Friday, March 7, 2014
House Approves Bill to Ensure Reliable, Affordable Energy
The House on Thursday passed the Electricity Security and Affordability Act (H.R. 3826), which would provide a more reasonable path forward than EPA’s pending greenhouse gas regulations while also protecting U.S. jobs, economic growth and international competitiveness, according to the Partnership for a Better Energy Future, of which the American Farm Bureau Federation is a member.
The bill addresses some of farmers’ and ranchers’ concerns about a number of new GHG regulations directed at the electric power sector. By law, these regulations are supposed to be flexible and take into account cost and commercial availability. In practice, however, EPA’s proposed rules have been the exact opposite.
More Money Slated for PEDv Research
Increased investment in PEDv research is expected to be announced at the National Pork Industry Forum this week. The continued spread of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus remains a concern of pig farmers.
“We’ve invested over a million dollars already since last June and yet there’s more work that we know needs to be done,” said Chris Novak, CEO of the National Pork Board. “Producers are looking for answers and we think that we can help provide that to them.”
Arizona Preparing for Internet Taxes
The Arizona House has voted to lower individual income taxes for state residents if Congress approves the Marketplace Fairness Act, according to an Arizona Daily Star article. Farm Bureau is following what states are doing on this issue and supports federal legislation to allow states to collect sales taxes on remote sales because if local governments are able to collect more sales taxes, it would relieve the burden of other taxes levied on farmers and ranchers.
Free Webinar: Addressing Combustible Dust While Realizing Cost Savings
In today’s operating environment, managers are asked to handle the collection of combustible dust in a responsible and cost-effective way. Yet the strategies adopted to handle combustible dust have a bottom line effect on operational costs. Join the conversation with a panel of Donaldson Torit experts on March 26–a live session begins at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. Learn more and register online here.
Five-point Scale Tests the Pain of Various Insects’ Stings
The sting of a wasp, bee, hornet, ant or other insect can really smart. Just as a thermometer measures how hot or cold it is outside, Justin Schmidt, an entomologist, made a five-point scale that measures the ouch from a bee or wasp sting. The scale is called the Schmidt sting pain index. The scale runs from zero to four, with four being the biggest wallop. Schmidt subjected himself to stings from 78 species of bees, wasps and ants to score their stings. On Schmidt's scale, the yellow jacket rates a two. Topping the scale at a four is a tarantula hawk, also called a spider wasp, which lives in the southwestern states.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Farm Bureau Supports USDA Decision on Biotechnology and Coexistence
The American Farm Bureau Federation supports the Agriculture Department’s decision to move forward with an important recommendation about biotechnology and coexistence. The recommendation, from the final report of the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology & 21st Century Agriculture (AC21), is to foster communication and collaboration to strengthen coexistence among farmers.
However, noted AFBF President Bob Stallman in a statement, “We are disappointed by the implication from activist groups opposed to modern farming practices that there is widespread disagreement when it comes to coexistence and agricultural biotechnology. Frankly, that assertion does not hold up to scrutiny.”
Farm Bureau Kicks Off ‘Our Food Link’ Program
Farmer and rancher members of Farm Bureau from around the country officially kicked off the organization’s new “Our Food Link” program in conjunction with a conference for state leaders of Women’s Leadership and Promotion & Education programs.
“Our Food Link is a year-round program that county and state Farm Bureaus use to provide consumers of all ages and backgrounds with information about today’s agriculture,” explained Terry Gilbert, a Kentucky farmer and chair of the American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee. The AFBWLC spearheads the program with participation open to all Farm Bureau members.
Oregon: Judge Sides with Farmers on ‘Hot Goods’
The two Farm Bureau members who filed suit against the Department of Labor over blatant misuse of its “hot goods” powers scored a major victory earlier this year, Oregon Farm Bureau News recently reported.
To recap: In the summer of 2012, USDOL accused the farmers of unfounded labor violations and slapped them with severe hot goods orders. This tactic threatened an embargo on the growers’ fresh, perishable blueberries, preventing their customers from receiving the crops, unless large fines were paid and declarations of guilt were signed—even before the alleged labor violations were identified to the farmers and without any due process of law.
On Jan. 15, Federal District Court Judge Thomas Coffin issued a ruling vacating so-called consent agreements between USDOL and the two Oregon blueberry farms. Judge Coffin ruled the agreements invalid because USDOL misused its hot goods powers to the point of duress.
Predators Delay Pest Resistance to Bt Crops
Crops genetically modified with the bacterium Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) produce proteins that kill pest insects. Steady exposure has prompted concern that pests will develop resistance to these proteins, making Bt plants ineffective. Cornell research shows that the combination of natural enemies, such as ladybeetles, with Bt crops delays a pest’s ability to develop resistance to these insecticidal proteins.
“This is the first demonstrated example of a predator being able to delay the evolution of resistance in an insect pest to a Bt crop,” said Anthony Shelton, a professor of entomology at Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y.
Shareholders Request Sustainability Report from Chipotle
Shareholders of fast-casual restaurant chain Chipotle have requested a report on the company’s claims of sustainability related to better farming techniques and cleaner agriculture. “We want to understand: Is it true? How is it done? How do you manage it?” stated Adam Kanzer, managing director at Domini Social Investments LLC.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
President Obama Releases Fiscal Year 2015 Budget
The Obama Administration released the president’s proposed federal budget for fiscal 2015 on Tuesday. Agencies across the administration are briefing Congress, the media and stakeholders regarding key elements of the budget.
