The House and Senate agriculture committees announced Wednesday they would have their first formal conference gathering on the farm bill on Oct. 30 in the Longworth House building.
Specifically, the first formal session will include opening remarks and discussion about the House version of the farm bill, HR 2641, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act, or FARRM. Given that there are 41 conference members (12 senators and 29 House members), it's likely that first face-to-face gathering will be mostly spent on opening statements.
USDA Touts Co-op Income
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that farmer, rancher and fishery cooperatives set records for sales, income and assets in 2012. Sales reached $235 billion, topping the 2011 record by $18 billion, an 8.3% gain.
Record net income was $6.1 billion last year, up nearly 13% over the $5.4 billion recorded in 2011.
Vilsack has signed an October 2013 National Cooperative Month Proclamation that salutes not only agricultural and fishery co-ops, but the entire co-op sector – which includes utility, financial, food and many other types of co-ops – for helping to boost the economy and create jobs.
"Cooperative businesses, arising from a sense of community and common cause, are the ultimate economic self-help tool, helping member-owners market and process their crops and other products, obtain needed services and acquire high-quality, affordable supplies."
USDA's annual survey of the nation's more than 2,200 agricultural and fishery cooperatives shows that grain and oilseed sales by co-ops increased more than $7 billion in 2012. Taken together, bean and pea, fruit and vegetable, nut, poultry and sugar sales by co-ops increased at least 3% over 2011 levels. Farm and ranch supply sales by co-ops were up by $7 billion, primarily due to rising energy prices. Fertilizer, feed and petroleum sales by co-ops each increased by at least $1 billion.
Washington Post Backs Biotech Crops in Africa
Citing some of the issues raised in one of its own recent articles, the Washington Post editorial board has penned a piece highlighting not only the possibility, but need for genetically modified crops in Africa.
As the editorial notes, "Africa in general has been slow to accept genetic engineering. Only four nations have commercialized biotech crops: South Africa, Egypt, Sudan and Burkina Faso." The editorial cites misguided resistance to biotech crops.
"Surely, there is no harm in a vigorous debate about genetically modified food; if people don’t understand it, the benefits will never be realized. But it is a shame to abandon these crops based on irrational fears and suspicions."
Note: Coming back from the World Food Prize symposium, there were so many anecdotes about biotechnology in Africa, it's hard to document them all. On an Iowa farm tour last week, a Tanzanian reporter said activists tell locals in his country that biotech crops make men both bald and impotent. Another farmer from Kenya said his country largely banned biotech crops because of trade with Europe. Kenya exports coffee, tea and flowers to Europe so politicians don't want to allow biotech crops because they fear European trade would suffer.
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