La. Farm Bureau/Radio Network
February 7, 2014
Farm Bill To Be Signed Today
President Barack Obama is carrying out a presidential duty that he hasn't had a lot of opportunity to perform recently: signing into law a major piece of bipartisan legislation.
Obama planned to sign a far-reaching farm bill today at Michigan State University, a rare celebration of Washington political compromise being held in heartland America. The bill expands federal crop insurance and ends direct government payments to farmers, but the bulk of its cost is for the food stamp program that aids 1 in 7 Americans.
The bill cuts food stamps by $800 million a year, or around 1 percent, one-fifth of the cut approved last fall by the Republican-led House. Conservatives remain unhappy with the bill and its subsidies for groups ranging from sheep farmers to the maple syrup industry.
A partisan dispute over food stamp spending held up the legislation for two years, and last fall lawmakers were warning of an impending spike in milk prices without a deal on the bill, which contains federal dairy supports. The prospect of compromise seemed bleak at the time, when lawmakers couldn't even pass a budget to keep the government running.
Obama promised in his State of the Union address last week to make 2014 a year of action, using his presidential powers besides pushing a Congress that usually is reluctant to go along with his ideas. In that spirit, he's coupling the signing of the farm bill with a new administration initiative to boost exports called "Made in Rural America."
According to a draft of the initiative, Obama plans to direct his administration to work on connecting rural businesses with federal resources that can help sell their products and services abroad. The steps he's directing agencies to take include hosting five regional forums for rural businesses, training Agriculture Department staff in all 50 states to advise on export opportunities and putting on a national conference to highlight successful projects.
The program's creation comes as U.S. farmers are sending record exports overseas - more than $140 billion in the past year, driven in large part by increasing demand from China. But administration officials say additional opportunities exist for farmers and other rural business owners.
Obama's trip today is a reward for Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who as chairwomen of the Senate Agriculture Committee helped broker a hard-fought farm bill compromise after years of setbacks. Michigan State, a leading agricultural research school, is Stabenow's alma mater.
Beef Checkoff Remains Positive
According to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, support for the beef checkoff, at 78 percent, is the highest recorded in the past 21 years, according to a recent survey of 1,225 beef and dairy producers nationwide.
The random survey conducted by the independent firm Aspen Media & Market Research in late December 2013 and early January 2014 found an overwhelming majority of beef and dairy producers continue to say their beef checkoff has value for them in many ways:
"Despite being challenged by drought, critics of the checkoff and groups who would like to see us go out of business," says Producer Communications Working Group (PCWG) Chair Jeanne Harland, "beef and dairy producers continue to see more in their Beef Checkoff Program than just paying for a few ads or a few promotions. I'm one of the eight out of 10 who believe the checkoff has helped to contribute to a positive trend in beef demand."
For more information about your beef checkoff investment, go to MyBeefCheckoff.com.
Census of Agriculture Preliminary Results to be Released at Agricultural Outlook Forum
USDA will release the first look at the 2012 Census of agriculture results on February 20th in a preliminary report. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says the Census of Agriculture is a key resource used in evaluating and implementing policies and programs to help the U.S. ag economy, invest in rural America and support the next generation of farmers. Vilsack looks forward to discussing the most recent results of the Census at the Agricultural Outlook Forum - where the results will be released at noon Eastern. Once they are released - the National Agricultural Statistics Service will hold a detailed session with an in-depth overview of the results at 1:30 Eastern. NASS Administrator Cynthia Clark says NASS is excited to provide the first look at the new Census in two weeks and the final report later this spring. For more information - and to see the 2012 report once released - visit www dot ag census dot USDA dot gov.