Ag Policy Blog

Notes from D.C. as the Week Gets Busy

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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I barely had time to write Monday as surrendered my presidency. Yes, despite my arguments that the agricultural economy is improving, I had to give up presidency of North American Agricultural Journalists. It was an enjoyable year that was capped off by another great dinner and dance last night at the National Press Club with journalists and D.C. agribusiness policy wonks.

I was proud last night, in one of my final duties as president, to hand a first-place writing award to my colleague and former intern, DTN Markets Editor Katie Micik, who won for her spot news story on the market implications of the last BSE case reported in the U.S. last year.

My managing editor, Cheri Zagurski, also won a writing award. Cheri, who applies great attention to detail on spelling and style, naturally ended up with an award that unfortunately called her "Cherri." It happens.

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Also on Monday, the American Farm Bureau released a new farm-bill proposal. The proposal effectively would take the insurance plan that the cotton industry wants to implement, called STAX, and apply it to all crops. As the group stated in its release, the plan would still achieve the $23 billion in savings offered by the Senate last year.

"Specifically, the AFBF proposal calls for a three-legged safety net for program crop farmers that includes: a stacked income protection plan commonly called STAX; an improved crop insurance program; and target prices and marketing loans. Under the proposal, all program crop farmers would have access to the marketing loan and crop insurance provisions and they would then select between a target price program and STAX to round out their safety net option.

"The AFBF proposal also supports extending provisions of the STAX program for apples, potatoes, tomatoes, grapes and sweet corn. Covering these five specialty crops will benefit fruit and vegetable producers in 44 states. Eventually, Farm Bureau would like to cover all crops under a STAX program in the future."

NAAJ members meet today with top congressional leaders on the farm bill. We will have to see if any of them cite the Farm Bureau proposal and think it will garner any support.

In another event today, Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, will re-introduce the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act. Their event will include Tom Colicchio, who is host of the TV show Top Chef on Bravo. The bill, supported by the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, would amount to "a package of proposals that will help consumers access more local, sustainable food while at the same time helping local farmers and ranchers expand their markets and grow the local economies."

As Congress returned this week, the ethanol battle picks right up where left off. A press advisory Monday announced Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., Jim Costa, D-Calif., Steve Womack, R-Ark., and Peter Welch, D-Vt., will re-introduce the RFS Reform Act on Wednesday to "help ease concerns created by the ethanol mandate and protect consumers, energy producers, livestock producers, food manufacturers, retailers, and the U.S. economy."

The president's budget also gets released on Wednesday. I'm taking bets on which congressman or senator will be the quickest to tweet #DOA.

I can be found on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN.

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