The livestock, poultry, and meat sectors are urging Congress to let the ethanol incentives, Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) and the tariff on imported ethanol, to expire this year. In a letter to the House Ways and Means Committee leadership, the sectors in a letter stated: “Although we support the need to advance renewable and alternative sources of energy, we strongly believe that it is time that the mature corn-based ethanol industry operates on a level playing field with other commodities that rely on corn as their major input. The blender’s tax credit, coupled with the import tariff on foreign ethanol, has distorted the corn market, increased the cost of feeding animals, and squeezed production margins – resulting in job losses and bankruptcies in rural communities across America.” Those signing the letter were American Meat Institute, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Pork Producers Council and National Turkey Federation.
Agricultural Transportation Report — USDA released a comprehensive report, “Study of Rural Transportation Issues,” on agricultural transportation in the United States, mandated by the 2008 farm bill. The report covers the four major modes of transportation commonly used by agriculture – truck, rail, barge, and ocean vessel. USDA said, “Agriculture is the largest user of freight transportation in the United States, with 31% of all ton-miles recorded in 2007, being used in the movement of agricultural products. This report provides policy makers the vital information needed to make strategic infrastructure and policy decisions to meet rural America's transportation needs, now and in the future." The report examines some of the major issues facing agricultural transportation, including the dramatic effect of deregulation on the rail industry, a growing gap for funding the inland waterways and highway systems, availability of containers and ocean vessel capacity, and the infrastructure that may be needed to support a projected increase in biofuel transportation. The report is available at www.ams.usda.gov/RuralTransportationStudy .
Losing Farmland to Development — USDA’s latest National Resource Inventory (NRI) of Non-Federal Lands report found that the United States is making progress in saving soil from the nation’s cropland, though more cropland is being lost to development. The report found that total cropland erosion declined by 43% from 1982 (3.06 billion tons/year) to 2007 (1.72 billion tons/year). The report also found that the United States has lost over 41 million acres of rural land to development between 1982 and 2007. During this 25-year period, every state lost prime farmland. States with the biggest loss of acres included Texas, Ohio, North Carolina, California and Georgia. States with the greatest percentage of their prime land lost were Arizona (36%), Nevada (34%), New Mexico (33%), New Jersey (30%) and Massachusetts (24%).
Additional Farm Bill Hearings — The House Agriculture Committee announced a second round of farm bill field hearings to review U.S. agriculture policy in advance of writing the 2012 farm bill. The schedule includes:
• Saturday, May 15th, Cattlemen's Park, Pike County Cattlemen's Association, Troy, AL.
• Monday, May 17th, Texas Tech Museum, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX.
• Tuesday, May 18th, 2nd Floor Theater, Edith Mortenson Center, Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD.
Woteki Nominated for Research — President Barrack Obama has nominated Catherine Woteki as USDA under secretary for Research, Education, and Economics. Woteki currently serves as global director of scientific affairs for Mars Inc. Previously she served as dean of the College of Agriculture at Iowa State University. She also served as USDA under secretary for Food Safety from 1997-2001. She is a graduate of Mary Washington College and received her master’s and Ph.D. degrees in human nutrition from Virginia Tech.
P. Scott Shearer