Friday, May 17, 2013
A Different Farm Bill Takes Shape
Major progress on the farm bill this week in both chambers of Congress has fired up Washington policy wonks as well as farmers and ranchers across the countryside. “We’ve seen another great example of bipartisan legislating on the part of both committees and their leaders,” said Dale Moore, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s chief lobbyist, in a Newsline radio report. “We’re very optimistic we’re going to get a farm bill done this year,” he added. The next farm bill will look much different than the prior three, Moore predicted.
Some Farmland Values Continue Climbing
The average value of agricultural land rose 15 percent compared to a year ago during the first quarter of the year in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin, according to The Agricultural Newsletter from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Land values were up about 4 percent from quarter-to-quarter.
National EMS Week is May 19-25
National Emergency Medical Services Week brings together local communities and medical personnel to publicize safety and honor the dedication of those who provide the day-to-day lifesaving services of medicine’s “front line.” Information created for this week can be used throughout the year for public education and safety programs.
‘Angry Bird’ Draws Attention to Farm
A giant slingshot ready to launch a bright red “Angry Bird” from the popular video game is captivating passersby on a busy highway in Clarke County, Va. Farm owners created the eye-catching display to promote a fall corn maze that will feature the bird.
Quote of the Day
“There’s good amendments and dumb amendments and we’ll hear them all, get through them and get the bill passed before Memorial Day.” – Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), talking about the farm bill on the Agriculture Today radio program .
Thursday, May 16, 2013
House Ag Committee Approves Farm Bill
The House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday approved its version of the 2013 farm bill. The Senate Agriculture Committee approved its version on Tuesday.
“This provides a great reason for optimism we will have a new long-term farm bill this year,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. “That belief is further supported by the fact that the bills are more striking in their similarities than in their differences. Both bills provide a solid start for a farm bill that serves America’s farm and ranch families. The emphasis on crop insurance as a risk management tool, combined with flexibility that the measures offer through other safety net choices, will go a long way in ensuring a stable agricultural economy over the next few years.”
The Senate’s version, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, limits funding cuts to $23 billion, while the House expects to see $40 billion in savings. The Senate on Wednesday voted to proceed with consideration of the farm bill. First votes on the bill are expected to be held Tuesday, with Senate consideration completed before the Memorial Day recess on May 24. No information has been released yet regarding House consideration.
Senate Approves Water Resources Development Act
The Senate on Wednesday approved S. 601, the Water Resources Development Act. AFBF President Bob Stallman hailed the development in a statement. The legislation “takes us one step closer to water transport upgrades needed to boost the nation’s economic growth and is welcome news for America’s farmers, ranchers and agribusiness owners,” Stallman said.
More than 60 percent of grain grown by U.S. farmers for export is transported via inland waterways and 95 percent of agricultural exports and imports move through U.S. harbors. “Considering those facts, new projects for flood protection, port improvements and upgrades to the nation’s aging locks and dams infrastructure authorized under WRDA are long overdue,” Stallman said.
New Smartphone App Could Save Lives
University of Missouri researchers have developed a smartphone application that uses GPS systems to locate farmers who have rolled their tractors. The app, called VRPETERS (Vehicle Rollover Prevention Education Training Emergency Reporting System), uses sensors and GPS capability built into smartphones that can detect rollovers. Once the app detects a rollover, it sends an automatic emergency e-mail and phone message with the coordinates of the accident location to family members or emergency responders.
The app could also be used on construction vehicles, trucks, snowmobiles, military vehicles, riding lawnmowers and all-terrain vehicles. The developers have tested the app on a standard tractor and are looking for an industry partner to help market it.
KFB’s TV Show Honors U.S. Military in Special Episode
Kentucky Farm Bureau’s Emmy Award-winning television program “Bluegrass & Backroads” is paying tribute to our troops through a special episode airing Memorial Day week. Episode #1008 will feature four Kentuckian soldiers and honor military men and women who have served our country worldwide throughout history.
The episode will debut Wednesday, May 22 at 2 p.m. on RFD-TV and will air on multiple stations at various times during the remainder of May. To learn more about Bluegrass & Backroads visit bluegrassandbackroads.com.
