Archive for March, 2011

Shawcroft Testifies Before Congress

CFB President Don Shawcroft testified before the House Natural Resources Committee today in Washington D.C. During the hearing titled “Harnessing American Resources to Create Jobs and Address Rising Gasoline Prices: Impacts on Businesses and Families,” Shawcroft told the assembled Representatives that Americans are experiencing sticker shock at the gas pump these days, but high fuel costs are hitting America’s farmers and ranchers especially hard.

“Most Americans are feeling sticker shock caused by high gasoline prices when they fill their automobile’s tank,” Shawcroft said. “But there is no term in the English language to accurately describe what farmers and ranchers feel every time they put diesel in the tanks of their farm equipment.”

Shawcroft cited numerous examples of the economic impact currently experienced by farmers and ranchers. He said the cost just for refueling a typical tractor can be more than $1,000.

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NCGA: Billionaire Food Profiteers Wrong to Call Farmers Immoral

Remarks made last week by the chairman of Nestle about the use of corn for biofuels production were not only wrong but dangerous, the president of the National Corn Growers Association said.

“It is scandalous, ludicrous and highly irresponsible for the chairman of a global conglomerate that tripled its profits last year to talk about higher corn prices forcing millions into starvation,” said NCGA President Bart Schott. “Perhaps if Nestle is so concerned about food prices, its board will consider putting more of their $35.7 billion in 2010 profits back into poor communities. Just their profits alone represent more than half the entire farm value of the 2010 U.S. corn crop.”

Schott was reacting to comments by Nestle Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe at a meeting last Tuesday of the Council on Foreign Relations. Schott also challenged Brabeck-Letmathe to take the time to study facts and figures before making ridiculous comments about an industry that he clearly knows little about, nor bothered to study up on.

Colorado on Fire

Fires raged across Colorado this week, fueling concerns about a repeat of the devastating 2002 fire season. On Thursday alone 11,000 new acres were burned in three separate fires east of 1-25.

A fire of more than 1,600 acres in Douglas County forced the evacuation of more than 8,500 people between Parker and Franktown. Farther out on the plains, the town of Karval was threatened by a 5,100 acre blaze and near Pueblo, a 5,000-acre grass fire forced the evacuation of about 600 employees at the Pueblo Chemical Depot. All of the fires were nearly contained by Thursday night.

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The 5,100 acre fire burns near Karval in Lincoln County. (Photos: Rachel Vermillion, Charles Hoffman)

 

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High Vegetable Prices Expected to Drop

High vegetable prices are expected to ease in the coming weeks as farmers send more produce to the supermarket.

Prices shot up nearly 50 percent in February due to cold weather that destroyed much of the vegetable supply. Lettuce in Arizona, tomatoes in Florida and other crops were impacted.

Governor Appoints 5 to Ag Commission

Six Colorado residents have been appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper to the State Agricultural Commission.

Thomas K. Cameron, Palisade, (Democrat), to serve from the Fourth agricultural district; Ernest D. Ford, Center, (Democrat), to serve from the Third agricultural district; Barbara L. Marty, Henderson, (Republican), to serve from the First agricultural district; John W. Singletary, Pueblo, (Democrat), to serve as an at-large member; and Alvin Kunugi, Blanca, (Democrat), to serve as an at-large member.

The commission formulates policy for the Colorado Department of Agriculture and advises the governor and state legislature on agricultural issues.

State Legislative Update

Despite a relatively quiet session, there was movement on many bill tracked by CFB this week.  We expect to see the “Long Bill” (the State’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2011-12) out by next week. It will be heard first in the Senate. That is when the real work will begin.

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Search Now Underway for 2011 America’s Farmers Mom of the Year

Behind every American farm family is the backbone of the operation: the farm mom. Monsanto is honoring her contributions to her family, farm, community and industry with the 2011 America’s Farmers Mom of the Year program.

Farm moms make valuable contributions in the field, and often they are also bookkeepers, cooks, teachers, FFA advisers, 4-H leaders, veterinarians, drivers, mentors, spokespeople and volunteers.

“Farm moms do it all, from supporting their family farming operations to bettering their communities, all while raising the next generation of America’s farmers,” says Chris Chavis, Monsanto spokeswoman for the America’s Farmers Mom of the Year program. “In addition, today’s farm women are passionate advocates for the industry. They work long hours and often go unrecognized for all their efforts. This program is our way to thank farm women everywhere for everything they do.”

