2013 Farm Bill Conferees Set First Meeting for Oct. 30
After years of work and more twists and turns than anyone ever anticipated, conferees for a 2013 Farm Bill are set to hold their first meeting Wednesday, Oct. 30, at 1 p.m. in Washington. The 41 members of the conference committee, led by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), will begin their public work with opening statements, which could last several hours. It’s widely expected that conferees will have come to agreements on as many relatively minor issues as possible outside of the public eye and before official work begins. However, the biggest sticking points remain: Title I programs, dairy assistance and spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. The latter of these could be the biggest impediment to a deal; the House-passed version of the farm bill included $40 billion in SNAP cuts, while the Senate-passed version included $4 billion in cuts. Unless they work swiftly, the calendar will also soon become an enemy of conferees. Just nine weeks remain in 2013, several of which will be consumed by holidays, and both chambers will soon also face decisions on fiscal priorities including FY2014 spending beyond Jan. 15. The first meeting of the conference committee will be webcast via the Agriculture Committee websites.
As Conference Begins In Earnest, NAWG Writes To Stress Farm Bill Priorities
NAWG wrote House and Senate agriculture leaders and farm bill conferees this week to stress wheat growers’ priorities going into the official conference process. The letter urged conferees to maintain a strong federal crop insurance system and explicitly opposed provisions in the Senate-passed bill to link conservation compliance requirements or apply means testing to the insurance program. NAWG supports establishing farm-level protection within Title I and urged committee members to ensure that any reference price does not distort the market or impact planting decisions. The letter offered strong support for the Market Access Program (MAP), the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program, international food aid programs and the web of public agricultural research that supports wheat variety development. NAWG also voiced support for provisions in the House-passed farm bill that would eliminate duplicative regulation of pesticide applications under the Clean Water Act and increase the capacity for on-farm storage qualifying for self-certification and exemption under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) regulation. The full letter and other communication on farm bill priorities are available at www.wheatworld.org/farmbill.
House Passes Water Resources Act by 417 to 3 Vote
The House of Representatives approved the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) Wednesday event on a blockbuster 417 to 3 vote, sending the bill to conference with the Senate. The House version of WRRDA would spend about $8 billon on waterways development projects such as deepening waterways and lock and dam repair and upgrades. The bill also contains provisions intended to speed up the project review process, which should improve the efficiency of shipping goods like wheat. There’s no word yet on when a conference process could start, though it’s expected to be somewhat bumpy due to differing provisions and spending priorities. The Senate passed its version of the bill, worth about $12 billion, on May 15. More on WRRDA is at http://transportation.house.gov/WRRDA.
Budget Negotiations Set to Officially Begin Next Week
Another high-stakes conference committee is planning to meet for the first time next week: the newly-created panel charged with bridging the gaping hole between Republican and Democratic fiscal priorities and producing a package that will fund the government beyond Jan. 15. This committee was appointed as part of the deal to reopen the government following this month’s shutdown; its work is due Dec. 13, though that deadline is very likely to slip into the new year. The committee is led by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who are expected to try to address not just FY2014 funding, but also the sequester and the debt ceiling, which will be breached again before March.
USDA Says CRP, Direct Payment and ACRE Checks Now Being Issued
USDA confirmed this week it is back to making Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), 2013 direct payments and 2012 ACRE program payments following the recent government shutdown. Payments had been delayed because of lack of funding and workers to process checks. The conservation payments were set to go out beginning Monday, while the Title I program payments are set to begin going out Thursday. More about these payments is available through local Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices.
USFRA’s Food Dialogues Explores the Controversies of Farm Size
Farm size and how it impacts consumer purchasing confidence were the topics of the latest discussion in the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance’s (USFRA’s) Food Dialogues series, held Thursday in Boston. The coalition has hosted a series of public discussions regarding how food is grown and raised in the U.S. since its founding more than three years ago. The Boston session addressed pop culture’s and the mainstream media’s portrayals of today’s farms and how they impact the way many consumers view current farming practices. The panel was moderated by Bloomberg News reporter Alan Bjerga and addressed questions of what a family farm is, what a factory farm is, how government regulations differ based on farm size and the definition of sustainability. Panelists included large and small farmers as well as Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). An archived webcast of the session will be available online at www.FoodDialogues.com.
Commodity Classic and AG CONNECT Show Announce Collaboration Beginning in 2016
The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and the American Soybean Association (ASA) announced this week that Commodity Classic and the AG CONNECT Expo and Summit will be held in collaboration with one another beginning in 2016. Classic is a joint venture of NCGA and ASA, with NAWG and the National Sorghum Producers participating as affiliates. AG CONNECT is owned by AEM. The 2014 and 2015 Commodity Classics will go on as planned, with the first joint show scheduled for March 3 to 5, 2016, in New Orleans. More about the new venture is available at www.commodityclassic.com/news-and-media/convention-news/article/2013/10/commodity-classic-and-ag-connect-launch-collaboration.