USDA Announces Vision for U.S. Organic Ag
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced numerous changes regarding organic agriculture on Tuesday including the increase of coverage options through USDA’s Risk Management Agency’s federal crop insurance program. Moving forward, USDA will also provide new guidance and direction on organic production to internal agencies.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Senate Ag Committee Approves Farm Bill
The Senate Agriculture Committee on Tuesday approved its version of the farm bill, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012. “By following a bipartisan path and approving its farm bill legislation, the committee moved the farm bill forward with provisions that work well for America’s farm and ranch families,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. He added that Farm Bureau is especially pleased that the bill places a high priority on crop insurance as a risk management tool and also offers a measure of flexibility through safety net options beyond crop insurance.
Further, “We are pleased that the Senate held firm to its intention of limiting cuts to $23 billion,” Stallman said. “That will help maintain workable and viable commodity and conservation titles by limiting program cuts to levels that are fair for farmers and ranchers.” The measure next moves to the full Senate for consideration.
AFBF Urges Congress to Keep Current Tax Tools
Farmers and ranchers need a tax code to manage the risks associated with agriculture while complying with tax liabilities, according to AFBF. In a statement filed today with the House Ways and Means Committee for a hearing on small business taxation, AFBF urged congressional members to maintain cash accounting tools and higher small business expensing limits in any tax code rewrite.
Cash accounting tools, like the deferral of commodity and product receipts and prepaying the cost of livestock feed, fertilizer and other farm supplies, are important to farmers. Proposed changes to cash accounting rules, which would require some farmers to change to accrual accounting, would be time-consuming and costly for farmers and ranchers.
Optimistic Outlook for Agriculture in Coming Decade
The Agriculture Department is predicting an optimistic future for agriculture during the next decade using a “conditional scenario,” according to “USDA Agricultural Projections to 2022.” There are some negative aspects of the report, including the short-term softening of commodity prices and increasing crude oil prices. The predictions consider both domestic and international factors.
CRP Sign-up Begins May 20
USDA reminded farmers and ranchers Tuesday it will conduct a four-week Conservation Reserve Program sign-up May 20 through June 14. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also touted CRP’s continuous enrollment opportunities such as the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement Initiative, the Highly Erodible Land Initiative, the Grassland Restoration Initiative, the Pollinator Habitat Initiative and other related initiatives.
Survey Finds Farmers Take Minimal Sick Days
A joint study by Gallup and Healthways indicates farmers, foresters and fishers rank No. 2 among professions when it comes to taking the least amount of sick days. Physicians ranked No. 1.
According to the study, 93 percent of farm workers feel treated with respect and close to 25 percent surveyed feel stressed the day before work. The survey suggests farmers’ high work attendance is due to the constant attention needed by their crops and livestock.
Dependence on Foreign Petroleum on the Decline
According to the Renewable Fuels Association, between 2005 to 2012, as ethanol increased from 1 percent to 10 percent of the U.S. gasoline supply, dependence on imported petroleum products declined from 60 percent to 41 percent.
2013 Ethanol Industry OUTLOOK (page 8)
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Environmental Impact Statements on Tap for Biotech Crops
The Agriculture Department on Monday announced plans to prepare separate environmental impact statements to better inform decision-making regarding the regulatory status of crops genetically engineered to be resistant to herbicides 2,4-D and dicamba. American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman called the decision “troubling” in a statement.
“Most disturbing is that USDA has not provided scientific justification for why full environmental impact statements are needed, rather than the usual environmental assessments,” Stallman said. He also noted that prompt availability of new technologies, including herbicide-resistant crop varieties, helps America’s farmers continue their legacy of continuous improvement—growing more food using fewer resources than ever before.
HIT Backfires on Small Businesses and Employees
Farmers and small business owners nationwide are speaking up against the Health Insurance Tax, which will be levied on health insurance companies’ net premiums as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In Monday’s Newsline, Dean Norton, New York Farm Bureau president and a dairy farmer, said the consumer “will end up paying the cost for this HIT tax and it’s estimated it’s going to be roughly about $400 more per year for a family of four for health care costs and that $400 equates into groceries for a month.”