Applications will be accepted through Mother’s Day at AmericasFarmers.com. Five regional winners will be announced on May 16, when winners’ profiles and nominations will be posted on the website. Each regional winner will receive a $5,000 cash prize from Monsanto, and the farm mom receiving the most online votes by May 26 will receive an additional $2,500 and the title of America’s Farmers Mom of the Year 2011.

CFB ALERT – Support Ag Sales Tax Exemption

This week the Colorado House of Representatives will consider HB 1005.

HB 1005 repeals  HB 1195, signed into law in 2010, which suspended the exemption on state sales and use taxes imposed on certain items, Ag compounds and pesticides, used in agricultural production from the period March 1, 2010, through June 30, 2013.

Repeal of HB 1195 will bring much needed tax relief to Colorado’s farmers and ranchers.  Please call your House member today and urge them to support HB 1005.  If HB 1005 is not signed into law, then Colorado farmers and ranchers will be stuck paying sales tax for their inputs, which will put them at a disadvantage to surrounding states.

Your members phone number can be found here.

Europeans Refuse to End Subsidies to Big Farms

EU agriculture ministers on Thursday rejected capping subsidies to Europe’s biggest farms but compromised on a fairer share-out of funds between farmers in eastern and Western Europe.

Meeting to discuss an overhaul of Europe’s generously subsidized farms program, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), 19 of the 27 ministers present agreed to the general outlines of a plan to revamp the scheme, several ministers said.

With debate continuing on how to reform the CAP “we have a good basis to look at a legislative package”, said Europe’s agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos.

 

Washington Recap

The U.S. Senate passed a three-week spending measure on Thursday to keep the government running through April 8. This measure contained about $6 billion in cuts to the federal budget.

The House Committee on Agriculture, House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Energy and Commerce Committee all held hearing looking at the impact of EPA regulations and restrictions on energy production.  These hearings brought great scrutiny on EPA.  Since the beginning of the 112th Congress EPA has continually been on the oversight hotseat.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee also held hearings on energy production.  They looked specifically at the impact the recent Deepwater Horizon blowout.  This blowout is being used by the administration to block new drilling permits.

 

The Weekly Links

Bill Clinton: Drilling delays ‘ridiculous’
Politico
Former President Bill Clinton said Friday that delays in offshore oil and gas drilling permits are “ridiculous” at a time when the economy is still rebuilding, according to attendees at the IHS CERAWeek conference.

Last American WWI Veteran To Be Honored at Arlington
ArmyLive
U.S. Army Corporal Frank Buckles, the last American veteran of World War I, will be memorialized and then interred at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday, March 15th.

EPA, Enviro Groups May Reach Settlement
DTN
EPA and two environmental groups may be negotiating a settlement on a lawsuit alleging EPA violated the Endangered Species Act by not consulting federal wildlife officials about the potential effects that registered pesticides and other agriculture chemicals would have on hundreds of species.

PepsiCo Produces Bottle Using All-Plant Materials
NACS Online
PepsiCo Inc. has unveiled a bottle made entirely of plant material, including switchgrass, pine bark, corn husks and other materials.

State Legislative Update

HB 1123 prohibits financial transfers from severance related funds unto the general fund. This bill has successfully passed the House and will head to the Senate State Affairs Committee. It is being sponsored by Rep. Coram and Sen. Roberts. CFB is supportive.

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Colorado Celebrates National Ag Day

CFB and other Colorado Ag groups celebrated National Ag Day on Wednesday at the state Capitol in Denver. The Colorado House also passed a resolution supporting and celebrating Colorado Agriculture. The Colorado Ag Council donated $65,000 in cash and in-kind donations of food the the Food Bank of the Rockies.

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Farmers Prevail in Court Decision on EPA Livestock Rules

In a major court victory for AFBF and other farm organizations, a unanimous federal court of appeals has ruled that EPA cannot require livestock farmers to apply for Clean Water Act permits unless their farms actually discharge manure into U.S. waters.

The ruling was welcomed by Farm Bureau, the National Pork Producers Council and several other agriculture groups that filed suit against EPA in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

“For the second time, a U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that EPA’s authority is limited by the Clean Water Act to jurisdiction over only actual discharges to navigable waters, not potential discharges,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “We are pleased that the federal courts have again reined in EPA’s unlawful regulation of livestock operations under the Clean Water Act. The court has affirmed that EPA, like other federal agencies, can only regulate where it has been authorized by Congress to do so.”

In the ruling issued Tuesday, the 5th Circuit concluded: “The CWA provides a comprehensive liability scheme and the EPA’s attempt to supplement this scheme is in excess of its statutory authority.”

