NAWG Newsletter – Quick Edition: Week of March 21, 2013
We hope everyone had a great National Ag Day this past Tuesday. Remember, updates are always available at www.facebook.com/wheatworld.org and www.twitter.com/wheatworld.
Congress Approves CR
Congress has successfully passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government for the next six months. The House passed their version of the CR earlier this month. After eight days of floor debate, the Senate passed an updated version of their CR on Wednesday with a vote of 73-26. The Senate bill went much further than the House bill, and included appropriations for the departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Justice, Commerce, Agriculture and Homeland Security. As part of a deal with the House Republicans, the Senate bill didn’t overturn sequester, but included an amendment offered by Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). The amendment allows the USDA to shift money from other areas of their budget to avoid furloughing meat inspectors. The House approved the Senate bill with a vote of 318-109. The bill will be sent to the White House, and is expected to be signed into law this week.
Farmers to Receive a Reduction in Direct Payments This Fall
Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, alerted the hill on Wednesday that the Department will reduce payments received earlier this year due to sequestration. The reductions are primarily in three programs: Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC), Supplemental Revenue Assistance (SURE) and Noninsured Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), and won’t exceed 8.5%. Instead of asking farmers to pay back the money they’ve already received, the Department plans to take the cut out of future direct payments. If a farmer is not receiving a direct payment this year – yet has already received a payment from one of the three programs mentioned – it is speculated that those producers would be put on a credit ledger, and any future payments will be reduced.
According to guidelines sent out by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), there is a 30 day Congressional notification period that must pass before the FSA can move forward with this plan. Therefore, payments in MILC, SURE, and NAP will be deferred for the next 30 days. Once the 30 days are up, FSA intends to resume making full payments for the suspended programs.
House Passes Budget; Senate to Follow
On Thursday the House approved Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget on a party-line vote of 221-207. Ten republicans voted against the Ryan Plan, and all democrats voted against it. The Ryan budget was the only budget that passed the House this week. Many budget alternatives were offered, but none of them came close to passing. This marks the third year in a row that the House has passed a budget, but the first year that the Senate majority intends to do the same thing. The Senate moved yesterday to begin consideration of its 2014 budget resolution, and are scheduled to pass it sometime on Friday.
USDA Urges Farmers and Ranchers to Prepare for Continuing Drought
With the prospect of a continuation of one of the worst droughts in nearly 50 years, the US Department of Agriculture is reminding farmers and ranchers of some of the programs they offer that may help to mitigate effects of the drought. Last month, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new sign-up for the Conserve Reserve Program (CRP) beginning May 20 and ending on June 14.
The CRP has been protecting the nation’s natural resources through voluntary participation for the past 27 years, and provided significant environmental benefits to rural communities and the nation. Secretary Vilsack pointed out, “Last year, during one of the worst droughts in generations, the CRP proved vital in protecting our most environmentally sensitive lands from erosion. Emergency haying and grazing on CRP lands also supplied critical feed and forage for livestock producers due to the drought.” Currently, about 27 million acres are enrolled in CRP.
Japan Announces Intentions to Join Trans-Pacific Partnership
Prime Minister Abe of Japan announced their intentions to join negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) last week. The addition of Japan – the 12th country involved in the negotiations – is important to American Agriculture because the size of the Japanese economy is second only to China’s in the region. Japan is also one of the US’s largest wheat export markets, purchasing three classes, of US wheat yearly. During the last market year, Japan purchased over 3.5 million metric tons of US wheat at a value of over $1.2 billion. In 2012, agricultural exports to Japan totaled $13.5 billion. NAWG supports Japan’s inclusion in TPP negotiations, and moving forward with a comprehensive, high-standard agreement that will benefit all countries involved.
House Ag Committee Approves Several Changes to Dodd-Frank
The House Agriculture Committee approved seven proposals amending the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The bills are the culmination of the committee’s oversight efforts in the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, as it writes rules for Dodd-Frank. Speaking on the reforms, Chairman Lucas said “Right now, some of the proposed regulations could make using derivatives so expensive that businesses will be forced to stop using them to hedge against risks. That ultimately results in higher costs for consumers and diminished stability in the marketplace. We have an opportunity to correct these issues with legislative fixes.” All but one of the bills advanced on a voice vote. The only one that didn’t – the Swaps Regulatory Involvement Act – was passed by a vote of 31-14.
The approved Bills are listed here: http://agriculture.house.gov/sites/republicans.agriculture.house.gov/files/documents/DoddFrankBillsUPDATED.pdf.
Extra Credit: Farm Policy Facts Releases Farm Bill 101 Guide
Today Farm Policy Facts released a current and comprehensive guide to the each title that makes up the Farm Bill, called Farm Bill 101. The guide includes a title-by-title history and summary of the Farm Bill.
You can click the link to view the Farm Bill 101 guide: http://content.inboxgroup.com/fpf/Farm-Bill-101-3-21-13.pdf