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Record crop insurance indemnities prove program’s importance | 4 May 28, 2012 Vol. 91
‘Wetlands’ Corps’ plant list will spur more designations | 3
‘Healthy Foods’ Study: No costlier than less healthy options | 6
AFBF backs proposed BSE risk standards for trade
No. 10 fbnews.org
Report shows increasing environmental, economic benefits of biotechnology Farmers using improved seeds and biotech crop varieties continue to see significant economic and environmental benefits, according to the seventh annual report on crop biotechnology prepared by the United Kingdombased PG Economics. The farm income gains in developing countries in 2010 were particularly striking, according to Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics and co-author of the report. The benefits of biotechnology
to the environment, especially in poorer countries, are equally remarkable, he noted. “The environment in user countries is benefiting from farmers using more benign herbicides or replacing insecticide use with insect resistant [biotech] crops,” said Brookes. “The reduction in pesticide spraying and the switch to notill cropping systems is also resulting in reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The majority of these benefits are found in developing countries.”
U.S. farmers use biotechnology for the same reasons as the growers Brookes is focusing on, said Kevin Richards, American Farm Bureau Federation biotechnology specialist. “The report’s findings read like a textbook checklist for the benefits of biotechnology. With their built-in resistance to pests, biotech seeds require fewer chemicals, which is better for the environBiotech Continued on Page 6
AFBF: Multi-legged stool is best approach for crafting farm safety net
USDA’s proposal to align U.S. risk standards for bovine spongiform encephalopathy with an internationally recognized system will both safeguard domestic animal health and provide a transparent, consistent, science-based trade process for countries that wish to export beef to the U.S., according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Continued on Page 3
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AN EFFECTIVE SAFETY NET should consist of a strong crop insurance program, continued marketing loans and creation of a catastrophic revenue loss protection program, AFBF President Bob Stallman said at a recent congressional hearing on the 2012 farm bill. American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman at a May 16 hearing on Capitol Hill reemphasized AFBF’s support of a single commodity option that works for all crops and regions and a strong crop insurance program in the 2012 farm bill. Testifying before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, Stallman said he was confident that AFBF’s farm policy proposal could easily provide a safety net that takes regional and commodity differences into account while also staying within budget. “Continuation of a multi-legged stool remains the best approach for providing a fair and effective
safety net, which should consist of a strong crop insurance program, continuation of the current marketing loan provisions and a catastrophic revenue loss program,” he said. AFBF’s testimony was based on the premise that the committee will draft a farm bill that cuts spending by $23 billion over 10 years, with proportional cuts of $15 billion in commodity programs, $4 billion in conservation programs and $4 billion in nutrition programs. The House and Senate Agriculture Committees last fall suggested the $23 billion figure to the Joint Deficit Reduction Committee, more commonly known as the super-committee. Also, the
Senate Agriculture Committee maintained that reduction target in the bill it passed last month. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), committee chair, said recently that the Senate will bring up the bill for a vote in June. In addition to facing budget challenges, Stallman said, AFBF’s priority is ensuring that Congress crafts a farm bill that works for all farmers and ranchers. “As a general farm organization, we place high priority on ensuring the bill benefits all agricultural commodity sectors in a balanced, coordinated matter,” he explained. “While some interested parties can push Congress Farm bill Continued on Page 4
May 28, 2012
Op-Ed by President Barack Obama
Marking the 150th Anniversary of the Department of Agriculture May 9, 2012 One hundred fifty years ago this week, as the Civil War raged and the fate of our union was in doubt, President Lincoln established what he called the “People’s Department.” Lincoln was raised on rural land in my home state of Illinois. He understood the importance of farming to the American way of life. And he knew the agency he had founded—the Department of Agriculture—would play a role unlike any other in shaping the lives of everyday Americans. When the USDA opened its doors for the first time, almost half of Americans identified themselves as farmers. A century and a half later, less than 1 percent do. But even as revolutions in technology have reshaped the American landscape, agriculture remains a cornerstone of our economy and our way of life. It continues to be one of the most important tools we have to make sure that all of our children, no matter what they look like or where they come from, can go as far as their dreams and hard work will take them. Today, Americans enjoy the most abundant and safest food supply anywhere in the world. As a portion of our take-home pay, we spend less than 10 percent of our earnings on groceries—compared to more than 20 percent in most developed nations, and up to half in de-
veloping nations. As a result, families are able to put more of their income toward everything from starting a business and buying a house to saving for college and planning for retirement. Rural America plays a critical role in guaranteeing security for Americans all across the country. And today, that role is more important than ever. As we recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, we can’t go back to an economy built on outsourcing, bad debt and phony financial profits. We need an economy built to last; an economy built on the things we make and produce—on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers and, yes, American agriculture. Last year, agriculture was responsible for more than $137 billion in export sales—an all-time record. Farm products represented a trade surplus of nearly $43 billion. And the agricultural industry supported more than 1 million American jobs. That’s good news. But we still have a long way to go to make sure that America’s agricultural industry is healthy for years to come. At the end of World War II, the average age of an American farmer was 39 years old. Today, it’s almost 60. For years, our rural communities have been under severe economic strain—both from the effects of the recession, and from the difficulties of dealing with a shrinking and aging population.
