A Potential W.T.O.- Congressional Disconnect?

Keith Good

FarmPolicy.comConcrete achievements made at the latest round of W.T.O. trade talks in Hong Kong were modest.

Most notable was an agreement that sets a deadline for wiping out subsidies of agricultural exports by 2013.

And reaction to the talks from newspaper editorial boards was mostly negative.

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal indicated that, “The negotiators signed a substantially weakened deal that includes a commitment to eliminate farm subsidies by 2013, modest cuts in tariffs, and an April 30, 2006 deadline for agreeing on how to liberalize farm and non-farm trade.”

And today’s New York Times opined that the W.T.O. “might as well just adopt the slogan, ‘Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?’ Because, once again, negotiators have postponed until next year difficult decisions to open up closed markets in agriculture.”

Possibly a more interesting issue regarding the Doha trade talks is the apparent disconnect between trade friendly forms of agricultural support being promoted in trade talks and current budget decisions being made in Congress.

Recall that last week’s discussion focused on non-trade distorting W.T.O. “green box” payments and remarked that some green box payments are often the type of government outlays that are considered “green” from an agri-environmental perspective.

Some farm policy observers see the 2007 Farm Bill as a chance to move payments from existing programs into non-trade distorting green box payments.

But the House just passed a budget reconciliation measure that contains $934 million in reductions to some green agri-environmental programs like the Conservation Security Program and other environmental incentive payment programs.

Some have argued that this sends a mixed signal to our trading partners and may be a precursor of future farm policy resource allocation decisions: While promoting less trade distorting forms of domestic agricultural support on the world stage, Congress is simultaneously considering significant cuts to these very same programs.

Keith Good writes The FarmPolicy.com News Summary, an Email newsletter containing a summary of news relating to U.S. farm policy which is published most weekdays. For more information, go to www.FarmPolicy.com.

Farm Policy

Why It’s A Wal-Mart Nation

Chuck Zimmerman

Wal-MartI don’t know why I find this amazing but I do. It’s no wonder the report has a section titled, “Wal-Mart Nation.”

Nearly every American lives near enough a Wal-Mart to shop there, and 84% say they have done so in the past year. Praise for the retailer’s low prices, wide selection and convenience flow freely, and 81% of those with a Wal-Mart nearby say it is a good place to shop.

This is from a just-released report by The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. You can see a summary of the findings: Wal-Mart a Good Place to Shop But Some Critics Too.

Agribusiness

Niche Pork Is Unique Pork

Chuck Zimmerman

Niche PorkAt first when I saw this announcement I wasn’t sure it would fit here on AgWired but then I saw that it contained a link to a website I haven’t ever seen before. It’s Niche Pork, The Other Opportunity. Actually I couldn’t tell you what niche pork was until surfing around on the website.

Niche pork has been defined as: Supplying unique pork and pork products in a way that specific customer segments prefer or value.

The announcement was about a niche pork production conference:

Pork producers interested in alternative production methods and in marketing value-added or niche pork will be able to attend the Niche Pork Production Conference on Feb. 17, 2006, at Western Michigan University’s Fetzer Conference Center in Kalamazoo, Mich.

You can get more information about the conference here.

Ag Group, Pork

What’s New At The NK Brand

Chuck Zimmerman

ZimmCast47 - Cathy SoanesThis week’s ZimmCast features an interview with Cathy Soanes, Marketing Services Manager for the NK Brand (Syngenta Seeds, Inc.). I spoke with Cathy at the NAFB meeting in Kansas City recently. Cathy thought we’d talk about products I think but I asked her more questions about marketing their products, including internationally. She said that of all the interviews she’d done so far that day no one had asked her the questions I had. Interesting. I hope you enjoy it.

You can listen to this week’s ZimmCast here: Download MP3 File

The ZimmCast is the official weekly podcast of AgWired which you can subscribe to using the link in our sidebar. You can also now find the ZimmCast on CoolCast Radio.

Agribusiness, Audio, Podcasts, ZimmCast

New Look For Pioneer GrowingPoint Website

Chuck Zimmerman

Pioneer's Growing Point WebsitePioneer has upgraded and changed its GrowingPoint website beginning Monday (probably by the time you read this). Actually I think it’s already live. It works for me. Most changes of this magnitude seem to result in a better website. It’s something that just has to be done periodically.

Finding information faster from even more sources is what you’ll find on the new Pioneer GrowingPoint website. Farmers from across the country helped us redesigned the site from the ground up. The new design is easier to navigate and will add prominence to content that has always been on the site but some users may not have been aware of. In addition several new content providers have been added and has significantly upgraded the focus on crop management.

I don’t know if this is a new feature but I just noticed it. They have a “Visit your sales rep’s site.” Mine is for Randy Schlatter in Columbia, MO.

