for farmers and ranchers who pay taxes as individuals and cautioned against reducing the number of farms classified as corporate that are eligible to use cash accounting.
“Capital gains taxes continue to be a problem for farmers and ranchers,” continued the statement. “In addition to capital gains taxes imposed when land and buildings are sold, proceeds from the sale of cattle used for breeding, dairy, draft and some other livestock are treated as capital gains income.”
Like capital gains taxes, estate taxes continue to be one of the most worrisome tax issues facing farmers and ranchers, said AFBF. About 85 percent of farm and ranch assets are tied up in land, buildings or breeding animals, leaving farmers with few options for generating cash to pay the estate tax.
With agriculture cropland values increasing on average 15 percent from 2011 to 2012, more farms are in danger of topping the current $5 million exemption, and estate tax planning continues to be complex and expensive for those close to or over the threshold. AFBF supports permanent repeal of the estate tax.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Farm Bureau Sends Farm Bill Proposal to Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON – The American Farm Bureau Federation is sending a farm bill proposal to Capitol Hill today. Approved this weekend by the AFBF Board of Directors, the proposal offers a diverse mix of risk management and safety net tools to benefit a wide range of farms and it saves $23 billion compared to the cost of continuing the current program.
Listen to a Newsline Report on the Farm Bureau Farm Bill Proposal
The American Farm Bureau farm bill proposal helps reduce the nation’s budget deficit, provides an adequate economic safety net for the nation’s farmers and is based on several core policy principles, according to AFBF President Bob Stallman.
The Farm Bureau proposal:
  • Offers farmers a choice of program options.
  • Protects and strengthens the federal crop insurance program and does not reduce its funding.
  • Provides a commodity title that works to encourage farmers to follow market signals rather than making planting decisions in anticipation of government payments.
  • Refrains from basing any program on cost of production.
  • And, ensures equity across program commodities.
“There is far less money this year than last with which to secure an adequate safety net for the many family-owned farms that make up the bulk of America’s agricultural system,” Stallman said. “Last year, Congress merely extended the old 2008 farm bill until Sept. 30 of this year. Now, while unfortunately we have less money to work with, it is vital that Congress complete a new five-year farm bill this year. Doing so is in the economic interest of our entire nation.”
Stallman said the goal of the American Farm Bureau proposal is to provide a measure of fairness among regions and crops, while providing each commodity sector a workable safety net provision for farmers who grow that crop.
“Farm policy should provide a strong and effective safety net and viable risk management programs for farmers that do not guarantee a profit but, instead, protect them from catastrophic occurrences,” Stallman said. “We also want to ensure that terms of our farm programs do not affect a farmer’s decision of which crop to plant. The program must comply with our World Trade Organization agreements.”
Farm Bureau supports a program that reduces complexity while allowing producers increased flexibility to plant in response to market demand.
Farm Bureau supports a safety net that allows farmers to purchase insurance products to further protect individual risk. The program should be delivered by private crop insurance companies.
We support producers being allowed a choice of program options.
Specifically, the AFBF proposal calls for a three-legged safety net for program crop farmers that includes: a stacked income protection plan commonly called STAX; an improved crop insurance program; and target prices and marketing loans. Under the proposal, all program crop farmers would have access to the marketing loan and crop insurance provisions and they would then select between a target price program and STAX to round out their safety net option.
The AFBF proposal also supports extending provisions of the STAX program for apples, potatoes, tomatoes, grapes and sweet corn. Covering these five specialty crops will benefit fruit and vegetable producers in 44 states. Eventually, Farm Bureau would like to cover all crops under a STAX program in the future.
“While we would have liked to have provided a STAX program for all commodity programs under the same terms as those provided to cotton last year in the Senate bill, funding is insufficient to do so,” Stallman explained.
Because of funding limits, AFBF is proposing modifications be made to STAX for all eligible commodities. Those modifications would: reduce the crop insurance premium subsidization to 70 percent from 80 percent; not offer the multiplier option; not offer a harvest price option; allow STAX to be based on yield or revenue at the discretion of the producer; and allow purchase only as a buy-up policy with a 10-25 percent deductible rather than also providing for a stand-alone policy. In addition, under the STAX program suggested by Farm Bureau, no payments would be made until the county average revenue or yield fell by 10 percent from the historic amount. 
A target price program for all program commodities would be available except for cotton. Due to terms of Brazil’s WTO cotton case against the United States, cotton farmers would likely not be eligible for a marketing loan at the current level or any target price.
For other crops, target price levels would be based on the marketing-year average price from the past five years (2007 through 2011) and those projected by the Congressional Budget Office for the next five years (2012 through 2016). To establish the actual target prices and provide general equity across crop sectors, these 2007-2016 average prices are reduced by 25 percent for corn and soybeans, 15 percent for wheat and 10 percent for rice and peanuts. Wheat has an adjustment of only 15 percent because it is produced mostly in the larger counties, making area yields less representative of individual producer experience and therefore less effective as a risk management tool.
The smaller 10 percent adjustment is applied to peanuts and rice as both crops lack insurance products that function as well as those available to the major grain and oilseed commodities. AFBF suggests the same 10 percent loss threshold be used to determine appropriate target price levels for rice and peanuts. The target price will be based on 85 percent of planted acres, but not to exceed a producer's historical base acreage. This provides a safety net more accurately addressing the risks associated with current production decisions and eliminates the present mismatch between payments and actual production or market conditions. Capping the payment acres at the historical base minimizes any potential distortion of a target price system.
The Senate Agriculture Committee will likely begin markup of a comprehensive, long-term farm bill this month, while the House Ag Committee is considering moving a bill after the Senate Ag Committee completes its mark up.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Just in