Ag Secretary, Governor Field Questions and Feedback in Greeley

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, left, meets with Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar, middle, and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper

Remove barriers to trade, foreign markets, red tape and get out of the way. That was the basis of most of the comments at Governor Hickenloopers’ Economic Development Summit this week in Greeley. As part of his bottom-up economic development strategy, the Governor hosted a day-long Summit on rural and economic development at UNC in Greeley. Attending the meeting along with the Governor was U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack and Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar.

Red tape and other barriers to business and commerce were a recurring theme throughout the many sessions on various aspects of economic development.

Roundup Ready Alfalfa opponents protest in front of the meeting hall.

“It’s difficult to differentiate red tape and what is an appropriate regulation,” Hickenlooper said in addressing the problem. To do that, he said, he wants to find ways to help business grow while holding the state at the highest level of accountability and ethics. He also wants to assure that the state is pro-business but is also intent on protecting the state’s natural resources.

Vilsack addressed the red tape and regulation complaints by noting the federal government has been given a reality check and that it must become more fiscally responsible and use resources more effectively to “create economic opportunities.”

Agriculture, Vilsack said, was the one bright spot in the recession the country is now starting to move out of. He noted that the export of agricultural products is expected to increase again this year after seeing the same from 2010. Those exports, he said, generate jobs.

(Image: Jim Rydbom, Greeley Tribune)

An Activist EPA is Bad for Everyone

There is no shortage of news and comment when it comes to the EPA. Ag publications have been filled with stories of new EPA regulations and their effect on producers. But should the EPA have its way, it’s not just agriculture that will suffer for it. Nearly every American will in some way feel the impact of the EPA’s current environmental strategy.

Shawn Martini is Communications Director for Colorado Farm Bureau.

In December, Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform launched an investigation into governmental barriers to business in America. The Chairman sent 171 letters to businesses and industry groups, asking them to outline the regulations and programs that most impeded their operations.

Last month Chairman Issa released the results of his inquiry and the results were very informative. Out of the 113 responses, environmental regulation was most cited as a barrier to business. The EPA was cited over 334 times in the responses regarding their rules on green house gas emissions, ozone and dust, spill prevention, chemical applications etc. The next most cited agency was the Department of Labor with only 55 comments.

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5 Truths for Consumers

Mike Barnett of Texas Agriculure Talks, the Texas Farm Bureau blog, wrote today about some important aspects of the agriculture industry that consumers need to know. His comments are apropos of March 15, National Agriculture Day.

Mike says that while there is no shortage of safe and wholesome food in this country, there are those who would bite the hand that feeds them. He says that there are 5 things that may be hard truths for ag critics to stomach, but they are truths nonetheless.

  1. • Farmers use pesticides—even organic farmers. Pesticides may be a natural part of the plant, may be made from another plant, or may be synthetic in nature.  Pesticides are regulated by the government and are evaluated for their effects on human health and environment. They are safely and judiciously used by farmers and ranchers to ward off crop and livestock disease problems.
  2. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not evil. Genetic improvement—through traditional plant breeding techniques as well as genetic modification in the lab—has allowed our food and fiber supply to keep pace with a surging world population.
  3. • The bacon, eggs and milk you had for breakfast this morning likely came from a pig, chicken and dairy cow that was raised in a confined feeding operation. In that confined operation, the pig, chicken or dairy cow had an excellent health plan, good groceries and protection from bad weather and predators.
  4. • Farmers make profits. Farmers make money by taking care of their land and water resources. They bank those resources to ensure future generations can continue the rich heritage of growing food and fiber.
  5. • The average farmer in the United States feeds 155 people. Two-thirds of those people are Americans. The other third are people across the globe.

America is a lucky nation.

Our food is abundant. Our food is safe. Our food is affordable.

From this little corner of cyberspace, I salute farmers and ranchers. They are the reason America enjoys food security. They are the reason we celebrate National Agriculture Day.

We would agree.

Today is National Ag Day

Today is National Ag Day. Ag Day is about recognizing and celebrating the abundance provided by agriculture. Every year, producers, agricultural associations, corporations, universities, government agencies and others across America join to recognize the contributions of agriculture.

National Ag Day falls during National Ag Week that runs through Saturday.

The Agriculture Council of America hosts the campaign on a national level. However, the awareness efforts in communities across America are as influential—if not more—than the broad-scale effort. AFB Women’s Chair Terry Gilbert serves as vice chair of ACA.

Click here to find who America’s MVPs are by reading the winning essay in the Ag Day essay contest and watching the winning video.