A century and a half after President Lincoln established the U.S. Agriculture Department, agriculture remains a cornerstone of our economy and way of life, says President Barack Obama. That’s why my administration launched the White House Rural Council to provide rural Americans with the resources and support they need to grow. And that’s why I’ve also kept the pressure on Congress to pass a farm bill this year that includes a safety net for farmers when weather disasters strike, or when prices fluctuate beyond their control. This bill should also include provisions to help young Americans who are interested in farming get established. And we need to keep supporting innovation and research, so that American farming can continue to lead the world.
The Department of Agriculture will change over the next century, just like it has over the last one. But the USDA will continue to improve the lives of every American—from the child who sits down to a healthy school lunch, to the customer who can buy produce that is safe and healthy; to the farmers who feed this country, just like they have for generations. Agriculture is who we are. It’s how our nation became what it is today. And as long as I’m president, I will do everything I can to keep America growing.
What went right on youth labor proposal By Lynne Finnerty You know the saying, “…and the crowd goes wild!” often uttered after someone shoots a basketball straight into the net? When the Labor Department announced recently that it was withdrawing its proposal to limit the types of farm work that minors could do and whose farms they could work on, the response from farm country was instantaneous. Farm families had scored the winning goal. The crowd went wild! The sense of relief was palpable. “This is great news!” someone
commented on the American Farm Bureau Federation’s page on Facebook. “Many farms, including our own, are family run and it should be the decision of the parents of the children working on the farm whether they are old enough to work. We are thankful for this decision as I’m sure many are!” “Grassroots efforts work!” said another. The Labor Department’s proposal would have barred anyone under 16 years old from using power-driven equipment, in addition to other restrictions, and limited the parental exemption
Don Lipton, Executive Director, Public Relations Lynne Finnerty, Editor Erin Anthony, Assistant Editor Phyllis Brown, Assistant Editor Sarah Bittner, Contributing Writer
May 28, 2012 Vol. 91
to farms that are wholly owned by a parent. After Farm Bureau and others pointed out that the proposed rule could make it illegal for young people to use even a battery-powered screwdriver and did not take into account the way that many farms are organized nowadays, with ownership shared by several family members, the Obama administration withdrew it. DOL said the decision was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposal on small, family-owned farms. It’s tempting to just sit back and
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relish this victory. But it’s important to look at what really worked, just as a winning team will review video of the game. The first thing that worked was that all of agriculture used the same playbook. The administration didn’t get conflicting messages from different farm groups or agricultural sectors. Everyone came together behind one rallying cry: the child labor rule had to go! Second, farmers and ranchers never gave up. Even after submitting more than 10,000 comments Youth labor Continued on Page 3
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May 28, 2012
Corps’ plant list will spur more wetlands designations With the addition of more than 1,470 plant species to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ database of plant life that federal agencies use for wetlands designations, the number of marginal wetlands that may require Clean Water Act permits will rise, cautioned Don Parrish, American Farm Bureau Federation environmental specialist. The Corps says the number of new plant species added to the roster will increase the National Wetland Plant List (NWPL) by 22 percent. The Corps recently published a notice in the Federal Register announcing that the additions to the NWPL would be effective June 1. This national list of wetland plants by species and their wetland ratings will be used extensively by federal and state agencies in wetland delineations and the planning and monitoring of wetland mitigation and restoration sites, according to the Corps. “It’s not the plant’s presence alone that would trigger permit requirements for a marginal wetland. The results of soil and hydrology analyses should also be considered. In the field, EPA and the Corps are supposed to use the presence of hydric soils and wetland plants as ‘indicators’ of hydrology,” Parrish
explained. “However, expanding the NWPL by nearly 1,500 plants raises red flags about the federal government’s reach, the ultimate cost to farmers, ranchers and landowners and the insignificant benefits to the environment.” The number of plant species on the list has been expanding ever since it was first released in 1988 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and then handed off to the Corps in 2006. The recently announced updates reflect what the Corps describes as a Web-based interagency scientific process. However, the list lacks any real public oversight. Parrish said the list expansion is particularly troublesome in light of the Corps’ and EPA’s efforts to increase federal regulatory reach through a Guidance the agencies are preparing to finalize. The regulatory agencies will use this larger list as another justification to expand their controls into the most marginally wet and controversial areas imaginable. “The Guidance effectively eliminates the term ‘navigable’ from the Clean Water Act, which dramatically expands the scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act and eliminates a central principle of the act, which reserves certain waters to the exclusive
jurisdiction of the states,” Parrish explained. “The Guidance also will apply to the entire Clean Water Act and not just the 404 permitting process. Water quality standards, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program and state certifications are just a few of the major Clean Water Act regulatory programs that will be expanded as a result of the Guidance.” EPA and the Corps have confirmed that their Guidance will result in an increase in determinations that they have jurisdiction over water spots and lands and will result in more farmers and other landowners having to get permits to use their property. Farm Bureau also has concerns about the proposed policy being advanced through a Guidance Document, rather than the rulemaking process, which would at least allow input from farmers and ranchers who would be negatively affected by it. Farm Bureau is urging lawmakers to pass legislation (H.R. 4965, S. 2245) that would prevent EPA and the Corps from pursuing the agencies’ proposed Final Guidance on Identifying Waters Protected by the Clean Water Act and from using it as a basis for regulation.