 Newsline: Progress for Ag Labor Legislation 
Washington--Congress may be on spring break this week, but that hasn’t stopped work to negotiate new immigration policy. In the latest Newsline, Kristi Boswell, American Farm Bureau Federation labor specialist, says agricultural labor is an important part of the negotiations.  

Friday, April 5, 2013

President's Editorial

Farm Bill Past Due
 by Frank Priestley, Idaho Farm Bureau President

The 2008 Farm Bill was recently extended until September 2013. In spite of urging Congress to act on this important legislation last year, they kicked the can down the road, which is becoming an all too regular occurrence in our nation’s capital.
It is vital that Congress complete a new five-year farm bill this year, and we urge Farm Bureau members to let their congressmen know how important this is. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, budget restrictions dictate that the next farm bill will have fewer resources than in the past. Farm policy must help protect a stable food supply by ensuring responsible farm businesses stay in business during difficult times.
Last year, there was broad support for a bill passed by the full Senate and the House Agriculture Committee. The estimates made by the Congressional Budget Office in mid-March for the cost of the bill and how much money is cut from agricultural spending in a potential sequestration bill, FY2014 appropriations, the continuing resolution and debt ceiling negotiations will be a large determinant in how similar bills introduced in 2013 look in comparison to those passed last year.
Farm Bureau will focus on:
-        Limiting the reductions in cuts to the commodity, conservation and crop insurance titles; Protecting and strengthening the federal crop insurance program;
-        Refraining from basing any programs on cost of production;
-        Ensuring equity across all commodities;
-        Ensuring that programs will not cause planting decisions to be based on farm program benefits that accrue more beneficially to a particular crop.;
-         Maintaining the marketing loan program;
-        Opposing the linkage of conservation compliance with crop insurance;
-        Opposing means testing and further payment limits;
-        Eliminating the dairy price support program and the Milk Income Loss Contract program, and use the funds associated with those programs to offer a voluntary gross margin insurance program for dairy producers;
-        Maintaining the current sugar program;
-        Including the Supplemental Coverage Option, whereby program crop producers, as well as producers of specialty crops, could purchase a county level revenue policy on top of their individual crop insurance coverage to cover all or part of a producer’s deductible portion of their individual insurance policy;
-        Restoring the critical, non-program crop, disaster programs, such as the Livestock Indemnity Program, Livestock Forage Program and the Tree Assistance Program, to provide those producers with some basic risk management tools to help address catastrophic losses and make those programs retroactive;
-        Achieving the vast majority of necessary reductions in conservation funding from the land retirement programs rather than working land programs;
-        Consolidating conservation provisions and focusing on administrative savings and simplicity in the remaining programs; and
-        Expanding the State Block Grants for Specialty Crops program.
Serious consideration of the new bill is expected in April.
Farm policy should provide strong and effective safety net/risk management programs that do not guarantee a profit but, instead, protect producers from catastrophic occurrences while minimizing the potential for farm programs affecting production decisions. It should be compliant with World Trade Organization agreements.
Farm Bureau supports a program that reduces complexity while allowing producers increased flexibility to plant in response to market demand.
Farm Bureau supports a safety net that helps producers deal with catastrophic revenue losses and allows farmers to purchase insurance products to further protect individual risk. The program should be delivered by private crop insurance companies. If a catastrophic risk program is not achievable, we support producers being allowed a choice of program options.

USDA Extends Application Deadline for Dairy Margin Protection Program

Re-enrollment Continues Through June 22, Dairy producers urged to act now WASHINGTON– U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announ...