The president’s budget proposes a $23.7 billion budget for the Agriculture Department in fiscal 2015. This is a $938 million reduction from USDA’s fiscal 2014 budget. The budget includes a 10-year, $14 billion cut to the federal crop insurance program coming from the level of retained earnings, agent compensation and producer premium subsidy.
American Farm Bureau Federation staff will be analyzing the numbers and providing additional details regarding USDA and other agency budgets in the coming weeks. Information provided will include spending reductions and identified priorities.
Tulsa World Op-ed Features AFBF President Bob Stallman
An op-ed by American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman in Tulsa World explains how the Environmental Protection Agency has claimed the right to control local land use and community development decisions under the guise of implementing the federal Clean Water Act. “Your attorney general is doing something about it,” wrote Stallman.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and 20 other state attorneys general recently signed a friend of the court or “amicus” brief to protect Oklahoma from EPA mandates like the one now facing communities across the 64,000-square-mile Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Propane Transportation Legislation Passes House
The House on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved H.R. 4076, the Home Heating Emergency Assistance Through Transportation Act of 2014. Last week, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) introduced the legislation to help provide emergency relief in response to the ongoing propane shortage in the United States. H.R. 4076 would provide a guaranteed extension of the Department of Transportation Hours of Service waivers until May 31, allowing tank truck operators delivering propane and other home heating fuels to drive for longer hours to speed up deliveries to affected states.
The Farm Bureau-supported bill now heads to the Senate.
Eminent Domain Issue Resurfaces on Capitol Hill
Farm Bureau-supported legislation that would strengthen private property rights was approved last week in the House of Representatives by a margin of 356-65. The bill, the Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2013 (H.R. 1944), prohibits states that receive federal economic development funding from exercising eminent domain for private economic development.
The measure addresses at the federal level the 2005 Kelo vs. New London decision. In the Kelo case, New London, Conn., homeowners sued the city for the right to keep their homes, which the city had seized under eminent domain to let a private developer turn the area into a commercial complex. The Supreme Court on June 23, 2005, ruled 5-4 in favor of New London, allowing local governments to seize private property for economic development.
WIC Program Continues to Snub Spuds
Although a major overhaul of USDA’s Women, Infants and Children program expands low-income families’ access to produce and whole grains, the white potato continues to be the only fresh fruit or vegetable excluded from the list of approved foods. The exclusion of potatoes from the USDA rule went into effect in December 2009 and is based on recommendations of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans report, according to published reports.
The decision is drawing the ire of elected officials and others from Maine and other potato-producing states. As Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) sees it, the problem with the WIC rule is that it sends a message to Americans that potatoes are not nutritious.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Farm Bureau Continues to Look at Camp’s Tax Reform Proposal
While Farm Bureau continues to analyze House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp’s (R-Mich.) recently released tax reform proposal, some of the plan’s provisions are raising concerns. In particular, the elimination or reduction of some key accounting methods and depreciation and expensing deductions used by farmers and ranchers could possibly offset the benefit of a lower income tax rate.
“It is not uncommon for farmers and ranchers to have years with little or no taxable income,” noted Pat Wolff, American Farm Bureau Federation tax specialist. “So, a lower individual tax rate may not adequately compensate farmers for lost tax provisions and over time could result in a higher effective tax rate. That’s something we’ll be considering as we comb through this proposal.”
Still, Farm Bureau considers Camp’s effort to be a strong and much-needed start to what will surely be an extensive tax reform discussion.
Nominations Sought for Social Media Farmer of the Year Award
Food Nutrition & Science, a leading trade publication for the food industry, has announced the launch of the first Social Media Farmer of the Year Award. The new award recognizes farmers who have incorporated social media, digital media and Internet strategies to achieve their business objectives, including growing revenue, sharing information for more effective farming practices and promoting positive awareness of the industry.
Nominations for the award are now being accepted. Farmers can nominate themselves or a colleague at http://www.foodnutritionscience.com/2014award/. The deadline for nominations is March 31. The winner will be presented with a trophy and other prizes at the FMI Connect show in Chicago on June 11. Sponsors of the award include Monsanto, Bolthouse Farms, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, AgChat Foundation and AgWired.Com.
Virginia Young Farmer Wins Polaris Ranger 570
Brian Turner of Broadway, Va., is the winner of the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture’s Polaris Ranger 570 raffle. Raffle tickets were sold at the FB Member Advantage! booth at the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention in January in San Antonio and at the AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Leadership Conference in February in Virginia Beach, Va.
Miller Moves to AFBF’s Organization Department
Johnna Miller has been with the American Farm Bureau Federation for 13 years, but has recently taken on a new role as director of media and advocacy training in the Organization Department. As a member of AFBF’s training team, Miller is expanding her training role to full time so she can be available to state Farm Bureaus and outside organizations for a broader offering of media, advocacy and social media workshops.
Before the move, Miller served as director of media development on the Communications team. In that role, she produced podcasts and radio and video stories, on top of her media training duties.
School Cafeterias Celebrating National School Breakfast Week
School cafeterias across the country are celebrating National School Breakfast Week (March 3-7) by hosting “Take Time for School Breakfast” celebrations designed to highlight how eating a balanced school breakfast contributes to academic achievement.
