Ag Industry Dealt a Blow from EPA

The agriculture industry has been dealt a blow according to Adam Nielsen, director of legislation and policy development for the Illinois Farm Bureau. Nielsen, who spends a significant amount of time promoting the agricultural industry in Washington, D.C., said the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed 2014 reduction of the amount of corn ethanol blended as part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is of great concern as is the lack of a five-year Farm Bill.

Adam Nielsen Illinois Farm Bureau“I think it’s time for those four tops to stop posturing and to finish the job,” said Nielsen when asked about the status of the Farm Bill while at a biodiesel groundbreaking and RFS roundtable event hosted by biofuel plant Patriot Renewable Fuels.  “And that’s to get back in a room and reach agreements on some of these issues that are considerable issues, but it’s not the first time a Farm Bill has ever been negotiated in this fashion and some of the people who are involved in this have been there before. So we’re all counting on them to be leaders right now.”

Nielsen said a five year farm bill is needed and the industry cannot afford another extension of one or two years. “The policies we have on the books right now reflect agriculture of the previous decade. We need a farm bill that reflects where we are today. I think they understand that and we’ve been patient for a long time, but our patience is beginning to run thin. And it is time for leaders to lead,” said Nielsen.

He noted that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and Farm Bill in some ways are tied together. Because the RFS drives the use of corn and soybeans there is no need for commodity supports. But if the bottom of the floor falls out on the RFS, then there would again be a need for commodity supports and this will typically be legislated through a Farm Bill.

When asked why the Farm Bill so so important and what’s at stake if one is not passed, Nielsen pointed out, “The Farm Bill provides a measure of national security, something we all take for granted. It guarantees the basic nutritional needs of Americans will be met. It really helps support the nation’s conservation goals. It keeps our soils healthy into the future. And then it provides a support for production.”

Finally, Nielsen said the Farm Bill is more than a farm bill. “It is a jobs bill for our economy. And this is what is at stake.”

Listen to my interview with Adam Nielsen here where he discusses both the Farm Bill as well as the need for the RFS to stay in tact and how the two bills are intertwined: Ag Industry Dealt a Blow from EPA

Check out the Patriot Renewable Fuels photo album.

Career & Technical Education Threatened in Missouri

Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs such as the Missouri FFA strive to teach students valuable skills through leadership opportunities & hands-on learning in high school vocational classes. There is a proposal sent out by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) removing the priority for organizations like the FFA from a students high school education.

CTE is not limited to just the FFA. It also encompasses Family & Consumer Sciences, Health Sciences, Business & Marketing Education, Trade & Technical, Technology & Special Needs. Can you imagine high school without these programs?

Supporters of CTE need to be aware of the changes that have been proposed that may erode the CTE delivery system in Missouri. Interested groups and individuals would include business and industry along with their trade associations, community leaders, legislators, teachers, administrators, staff, parents and STUDENTS, both current and former. Think about whom in your community should be alerted and asked to take action.

DESE has proposed MSIP 5. This will replace MSIP 4, which has effectively been suspended by the DESE. The MSIP 5 proposal appears to remove the weight given to CTE programs in a school evaluation process and no longer specifically requires 4 program areas to be available with a minimum of 12 credit hours and 20 credit hours as the desirable standard for CTE.

Generate letters objecting to the proposed rule in it’s current form and ask for changes. Send your letters to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Attention: Margie Vandeven, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Quality Schools, P.O. Box480, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0480. Be sure to reference the appropriate code of state regulation citation of 5 CSR 20-100.255. Send a copy of your letter to your legislator and follow up with a conversation regarding what is at stake. Comments must be received by Nov. 30, 2012.

For more information check out these resources:
Missouri ACTE Outreach 2012
Proposed MSIP 5 Information

If you have questions about this issue please contact:
Jon Wilson
Legislative Chair – MOACTE
Gainesville FFA
417-679-4200 – jwilson@gainesville.k12.mo.us

Former Ag Secretaries at NAFB

Three former secretaries of agriculture at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting convention in Kansas City on Wednesday had the opportunity to comment on the election results and what might happen now.

