Bill; and the Ag Economy- Thursday
By Keith Good On May 23, 2013
Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday (link
requires subscription) that, “A push in the U.S. Senate to repeal current sugar
policies failed again on Wednesday as senators moved ahead
with votes on amendments.
seeking to overhaul sugar policies argued in vain that food-processing and
confectionary jobs are lost to Canada because of import restrictions and
tariffs that protect a small number of domestic sugar growers. Sen. Jeanne
Shaheen, D-N.H., the lead sponsor of the
amendment, argued that sugar was the only commodity in the farm bill
that wasn’t seeing reforms.
remains the most tightly controlled commodity market in this country,’ Shaheen said.”
replay of arguments in favor of the amendment from Sens. Shaheen and Pat Toomey (R., Pa.)
made yesterday on the Senate floor can be seen here and here.
In addition, the American Sugar Alliance released a short video outlining arguments
supporting current policy principles.
On a roll
call vote, the Shaheen reform measure (amendment #925)
to change the sugar program was not agreed to by a
vote of 44-54.
noted that, “Senators in the Red River valley answered the challenge to
defend their sugar growers. Countering Shaheen’s
figures, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.,
said rolling back the current sugar program would threaten 142,000 jobs tied to
the industry. The amendment also would have allowed countries to trade U.S.
import quotas on the international market. Heitkamp
said that would risk fraud and abuse. ‘I think that’s a formula for
interjecting a factor that has never been used before in the sugar bill,’ she
“Heitkamp also cautioned, ‘When you single out one
commodity, you threaten the overall effectiveness of the farm bill.’
“Heitkamp’s Republican counterpart from North Dakota,
Sen. John Hoeven, also noted that sugar
prices are currently low compared to the international market. Sugar prices
have collapsed lately, reaching levels comparable to
1985 levels. ‘So because of the sugar program we have, American consumers
benefit,’ Hoeven said.”
Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “Helped along by a run
of relatively low prices, sugar interests won a Senate farm bill vote
Wednesday evening, defeating efforts at reform sought by a coalition of
candy-makers, conservative activists and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce…[I]n the sugar showdown, Wednesday’s 54-45 roll call closely
mirrored a 53-46 vote in June last year on the same issue.”
update yesterday from the National Council of Farmer
Cooperatives (NCFC) noted that, “The [NCFC] today expressed its strong
opposition to Senate Amendment 925 to the farm bill (S. 954) being
debated on the Senate floor today. The amendment, offered by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), would change, and effectively dismantle,
current federal policies with regards to sugar.”
Farmers Union also opposed Sen. Shaheen’s
Heitkamp (D., N.D.) indicated in a statement yesterday
that, “Today the U.S. Senate stood with sugar producers and the 142,000
Americans whose jobs are supported by the industry…[W]orking
to defeat this was another step forward in crafting a Farm Bill that works for
Sugar Alliance noted in
a statement yesterday that, “In short, this amendment represented bad
policy for the United States, which is why it was defeated once again.”
Clare Jalonick reported yesterday that, “The
Senate on Wednesday rejected a Republican bid to turn the federal food stamp
program over to the states.
the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, the food stamp program
is administered by the Agriculture Department and federal dollars are unlimited
as long as recipients qualify. The program cost $78 billion last year, more than double the price in 2008.
by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., to a wide-ranging farm bill would
have converted the program into grants to states, which could decide
how to use the money, with certain restrictions. The Senate rejected
the amendment 60-36.”
A video replay of
Sen. Inhofe’s presentation in support of the amendment can
be seen here. In part, the Oklahoma Republican implored his
colleagues to vote to turn the Farm Bill into a “Farm Bill” instead of a
article pointed out that, “Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of
Michigan, who heads the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
Committee, said Inhofe’s plan would mean ‘devastating results for
millions of families who are trying to feed their children.’”
Cox reported yesterday at The Hill’s Floor Action Blog that, “Senate
Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) urged
senators to oppose Inhofe’s amendment because it would cap the supplemental nutrition
at half the current levels.
“‘I rise in
strong opposition to block granting and cutting the food assistance program,’
Stabenow said. ‘We have a value system that says we’re going to make sure when
families are hit on hard times to no fault of their own, that they’re not going
to starve. … I think that’s the best about us.’”
Stabenow’s remarks on this issue, which included a back and forth discussion
with Sen. Inhofe, can
be seen here.
Hill update added that, “After the vote on Inhofe’s amendment failed, the Senate
unanimously consented to passing an amendment from Sen. Al
Franken (D-Minn.), which would allow grocery delivery services for
seniors and people with disabilities on food stamps.”
Bill- Crop Insurance
on the Senate floor yesterday, Chairwoman Stabenow spoke about conservation
and specifically highlighted the policy principle of linking conservation
compliance measures to the federal crop insurance program.
attempt to avoid the potential unintended consequences of complying with
conservation practices after direct payments are eliminated, Chairwoman
Stabenow noted that, “It’s important for us to continue protecting wetlands,
which help prevent flooding, and are important wildlife habitats for ducks and
other water fowl.”