The majority of Americans feel breakfast is important, and research shows students who eat breakfast score better on standardized test, yet hectic mornings make it difficult to fit the meal in every day. In fact, 40 percent of moms say that their child does not eat breakfast daily, according to Kellogg’s recent Breakfast in America survey.
Friday, February 28, 2014
Tax Reform Proposal Addresses Tax Rates, Key Deductions for Ag
The extensive tax reform proposal released on Wednesday by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) is “a strong and much-needed start to what will surely be an extensive tax reform discussion,” according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.
Camp’s proposal would lower both the top corporate income tax rate and the top individual tax rate to 25 percent, down from the current 35 percent for corporations and 39.6 percent for individuals.
While lower income tax rates sound good, the elimination or reduction of some key accounting methods and depreciation and expensing deductions could possibly offset the benefit of a lower income tax rate for farmers and ranchers.
FDA Proposes Updates to Nutrition Facts Label on Food Packages
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday proposed updates to the Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods. The proposed label would replace out-of-date serving sizes to better align with how much people really eat, and it would feature a fresh design to highlight key parts of the label such as calories and serving sizes, according to the FDA.
Some of the proposed changes would require information about the amount of “added sugars” in a food product; present “dual column” labels to indicate both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information for larger packages that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings; and refresh the format to emphasize certain elements, such as calories, serving sizes and Percent Daily Value.
The proposed labels can be viewed here:
‘Got Milk?’ Campaign Ends Successful Run
AdAge reports the national milk industry will drop the famous “Got Milk?” campaign that has run for the last couple of decades—so goodbye to the milk mustache that’s adorned the upper lip of many a celebrity. More than $50 million will be spent on a new campaign, with the reinvented tagline: Milk Life, which will emphasize the protein in milk. The Got Milk? tagline will continue to be used in advertising by the California Milk Processor Board.
Big Retailers Can’t Meet Demand for Wood Pellets
The harsh winter and increased demand for wood fuel pellets has some big box retailers struggling to keep adequate supplies on store shelves, although Maine mills that produce the pellets are cranking them out steadily. “We are experiencing wood pellet shortages across the Northeast,” Tara Gudger, a spokeswoman for Lowe's in Mooresville, N.C., said.
Monsanto Looking for ‘FARM MOM OF THE YEAR’
Once again, Monsanto is recognizing America’s farm moms with the 2014 Farm Mom of the Year program.
Do you know a farm mom who amazes you every day with her contributions to her family, farm, community and agriculture? Nominate her for the chance to win $10,000 between February 27th and March 31st.
Anyone can nominate an outstanding farm mom. She can be your mother, sister, wife, daughter, friend or neighbor. She can even be you!
For more information, go to http://www.americasfarmers.com/recognition-programs/farm-mom-program-overview/.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
630-Plus Ag, Business Groups Call for Immigration Reform
The American Farm Bureau Federation, as part of a multi-industry coalition of 636 business organizations–154 of them agriculture-related–is urging Congress to move forward with immigration reform this year.
In a letter sent to House Republican leadership, the coalition noted that all of the signatories are “united in the belief that we can and must do better for our economy and country by modernizing our immigration system.” Further, “Done properly, reform will deter illegal immigration, protect and complement our U.S. workforce, better respond to changing economic and demographic needs, and generate greater productivity and economic activity, while respecting family unity.”
Farm Bureau Comments on Coexistence
The Agriculture Department is soliciting public comments on how to strengthen agricultural coexistence—the concurrent use of organic, conventional and modern biotechnology in agriculture production—in the United States. USDA is seeking public comment to identify ways to foster communication and collaboration among those involved in all sectors of agriculture production.
The comment period is related to AC21, a committee that advises the secretary of agriculture on issues related to coexistence and consists of 23 members representing a range of production agriculture, organic, biotechnology and academic interests. Barry Bushue, vice president of AFBF and president of Oregon Farm Bureau, serves on the committee.
Farm Bureau strongly believes that coexistence is working and will submit comments to USDA by the March 4 deadline. An action alert has been created on the FBACT Insider website; click here to take action. For more information on coexistence, click here.
Fewer Farmers Feeding More People Around the World
The global agricultural population, defined as individuals dependent on agriculture, hunting, fishing and forestry for their livelihood, accounted for over 37 percent of the world’s population in 2011, the most recent year for which data are available. This is a decrease of 12 percent from 1980, when the world’s agricultural and non-agricultural populations were roughly the same size. Although the agricultural population shrunk as a share of total population between 1980 and 2011, it grew numerically from 2.2 billion to 2.6 billion people during this period.
Between 1980 and 2011, the non-agricultural population grew by a staggering 94 percent, from 2.2 billion to 4.4 billion people, a rate approximately five times greater than that of agricultural population growth. In both cases, growth was driven by the massive increase in the world’s total population, which more than doubled between 1961 and 2011, from 3.1 billion to 7 billion people.
FuturesFundamentals.com Website Launched
The CME Group has developed a new website, FuturesFundamentals.com, to help the public and policymakers better understand commodity futures trading. The site has interactive features and educational content to communicate the role and everyday effects of derivatives and global futures markets. The basics of risk management and futures terms and concepts on the website provide foundational knowledge to explore more complex topics facilitated through the futures clearing process. The website may be particularly relevant as Congress prepares to reauthorize the Commodity Exchange Act this year.