Supreme Court Rules in Monsanto Seed Patent Case
The Supreme Court on Monday decided Bowman v. Monsanto Co., holding that the patent-exhaustion doctrine does not permit an Indiana farmer to reproduce Monsanto’s patented genetically modified and herbicide-resistant soybean seeds through planting and harvesting without Monsanto’s permission. At issue was whether patents remain in effect for seeds that are the second generation—or progeny—of Monsanto’s herbicide-resistant soybeans. In what has been described as a narrow ruling, justices said unanimously that the actions of an Indiana farmer who planted second-generation Monsanto seeds met the definition of illegal copying of a patented product.
Let’s Keep the Food in Food Aid
In this week’s Focus on Agriculture column, AFBF President Bob Stallman discussed U.S. international food aid and the recent criticism Farm Bureau received after a pieced-together quote from an AFBF staff member was published on the topic.
“Facts do suffer when skewed through the prism of agenda-driven politics,” Stallman said recalling Farm Bureau’s involvement in the Food for Peace program, tracing its origin back to a Cheyenne County (Kansas) Farm Bureau meeting in 1953. “If critics of Farm Bureau’s policy on food aid ask whether we are proud of our role in this program, the answer is an unequivocal, ‘You bet we are,’” said Stallman.
2011 Food & Farm Facts Products Sale Continues
The 2011 Food & Farm Facts “fire sale” continues. Special discount pricing is available on books/maps, pocket guides and educator’s guides while supplies last. Order here: http://bit.ly/ZbmQ7T. Updated (2013) Food & Farm Facts products will be available in June.
More Food With Fewer Resources (video)
Vilsack to Give Back if There are Cut Backs
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently said he will give back part of his near $200,000 salary if USDA is forced to furlough employees due to the sequestration.
Monday, May 13, 2013
House Agriculture Committee Releases Draft Farm Bill
Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) of the House Agriculture Committee released a discussion draft of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 on Friday. The bill eliminates direct payments (except for cotton farmers), the Average Crop Revenue Election Program and the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program, with a projected savings of $40 billion overall.
The Senate Agriculture Committee version of the farm bill was released last week. Agriculture committees in both the House and Senate are expected to consider the farm bill this week.
USDA Predicts Record Corn Crop Despite Early Challenges
The May World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report released Friday by the Agriculture Department shows that a record corn crop is still reachable despite a slow start to planting season, according to American Farm Bureau Federation analysts.
The report forecasts a corn yield of 158 bushels per acre, implying a record crop of 14.14 billion bushels, up 3.36 billion bushels from 2012 when much of the nation was overtaken by severe drought. The current record corn crop was produced in 2009 at 13.09 billion bushels.
Increase in Tractor Sales During the Month of April
The Association of Equipment Manufacturers said 22,144 farm tractors were sold in April, up 6.4 percent from a year ago, according to a recent Brownfield article. The largest percentage increase in sales was 100-plus horsepower two-wheel drives, up 35.9 percent, and the largest unit sales were machines under 40-horsepower, selling 12,593 tractors.
‘Field Moms’ Learn About Food and Farming
More than 25 Chicago-area moms will have the opportunity to tour a corn and soybean farm on May 18 through Illinois Farm Families, an organization that connects farmers and mothers. “Field Moms”—both urban and suburban moms interested in food and farming—will receive answers to their food- and agriculture-related questions as well as check on their own crops produced on the farm, take photos and videos and journal their experiences.
“Field Moms” will share their on-the-farm experiences with other moms and consumers via video clips, photos and blog posts at www.watchusgrow.org, www.facebook.com/illinoisfarmfamilies and http://twitter.com/ilfarmfamilies.
Tennessee TV Station Reports HSUS Deception
WZTV Fox 17 in Nashville, Tenn., recently reported that the Dickson County Humane Society receives no money from the Humane Society of the United States, although the need for funds is great. WZTV reported that the Dickson County shelter’s buildings are decrepit and its roof is leaking, in contrast to HSUS which is flush with cash, taking in $133 million in donations last year. Yet, just $6 million went to local animal shelters, with only $1,000 to facilities in Tennessee.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Health Tax Would HIT Small Business Employees
The Health Insurance Tax will hurt small business employees the hardest, according to congressional testimony today by New York Farm Bureau President and dairy owner Dean Norton. Testifying before the House Small Business Subcommittee on Health and Technology, Norton, also a board member of the American Farm Bureau Federation, encouraged members to co-sponsor H.R. 763, which would repeal the HIT.
