CBO’s February Farm Program Baseline Declines Less Than Expected
Congressional Budget Office (CBO) February 2013 baseline projections issued this week showed, as expected, that there will be less money available to write a farm bill this year. However, the reduction in total funds was less than expected. One key indicator, crop insurance spending, showed a 3 percent decline based on expectations that commodity prices will be lower in 2013. The February baseline numbers are important because they are a good indication of what March 2013 baseline numbers will show. Farm bill programs proposed this year will be scored against the March numbers. The full baseline is available at http://cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/43893_USDAfarmPrograms.pdf.
Obama Urges Action on Sequestration Cuts Prior to March 1
President Barack Obama called this week for Congressional action ahead of sequestration cuts planned for March 1. The savings from planned cuts would be $1.2 trillion over 10 years, with $55 billion annually cut out of the Department of Defense, $11 billion annually out of Medicare and another $44 billion annually out of all other federal programs. Obama is demanding that any deal done to avoid the sequester have both spending cuts and tax hikes. However, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has publicly stated he will no longer negotiate with Obama on a deficit-reduction package.
Senate Agriculture Committee to Hold Hearing on Farm Disasters
The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee announced Thursday it will meet next week to hear testimony about disasters facing American farmers. The hearing is scheduled for Feb. 14 at 9:30 a.m. D.C.-time. Witnesses will include Dr. Joe Glauber, USDA’s chief economist, and Dr. Roger Pulwarty, director of the National Integrated Drought Information System at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in addition to farmers from Montana, Indiana and Michigan. The hearing will be webcast at http://ag.senate.gov.
MF Global Customers to Get Back Up To 93 Percent of Lost Funds
More than a year after the brokerage MF Global suddenly went bankrupt, losing more than $1.6 billion in customer money in the process, it appears most customers will get nearly all of the their money back. A bankruptcy judge approved last Thursday a deal that includes a payback of about 93 percent of customer money in U.S. accounts. The company’s collapse in the fall of 2011 resulted in an unprecedented loss of customer funds that rocked the confidence of participants in the futures markets. Farmers, ranchers and small rural businesses who rely on futures markets to hedge risk were among those who lost funds, prompting changes by CME Group, the company’s industry regulator, and investigations by both the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.
New Senate Ag Ranking Member Cochran Names Lead Staff
New Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) announced late last week the first of his hires in his new position. Cochran appointed his chief of staff, T.A. Hawks, as Republican staff director for the Committee, naming the Republican staff director for the Senate Appropriations Committee, Bruce Evans, as his new personal office chief of staff. Cochran also named Steven Wall, his legislative director and counsel, as general counsel for the Committee’s Republican staff; promoted Adam Telle, currently a legislative assistant, to legislative director and promoted Will Todd, also a legislative assistant, as deputy legislative director. The full release from Cochran’s office is at http://www.cochran.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/news-releases?ID=dcb2c572-580b-4baa-bb65-4c257491012e.
KCBT Open Outcry Trading Moving to Chicago
CME Group announced Monday it is moving open outcry trading of Kansas City Board of Trade (KCBT) hard red winter wheat futures and options to its Chicago trading floor beginning Monday, July 1, pending CFTC review. KCBT wheat futures and options will continue to trade on CME Globex and be listed by and subject to the rules of KCBT. The last day of open outcry trading on the KCBT floor will be June 28. CME Group will operate an electronic trading center in the former KCBT floor space until the end of September. The two exchanges announced in October of last year that CME would purchase KCBT. A full release on the announcement this week is at http://cmegroup.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=3365&pagetemplate=article.
Energy Secretary Leaving; Pick for Interior Announced
Another cabinet secretary announced this week he would be leaving. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a strong proponent of alternative energy sources, resigned last Friday. There’s not yet been indication of who might replace Chu. This week, President Barack Obama announced his pick for Interior Secretary, Sally Jewell, the president and CEO of Recreational Equipment, Inc., better known as REI. Jewell is also a former commercial banker and oil engineer.
Commodity Classic and NAWG Annual Meetings Begin in Less than 20 Days
Commodity Classic is set to begin in just two and a half weeks in Kissimmee, Fla., where growers of wheat, corn, soybeans and sorghum will gather to soak in some warm sun, learn new techniques, see new tools, and work to develop policy priorities for the coming year. Classic is NAWG’s annual meeting, and all of NAWG’s policy committees are scheduled to meet at the event. Details about attending Classic are online at http://www.wheatworld.org/meetings-events/commodity-classic/.
Extra Credit: Ram Trucks Breakout Commercial About Why God Made Farmers
In the extremely unlikely event that a reader of this publication has not yet seen it, NAWG recommends watching the two-minute commercial aired by Ram Trucks during the Super Bowl, which galvanized the farm community and showed the faces of farmers to millions of consumers who otherwise have no connection to agriculture. The commercial, called simply “Farmer,” features the late Paul Harvey reading a poem about the work farmers do over images of America’s farmlands and farmhands. At press time, the commercial had been seen more than 7.5 million times on YouTube. It is available at http://youtu.be/AMpZ0TGjbWE.