Maine Wild Blueberry Industry may Benefit from Pilot Program
The new farm bill includes a provision for a pilot program that potentially could benefit Maine’s blueberry industry. The pilot program, which would be implemented in five as yet unchosen states, would allow frozen fruits and vegetables to be used in USDA’s fresh fruit and vegetable program for schools. The test states would seek to demonstrate how minimally processed food, including frozen wild blueberries, could be a healthier, less-costly option to feed students participating in the program.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
House Considering Bill on Eminent Domain
The House is expected to consider H.R. 1944, the Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2013 today, under suspension of the rules. The bill, introduced by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), would address at the federal level the 2005 Kelo vs. New London decision. The bill prohibits states that receive economic development funding from exercising eminent domain for private economic development. Violation of that provision would result in loss of all economic development funding for a period of two years. The bill creates a private right of action for any landowner who suffers injury as a result of a violation of any provision of this act. The bill also prohibits any use of eminent domain for economic development by the federal government.
Farm Bureau supports the Private Property Rights Protection Act.
Statement on Swine Feeding Practices Clarifies Legality of Feedback
Dr. John Clifford, the Agriculture Department’s chief veterinarian, has issued a statement on swine feedback as a means of stimulating disease immunity. In the statement, Clifford clarified that federal law does not prohibit feedback. “The practice of feedback is commonly used by the veterinary industry and is used to stimulate immunity to prevent the further spread of infection,” Clifford stated. Further, “It is used when vaccination and other tools are not available to treat disease. It does not fall under the authority of the Swine Health Protection Act as this act defines ‘garbage’ as ‘resulting from the handling, preparation, cooking or consumption of food,’” he said.
For decades, hog farmers have immunized sows through controlled exposure to a virus so they can transfer antibodies against that virus to their piglets through lactation. Swine feedback is a long-standing procedure to achieve controlled disease exposure. In dire situations, such as the devastating porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, this is the only tool to stimulate the immunity of the sow.
Last week the Humane Society of the United States alleged that swine feedback is prohibited by Kentucky state law, in conjunction with the release of video footage shot at a hog farm by an undercover activist. Visit the American Association of Swine Veterinarians’ website for more information about PEDv.
Drug Residues in Milk Continue to Decline
The Food & Drug Administration’s annual report of animal drug residue tests of milk revealed dairy consumers are safer than ever. Nearly 3.76 million milk samples were tested for animal drug residues last year, yet only 731 tested positive for drug residues. FDA found no positive animal drug residue tests in pasteurized dairy products for sale, according to FDA's National Milk Drug Residue Database results.
ASHCA Safety Grants Announced
ASHCA is a coalition of organizations, businesses, federal agencies and safety professionals all seeking to improve the health and safety of farmers, ranchers and agricultural workers. The purpose of the ASHCA Safety Grants Program is to encourage and provide financial support for safety interventions at the local and/or regional level in order to promote evidence-based safety/health strategies.
Monday, February 24, 2014
‘Right to Grow’ GMO Program Provides Access to New Technologies
“Now more than ever, it is imperative that American farmers have access to new technologies to continue to provide a safe, healthy and affordable food supply both domestically and internationally,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman in a statement issued Friday. Further, Stallman noted, “While the U.S. regulatory system is built on predictability and ensuring that new technology is safe, we also recognize that our international customers are subject to their own regulatory systems. As such, it is important that U.S. exporters meet the needs of our export customers.
AFBF applauded the announcement between Syngenta and Gavilon Grain, LLC, concerning the companies’ agreement to ensure that farmers who are looking to plant new technologies have a reliable way to market their product.
New Ethanol Economic Study Released
The Renewable Fuels Association unveiled a new study by ABF Economics entitled “Contribution of the Ethanol Industry to the Economy of the United States,” at the National Ethanol Conference in Orlando, Fla. The study, authored by economist John Urbanchuk, examines the nationwide impact of the ethanol industry in 2013 on job creation, the economy, household income and foreign oil displacement.
Among the highlights of the study: a substantial improvement in industry profitability resulting from declining feedstock prices; the first commercial-scale production of cellulosic ethanol; and an increase in total ethanol production on a national level by an estimated 0.4 percent from 2012 levels to 13.3 billion gallons.
Nutrition, Eating Habits the Focus of Food Dialogues: Washington, D.C.
America’s eating habits and who is shaping them was at the heart of the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance’s Food Dialogues: Washington, D.C., held on Friday in conjunction with the Agriculture Department’s annual Agricultural Outlook Forum. According to USFRA, today’s consumers are challenged with an overwhelming amount of choices. And even though choices are a great thing, sometimes it leads to confusion, especially when there’s so much misinformation about how food is grown. Among the many topics discussed during the 90-minute event were organic and conventional farming, the use of antibiotics in livestock and what terms like “free range,” “processed” and “natural” mean.
The panel was moderated by Carolyn O’Neil, author of “Slim Down South Cookbook” and nutrition advisor to BestFoodFacts.org, and included: Jim Call, farmer, Call Farms, Madison, Minn.; Dr. Roger Clemens, chief scientific officer, Horn and Adjunct Professor of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences, USC School of Pharmacy, Los Angeles, Calif.; Dennis Derryck, president and founder, Corbin Hill Farms, New York, N.Y.; Dr. Craig Rowles, partner and general manager, Elite Pork Partnership, LLP, Carroll, Iowa; and Barbara Ruhs, MS, RD, LDN, Supermarket Health & Nutrition Expert, Phoenix, Ariz.