The HIT, which was passed as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will be levied on a health insurance company’s net premiums. But, said Norton, in the end it will be employees who ultimately pay the price.
Judicial Win for Maryland Farmers
In what is being hailed as a judicial win for local farmers, Maryland Farm Bureau and the Maryland Department of Agriculture successfully defended farmer privacy in a case that began more than six years ago. In an opinion issued last week, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland upheld the confidentiality of farmer information in nutrient management plans. The court agreed that the identities of farmers with current nutrient management plans are protected indefinitely under the law—not only in the plan summaries but also in other documents held by MDA.
“Maryland Farm Bureau is very pleased that the court affirmed what has been our position all along—that nutrient management plans should be considered confidential business documents and identifying information should not be shared with the public,” said Pat Langenfelder, president of Maryland Farm Bureau.
Grants Given to Study Weather’s Affects on Cattle
The Agriculture Department awarded $19.5 million to further research, education and Extension activities related to climate solutions in agriculture, specifically the affects of climate variability and change on dairy and beef cattle.
The University of Wisconsin and partners received $9.9 million to study the environmental impacts on dairy production systems and create best management practices for producers on the farm. The remaining $9.6 million in funding was awarded to Oklahoma State University and partners, whose focus is to safeguard regional beef production while decreasing agriculture’s environmental footprint.
Forward in the Digital Age
On May 3, the last print edition of FBNews was printed and shipped. The paper, which covers a gamut of agricultural affairs, resumes as a free e-newsletter and website, http://fbnews.fb.org/. Stewart Truelsen explained in this week’s Focus on Agriculture column that, “The newspaper is not a victim of the Digital Age as much as it is a beneficiary of it.”
DriftWatch Crops Registry Expands Nationwide
FieldWatch Inc. has successfully transitioned its national version of the online DriftWatch specialty crop site registry for high-value, specialty crops and apiaries to a new technology platform. The registry allows farmers to identify and map the location of sensitive crops including tomatoes, fruit trees, grapes, vegetables and organic crops, serving as a stewardship resource for applicators to consult before spraying.
A voluntary online registry, DriftWatch originated in Indiana within Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering in 2008.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Senate Ag Committee Farm Bill Markup Moved to May 14
Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has announced that the farm bill markup tentatively scheduled for Thursday will be postponed until Tuesday, May 14. Language to be used for the markup is expected to be posted to the committee’s website before the end of the week.
The House Ag Committee also plans to markup the farm bill next week.
AFBF Joins Groups in New Crop Insurance Agreement
The American Farm Bureau Federation has joined with a diverse group of 44 conservation, environmental, crop insurance and agricultural organizations in distributing a position paper that outlines a common-sense compromise to link conservation compliance and crop insurance premium assistance and to oppose means testing, payment limitations or premium subsidy reductions for the crop insurance program.
These recommendations have been submitted to Senate and House agriculture committee leadership for their consideration for debate on the new farm bill. In a letter to Senate agriculture committee leaders, the organizations said the position provides “an effective farm and natural resource safety net.”
USDA to Assist Cranberry Growers
The Agriculture Department will purchase up to $5 million in cranberry concentrate due to a record growing year for the crop in 2012 and the effect it could have on cranberry prices. Cranberry growers, as well as several members of Congress, requested the government assistance.
The funding comes from USDA’s Section 32 program of the Agricultural Act of 1935 and will be distributed to federal food programs, school lunch programs and used in food banks.
FWS Continues Review of Lesser Prairie Chicken
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took several actions pertaining to its ongoing review of the status of the lesser prairie chicken on Monday. FWS proposed a special rule for the LPC; reopened the comment period on the original proposal to list the LPC as threatened; and announced the availability of, and solicited comments on, a range-wide conservation plan prepared by the multi-state Interstate Working Group.
AFBF opposes listing the LPC as threatened and filed comments on the FWS proposal during the initial comment period.
FBNews E-newsletter Covers Immigration, Farm Bill and More
Check out the latest FBNews e-newsletter, covering the top news in agriculture. May’s edition includes articles on immigration legislation, the Mississippi River Navigation Sustainment Act and state issues, such as Illinois’ delayed planting progress. E-newsletter blurbs link to full articles in the new, online edition of FBNews.
