Both chambers of Congress are out of session for the month of August, during which NAWG is providing only short news updates. Regular news stories will return in September.
Super Committee Selected
This week House and Senate leadership named the 12 members of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction as called for by the Budget Control Act of 2011 that was signed into law on August 2, 2011.The bi-partisan, bi-cameral “Super Congressional Committee” charged with the task of identifying an additional $1.2 trillion in budget reductions through spending cuts or revenue measures over the next 10 years. If agreement is reached, these measures must be voted straight up or down in the house and senate by December 23, 2011, a very fast tract.
Senators named to the committee include: Max Baucus (D-MT), chair of the Senate Finance Committee; Patty Murray (D-WA), incoming chair of the Senate Budget Committee; John Kerry (D-MA), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Jon Kyl R-AZ), Senate Republican Whip, and freshmen Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Rob Portman (R-OH).
Congressmen named to the committee include: Fred Upton (R-MI) chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; Dave Camp (R-MI) chair of the House Ways and Means Committee; Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), chair of the House Republican Conference; Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), ranking member of the House Budget Committee, Jim Clyburn (D-SC), member of the House Democratic Leadership; and Xavier Becerra (D-CA), vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, senior most Hispanic Member of the House.
Downgrade Implications for Farmers
On August 5, Standard and Poor’s announced its decision to downgrade the rating of U.S. sovereign debt from the highest quality rating of “AAA” to “AA+ with a negative outlook”. The other two large certified credit rating agencies, Moody’s and Fitch Ratings, have retained their “AAA” rating, although Moody’s reserved the right to further downgrade their “AAA” rating given the June issuance of its “negative outlook” of the U.S. debt.
According to USDA Secretary Vilsack, “it’s premature to speculate on the effects of recent credit rating downgrades on farm loans and farm programs or in the upcoming farm bill debates.”
However, if these matters are not resolved the downgraded credit rating will eventually mean higher interest rates for anyone borrowing money, including farmers who typically leverage a sizeable portion of the capital needed on today’s farming operation. As potential spending reductions or revenue measures are being considered, NAWG will continue to work with key members of Congress to make sure essential agricultural programs are maintained and look for ways to streamline or make these programs more effective.
Common Sense Prevails in Farmer Trucking Regulations
In perhaps the quickest turnaround that has been seen out of Washington, DC for a while, an agency determination on farmer transportation guidelines was announced this week. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration took just nine days to review 1700 comments and determine that in two of the three areas under review there was no need for additional guidance. The agency issued clarifying guidance to state enforcement officials that farmers operating under crop share arrangements are not common or contract carriers and should be eligible for the farmer exemption, if that state allows the exemption.
NAWG Attends White House Rural Council Briefing
NAWG staff and representatives from 15 other rural and agricultural groups participated in a roundtable discussion at the White House this week hosted by the newly-created White House Rural Council. Established to streamline and improve federal program delivery to rural stakeholders, the council, chaired by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and comprised of two dozen Cabinet leaders, is focused on economic development, job growth and quality of life issues in rural America. A brief overview of the council’s work was shared and discussion was held about the President’s upcoming trips to rural America, specifically Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.
This week’s USDA crop production report forecast total U.S. wheat production at 2.077 billion bushels, down 1 percent from the July forecast and 6 percent from 2010. As farmers in the northern wheat growing states harvest, the report forecasts this crop as the smallest since 2007. Also released this week by USDA were world estimates that project world wheat production for the 2011/12 marketing year at 672 million metric tons which is an increase of 9.7 million metric tons since last month.
U.S. spring wheat had the largest drop since the July report, with USDA predicting 522 million bushels of production, a drop of 5 percent from July and 15 percent from 2010 production levels. USDA resurveyed growers in Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota prior to this report to account for reduced plantings from the wet spring. Winter wheat production for 2011 is forecast at 1.50 billion bushels, up 1 percent from 2010, with hard red winter at 794 million bushels and soft red winter at 452 million bushels. The number of harvested acres for 2011 in all six classes of U.S. wheat is forecast at 45.9 million acres with a forecasted yield of 45.2 bushels per acre.
Fall NAWG Intern Position Open
The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) is seeking an intern for the fall who is interested in gaining real-world experience in policy development. Candidates can be current students or recent graduates. Our interns are an integral part of our team assisting the government affairs and communications departments through the semester. Responsibilities include scheduling and attending meetings in a diverse range of policy areas, conducting research and writing briefings, assisting with NAWG’s weekly newsletter and other tasks as needed. For more information about our internship please go to our website http://www.wheatworld.org/about-us/internship-program/.