The discussion was streamed live, but if you missed it, you can catch the archive here: http://new.livestream.com/USFRA/events/2187525/videos/42994169.
Rain This Week Won’t Stop Drought
A storm headed toward the West Coast this week won’t be enough to quench California’s drought-caused thirst—a drought that has been three years in the making. For years, El Nino and La Nina weather patterns in the Pacific have caused the extended dry spell, which has culminated in this year’s tribulations for Northern California water districts, Central Valley farmers and Southern California homeowners.
The Pacific high pressure system looks like it’s finally breaking, scientists say. But just like severe rain storms two weeks ago in Northern California didn’t wash away the drought, any new storms this week won’t completely sate state reservoirs’ thirst.
Cabbage Shortage, Just in Time for St. Patrick’s Day
Recent cold weather has led to higher prices for cabbage and a shortage of the spherical green vegetable seems likely around St. Patrick’s Day, according to an article in The Packer.
Friday, February 21, 2014
AFBF Ag Labor Study Featured in Wall Street Journal Editorial
The American Farm Bureau Federation’s recently released ag labor study, “Gauging the Farm Sector’s Sensitivity to Immigration Reform,” was featured in a Wall Street Journal editorial published today.
“Republicans are often first in line to vote for farm subsidies,” notes the lead of the editorial titled “Fruits of Immigrant Labor.” Further, “But when it comes to lending farmers a hand by modernizing the country’s guest worker program, many hide in the corn stalks,” according to the WSJ. AFBF’s study quantifies the cost to agriculture of the GOP’s immigration duck, points out the editorial, which also highlight key points of the study, including the economic consequences of various reforms such as an enforcement-only approach, which would lead to a 5 percent to 6 percent increase in retail food prices.
“Republicans have killed immigration reform for now, but the Farm Bureau study shows that in the real economy it’s still needed,” notes the editorial in conclusion. The study is posted at: http://www.fb.org/newsroom/nr/nr2014/02-10-14/labor-study14c0207.pdf.
EPA Announces New Worker Protection Proposal
The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced that it will formally propose new standards to be used for workers applying pesticides. The current rules were put in place nearly 20 years ago. The proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register soon with comments accepted by the general public. Additional details may be found on EPA’s website.
The American Farm Bureau Federation will be evaluating the proposal and sharing its analysis with state Farm Bureaus prior to commenting formally on the proposal.
Preliminary 2012 Census of Agriculture Data Released
The Agriculture Department has released selected data for farmers, ranchers and their operations for each state and the nation, as part of its preliminary report on the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Information on number of farms, land in farms, market value of agricultural products sold including government payments, and selected principal operator characteristics is included. You can also download information on background, terms and methodology separately.
Farm Bill Webinar Slated for Monday
AFBF staff will be conducting the first of several webinars on provisions of the Agricultural Act of 2014 on Monday, Feb. 24 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. Although proposed rules related to the farm bill have not yet been promulgated, the legislative language is final and available for interpretation. A slide deck used in the webinar will be available to state Farm Bureau staff. To participate in the call:
Step 1: Dial-In from the U.S. and Canada (800-768-2983) using Access Code 0782552.
Step 2: Web login at https://cc.callinfo.com/r/19frchsjam9bq&eom.
Coalition for Safe Affordable Food Looks for Federal Solutions
The purpose of the recently formed Coalition for Safe Affordable Food is to address issues related to the patchwork of state regulations across the country regarding labeling of foods produced using genetically modified organisms.
“A patchwork of laws doesn’t really benefit anyone, except for maybe advocates who don’t want to see technology in our food or are trying to dictate one way that our food production should go,” said Andrew Walmsley, policy specialist at the American Farm Bureau Federation, in Thursday’s Newsline.
USDA Announces Fiscal Year 2015 Farm to School Grants
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the release of a request for applications for the third round of USDA’s Farm to School grants, including the addition of a new funding track. The grants help eligible schools improve the health and wellbeing of their students and connect with local agricultural producers.
Three different kinds of grants will be available, as well as a separate funding track to support trainings and events. Proposals are due April 30.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Congressional Tax Proposals Would Cost Agriculture $4.8 Billion
Proposed changes to the tax code restricting the use of cash accounting by agricultural operations would reduce agriculture’s access to capital by as much as $12.1 billion over the next four years, according to a study released by Kennedy and Coe, LLC and Farmers for Tax Fairness.
The study prepared by the independent research firm, Informa Economics, revealed that U.S. agricultural producers forced to switch from cash-basis to accrual-basis accounting under new laws would have to pay out as much as $4.84 billion in taxes during the next four years. Additionally, borrowing capacity of these operations would decrease by another $7.26 billion over the same time period.
“Cash accounting combined with the ability to accelerate expenses and defer income gives farmers and ranchers the flexibility to manage their tax burden on an annual basis by allowing them to target an optimum level of taxable income, commensurate with long-term annual earnings,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. “Cash accounting also gives farmers and ranchers the flexibility they need to plan for major investments in their businesses and in many cases provides guaranteed availability of some agricultural inputs.”
Farmers lay out Tax Priorities for Senate Finance Committee
Along with calling for comprehensive reform of the nation’s tax code and urging lawmakers to continue the unrestricted use of cash accounting for farmers and ranchers who pay taxes as individuals, Farm Bureau addressed a number of other tax provisions critical to agriculture in recent comments on the Senate Finance Committee’s Cost Recovery and Accounting Tax Reform discussion draft.
