It was a short work week in Washington, D.C., with the Memorial Day holiday on Monday and the Senate on recess. Here’s a quick update on key happenings.
Senate Farm Bill Filed, Scored…and Waiting on Floor Time
The Senate’s version of the 2012 Farm Bill is reportedly second on that body’s legislative agenda when it returns from recess next week. This means the bill could be on the Senate floor as early as June 5, though no firm date has been announced. The bill, known formally as the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, or S. 3240, was officially introduced in the Senate last Thursday. New Congressional Budget Office (CBO) numbers out last Friday confirmed that the legislation would cut $23.6 billion from federal spending, with about 83 percent of funding reductions coming from Title I programs. More on the Senate bill is at http://www.ag.senate.gov/issues/farm-bill. The CBO score is at http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/s3240.pdf.
Two Reports Outline Possible Effects of Senate Ag Farm Bill
New information is becoming available from ag economists about the likely impacts of the provisions in the Senate Agriculture Committee’s version of the 2012 Farm Bill. A new study from the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) – accessible in full at http://www.fapri.missouri.edu/outreach/publications/2012/FAPRI_MU_Report_03_12.pdf – looks at the possible consequences of eliminating direct payments, establishing a new Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program and reducing land in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to 25 million acres by 2017.
Separately, Kansas State Ag Economics Professor Art Barnaby has issued an article examining the real-world effects of a proposed $40,000 limit on the government’s portion of farmers’ crop insurance coverage. Based on his analysis, an average farm with average crop insurance costs would be able to ensure just 1,377 acres before hitting the limit. Farmers of higher-value crops, like specialty crops, would be able to ensure even fewer acres. More from Barnaby is at http://agmanager.info/crops/insurance/risk_mgt/rm_html12/AB_40K_Limit.asp.
NAWG, Other Shippers Urge Rail Provisions in Surface Transport Bill Conference
Conferees continue to work on finalizing a surface transportation measure that can be approved by both chambers of Congress before existing law expires on June 30. Last week, Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) expressed optimism about completing the bill, though just 13 legislative days remain for the House before the deadline. This week, NAWG and 35 other rail shippers wrote House conferees urging them to adopt provisions included in the Senate version of the legislation to “make small, but important, improvements to the current law governing the relationship between the nation’s major railroads and their customers.” The letter is at www.wheatworld.org/transportation.
USDA To Seek Comment on Report Release Timing Changes
USDA officially announced last Friday that it is reviewing the release times for its statistical reports following changes to electronic trading hours at the major U.S. commodity exchanges. The Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT), the Kansas City Board of Trade (KCBT) and the Minneapolis Grain Exchange (MGEX) have all extended their hours in recent weeks, prompting concern about the effects on farmers and other market participants of nearly continuous trading. The USDA announcement was made by Chief Economist Joseph Glauber, who said USDA will be seeking public comment through a Federal Register notice in the coming weeks.
USFRA Schedules Second Food Dialogues for June 20 and 21 in Los Angeles
USFRA recently announced the second installment of its Food Dialogues, dubbed “Lights, Camera, Food: Perceptions and Realities of Farming and Ranching in America.” The two-day event will encompass four separate discussions over June 20 and 21 in the Los Angeles area. The goal is to bring together entertainment movers and shakers, chefs, academics, journalists and farmers for varied and in-depth conversations about food production and how farmers and ranchers work. Two of the four events will be live streamed online and a third will be “live Tweeted” using the hashtag #FoodD. Much more about the events planned is at http://www.fooddialogues.com/.