Japan Earthquake May Impact Grain Trade

The U.S. Grains Council received initial reports that Friday’s earthquake and the subsequent tsunami may have caused significant damage to many of Japan’s agricultural facilities and production areas. While the extent of the damage is not yet known, it will likely impact grain trade.

“Some ports in northern Japan, Kushiro, Hachinohe, Ishinomaki and Kashima, were hit by the tsunami. We’ve heard some feed mills and livestock operations have also been damaged by the tsunami. Those facilities were not severely damaged by the earthquake itself but were affected by the tsunami,” said Tommy Hamamoto, USGC director in Japan. “It is too early to tell what effect this will have on Japan’s agricultural sector, but it could be of significance.”

Another Short Term Extension for the Federal Government

Ove the past few weeks you have seen information regarding the federal budget, CR’s and what is likely to happen.  With the last CR extension about to run out last Friday, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) introduced H.J. Res. 48, a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government for an additional three weeks, until April 8.  The current CR expires on Mar. 18.  The bill will be on the House floor this week.

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State Legislative Update

The Senate Ag Committee moved two favorable measures forward to the Senate Floor this week with the passage of HB 1159 which allows the Commissioner of Agriculture to license a grain protein analyzer before the analyzer is operated for commercial use and HB 1083 which adds hydroelectricity and pumped hydro to the list of technologies that the PUC may give full consideration of for use. CFB is in support of both of these measures.

The House and Senate will continue next week with full calendars of floor work (for 2nd and 3rd readings of numerous bills). We are still anticipating a handful of bills that we will engage on to be released in the coming weeks. The Long Bill (State’s Budget) is not expected to come out for a few weeks yet. The JBC is busy at work with long days of hearings to address the $1Billion shortfall in next year’s budget.

For a complete list of bills that CFB is currently following please check out the link to the Legislative Tracking List.

As a reminder, next week is National Ag Week – March 13 through the 19th – www.agday.org

Colorado will be celebrating National Ag Day on Wednesday, March 16th at the Colorado State Capitol!

Colorado Celebrating National Ag Day – March 16th

The Colorado General Assembly will present a House Joint Resolution, sponsored by Rep. Sonnenberg and Sen. Schwartz, on Wednesday, March 16th, in recognition of National Ag Week and in celebrating National Ag Day in Colorado.

At Noon there will be a press conference on the West Steps of the State Capitol followed by a sandwich lunch prepared by members of the Colorado Ag Council.

Press Conference Agenda

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The Weekly Links

Mexico outlines details of cross-border trucking pact
CNN
Mexican officials are revealing details of a recently-announced agreement that ends a 16-year trucking dispute between Mexico and the United States.

Vilsack: ‘I took it as a slam on rural America’
Washington Post
Ag Sec. Tom Vilsack give a very peculiar interview about rural America.

New report shows even clean energy projects are dying in regulatory nightmares
The Daily Caller
The regulatory process is strangling clean energy projects before they even get off the ground, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “Project No Project” initiative.

Can we water the Front Range without draining the High Country?
Summit Daily News
Environmental Coalition released a report Tuesday that claims “Colorado can chart a new innovative path forward that protects our rivers, streams and local communities.”

President Obama lists biofuels as part of a comprehensive energy strategy
AgriPulse
President Obama says the answer is developing a comprehensive energy strategy that includes “a broad array of clean energy sources – from renewables like wind and solar and homegrown biofuels,

 

CFB Leadership Meets with New Zealand Envoy

Alistair Polson (center right) and Terry Meikle (far right) met with CFB leadership this week to discuss trade.

Yesterday, Don Shawcroft and Troy Bredenkamp met with Alistair Polson, New Zealand’s Special Agricultural Trade Envoy and Terry Meikle, the New Zealand Embassy’s Secretary for Trade and Agriculture. The meeting was an informal way to share about agriculture issues from two countries across the Pacific Ocean from each other. Mr. Shawcroft and Mr. Bredenkamp provided a survey of Colorado agriculture and the issues we face. Mr. Polson was particularly interested in Colorado’s water administration system and how water is balanced between ag and urban needs.

Mr. Polson, himself a sheep and cattle rancher in New Zealand, spoke about his countries support for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and asked that Colorado farmers and ranchers support the effort. The TPP is a trade agreement between 9 Pacific Rim nations. Is  is currently in the negotiation stage and the 6th round will take place at the end of this month.

The TPP could open up many Pacific nations to U.S. goods, services and agricultural products.

Mr. Polson met with the Commissioner John Stulp, Leprino Cheese, JBS Swift, and other ag groups during his two day tour of Colorado.