Because agriculture requires large investments in machinery, equipment and other depreciable assets, farmers and ranchers place great value on tax code provisions such as Section 179 Small Business Expensing, which allows them to write off capital expenditures in the year that purchases are made, Farm Bureau told the committee.
“Tax provisions that accelerate expensing and depreciation allow farmers and ranchers to better manage cash flow, minimize tax liabilities and reduce borrowing,” the organization said. “The ability to immediately expense capital purchases also provides an incentive for farmers and ranchers to invest in their businesses and offers the benefits of reducing the record keeping burden associated with the depreciation.”
UEP Terminates HSUS Animal Welfare Agreement
The United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the United States have announced the groups’ original 2011 agreement “to jointly petition the federal government for federal legislation for the purpose of transitioning the industry from primarily a conventional cage egg production business to enriched colony cage housing over a period of years” will not be extended.
The agreement specified federal legislation to mandate a phased-in move to enriched cage housing for all commercial layers in the U.S. The estimated industry cost of this action over the next 15 to 17 years was approximately $4 billion. HSUS, in turn, had agreed to cease all state ballot initiatives and undercover investigations related to the egg industry, and to publicly recognize the welfare acceptability of the enriched cage system. The two groups attempted to pass legislation in both the Senate and House during the 112th and 113th Congress without success.
AFBF opposes any laws mandating specific farming practices in livestock production but does support the rights of individual commodity groups to develop voluntary national production standards.
‘The Power of Pistachios’ Launches With Health Message
American Pistachio Growers is launching “The Power of Pistachios,” a global advertising campaign, this spring. The campaign will target health-conscious athletic consumers and other active people according to an article in The Packer.
New YF&R Chair’s Farm Honored as Business of the Year
Jake Carter, newly elected chair of AFBF’s Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee, received the Business of the Year award for Southern Belle Farm from the Henry County (Georgia) Chamber of Commerce.
Tuesday, February 19, 2014
RMA Reminds Producers of Changes to Organic Farm Safety Net
The Agriculture Department’s Risk Management Agency reminds producers of the expanded crop insurance options for insurable organic crops. In its support for the continued growth of organic agriculture, RMA expanded the coverage options for producers through federal crop insurance. Through efforts to better collect and evaluate price and yield data, RMA has worked with other USDA agencies over the past several years to enhance the coverage options for organic producers.
Starting with the 2014 crop year, the 5 percent premium surcharge for acreage insured under organic farming practices has been removed; a new contract price option is available to organic producers who grow eligible crops under guaranteed contracts; and changes to organic transitional yields (t-yields) will be phased in so they will be more reflective of actual organic farming experience. RMA continues to add organic price elections for certain crops based on availability of data. Additional information on risk management tools available for organic farmers can be found on the RMA Organic Crops website at: www.rma.usda.gov/news/currentissues/organics/.
Collaboration to Increase Grower Productivity, Sustainability
DuPont, the University of Missouri and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service have announced an innovative new collaboration to pool soil mapping resources, predictive technologies and expertise to help growers more sustainably improve crop yields through better nitrogen application management and other field input planning.
The public-private effort aims to enhance sustainable crop production through field and crop modeling that targets the specific soil, climatic, watershed and production conditions within producers’ fields with real-time information. The three-year exclusive agreement among DuPont Pioneer–the global seed and advanced plant genetics business of DuPont–the University of Missouri and USDA-ARS will bring together the respective strengths of each party in precision agriculture sensors and soil mapping, including the characterization of soil types, topography and water-sheds.
Nominations Sought for World Food Prize
The World Food Prize is the foremost international award recognizing the accomplishments of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. The World Food Prize is a $250,000 award formally presented at the Laureate Award Ceremony in mid-October, on or around World Food Day, in conjunction with the Borlaug Dialogue international symposium.
Nominations are sought of an individual or individuals having demonstrated exceptional achievement in any field involved in enhancing food production and distribution and increasing food availability and accessibility to those most in need. Any academic or research institution, private or public organization, corporate entity or governmental unit may submit a nomination for The World Food Prize until May 1. Click here to learn more.
Be on the Alert for Danger Posed by Stored Grain
People working around grain bins must be constantly aware of the dangers of stored grain, North Dakota State University Extension Service agricultural engineer Ken Hellevang warned in a Dairy Herd Update article.
“A lot of wetter-than-normal corn went into storage last fall, and wet corn is more prone to crusting or creating a wall of grain near the grain bin wall,” explained Hellevang. This has increased the potential for bin unloading problems and getting trapped by the grain.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Educator Scholarships Spur Educating About Agriculture
The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture has recognized nine teachers and two volunteer educators for their exceptional efforts to encourage agricultural literacy. The educators will each receive a $1,500 scholarships to attend the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Hershey, Pa., in June. The Foundation, through the White-Reinhardt Fund for Education, sponsors the scholarships in cooperation with the American Farm Bureaus Women’s Leadership Committee.
This year’s teacher recipients are: Kevin Russell Atterberg, Culler Middle School, Lincoln, Neb.; Jeremy Bowman, Naomi Elementary School, Summerville, Ga.; Kelly Burgess, Maine School Administrative District 15, Windham, Maine; Denise Chybrzynski, South Butler Intermediate Elementary School, Butler, Pa.; Maureen Marino, John L. Golden Elementary School, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.; Rachel Morris, Northside Elementary School, Savannah, Tenn.; Karrie Lynn Perrin, Toccoa Elementary School, Toccoa, Ga.; Debra Wagner, St. Paul Lutheran School, Lakeland, Fla.; and Mary Zumwalt, Altamont Lutheran, Altamont, Il.