Sign up for the e-newsletter here.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Conservation Compliance, Crop Insurance Bubble Up
The concept of linking farmer compliance with conservation programs and crop insurance premium assistance in the farm bill continues to generate talk on Capitol Hill and around the countryside. The American Farm Bureau Federation and several other agriculture groups on Monday sent a letter to leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee outlining a compromise position supporting linking conservation compliance with crop insurance premium assistance and opposing means testing, payment limitations or premium subsidy reductions for the crop insurance program.
Mary Kay Thatcher, AFBF’s farm policy specialist, explained what AFBF and other groups would like to see in the farm bill on this issue and others, during a segment of the AgriTalk radio program.
Stabenow Retracts Plans to Include ‘Egg Bill’ in Farm Bill
Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has changed her plans to include an “egg bill” similar to S. 820, which calls for national standards on cages for egg-laying hens, in her draft text of the farm bill markup. The egg legislation could still be offered as a farm bill amendment at the markup in committee or during floor consideration.
Farm Bureau strongly opposes the egg bill and has policy that opposes laws mandating specific farming practices in livestock production.
Senate to Vote on Important Infrastructure Improvements
The Senate is getting ready to vote on the Water Resources Development Act—known as WRDA—which would update infrastructure for the nation’s inland waterways and ports. AFBF transportation specialist Andrew Walmsley said those improvements are crucial in a recent Newsline.
“Our waterways infrastructure is basically relying on technology that many of them were built in the 1930s. We’ve got locks out there older than the Model T,” said Walmsley.
USDA Announces New Rules for Community Connect Grants
The Agriculture Department announced last week new rules for Rural Development’s Community Connect Grants, a program that brings broadband service to rural areas. Changes include simplification of the application process; allowing applicants to use a USDA web-based mapping tool to define their proposed service area; more flexibility on the types of resources, in-kind services and monetary contributions for eligibility to meet the 15 percent matching fund; and more.
Since its start, the program has funded 229 projects, and in 2012, USDA assistance improved broadband in close to 65,000 rural households, businesses and community institutions.
FB Members Vie for 2013 National ‘Farm Mom of the Year’
American Agri-Women and Monsanto have selected five regional winners in the 2013 Farm Mom of the Year contest. Online votes are now being accepted to help determine the national winner. Each regional winner was awarded a $5,000 cash prize from Monsanto. Online votes cast on AmericasFarmers.com before May 12—Mother’s Day—will determine the winner of the national title and recipient of an additional $5,000 prize. Three of the regional winners, Aimee Hachigian-Gould of Montana, Sue Roehm of Ohio and Betty Rosson of Virginia, are active in Farm Bureau.
Monday, May 6, 2013
Five Key Trends Threaten American Agriculture
Five trends pose a major threat to American agriculture, according to Gary Baise, an attorney who addressed the annual commodity conference of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation. The trends of concern are opposition to monoculture cropping, concentrated animal feeding operations, international trade, genetically modified organisms, and the criminalization of runoff from concentrated livestock and poultry feeding operations.
“We must continue to work to defend agriculture against those who want to put us out of business,” Baise told conference attendees.
Study Shows Ethanol Reducing Carbon Footprint
A new study indicates that ethanol production is continuing to reduce its energy and environmental footprint. The study, titled 2012 Corn Ethanol: Emerging Plant Energy and Environmental Technologies, found that recent innovations in corn ethanol production have resulted in increased yield per bushel even as less energy is required for production.
CNN’s Eatocracy: Why My Hogs are on a Healthcare Plan
In Why My Hogs are on a Healthcare Plan, a guest blog post by Chris Chinn on CNN’s Eatocracy Blog, she explains how animals are cared for on her family’s Missouri farm. “We have a healthcare plan for our hogs that is designed by our veterinarian,” Chinn wrote. Further, “This means when we detect a hog might be sick or that a hog isn’t behaving normally, we call in our veterinarian and follow his advice on how to protect that animal and keep it healthy.”
Chinn is a Farm Bureau member in Missouri and former chair of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee.
Apply Now for Agvocacy 2.0 Conference
The AgChat Foundation is accepting applications for its Agvocacy 2.0 Conference through May 24. Keynote speaker Jay Baer, Convince and Convert, will open the conference with his address “Youtility: Smart Marketing is about Help not Hype.” Throughout the conference attendees will be able to choose breakout sessions to help them improve their strategy and usage of social media tools to tell their farm or ranch story.