Stabenow added that commodity and conservation groups, “with a little
compromise and a lot of hard work,” came up “with a plan that conserves soil
and water resources for generations to come – and protects the safety net our
farmers rely on.”
that, “I know a number of my colleagues today are planning to talk about
amendments on crop insurance – and I know a number of my colleagues voted for
some of those amendments last time around. But this
conservation agreement puts us in a very different situation this year…[A]mendments that weaken crop
insurance would reduce the number of farmers participating in crop insurance –
raising premiums for family farmers and reducing the environmental
benefits of this historic conservation agreement.”
Democratic Senator Dick Durbin is among the lawmakers who,
along with Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) will be offering a crop
amendment would reduce the level of premium subsidy for crop insurance policies
by 15 percentage points for farmers with an adjusted gross income over $750,000,” Sen. Durbin said yesterday in a
lengthy presentation on the Senate floor.
Clayton reported yesterday at the DTN Ag Policy Blog that, “Durbin,
D-Ill., spoke for an amendment both he and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., offered
last year which would reduce the premium subsidy by 15% for people or legal
entities with more than $750,000 adjusted gross income. That amendment
got 66 votes last year in the Senate.
said he supports crop insurance. Crop insurance is a better safety net than
direct payments and more defensible, but there should be limits in what
a person received.”
explained that, “Durbin wants a vote again this year on the amendment as a
coalition of more than 30 groups sent a letter to every senator explaining the
agreement reached in the Senate Agriculture Committee to link conservation
compliance to eligibility for the crop insurance premium subsidy. In return
for the compliance measure, farm groups were able to get the coalition
supporters to agree to drop the means-testing language form the
committee bill. Thus, the farm and conservation groups oppose any changes to
Durbin-Coburn amendment obviously would rock that boat.
said he supports tying conservation compliance to crop insurance premium
Patton reported yesterday that at the Lexington Herald-Leader that, “Kentucky tobacco growers are up in arms over a
new proposal to eliminate federal crop insurance programs for tobacco.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. John McCain,
R-Ariz., introduced an amendment to the 2013 Farm Bill to drop the eight USDA
tobacco insurance programs.
Council for Burley Tobacco notified farmers of the proposed change Tuesday and
asked them to contact Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, to urge him
to oppose the amendment. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville, opposes
the change, the council said.”
McClatchy writer Renee
Schoof reported earlier this week that, “The
U.S. Senate this week has started to fine-tune the huge, new five-year farm
bill, working through votes on a series of amendments that will include
a proposal to eliminate federal subsidies for tobacco insurance.
Carolina is the nation’s No. 1 producer of tobacco, and the state’s senators,
Democrat Kay Hagan and Republican Richard Burr,
said on Tuesday that they’d fight the amendment.”
Bill- GMO Labeling
Goad reported yesterday at The Hill’s RegWatch
Blog that, “Lawmakers long intent on increasing the regulation
of genetically engineered food are turning to the farm bill as a
potential vehicle for the effort.”
explained that, “Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the author of
pending legislation that would require all genetic food to be labeled as
such, filed two amendments intended to increase scrutiny of the
industry’s practices. One would require the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study the 64
countries around the world that already require genetically engineered food
“The second is
meant to express the sense of the Senate that labeling should be mandatory.
amendment, submitted by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), would
make clear that states have the right to enact their own labeling laws. At
least 26 states have taken up consideration of such a statute.”
amendment offered last year by Sen. Sanders failed by a vote of 26 to 73.
update at the Senate Democrats webpage noted that the
chamber will reconvene this morning and after other business, “The Senate will
then resume Legislative Session and consideration of S.954, the Farm
bill. There will then be a roll call vote on the Sanders amendment #965 (GMO
foods)(60 affirmative-vote threshold).”
Bill- Other Issues
Nixon reported yesterday at The Caucus Blog (New York Times) that,
“One of the world’s largest food companies offered its support on Wednesday for
changes to the way the United States provides food aid to developing countries,
adding critical agribusiness backing for President Obama’s plans to overhaul
explicitly endorsing the proposals advocated by Mr. Obama, which include buying
some food from local producers rather than from farmers in the United States,
Cargill, based in Minnesota, said that changes needed to be made to the program
because conditions have evolved since it was created in 1954. Not the least of
those changes is that there are now more than 870 million people worldwide who
lack sufficient food.”
Reuters writer Sam
Nelson reported yesterday that, “U.S. farmers should begin winding down
corn plantings over the next week to 10 days despite occasional
showers and storms that will cause temporary delays, an agricultural
meteorologist said on Wednesday.
it looks like they’ll make decent progress, more so in the lower Midwest than
in the Dakotas though,’ said Andy Karst, meteorologist for World Weather Inc.”
Johnson Jr. reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that,
“U.S. corn futures settled higher Wednesday amid concerns that strong demand
could shrink already tight domestic supplies.”
received a boost after the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported U.S.
ethanol production rose 2.1% to 875,000 barrels a day last week, the highest
level since June. U.S. ethanol stocks fell 1.2% last week to 16.2 million
barrels from 16.4 million barrels the prior week, continuing a recent decline
that reflects healthier demand,” the article said.
University of Illinois Agricultural Economists Scott Irwin and Darrel
Good posted an interesting update yesterday at the farmodoc daily blog titled, “Rapid
Corn Planting Progress, But Well Below the Record Pace.”
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