This year’s volunteer recipients are: Sheila Everhart of Janesville, Wis., and Ashley Prue of Green Bay, Wis.
#IFarmImmigration Resources at Your Fingertips
Kristi Boswell, AFBF’s farm labor specialist, talks about Farm Bureau efforts on immigration reform and the #IFarmImmigration campaign in a new video on YouTube.
No, GMOs Won’t Harm Your Health
Dr. Steven Novella, a neurologist at Yale University, is a prominent voice in the skeptical movement, a scientific movement that, as he describes it, focuses heavily on explaining the truth behind “common myths—things that people believe that aren’t true.” Novella helped sort out fact from fiction when it comes to so-called industrial agriculture in general, and GMOs in particular, in a Mother Jones article.
Genetic modification, Novella said, “is not the panacea, nor is it a menace; it’s just one more tool that has to be used intelligently.” Novella also argues that many of the fears surrounding genetically modified crops are unsupported.
Sharing About Agriculture During National FFA Week
More than a half-million students in all 50 U.S. states this week will share the importance of agriculture in our daily lives, spread their passion for agriculture and host communitywide events to help others in need. It’s National FFA Week and a host of activities are planned to raise awareness about the role the National FFA Organization plays in the development of the agriculture industry’s future leaders and the importance of agricultural education.
The week-long tradition started in 1948. Each year, National FFA Week runs Saturday to Saturday, encompassing President George Washington’s Feb. 22 birthday in recognition of Washington’s legacy as an agriculturist and farmer.
Campbell Soup Chief Notes Effects of Weather
Campbell Soup Co. has weather issues on both sides of the country. In the East, there’s the cold and the snow, which normally spur consumers to eat up the soup they have in their cupboards and then buy more. On the other hand, “We had plant closures for a while, retail store closures, and some lost business in the food-service sector,” Denise Morrison, Campbell’s president and chief executive, said. In the West, meanwhile, the lack of rain threatens to wreak havoc on agriculture.
Friday, February 14, 2014
Wisconsin Resident Wins YF&R Collegiate Discussion Meet
The winner of the American Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers Collegiate Discussion Meet announced at the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers & Ranchers Conference in Virginia Beach., Va., is Ethan Giebel of Lyndon Station, Wis. Giebel was awarded the top prize following a discussion on how to encourage young farmers and ranchers to continue to be involved in Farm Bureau.
Giebel, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, is pursuing a degree in agricultural education. He received a $2,500 scholarship from competitive event sponsor CHS Foundation. In addition to Giebel, three runners-up participated in three rounds of discussion before making it to the Final Four round. Runners-up were Clarissa Brown of Missouri (University of Missouri), Keili Summey of Arizona (Oklahoma State University) and Katie Winslow of Minnesota (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities). Each received a $1,000 scholarship from CHS Foundation.
Genetically Engineered Crops in Nearly 12 Percent of World’s Fields
Even as some U.S. consumers reject foods containing ingredients from genetically modified plants, farmers continue to embrace the technology. In 2013, crops grown from seed engineered to withstand weed killers, kill pests or resist diseases made up 11.7 percent of fields planted worldwide. Last year, farmers planted 12 million more acres of plants genetically engineered to be herbicide tolerant, pest resistant or able to stand up to diseases than in 2012, said Clive James, with the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications. The non-profit tracks biotech crops and is based at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.
The U.S. leads the world in genetically modified plantings. Commodity crops genetically engineered to be herbicide tolerant or pest resistant are the norm in U.S. fields. In 2013, they included 93 percent of all soybeans, 90 percent of all feed corn and 90 percent of all cotton, according to the Agriculture Department.
The main growth in GM plantings is in South America, followed by Asia and Africa, the ISAAA report said. The top planters of GM crops after the United States are Brazil, Argentina, India and Canada.
Food Dialogues Event Set for Feb. 21
Food Choices and Prices will be the topic of an upcoming U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance Food Dialogue event, Feb. 21, in conjunction with the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum. During the event, USFRA is hosting a panel discussion that explores the question, “Nutrition: Who is Shaping America’s Eating Habits?”
According to USFRA, today’s consumers are challenged with an overwhelming amount of choices. And even though choices are a great thing, sometimes it leads to confusion, especially when there’s so much misinformation about how food is grown. The upcoming open panel discussion will focus on the topic of how much consumers understand today’s food terms and whether those terms are influencing their purchasing habits.
The panel will be moderated by Carolyn O’Neil, author of “Slim Down South Cookbook” and nutrition advisor to BestFoodFacts.org, and will include: Jim Call, farmer, Call Farms, Madison, Minn.; Dr. Roger Clemens, Chief Scientific Officer, Horn and Adjunct Professor of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences, USC School of Pharmacy, Los Angeles, Calif.; Dennis Derryck, President and Founder, Corbin Hill Farms, New York, N.Y.; Dr. Craig Rowles, Partner and General Manager, Elite Pork Partnership, LLP, Carroll, Iowa; and Barbara Ruhs, MS, RD, LDN, Supermarket Health & Nutrition Expert, Phoenix, Ariz.