Bob Bergland, who served under President Jimmy Carter, said the outcome of the election was no surprise to him, the question is where we go from here. “Majority leader in the House, Congressman Boehner, is a very fine man,” said Bergland. “He’s trying to get his caucus to agree on provisions in the new farm bill that up til now they have not been willing to do…it’s come back here soon in the lame duck session – I have no clue how that thing will turn out.”

John Block, who was secretary under President Reagen, says now that the election is over, nothing has changed and the fiscal issues facing the country are paramount. “We have the same president for four more years who didn’t get anything done, we have Harry Reid who’s going to run the Senate again, they never even put forth a budget,” he said. “Any farm or family’s got to have a little idea of how much money they’re going to take in and how much money they’re going to spend but the federal government…hasn’t even had a budget – it’s indefensible.”

Former Bush secretary and USTR Clayton Yeutter said amen to Block’s comments and offered his ideas of what might happen with a farm bill. “I’m not sure it will get done in a lame duck session,” said Yeutter. “I think the chances of that happening are probably less than 50-50 which means that they’ll do something temporary, kick the can down the road a bit, then deal with it next year.”

Former Ag Secretaries election comments: Ag Secretaries on election outcome

The former secretaries had the opportunity to reflect on their time running USDA and tell a few “war stories.” Interestingly, all three talked about how much more bipartisan government was during their times.

Former Ag Secretaries opening remarks: Ag Secretaries at NAFB

2012 NAFB Convention Photo Album

Agri-Pulse Poll Favors Romney

A poll for election day shows way more farmers say they are voting Romney over Obama for president.

According to the Agri-Pulse Farm and Rural Poll released today, 78 percent of farmers polled are voting for Mitt Romney in the presidential election and a majority blame Democrats for failure to pass a new farm bill.

“We wanted to see not only how farmers viewed the presidential election, but how the failure to pass a new farm bill might impact their votes on a wide variety of races,” explained Agri-Pulse Editor Sara Wyant. “We also wanted to see how those men and women view some of the most challenging issues confronting their operations.”

On November 1, 2012, Pulse Opinion Research conducted a telephone survey of 319 farmers and ranchers who are likely voters. Questions covered the presidential election, farm bill priorities, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s job performance rating, the Renewable Fuels Standard, and other topics. The telephone survey found that 71 percent of respondents strongly disapprove of President Obama’s job performance while 12 percent strongly approve. Of all farmers polled, 51 percent labeled themselves Republican, 26 percent Democrat.

It may not be surprising that 92 percent of self-identified Republican respondents picked Romney as their presidential vote, but more than half (53 percent) of the self-identified Democrat respondents also picked Romney. Additionally, 74 percent of farmers who identified themselves as “other” in party affiliation expressed preference for Romney.

Asked whether Republicans or Democrats are to blame for the failure to pass a new farm bill, 46 percent answered Democrats while 28 percent said both parties are equally responsible. Nineteen percent blamed Republicans. Interestingly, 35 percent of self-identified Democrats blamed their own party, while only 7 percent of self-identified Republicans blamed theirs.

Find out more about the poll results from Agri-Pulse.

Farm Foundation to Hold Policy Forum Post Polls

While we might know who is elected after November 6th, knowing what they might do could still be a bit murky, especially when it comes to agriculture, food and rural policies. That’s why Farm Foundation is holding a forum about a week after the polls close to look at what those newly elected and re-elected pols will do. The forum will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. EST at the National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW, Washington D.C.

And for the first time a free live, webcast of the forum will be offered. You can see the webcast by registering here. Email julie@farmfoundation.org by Nov. 12th if you plan to attend in person.

“By their votes on Nov. 6, citizens will set the stage for the next four years of the nation’s policy development at both the state and federal level,” says Foundation President Neil Conklin. “This Forum is an opportunity to examine how those elections may specifically impact agriculture, food and rural policies in the months ahead.”