The conference will be held Aug. 22–23 at the Embassy Suites in Charlotte, N.C. The registration fee is $375. Up to 75 people representing all sectors of agriculture will be invited to participate, with priority given to farmers and ranchers.
Book of the Year Submissions Sought
The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture is requesting nominations for its Book of the Year for 2014 and book submissions for the Accurate Ag Books list. The 2013 Book of the Year was “The Guardian Team: On the Job with Rena and Roo” by Cat Urbigkit.
Friday, May 3, 2013
USDA/EPA Release Honeybee Report
The Agriculture Department and Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday issued a comprehensive scientific report on honeybee health. “The Agriculture Department/Environmental Protection Agency report issued today concludes what farmers and scientists have known for some time—that there isn’t just one cause to the decline in honeybee numbers,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman in a statement.
The decline in honey bee numbers is due to a number of factors, according to the report, which “makes it even more important that we continue work on a solution through collaborative efforts among farmers, beekeepers, researchers, the federal government and the public,” Stallman said. Farm Bureau supports funding for research to find real answers to the Colony Collapse Disorder, as well as practical, effective methods to remedy the situation.
Rough Start for 2013 Planting Season
No one ever said farming was easy, but Mother Nature is giving planting season a rough start. Much of the country is currently experiencing a weird weather pattern, according to Bob Young, AFBF’s chief economist.
“We’ve got the floods not just along the Illinois and the Mississippi Rivers, but also up north in Fargo and North Dakota areas as well,” Young said. “We’ve got some frost warnings that could affect Arkansas even…to talk about frost warnings May 1 in Arkansas and Oklahoma and Texas, that just never happens. Over 1,400 weather stations reported record-low temperatures last week.” The last time America’s farmers were so late getting a crop in the ground was 1984.
Rural Youth Optimistic About Future of Agriculture
Visitors to the Oklahoma Farm Bureau exhibit during the 2013 Oklahoma FFA Convention (April 30-May 2) were optimistic, with 84 percent saying they’re convinced agriculture has a bright future. When asked to list the challenges facing agriculture today, the top three answers, in order of popularity, were the weather, telling the farm story to the non-farm public, and a lack of young farmers and ranchers. Other answers included attacks on animal agriculture by animal welfare groups, lack of profitability and dwindling natural resources.
Almost 80 percent of the FFA students responding to the survey also said they were planning on a career in agriculture. A higher number of youth are considering a career in agriculture, 80 percent in 2013 versus 50 percent to 60 percent in previous years.
Moms Hailed as ‘Secret Weapon’ of Ag and Biotech
American moms, especially those who blog, are hailed as a “secret weapons” of the ag and biotech industries in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article. “Moms are really important because they’re the most influential consumers in the country,” said David Wescott, director of digital strategy with APCO Worldwide, a public relations firm. More and more, moms turn to peers online as credible sources of information about food. This includes individual blogs as well as sites such as the Food Dialogues created by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, and the Illinois Farm Families “Field Moms” program, which allows you to follow an acre of corn and soybeans and a pen of pigs through the growing season.
Relief Fund Benefits West, Texas
A West Relief fund has been set up through Texas Farm Bureau’s Education and Research Foundation. All donations will be used to help those who lost homes and loved ones in the fertilizer plant explosion in April. Monetary donations can be sent to Texas Farm Bureau Education and Research Foundation—West Relief, P.O. Box 2689, Waco, TX 76701-2689; Attn: Cyndi Gerik.
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Stabenow Plans to Include ‘Egg Bill’ in Farm Bill
Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has indicated that she will include an “egg bill” similar to S. 820, which calls for national standards on cages for egg-laying hens, in her draft text of the farm bill for the Senate Agriculture Committee markup next week. The bill is supported by the Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers.
Farm Bureau strongly opposes the egg bill and has policy that opposes laws mandating specific farming practices in livestock production.
Ag in the Classroom Grant Brings Students to the White House
Students from the Sarah Moore Green Magnet Technology Academy in Knoxville, Tenn., were invited to the White House to plant the 5th Annual Kitchen Garden with first lady Michelle Obama. The activity was made possible thanks to an Agriculture in the Classroom grant from the Tennessee Farm Bureau.
