Ag Policy Blog

Notes from D.C. as the Week Gets Busy

By Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor

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.

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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Ric Ohge 4/15/2013 | 10:10 AM CDT
Bonny, It DOES get hard, but thank you for reminding me to at least occasionally "lighten up." In view of that, I saw this one on the Web this weekend: "If you want to really 'tweak' your neighbors, call your WiFi network: FBI Surveillance Van." If I ever break away from MediaCom, it sounds like a hoot.
Bonnie Dukowitz 4/11/2013 | 7:58 PM CDT
Ric, Can not be serious all the time.
Ric Ohge 4/11/2013 | 10:27 AM CDT
Bonny, I'm STILL believe Hemp and Cannabis are the same? Perhaps this pdf from the State of Vermont will help with that, it's unimaginable anyone would fall for that old saw in 21st Century America-even average Consumers are wondering how we can BUY every Hemp Product Canada wants to sell, but not grow it:
So, let's NOT wipe out the Paper and Cotton industries, but add on to them. Cheap clothes for everyday that are made in the USA-NOT China, and disposable paper products made from hemp-also made here. I scratch my head not seeing anyone want this. Think of the boon to small farmers...then, of course, Industrial Ag may be doing just that by keeping Hemp "off the table."
Bonnie Dukowitz 4/11/2013 | 6:18 AM CDT
Good idea Ric, Get the good stuff. We could recycle by smoking the refuse.
Sustainable Ag. Coalition speaks with forked tongue. ie. Promote expanding markets for local farmers! Is that not what we have now? What is the defintion of local? An area with-in a township, between two lines of longitude or the Western Hemisphere?
Ric Ohge 4/10/2013 | 10:44 AM CDT
Ah...King Cotton still walks and breathes. The Chinese seem to have the lion's share of that market, which we could wrest away by using hemp to make the clothe for uniforms, work clothes, and other utilitarian cloth, as well as use it for paper products we throw away. We could still raise cotton, but instead of cheapening it with industrial processes, it could become an artisan product used for our best things. Using hemp for work-a-day applications would pull the fabric production from China back here. The use of hemp for utilitarian paper, the stuff like toilet paper, paper towels, cups plates, and periodicals, would let our wood pulp paper be used for better purposes and save timber for house framing and other more important applications. We wouldn't have to take jobs away from Americans or opportunity from Farmers, and could actually create new jobs and businesses. Keeping a safety net for Farming is important, but the suggested business model might also see less yearly losses. Don't worry, the old school is still winning out on all this...I was just thinking out loud.
Lon Truly 4/9/2013 | 7:24 AM CDT
The AFBF proposal is just more of the same - more government investment/profit guarantees for those with the greatest probability of the greatest income - those who control the most acres. How could crony capitalism be demonstrated any more vividly than by these grow government bigger schemers at AFBF?