Bread for the World on Elections and Hunger

2010 World Food Prize Laureate Rev. David Beckmann says hunger in America is a key issue that should be addressed in the 2012 election.

“About one in five of our children live in households that run out of food,” said Beckmann, who is executive director of Bread for the World. “On the other hand, I think the safety net programs have worked remarkably well in this economy.” Beckmann notes that hunger in the U.S. has not increased since 2008 even though unemployment and poverty did increase, thanks to programs like food stamps, WIC, Medicaid, and tax credits for the working poor.

Bread for the World would like to see those programs continue because they work, which is why they called on President Obama and Governor Romney to state what they will to do to as president for the hungry and poor, and both responded. “Both of them affirmed the idea of a ‘circle of protection’ around hungry and poor people, both stressed jobs, both affirmed charity, both said government programs are important,” said Beckmann who added that the agreement between the two is important on maintaining U.S. safety net programs in the current fiscal situation, “because in the end, we’re going to have to have a bipartisan budget agreement.”

You can see videos of both candidates addressing the topic on the Bread for the World website, www.bread.org.

David also talks about what he calls the “commonality between agriculture and people who are hungry” and has this interesting and quite beautiful perspective. “Farmers feel food, they understand food, and it gets under their skin when they know a lot of people are hungry and it doesn’t need to be,” he said. “So there’s also kind of a spiritual bond between people having a hard time putting food on the table and farmers in the middle of the field where there’s an abundance of food.”

Listen to or download my interview with David here: Rev. David Beckmann at WFP 2012

View the World Food Prize Photo Album here.

AgWired coverage of the World Food Prize is sponsored by Elanco

Romney Outlines Rural Policy Positions

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney put his focus on agriculture and rural policy on Tuesday with the release of an agricultural policy white paper and a visit to an Iowa farm.

Romney’s “vision for a vibrant rural America” includes tax policies to support family farms, expanding agricultural trade, achieving energy independence by 2020, and creating a commonsense regulatory environment. “The regulatory burden under this administration has just gone crazy,” said Romney during his stop at the Koch family farm near Van Meter, Iowa. “I’m going to put cap on regulation and any new major regulation will have to be approved by Congress.”

Under tax policy, the white paper says Romney will “permanently eliminate the estate tax so that families passing farms from generation to generation will not have to worry about liquidating their assets.” Romney’s trade policy includes completing the Trans-Pacific Partnership and pursuing new agreements, focusing particularly on promising markets in Latin America. His agenda for energy independence includes maintaining the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), “fulfilling the federal government’s commitment to biofuels growers and refiners and providing them the certainty they need to followthrough on their investments in promising technologies.”

Listen to or download Romney speech in Iowa – Mitt Romney in Iowa

Read the entire Romney Agriculture White Paper.

More on AFBF Candidate Questionnaire

Labor and estate tax are two areas where the two presidential candidates hold differing views in issues important to agriculture, according to results of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) questionnaire released yesterday.

“If there’s an area where they diverge in their approach, it would be helping to solve agriculture’s labor shortage,” said Linda Johnson, AFBF Director of Policy Research. President Obama says a system to hire foreign workers should “only be used when U.S. workers are not available” while Governor Romney believes the “current system for issuing visas to temporary, seasonal workers is broken.”

While both candidates agree the estate tax system needs reform, Linda says there was clear distinction between the two on how that should be done. “Romney said he would eliminate the estate tax as president,” she said. “Obama wants to return the top tax rate on estates to 45% but said he would reinstate the $7 million per couple tax exemption.”

Listen to or download my interview with Linda about the questionnaire here: Linda Johnson, AFBF

AFBF Gets Candidate Answers on Ag Issues

The American Farm Bureau Federation got answers from President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney in a questionnaire asking the candidates about their positions on energy, environmental regulations, farm labor and more.

On farm policy, Obama said he understands the need for a strong farm safety net. “That’s why I increased the availability of crop insurance and emergency disaster assistance to help over 590,000 farmers and ranchers keep their farms in business after natural disasters and crop loss,” he said. “My administration expanded farm credit to help more than 100,000 farmers struggling during the financial crisis…and as farmers continue to go through hard times because of this drought, we are expanding access to low-interest loans, encouraging insurance companies to extend payment deadlines and opening new lands for livestock farmers to graze their herds.”

