With low prices facing farmers as they harvest their 2016 crop, it is becoming clear that the counter-cyclical policies contained in the 2014 Farm Bill will not provide much protection for most producers. As a result, farm groups are beginning to look toward the next farm bill and the types of policies that might best protect farmers against low prices. In last week’s column, we argued against direct payments, subsidized revenue insurance when crop prices are above the cost of production, and loan deficiency payments. We promised future columns that would lay out some policy instruments we support. To start with, we want to identify a couple of principles that we keep uppermost in our minds as we identify program instruments that make sense to us. We believe that farm policies ought to be designed so as to treat the cause of farm problems, not the symptoms. Our concern about the current array of crop programs is that they are designed to treat the symptoms, price variability while prices are at or above the cost of production, while ignoring the possibility of prices that are well below the cost of production and likely to remain there for extended periods of time.
Earlier this month, Wagoner County was rated as a D2 (severe drought) for eight consecutive weeks, triggering the Livestock Forage Program, County Executive Director for the USDA Wagoner County Farm Service Agency Mary Kunze reported. The Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill) authorized the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) to provide compensation to eligible livestock producers who have suffered grazing losses for covered livestock on land that is native or improved pastureland with permanent vegetative cover or is planted specifically for grazing. The grazing losses must be due to a qualifying drought condition during the normal grazing period for the county.
To make a living growing sugar beets, you need the conditions to be just right. Rich, fertile soil. A long, cool fall. Plenty of rainfall. And a lot of help from the United States federal government. Minnesota’s got those first parts covered: the area centered around the Red River has the richest land and best climate for sugar beets in the U.S., making one of the most productive growing regions in the world. Those things won’t change, at least not anytime soon. But what could change is the other thing you need to profit from sugar beets: deep commitment from Uncle Sam to support this industry. The federal government effectively subsidizes the business of sugar beets through a set of policies — collectively referred to as the sugar program — that Congress has approved largely without incident since the early 1980s in its twice-a-decade farm bills. Without the sugar program, beet farmers and their allies say that their industry would wither and maybe even die, outperformed by competitors like Mexico and Brazil, who strongly subsidize their sugar industries and employ aggressive trade policies.
The first thing Billy Ryan does after he arrives at work most mornings is drive to a yacht club or construction company lot, crawl into a mangrove, and stand for 60 seconds to count the mosquitoes that land on him. If there are five or more, he’ll request that a crew come spray the area the next day. From there, the 56-year-old inspector with the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District will visit commercial and residential properties, hunting for standing water and the mosquito larvae and pupae that are frequently found within it. “With salt marsh mosquitoes, you can kill 95 percent on a good night,” said Michael Doyle, who was director of the district from 2011 until he resigned on Sept. 1. “With Aedes aegypti, you’re lucky if it’s 50 percent.” This is why Doyle and his colleagues have been searching for new tools to beat back the Aedes aegypti on the islands — and why they’re now involved in a messy public battle over genetically modified organisms. The mosquito control district has been in talks for years with Oxitec, a British company that engineered a strain of mosquitoes with a gene that causes the insect’s offspring to die before reaching maturity, and in August, the company finally made its way through the maze of the federal government’s approval process for field testing.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing more than $300 million to help hundreds of small businesses across the country save money on their energy costs by adopting renewable sources or implementing more efficient energy options. Vilsack made the announcement at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas, today during a meeting with several local business owners who will make use of these loans and grants. Nationwide, USDA is investing $237 million to support 423 businesses through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Recipients will use the loans and grants to install renewable energy systems such as biomass, geothermal, hydropower and solar. The funds also may be used to make energy efficiency improvements to their heating, ventilation and cooling systems; insulation; or lighting and refrigeration units.
The United Nations has adopted new policy recommendations for animal welfare in global farming. The measures were adopted this week at a meeting of the United Nations Committee on World Farming Security in Rome, Italy. The recommendations included improving animal welfare, preventing the unnecessary use of antibiotics and improving biosecurity to prevent animal disease. The United Nation’s recommendation include: Enable access to veterinary services, vaccinations, and medication, including antimicrobials; Improve animal health management through biosafety and biosecurity by following OIE standards; Promote the prudent use of antibiotics, but prevent unnessary use and phase out uses for animal growth promotion; Improve animal welfare by delivering on the OIE’s five freedoms; Promote access to good-quality feed and sustainable feeding practices; Promote a physical environment and genetic section that ensures compliance with OIE welfare standards.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) yesterday published a final rule on the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), the nation’s premier conservation easement program that helps landowners protect working agricultural lands and wetlands. These rule changes will make the program more flexible and responsive to the unique needs of farmers and ranchers in each region of the U.S. The 2014 Farm Bill consolidated three previous conservation easement programs into ACEP to make it easier for diverse agricultural landowners to fully benefit from conservation initiatives. The final rule published in the Federal Register October 18, 2016, responds to public input and makes permanent the changes that were made in the interim final rule. Significantly, the final rule clarifies certain program requirements for certified and non-certified entities, which will help streamline participation in the Agricultural Land Easement component of ACEP. The final rule also incorporates more fully the protection of grazing uses and related conservation values as one of the program purposes.
Federal lawmakers may authorize the Army Corps of Engineers to pursue a $451.6 million project to convert hundreds of acres of privately owned farmland into Puget Sound fish habitat, unsettling to a farmer who owns property vital to the government’s designs. “It’s definitely, definitely in the back of my mind, all the time,” said Scott Bedlington, third-generation Whatcom County farmer. “I have to farm. That’s what we live off.” The corps and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife propose to inundate 2,100 acres in Whatcom, Skagit and Jefferson counties, including by removing dikes protecting farms. The flooded land would include about 800 acres of Whatcom County farmland and about 250 acres of Skagit County farmland. Farm groups make a broader point that the plan, drawn up without the involvement of farmers, shows that the agencies are indifferent to preserving farmland and maintaining a vibrant agricultural economy. “Project proponents have demonstrated they are out of touch with the reality of our threatened farmland and certainly out of touch with the cost of purchasing high-value land,” Whatcom Family Farmers Executive Director Fred Likkel said.
Fewer acres would be purchased as easements to protect wetlands and other sensitive lands under the new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), which is replacing three programs repealed by the 2014 farm bill. The Natural Resources Conservation Service published its final rule for ACEP in the Oct.18 Federal Register, after accepting comments on an interim final rule issued in May 2015. ACEP combines provisions of the Wetlands Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program and Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP), all of which were discontinued by the 2014 legislation. About half the amount of money will be available to buy easements, NRCS said in its final rule. Where WRP, GRP, and FRPP received $691 million per year from 2009-2013, ACEP will receive about $368 million annually, NRCS said. The amount of funding available and the increase in per-acre costs will result in a corresponding decrease in acreage enrolled under ACEP, NRCS said. From 2009-2013, approximately 1.7 million acres were enrolled under WRP, GRP and FRPP - an average of 340,000 acres per year.
The Forum was hrld on Oct 19 and is available in an audio file. Farm Foundation President Constance Cullman moderated the discussion. Former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan represented the Clinton campaign.
Ag Advisor Charles Herbster and Campaign Co-Chair Sam Clovis represented the Trump campaign.