You can tune into a live stream of the Washington, D.C., panel discussion at the http://fooddialogues.com website at 10 a.m. EST on Feb. 21. You can also follow the discussion on Twitter by using the hashtag #FoodD. To learn more about the Food Dialogues: Washington, DC at the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum visit: http://www.FoodDialogues.com/events/food-dialogues-washington-d.c.
No Yogurt for Sochi but Food Banks Benefit
Chobani’s quest to get its Greek yogurt to Sochi is coming to an end. The company will donate a shipment of about 5,000 cups of yogurt it had hoped to send to U.S. athletes at the Winter Games to food banks in New York and New Jersey. The shipment has been held up in a refrigerated warehouse after Russian authorities said the Agriculture Department failed to provide a necessary certificate under its customs rules.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a big booster of the state’s Greek yogurt industry, had pointed out that export trade rules shouldn’t apply since the yogurt was only for U.S. athletes and wouldn’t have been for sale. But Russia still wouldn’t allow the shipment.
Top Foods for Romance
Reader’s Digest recently published a list of foods known to spark romance. They are: oysters, chili peppers, avocado, chocolate, bananas, honey, coffee, watermelon, pine nuts, arugula, olive oil, figs, strawberries, artichokes, Chai tea, pomegranate, cherries, pumpkin seeds and whipped cream.
The AFBF headquarters office will be closed on Monday in observance of Presidents Day. Look for the next issue of Executive Newswatch on Tuesday, Feb. 18.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Labor Shortage Forces Texas Grower to Destroy Crops
Short 20 field workers, Lubbock, Texas, farmer Bernie Thiel estimates he lost about $200,000 last year when he was forced to shred some of his crops as they sat untouched in the field. Thiel, who’s been farming for more than 40 years, mainly grows fresh market zucchini and yellow squash, which, like most produce, won’t wait around for workers to be available for harvest.
For the past two years, despite advertising heavily on local radio stations and in newspapers, Thiel could not find any new workers who were willing to stick it out for the whole season. “Those who did come out were here for two or three days, maybe a week, and then they were gone,” he said. Read more on the FBNews website. Watch a video news story about Thiel here.
As part of the #IFarmImmigration campaign, Farm Bureau members are encouraged to share the FBNews article via Facebook and Twitter. For more information on the campaign, go to http://www.iamimmigration.org/index.html.
Conference Call Will Focus on AFBF-Commissioned Labor Study
DOL Withdraws Grain Bin Guidance
“The Department of Labor’s decision to withdraw enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s small farm grain bin guidance is a positive step forward for agriculture,” said American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman in a statement. AFBF is optimistic that this action will result in OSHA’s compliance with the small farm exemption as required by law.
Farm safety is a top-of-mind priority for our farmers, noted Stallman. Farm Bureau encourages DOL to reach out to farm groups to help develop additional farm safety programs, as preventative measures would better serve OSHA’s and the farm community’s shared goal of farm safety.
Farm Bureau Posts Record Donations for Feeding America
The farm and ranch families of Farm Bureau raised more than $810,000 and donated a record of more than 32 million pounds of food to assist hungry Americans as part of Farm Bureau’s “Harvest for All” program in partnership with Feeding America. Combined, the monetary and food donations also reached a record level of the equivalent of more than 34 million meals.
Now in its 11th year, Harvest for All is spearheaded by members of Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers & Ranchers program, but Farm Bureau members of all ages from across the nation contribute to the effort. In all, 18 state Farm Bureaus heeded the call to action. The joint effort between Farm Bureau and Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger relief organization, is a national community action program through which farmers and ranchers can help ensure every American enjoys the bounty of food they produce.
In addition to raising food and funds for the initiative, farmers and ranchers tallied nearly 13,000 volunteer friend hours assisting local hunger groups in 2013.
Net Farm Income Forecast to Fall in 2014
Net farm income is forecast to be $95.8 billion in 2014, down 26.6 percent from 2013’s forecast of $130.5 billion, according to USDA’s Economic Research. The 2014 forecast would be the lowest since 2010, but would remain $8 billion above the previous 10-year average. Lower crop cash receipts, and, to a lesser degree, a change in the value of crop inventories and reduced government farm payments, drive the expected drop in net farm income. Net cash income is forecast at $101.9 billion, down almost 22 percent from the 2013 forecast. Net cash income is projected to decline less than net farm income primarily because it reflects the sale of more than $6 billion in carryover stocks from 2013.
Crop receipts are expected to decrease more than 12 percent in 2014, led by a projected $11-billion decline in corn receipts and a $6-billion decline in soybean receipts. Livestock receipts are forecast to increase in 2014 largely due to higher milk prices. The elimination of direct payments under the Agricultural Act of 2014 and uncertainty regarding enrollment and payments during 2014 result in a projected 45-percent decline in government payments. On the other hand, total production expenses are forecast to decline $3.9 billion in 2014, which would be only the second time expenses declined in the last 10 years.
Read the ERS report for complete details.
‘Is a Cow Eating My Lunch?’ Video Released
The Institute for Feed Education & Research recently funded an issue paper by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, or CAST, entitled, “Animal Feed vs. Human Food: Challenges and Opportunities in Sustaining Animal Agriculture Toward 2050,” which CAST developed into a 12-minute video, “Is a Cow Eating My Lunch?” AFBF was a sponsor of the video.