Romney said he supports passage of a strong farm bill “that provides the appropriate risk management tools that will work for farmers and ranchers throughout the country.” He also pointed out that his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), voted for drought relief—a bill which the Senate never took up.

When asked why farmers should vote for them, Obama said he is committed to strengthening rural America through growing products that the world wants to buy and restoring middle class values of hard work and play. He further said, “I am the only candidate that is committed to strengthening the farm safety net, strengthening rural economic growth and supporting rural investments in clean energy.”

Romney said if he were elected, he would give farmers relief from hefty environmental regulations, as well as “a commonsense energy policy that develops our resources right here at home; a renewed focus on opening new markets; and a pro-growth tax policy that encourages investment and recognizes that death should not be a taxable event.”

Read all the AFBF questions and candidate responses.

Opposition to California Proposition is Growing

The National Corn Growers Association is the latest group to join a broad coalition opposing California’s Proposition 37, which would require labeling of some food products sold in that state that contain genetically engineered ingredients.

“All it’s going to do is add to food costs,” said NCGA president Garry Niemeyer of Illinois. “It is a flawed proposition and its exemptions don’t really make sense for those who support the idea of the ‘right to know.’”

An example of exemptions that make no sense – cow’s milk is exempt but soy milk requires a label. Dairy products, eggs, meat and poultry are all exempt. Fruit juice requires a label, but alcohol made with some of the same GE ingredients is exempt. Food sold in a grocery store requires a label, but the same food sold in a restaurant is exempt.

Listen to my interview with Garry here: NCGA president Garry Niemeyer

At least 60 agricultural organizations are part of the campaign urging Californians to vote No on Prop 37, titled the “California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act.” San Joaquin valley diversified farmer Greg Palla says the initiative would effectively ban the sale of tens of thousands of common grocery products only in California, unless they are relabeled or made with more costly ingredients. “We feel that it’s a very deceptive initiative,” he said, noting that the idea of having to label perfectly safe products “just conflicts with good science.”

Palla says Proposition 37 would have a definite impact outside the state of California, since it would apply to so many retail products that made in other locations. “The impact would be swift and clear,” he said, noting that other states might follow California’s example.

Besides state and national agricultural groups, Prop 37 is being opposed by a broad coalition of ethnic and labor organizations, as well as groups representing scientists, doctors, business, and taxpayers in general. Find out more at NoProp37.com.

Listen to my interview with Greg here: California farmer Greg Palla

Farm Foundation, NASDA to Host Presidential Forum

Our friends at Farm Foundation will team up with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) to hold a Presidential Forum on Agriculture, from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates, 100 Locust Street, in Des Moines, Iowa. The forum will use Nebraska Senator and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns to represent the Romney campaign and former Iowa Lt. Governor and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge to represent the Obama campaign.

“It is a challenging time in agriculture and it is exciting to see the presidential campaigns engage directly on these important issues with leaders from across the country,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, who is the current NASDA President. “This forum will highlight the impact agriculture has on nearly every aspect of our economy. I encourage voters to tune in and learn more about where each candidate stands on important issues affecting agriculture.”

“As a non-advocacy organization, Farm Foundation has an important role in providing this opportunity for voters to learn more about the platforms of the respective candidates,” says Neil Conklin, President of Farm Foundation, NFP. “This Forum is an important opportunity to focus on the candidates’ attention to the enormous challenges facing the global food system, agriculture and rural communities.”

There will be a moderator and questions from the invitation-only audience, but it will be streamed live online on Iowa Public Television (IPTV), www.iptv.org, and viewers can submit questions via Twitter using the hashtag #AgForum. It will re-air at 1 p.m. Sept. 16, and at 8 p.m. Sept. 19 on IPTV WORLD. The forum precedes the 2012 NASDA Annual Meeting taking place in Des Moines Sept. 12 to 17.

