The House Agriculture Committee kicked off the 2012 farm bill discussions in a hearing with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “This hearing is the first step in the process of writing the next Farm Bill. A bill this large and that covers so many important issues takes a lot of time and effort to get it right, and I am committed to a process that is open, transparent, and bipartisan,” stated Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN), while reminding everyone that there will be no new money for the next farm bill. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack testified that the administration will work with the committee in developing the new farm bill, provided it contains a safety net for farmers and provision to help create better off-farm jobs in rural America. This includes broadband internet services, renewable energy and bio-fuels, regional food systems and supply chains, forest restoration and private land conservation, and ecosystem market incentives. Congressman Frank Lucas (R-OK), ranking member of the committee, reminded the secretary of the importance of production agriculture when writing the new farm bill. The Senate Agriculture Committee is expected to begin its farm bill hearings early next year.
Farm Bill Field Hearings — The House Agriculture Committee is planning a series of farm bill field hearings to find out what producers and others like and dislike about the current farm bill and what changes the committee needs to consider in writing the 2012 farm bill. The first series of hearings will be held:
• Friday, April 30, 1:00 p.m. (CDT) at Iowa State Fair Grounds, Penningroth Sale Center Des Moines, IA.
• Saturday, May 1, 1:00 p.m. (MDT) at Northwest Nazarene University, Old Science Lecture Hall Nampa, ID.
• Monday, May 3, 9:00 a.m. (PDT) at Fresno City Hall Council Chambers, 2nd Floor Fresno, CA
• Tuesday, May 4, 8:00 a.m. (MDT) at Laramie County Community College Center for Conferences and Institutes, Centennial Room 130 Cheyenne, WY.
Renew Ethanol Support — Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) have introduced the “Grow Renewable Energy from Ethanol Naturally Jobs Act of 2010.” The legislation extends the ethanol blenders’ tax credit, the small ethanol producers’ tax credit, the cellulosic producers’ tax credit and the ethanol import tariff. Senator Grassley said, the lapse of the separate tax credit for biodiesel, which expired at the end of 2009, has cost 29,000 clean-energy jobs and put 23,000 more jobs at risk. According to Grassley, “We can’t risk a repeat performance with ethanol, where 112,000 jobs are at stake. Of the ethanol tariff, the United States already provides generous duty-free access to imported ethanol under the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), but the CBI cap has never once been fulfilled. In fact, last year, only 25% of it was even used by Brazil and other countries.” Senator Conrad said, “Our country is in serious danger because of skyrocketing energy costs. This growing crisis demands urgent action. We must be committed to coming together in a bipartisan way to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, while aggressively pursuing alternative sources of energy, such as biofuels. Extending these tax credits is a step in the right direction.” The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association criticized the proposal saying, “Sugarcane ethanol from Brazil is an advanced, low-carbon fuel that could help the United States cut dependence on Middle East oil, save money at the pump and improve the environment as both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board have recognized. It is ironic that Congress allows oil from nations hostile to America into the country tariff-free, but is more than willing to punish clean energy from Brazil, a long-standing democratic ally.” Similar legislation (H.R. 4940) was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressmen Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and John Shimkus (R-IL).
U.S. Agricultural Exports Increase to Peru — According to USDA’s report, “Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN)”, U.S. agricultural exports to Peru reached a record last year as a result of the implementation of the U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement (PTPA). In the first year of the PTPA, U.S. agricultural exports reached a record $530 million – a 22% increase. Major winners were U.S. corn, beef, and poultry. Corn exports to Peru in the first year of the PTPA increased 167% to 572,060 metric tons in quantity and increased more than 100% in value to $117 million. The U.S. share of Peru’s corn market increased from 15% to 38%. U.S. beef exports reached a record of $6.5 million in value, an increase of 9%. Poultry exports to Peru were $2.2 million compared to almost nothing the year before. Other winners included fresh foods, beer and wine.
File Acreage Reports — USDA is reminding producers to submit their annual report of acreage to their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) county office to meet FSA program eligibility requirements. According to USDA, acreage reports are necessary to determine and maintain eligibility for various programs, such as the Direct and Counter-Cyclical Program, and new programs authorized in the 2008 farm bill, such as the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program (SURE), Average Crop Revenue Election Program (ACRE), Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP), Tree Assistance Program (TAP), and Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm Raised Fish Program (ELAP).
P. Scott Shearer