No Word on Farm Bill Talks; Your Voices Still Needed in the Debate
There has been little news, formal or informal, on the farm bill since the August recess began last week. Most Members are back in their districts meeting with constituents, including farmers and consumers concerned about the legislation. In a sign of issues still to be resolved, House Democrats wrote Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday, stressing the importance of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, and asserting that the final farm bill or any other SNAP legislation “must be crafted to ensure that we do not increase hunger in America.”
NAWG encourages all wheat growers and other readers to be in contact with their Members of Congress directly to encourage a resolution to the farm bill saga by the time the current extension of the 2008 Farm Bill expires on Sept. 30. Wheat growers can also take to the Internet to voice their opinions. In fact, a group of South Dakota-based farm and food organizations have started a “Back the Farm Bill” campaign to encourage outreach to Congress urging completion of new farm policy. The effort has a Facebook page that has garnered more than 1,000 likes, accessible at www.facebook.com/backthefarmbill.
With Plate Already Full, Debt Ceiling Fight Awaits Returning Congress
In addition to the farm bill and a continuing resolution to fund the government, Members of Congress coming back to D.C. after Labor Day will be returning to another perennial problem: the debt ceiling. Estimates are that the United States will reach its borrowing limit sometime between early September and mid-November. Early this month, the Treasury Department said it would undertake one of its so-called “extraordinary measures” to keep the government paying bills as the debt limit draws near. Those efforts and recent payments from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac back into the general treasury will likely stave of the deadline until late fall. Of course, there is no sign of compromise on the issue in Congress, and it has also been a sticking point for a formal conference committee on the budget resolution.
Harden and Bonnie Sworn In to New USDA Posts
Two important USDA officials were officially sworn in to their new posts this week. Krysta Harden, the new deputy agriculture secretary, and Robert Bonnie, the new USDA undersecretary for natural resources and the environment, were confirmed by the Senate just before the August recess began after approval without objection from the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. NAWG supported both nominations and looks forward to working with both officials in their new roles.
Florida Plant Achieves Long-Sought Goal of Cellulosic Ethanol at Commercial Scale
The first shipments of cellulosic ethanol produced at a commercial scale should be available soon according INEOS Bio, which owns the facility in Florida that is making the next generation fuel. The company said late last month that its Indian River BioEnergy Center is now generating cellulosic ethanol at commercial pace using gasification and fermentation technology applied to vegetative and wood waste. It will ultimately have an annual output of eight million gallons of cellulosic ethanol and six megawatts of renewable power. NAWG has long been a strong supporter of renewable fuels, particularly the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol. Wheat straw and biomass grown on marginal land or even conservation program acres could be excellent feedstocks for cellulosic ethanol, producing a new source of income for farmers and clean, renewable fuel to offset America’s total oil consumption. More about the INEOS facility’s milestone is at http://www.ineos.com/en/businesses/INEOS-Bio/News/INEOS-Bio-Produces-Cellulosic-Ethanol/.
Registration Info for Fall Wheat Conference Coming to States Soon
Information regarding the agenda and registration process for the 2013 Fall Wheat Conference will be coming to NAWG’s and U.S. Wheat Associates’ affiliated state wheat organizations in the coming days. Staff from both organizations are aiming to have details available by early next week, perhaps sooner. The Conference is one of two joint meetings held each year by the two national wheat organizations. This year’s gathering is scheduled for the first week of November in Portland, Ore. All of NAWG’s and USW’s policy committees and both boards of directors are set to meet during the sessions, in addition to a joint board session and a meeting of the National Wheat Foundation. When available, details will be online at http://www.wheatworld.org/meetings-events/fallconference/.
Bread Bites: What’s a Whole Grain, Anyway?
The term “whole grain” has become a part of popular culture, referenced on nearly every restaurant menu and in every magazine on the shelf. But have you ever wondered what a whole grain is, anyway? The Whole Grains Council (WGC), an organization dedicated to educating and promoting the food, says that the term “whole grains” refers to the fact that whole-grain foods are made using the entire seed of a plant, including the primary parts bran, germ and endosperm. Whole grains can include wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley, sorghum and more, and can offer more antioxidants than even fruits and vegetables. To be advertised as a whole grain food, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that at least 51 percent of the total weight of the product must be whole grains. WGC reports that about 15 to 20 percent of grains on the market are whole grains, and USDA recommends making half of all grain consumption from whole grains. Much more from the Whole Grains Council is at www.wholegrainscouncil.org.
ICYMI: Raising a Baby Born in 2012 to Cost a Cool $241,000
Raising a baby born in 2012 to age 18 will cost an average middle-income U.S. family just over $241,000, according to a new USDA report out this week. This represents a 2.6 percent increase from 2011, with child care, education, health care and clothing costs rising the most. Researchers anticipated smaller increases in the costs of housing, food, transportation and other miscellaneous items. The report takes into account varying levels of income, saying a family earning less than $60,640 per year can expect to spend a total of $173,490 (in 2012 dollars) on a child from birth through high school, while a family earning more than $105,000 can expect to spend $399,780. It also notes geographic variations in the cost of raising a child, with expenses the highest in the urban Northeast and lowest in the urban South and rural areas. The report is available in full at http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/CRC/crc2012.pdf.