Vilsack Talks Obama Plan for Rural Economy at DNC

Pres. Obama has a way to keep the rural economy moving forward… that’s the message delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC received from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “President Obama has a detailed plan for a new rural economy,” Vilsack told the delegates. “More support for small businesses making, creating and innovating. More investment in biofuels and other biomaterials. And more trade and more markets.”

Vilsack said rural Americans want someone who will help the middle class and that Obama and running mate Vice President Joe Biden are the ones to keep things moving forward.

In a recent ZimmPoll, Obama and Biden’s challengers, Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan seem to be holding a small lead in a close race, with 42 percent choosing Romney/Ryan and 35 percent going for Obama/Biden. But nearly a quarter of respondents say we need a better choice.

Hear Vilsack’s remarks here: Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack at DNC

Former Ag Secretary and USTR at FPS

A former Secretary of Agriculture and US Trade Ambassador believes Mitt Romney would be a better president for agriculture, doubts Congress will get a farm bill done next month, and would advise against waiving the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

That’s a few of the topics Dr. Clayton Yeutter touched on during a brief press appearance at the 2012 Farm Progress Show on Wednesday, with the main goal of promoting Governor Romney for president. “This is an election that will be decided much more on the basis of non-agricultural issues than agricultural ones,” said Yeutter, citing the national debt in particular. “You’ve got a businessman in Governor Romney who understands all this.”

While Yeutter admits that Congress could pass a new farm bill next month, “the odds are that they won’t get it done before September 30th” and will probably pass some sort of extension, possibly until after the election or maybe for another year.

As to the RFS, Yeutter says he believes the markets will work out the current situation, but if he were advising the administration in the matter, “my advice would be do not grant the waiver.”

Listen to or download all of Dr. Yeutter’s comments here: Clayton Yeutter at FPS

2012 Farm Progress Show Photo Album

AgWired coverage of the 2012 Farm Progress Show is sponsored by New Holland and Monsanto Roundup Ready Plus

Romney Announces Farmers and Ranchers Coalition

Presumptive Republican nominee for President Mitt Romney today announced a coalition of agricultural leaders for his campaign. The Farmers and Ranchers for Romney coalition is chaired nationally by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Ambassador Tom Nassif, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE), and former USDA Acting/Deputy Secretary Charles Conner.

“I’m honored to have so many farmers and ranchers standing with my campaign,” said Mitt Romney. “They are the backbone of America and play a critical role in ensuring Americans across the country have access to safe and affordable food. The fruit of their labor nourishes the world, and I admire their hard work in harvesting our country’s bountiful resources. Our farmers and ranchers also have a critical role in the health of our economy, employing millions of Americans. I’m grateful to have their support in my efforts to turn around the economy and strengthen the middle class.”

Commissioner Adam Putnam said, “As Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner, I’m proud to be supporting Governor Romney’s campaign to get this country moving in the right direction again. While agriculture in America has its own set of unique challenges, farmers are looking for a leader in the White House who knows how the private sector works.” Continue reading

Farm Bill Forecasting at Peanut Meeting

rep. stephen fincherProspects for a new Farm Bill dominated a discussion at the Southern Peanut Growers Conference in Panama City over the weekend.

Congressman Stephen Fincher (R-TN) of the freshman class in the House of Representatives for 2010 would like to see the next Farm Bill delayed until after the 2012 election. “We’ve got to make sure as we approach writing a new Farm Bill that we’re very level-headed,” he said. “Farmers understand that we’ve all got to tighten our belts a little bit, but we can’t kid ourselves and think that we can balance the budget on the back of one percent of the budget, which is what ag gets.”

Fincher is a real minority in Congress as a 7th generation cotton farmer but he is proud to be able to represent agriculture and help to educate his colleagues about the importance of the industry. This guy is good – would love to see him run for president!