Healthy Diet Costs $146 to $289 a Week for Family of Four
According to the Agriculture Department, the cost of feeding a family of four a healthy diet ranges from $146 to $289 a week. The calculations were based on preparing all meals and snacks at home for a couple with two school-aged children in four weekly food plan breakdowns: thrifty ($146); low-cost ($191); moderate-cost ($239); and liberal ($289).
“We constantly hear the claim that you can’t eat healthy on a budget, and to us that’s a myth because a family can eat a healthy diet with fruits and vegetables that meets the Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” said Robert Post, associate executive director of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.
CSP Application Deadline May 31
USDA announced Wednesday that the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Conservation Stewardship Program will provide $175 million in funding for up to 12.6 million additional acres (up from 12.1 million last year) of enrollment this year. CSP provides farmers, ranchers and forestland owners payments for maintaining large areas of conservation on their land in order to preserve natural resources while running productive operations.
Applications can be submitted to local NRCS offices and are accepted on a rolling basis. The deadline for 2013 funding is May 31.
Time to Vote for 2013 National ‘Farm Mom of the Year’
American Agri-Women and Monsanto have selected five regional winners in the 2013 Farm Mom of the Year contest. Online votes are now being accepted to help determine the national winner. Each regional winner was awarded a $5,000 cash prize from Monsanto. Online votes cast on AmericasFarmers.com before May 12—Mother’s Day—–will determine the winner of the national title and recipient of an additional $5,000 prize. Two of the regional winners, Sue Roehm of Ohio and Betty Rosson of Virginia, are active in Farm Bureau.
Farm Mom of the Year is an element of Monsanto’s America’s Farmers program, an advocacy effort promoting, recognizing and supporting U.S. farmers through communications, awards and special programs that highlight the importance of agriculture.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
NTF Disputes Consumer Reports Findings on Ground Turkey
The National Turkey Federation is refuting numerous claims made in a recent Consumer Reports article on ground turkey. NTF President Joel Brandenberger said the publication “had the opportunity to foster a serious, thoughtful discussion about food safety, but instead it chose to sensationalize findings and mislead people.”
U.S. Corn Planting Pace Slowest Since 1984
The Agriculture Department on Monday announced corn planting season across the Midwest is matching the slowest pace on record (1984) due to heavy rains. Planting was 5 percent complete as of April 28, up only 1 percentage point from the week prior.
The winter wheat crop is also in deteriorating condition, the worst seen during this time of year in 17 years.
N.M. Horse Slaughter Plant to Reopen Its Doors
According to a Fox News article, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Valley Meat Co.’s horse slaughter plant in southern New Mexico will open its doors in the near future unless Congress re-establishes a ban on the practice. The plant was re-inspected by USDA last week and if opened would be the first domestic horse slaughterhouse in the U.S. in six years.
Farm Bureau supports the reopening and development of new horse slaughter facilities, and funding for Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors at such plants.
Specialty Crops and the Farm Bill
Barry Bushue, an Oregon farmer and vice president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, explains why the recent attention on specialty crops in the farm bill is welcome in an AFBF Focus on Agriculture column. Starting with the next farm bill, Farm Bureau has proposed the establishment of a new program—Stacked Income Protection Plan or STAX for short—for apples, potatoes, tomatoes, grapes and sweet corn, he wrote.
Video Previews Food & Farm Facts Info on Alternative Energy
Watch a video preview of featured information about alternative energy from America’s farms, from the award-winning Food & Farm Facts series. All products from the 2011 series are now on sale. State and county Farm Bureaus may be invoiced for orders. Order at http://bit.ly/ZbmQ7T.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Renewable Fuels Standard Helps U.S. Grow its Own Fuel
The Renewable Fuels Standard helps the United States grow its own fuel, which is important for Congress to remember as it reviews the law, according to Matt Erickson, an economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation. The House Energy and Commerce Committee is taking a look at the RFS, which requires transportation fuel sold in the U.S. to contain an increasing amount of renewable fuel such as ethanol and biodiesel.
The RFS allows the U.S. to move toward becoming energy independent from foreign sources. Further, “For every bushel of corn—or 56 pounds—that we take to the ethanol plant, we can create two items,” Erickson noted in a recent Newsline. “We can create about 2.8 gallons of ethanol but we can also create 17 to 18 pounds of dried distillers grains that livestock producers are using within their feed rations,” he said.
