In consideration of NAWG staff members who are focusing their energies on preparations for the 2012 Commodity Classic, we are offering only a quick update this week. The full NAWG newsletter will return next Thursday, Feb. 16.
Let the Games Begin: Obama Budget Proposal Expected Monday
The debate over federal spending is likely to get louder next week following Monday’s scheduled release of the Obama Administration’s budget proposal. NAWG and other agricultural organizations will be closely watching the proposal and reactions to it for indications of how the FY2013 budget cycle could play out, specifically with regards to agriculture research and other programs that require spending allocations to be passed each year. For his part, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has already indicated he does not intend to bring a FY2013 budget resolution to the floor of that chamber. The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee has also announced the existing moratorium on earmarks, or Congressionally-directed spending, will continue in FY2013.
Surface Transportation Bills Moving Through House and Senate
Both the House and Senate are working on surface transportation funding bills, which could address a number of agriculture industry priorities. Bills ready for floor action in both chambers primarily tackle funding for the highway trust fund, which provides funding for projects across the country and is set to run out of money in the fall. The House version of the bill, H.R. 7, reportedly addresses needed hours-of-service exemptions for ag producers and commercial drivers license requirements for fuel transportation, as well as mandating a report on truck weight issues. Work is ongoing related to these issues in the Senate legislation, S. 1813.
Senate Starts New Round of Farm Bill Hearings on Wednesday
The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee is scheduled to hold its first farm bill hearing of the year on Wednesday, Feb. 15, starting at 9:30 a.m. D.C. time. The session will look specifically at energy policies and how they affect economic growth in rural America. Scheduled witnesses include Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, local government officials, small business people and a farmer. The hearing will be webcast live at http://ag.senate.gov. Future hearings are scheduled on conservation, nutrition and farm policy issues.
CDC Report Lists Bread As Top Source of Sodium
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report this week showing bread and rolls are the top source of sodium in American diets, due in large part to the frequency with which they are eaten. The CDC did not recommend Americans reduce the amount of bread or rolls they eat, but did reiterate the importance of checking labels and monitoring overall sodium consumption. Salt is used in bread making to enhance favor and increase bakeability. Since 1963, the average sodium level in a slice of bread has been reduced from 254 mg to 180 mg. The full CDC report is at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6105a3.htm?s_cid=mm6105a3_w.
Unintended Consequences: New EPA Reg Could Prevent Mosquito Spraying
The Contra Costa (Calif.) Times reported last week that local officials are concerned new pesticide permitting regulations could interfere with their ability to control mosquitoes, leading to an increase in human cases of the West Nile virus. The new requirements came from a complicated 2009 Sixth Circuit Court ruling saying pesticide applications that could come into contact with waters are a point source of pollution. A bill to clarify the requirements, H.R. 872, has passed the House but has been subject to a hold in the Senate by Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). As spring approaches and insects start to hatch, local health officials are joining farmers in voicing strong concern about the new regulations and strong support for legislation to clarify it. The full Contra Costa Times story is at http://www.contracostatimes.com/california/ci_19848380.
WASDE Shows U.S. Exports Up 25 Million Bushels
USDA’s February World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report showed U.S. exports up by 25 million bushels, including projected increases for soft red winter (SRW) and white wheat by 15 million bushes each while hard red winter (HRW) exports are projected down 5 million bushels. Overall, ending stocks for all wheat are now projected to be 25 million bushels lower at 845 million. The report raised the 2011/2012 projected season-average farm price by 20 cents on the bottom end of the range, to $7.15 to $7.45 per bushel. The full WASDE report is available at http://www.usda.gov/oce/commodity/wasde/.
ISAAA Reports Biotech Crop Acres Up 8 Percent
ISAAA’s latest report on biotech crop adoption shows biotech crop plantings grew by 8 percent in 2011, to 160 million hectares, or more than 395 million acres. The group said nearly 17 million farmers in 29 countries planted biotech crops last year, with half of biotech crops globally being grown in developing countries. ISAAA reports that since biotech crops were first commercialized in 1996, farmers have planted them on a total of more than 1.25 billion hectares, or more than 3 billion acres. A press release with more details from the report is available at http://www.isaaa.org/resources/publications/briefs/xx/pressrelease/default.asp.