Listen to or download my interview with Rep. Fincher here: Congressman Stephen Fincher

mary kay thatcherMary Kay Thatcher with the American Farm Bureau Federation also talked to the southern peanut growers about farm bill possibilities. Mary kay is a veteran when it comes to farm bills, having been through the process six times before, and she thinks we may actually see two new Farm Bills if the debt ceiling negotiations mean the kind of cuts they are considering for agriculture. “We’re unfortunately going to take a pretty fair amount of cuts this year, probably in the range of $30-40 billion out of the commodity and conservation titles,” she said. “If indeed we lose that much money, it will sort of require us to write a farm bill in the next couple of weeks, and then to write it next year for re-evaluating what we have left and looking the other titles.”

Listen to my interview with Mary Kay here: Mary Kay Thatcher, AFBF

13th Annual Southern Peanut Growers Conference Photo Album

House Ag Committee Dems Decimated

us houseWith debate on the next farm bill expected to begin in earnest next year, the make-up of the House Agriculture Committee will be significant – and after yesterday’s election there will be lots of new faces.

While Chairman Collin Peterson was re-elected, he will no longer be chairman with the Republicans in control. What is really amazing is that 16 of the 28 Democrats on the House Ag Committee were defeated – over half! On the Republican side – not a single member lost their election. Only Jerry Moran of Kansas will no longer be in the U.S. House as he won his bid for the open Senate seat in that state.

The Senate Ag committee fared better, mainly because most of the members were not up for re-election. However, Chairman Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas was soundly defeated, as was expected.

It will definitely be interesting to see what happens next!

By the way – the HSUS backed “puppy mill” proposition in Missouri unfortunately passed. It was looking really good early on, with the No votes running over 60% – until the St. Louis and Kansas City ballots started coming in and the balance changed. Missouri is kind of a microcosm of the U.S. with our very own East and West coasts that have a whole different viewpoint compared to the rest of the state!

So, will Prop B really “save the puppies?” Farm broadcaster Tom Brand of KFEQ in St. Joseph, Missouri had an interesting take on that yesterday on Facebook. “The Humane Society of the US says there’s 200,000+ dogs in MO w/ 1,400 licensed breeders. A limit of 50=70,000. What about the remaining 130,000? MO’s 350 shelters (that HSUS doesn’t help) would have to take 350+ dogs by 12/31. If they’re not rescued, killed or moved to another state – 83,000 dogs will be killed. HSUS says 64% of dogs that go to shelters don’t leave.” Nice job, HSUS! I’m sure those puppies will be thanking you.

Get Out and VOTE!

voteHopefully everyone reading this will be wearing one of these “I Voted” stickers by the end of today – well, assuming your polling place has them. Mine didn’t this morning and I was quite disappointed. It’s kind of like getting ashes on Ash Wednesday – wearing it is a reminder to others of what day it is.

Much is being made about this year’s election, with many calling it one of the most significant in our lifetime. Fact is, every election year is significant. Voting is the single most important act we can perform as citizens of a free country.

Take advantage of it and VOTE – NOW!

The Great American ‘Steak’ Out Today!

You may have noticed updates from South Dakota have been pretty scarce lately, and I can pretty much sum up the reasons why in a few words: baby calves, snow and mud. It’s been a hectic month of March moving cow/calf pairs to the barns and dealing with flooding from the James River.

However, I haven’t been completely stuck in a hole for the last few weeks, and there have certainly been some interesting headlines filtering in my email account during National Ag Week. As a result of Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm proclaiming National Ag Today as Michigan Meat Day, Dewey Mann of Purdue started an event on Facebook called The Great American ‘Steak’ Out. Like Michigan Meat Day, this day calls for all beef lovers to enjoy a steak today and take a photo to send to the governor. Although she edited her statements, like a two-stepping politician, changing Michigan Meat Day to Michigan Ag Day, I think it’s still important to send your photos and share the positive message about meat with the governor.

On Saturday March 20th, enjoy a big ole, juicy steak and mail a picture to Michigan governor, Jennifer M. Granholm. Then you can send the picture to:
Governor Jennifer M. Granholm
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, Michigan 48909

I will be enjoying a steak today on National Ag Day; will you?