Pennsylvania FB Reaches Navigator!
Congratulations to Pennsylvania for being the second state Farm Bureau to reach Navigator status for membership growth (56,783 members) in 2013! Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s continued efforts to keep membership front-of-mind sets the bar high for other state Farm Bureaus. Montana FB was the first state Farm Bureau to reach Navigator status in 2013.
USDA Expands Support of SNAP Benefits at Farmers’ Markets
The Agriculture Department on Monday announced the expansion of USDA grants to improve access to fresh and healthy foods to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients at America’s farmers’ markets. The $4 million in grants will expand SNAP using wireless capabilities at farmers’ markets.
“In general, research shows that about 20 cents of every SNAP dollar spent on food ends up in the pocket of American farmers. Installing wireless technology at farmers’ markets expands the customer base for markets and increases the share of the SNAP dollar that goes directly back to local farmers and into local economies,” said Kevin Concannon, agriculture undersecretary.
Dining Outside the Home on the Rise
Consumers are dining outside the home more as the cost of at-home meal prices, number of restaurant options and the overall convenience factor increase.
According to the National Restaurant Association, almost half of food purchases today are away from home, up 25 percent from 1955. And a GoBankingRates survey reported eating away from home can be cheaper, with a 10-ounce ribeye steak with soup, salad and asparagus from Outback Steakhouse ringing in at $2.50 cheaper than if it was prepared at home.
USDA: Stink Bug Odor Does not Taint Milk Supply
Research conducted by USDA indicates dairy cows that consumed feed blended with brown marmorated stink bugs produced milk with no stink bug odor, eliminating concern for farmers that the insect’s odor will taint the milk supply.
Monday, April 29, 2013
FBACT Issues Two Action Alerts
The American Farm Bureau Federation issued two Action Alerts today in support of the Water Resources Development Act (S. 601) and the Agriculture Labor/Immigration Legislation: Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744).
The Senate is scheduled to take a cloture vote May 6 on WRDA, which includes the RIVER Act (S. 407) and Waterways Infrastructure. The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to mark up the Agriculture Labor/Immigration Legislation bill in the near future and an agricultural immigration reform bill was introduced in the House last week.
For more information, visit, http://www.fbactinsider.org/.
2013 Food Price Increase Not as Drastic as Predicted
The Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service recently revised 2013 food price predictions to between 2.5 to 3.5 percent from an earlier forecast of 3 to 4 percent. Food prices are currently rising at a 3 percent rate.
Increases in meat, dairy, cereal and bakery products are not as high as initially predicted. USDA said price increases for meat and dairy products of 2.5 to 3.5 percent and cereal and bakery items, up 2 to 3 percent, are expected to be lower than earlier forecasts.
U.S. food prices increased 2.6 percent in 2012 and 3.7 percent in 2011.
USDA Renews Waste-to-Energy Agreement
The Agriculture Department renewed an agreement last week to help dairy farmers research options for waste-to-energy projects, energy conservation and efficiency advancements on their farms. Farm Futures reported the agreement’s main focus is on agricultural energy efficiency programs and tools, such as anaerobic digesters—systems that capture methane and produce energy for use on the farm and sale onto the electric grid.
USDA said since the signing of the agreement in 2009, it has given close to 180 awards that have helped finance the development, construction and biogas production of anaerobic digester systems with USDA Rural Development programs. USDA has also awarded 140 Rural Energy for America Program loans and grants to dairy farmers through the agreement.
Program to Increase Trade for U.S. Potato Industry
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, in collaboration with the National Potato Council, United States Potato Board, National Plant Board and state seed certification agencies, launched the State National Harmonization Program for seed potatoes Friday.
Twelve states, covering 98.5 percent of the U.S. seed potato acreage, will participate in the program. The program’s goal is to harmonize seed certification programs to increase trade opportunities for the country’s potato industry.
2011 Food & Farm Facts Products Sale Continues
2011 Food & Farm Facts products are now on sale. Special discount pricing is available on books/maps, pocket guides and educator’s guides while supplies last. Order here: http://bit.ly/ZbmQ7T. Updated (2013) Food and Farm Facts products will be available in June.
Who are America’s Farmers? (video)