House Panel Passes Bill Stripping EPA of GHG Authority

The House Energy and Power Subcommittee approved a bill Thursday that would strip EPA of its power to regulate greenhouse gases and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has promised the bill will come before the House floor within weeks.

AFBF supports H.R. 919, the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, introduced by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) that would permanently eliminate EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources like power plants, refineries, farms and ranches. It also overturns a finding by EPA that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare.

A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate. President Barack Obama has vowed to veto any legislation that would override EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

House Ag Committee Considering FIFRA Permitting Bill

The House Agriculture Committee passed, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011, Wednesday. The bill, introduced by Reps. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio), and Joe Baca (D-Calif.), reduces the regulatory burdens imposed by the National Cotton Council v. EPA case.

The American Farm Bureau Federation is urging Congress to pass H.R. 872. The measure would amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Clean Water Act (CWA) to clarify that CWA permits are not needed when a pesticide is applied in accordance with the FIFRA-approved label.

In related news, EPA last week requested that the court grant a stay of the deadline for permit coverage until Oct. 31. The current court-ordered deadline is April 9. During the period while the court is considering the extension request, permits for pesticide applications will not be required under the CWA.

Resolution Near on U.S.-Mexico Trucking Agreement

President Obama meets with Mexican President Felipe Calderon last week.

President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Thursday reached an agreement to resolve the long-running dispute over cross-border trucking between the two countries. The agreement may be finalized as soon as June.

“This agreement has been a long time coming and, with half of the $2.4 billion in Mexican retaliatory tariffs to be lifted as soon as the agreement is finalized, this will have an immediate positive impact on U.S. agricultural exports,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. The remainder of the tariffs will be lifted when the necessary safety tests are completed and the first Mexican truck rolls across the U.S. border.

Mexico is the third-largest agricultural export market for U.S. farm goods. Farm Bureau is urging the administration to finalize the agreement quickly.

Food Price Spikes Increase Fear

The world is consuming grains faster than farmers are growing them, draining reserves and pushing prices to the levels that fueled food riots in poor countries three years ago. A big U.S. crop will be needed to meet the demand, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“The stage is set for very serious disruptions, should weather disasters happen,” said Keith Collins, the former chief economist of the Agriculture Department. “It seems clear to me that the chance of a more widespread global food crisis has increased.”

The rise in prices also has economists urging caution among policy makers.

Economists with the World Bank and the International Food Policy Research Institute are urging President Barack Obama not to overreact to recent spikes in food prices by imposing export bans on U.S. agricultural products.

“We should expect fluctuations, but we shouldn’t exacerbate these fluctuations by imposing obstructions to the market that could make things worse,” said Manuel Hernandez, a postdoctoral fellow at IFPRI. “The situation is not the same as in 2007 and 2008. So there is no major concern that we should worry about another food crisis.”

 

EPA GHG Regulations Could Put U.S. Refineries Out of Business

EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions by U.S. oil refineries could drive many of the refineries out of business by placing them at a significant disadvantage to foreign gasoline, according to Charles Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association.

“Our nation’s petroleum refineries remain one of the last internationally competitive segments of the American manufacturing base,” Drevna wrote in a letter to Gina McCarthy, EPA’s assistant administrator for air and radiation, which NPRA submitted to accompany its oral testimony at EPA’s listening session on implementing GHG regulations under the Clean Air Act.

According to NPRA, U.S. refineries process 95 percent of the gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, heating oil and lubricants that are used domestically.

“There is no guarantee that the U.S. domestic refining manufacturing base will continue to be in existence two or three decades from now,” Drevna said. “Our members’ plants could well go the way of many domestic auto plants, virtually all of our domestic textile mills and many domestic steel plants.”

AFBF Urges House Members to Co-Sponsor NPDES Permit Bill

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman wrote to members of the House today urging them to support passage of H.R. 872, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011, and sign on as co-sponsors.

“In addition to agricultural producers, a significant number of stakeholders will be impacted by a new federal requirement under which the Environmental Protection Agency and delegated states must issue Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System general permits for certain pesticide applications,” Stallman told lawmakers in his letter. “This unprecedented action is the result of a 2009 decision of the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.”

Stallman called on Congress to take action before the permit requirement becomes final.

“We are concerned that due to unrealistic deadlines for state-delegated implementation and compliance many states will not meet the court ordered deadline of April 9, 2011,” Stallman wrote. “Adding to the uncertainty, EPA has yet to release a final permit. This leaves pesticide users without time to fully understand or come into compliance with the permit and further increases their potential liability.”

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