I also noticed that you can do some gift shopping at the Pioneer Country Store.

Agribusiness

WTO – Hong Kong & Gone

Chuck Zimmerman

USTR Robert Portman - Courtesy of WTOWell what do you think? Did our USTR, Robert Portman and his team do a good job? There’s an agreed upon declaration which is more progress than I think most thought would happen. You can see what the WTO website calls the “draft ministerial text.” I don’t know if it’s the final approved one or not.

Hong Kong’s Commerce, Industry and Technology Secretary John Tsang, who chaired the conference, outlined the achievements in the declaration:

We have secured an end date for all export subsidies in agriculture, even if it is not in a form to everybody’s liking.
We have an agreement on cotton.
We have a very solid duty-free, quota-free access for the 32 least-developed country members.
In agriculture and NAMA (non-agricultural market access), we have fleshed out a significant framework for full modalities.
And in services, we now have an agreed text that points positively to the way forward.”

Tsang is obviously a John Lennon and Paul McCartney fan since he’s quoted as saying, ““It’s been a hard day’s night. And I’ve been working like a dog.”

Interestingly the negotiators must have favored coffee over Red Bull since “in the last night alone, negotiators consumed 350 cups of coffee. During the week, 450 meetings were organized, six major gatherings and over 200 consultations by facilitators.”

WTO

Valley Cams Tracker SP Remote Controlled Irrigation

Chuck Zimmerman

Valley Cams Tracker SPHere’s news from Valmont Irrigation about a new component of their remote controlled irrigation systems. I think it’s interesting because farmers need to be pretty savvy adopters of technology to use these things and they certainly do. For example, if there’s a problem with the system:

As with the cams Tracker, the Tracker SP will notify the farmer with an alarm message either with a phone call, cell phone text message, or e-mail if a problem occurs, not only increasing efficiency, but ultimately reducing pumping costs as well.

I wonder how many farmers are using PDA’s to manage these systems? And guess what they can listen to on a PDA. I’m not going to tell you. If you’ve been reading AgWired lately you’ll know.

BTW. I visited the Valmont Irrigation website before posting this and have to add a comment. It’s a pretty site. But enough with the “flashy thing” as Will Smith would say in Men In Black. I do like the flash animation but it keeps running over and over. I like that it’s inside the page instead of full screen and it really looks nice but as I left the page up it just keeps re-cycling.

Agribusiness

Too Many Personalized Search Engines To Choose From

Chuck Zimmerman

Windows LiveJust when I finally got my personalized Google and MyYahoo pages set up now there’s Windows Live (beta).

If you haven’t customized a search engine “my” page you ought to. I have a Google Gmail account and MyYahoo email account, both of which you can have previewed on your customized page. I’ve made my Google page, my home page on one computer and my MyYahoo page my home page on my other computer. So what about Windows Live? It seems to have about the same functionality of the others from what I’ve seen so far. However, right now they only let you have an MSN Hotmail email account show up and I don’t have one and don’t want one. I’ve got too many email addresses as it is! Besides, 2 computers is enough for one blogger to deal with.

A nice feature of all of them is built in RSS feed reading. Plus you can then check it from anywhere since you can log into these pages from any computer. I use NewsGator as an RSS feed reader with the plug-in version to my Outlook email program. It works great but I’m beginning to think I could move to one of these search engine services instead. Anyone else out there decided which is better?

Internet

Reading Life After The 30-Second Spot

Chuck Zimmerman

Joe Jaffe BookI promised Joe Jaffe that I’d review his book, “Life After The 30-Second Spot,” so I’m getting started. I am not going to sit down and read it cover to cover. I think I’ll take it a little at a time and comment here when I see something you might be interested in. Who’s Joe Jaffe you may ask. The best way to get to know someone is to visit their blog. You can find out all you need to know about Joe there, that being Jaffe Juice. I’m going into this read in a very positive frame of mind because I already believe that mass media as we know it is not the great message mechanism it once was. There are too many choices. How many media points have you touched today?

So, let’s take the very start of the book and the first chapter title, “The End Of Mass Media.” I’m with you Joe. Right away he talks about the “fragmentation and proliferation of media touch points and content alternatives.” I know he’s writing about the average consumer but I think he might as well be writing about the average farmer. What do you think? How many media choices does a farmer have today? Do you think he/she sticks with just one?

Okay, we’re up to paragraph two. In here Joe mentions that the average supermarket has over 40,000 products up for grabs. That’s a lot of choices and they’re all being advertised somewhere, somehow, right? I wonder how many products are on display at your average farmer cooperative?

Well, I haven’t read too far into the book and I’m intrigued. The subtitle of the book is “Energize Your Brand with a Bold Mix of Alternatives to Traditional Advertising.” Sounds like a great talk at a NAMA conference if you ask me.

Blogging, Media