AFBF backs proposed BSE risk standards for trade Continued from page 1 “The proposed rule will allow the U.S. to base trade decisions on beef imports on the actual risk of BSE,” Mark Maslyn, AFBF executive director of public policy, wrote in comments recently submitted to the department. Under the proposal, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service would adopt the same criteria and categories the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) uses to identify a country’s BSE risk status. The OIE risk categories are negligible, controlled and undetermined risk. APHIS would base its import policy of bovines and bovine products from a particular country on that country’s risk classification, as determined by OIE’s risk evaluation, as long as certain conditions are met, such as the removal of specified risk materials. The rule allows the importation of boneless beef from any country meeting food safety equivalency standards, and places the tightest restrictions on countries with the highest risk of BSE. In addition, the rule would al-
low APHIS to conduct its own assessment when deemed necessary. “The proposal also adds a category of ‘undetermined risk’ where a country has not been classified by the OIE for BSE risk and where USDA-APHIS can conduct its own
Youth labor proposal Continued from page 2 on the proposed rule and after the comment period ended, farmers and ranchers kept expressing their opposition on social media websites, in newspaper and magazine articles and even on Capitol Hill. The din from farm country was relentless, much like the noise one might hear at a basketball game when the fans are letting their team know that they’re behind them all the way. Finally, farmers told their personal stories about how the proposal would affect their farms and their families. Some harked back to when they were young and learned important life lessons by doing farm work—lessons that helped them become better farmers and responsible adults, lessons
that they want to impart to their own children. Even if someone didn’t grow up on a farm, he could probably relate to that. So, what should we set our sights on next, and how can farmers and ranchers apply the lessons learned to win more victories? Game on!
Lynne Finnerty is editor of FBNews.
risk assessment,” Maslyn said. “This evaluation would be conducted using criteria equivalent to that used by the OIE.” The rule takes a slightly stronger view of BSE protections than the OIE in select areas and main-
tains the U.S.’s right to preserve our BSE firewalls, Maslyn noted. “APHIS will have the option of accepting a country’s risk determination as made by the OIE or conducting its own assessment if appropriate,” the statement said. “APHIS would not have to accept the OIE designation if APHIS believes additional review is required.” Another benefit of the proposal is that it aligns U.S. BSE regulations with internationally accepted scientific standards, consistent with the OIE-based actions we request of and expect from our trading partners. When the proposed rule goes into effect, it will allow beef imports from several countries which are currently prohibited from exporting beef to the U.S., including the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Netherlands, which are classified by the OIE as controlled risk countries. The proposal will establish an “international harmonization of veterinary health rules that will improve and expand trade in animal products,” Maslyn said.
McCloy Fellows selected for 2012 Four Farm Bureau leaders have been selected to participate in the McCloy Fellowship in Agriculture later this year. The annual program allows four Fellows from the U.S. to visit Germany to meet with farmers, policy makers and agricultural experts there. Four German Fellows also visit the U.S. through the exchange program. The U.S. McCloy Fellows for 2012 are Robert Blair, a wheat, hay and cattle producer from Idaho; Garrick Hall, a dairy farmer from Utah; Raquel Landry, a Louisiana Farm Bureau field
services representative; and Paul Schwennesen, an Arizona rancher. The McCloy Fellowship, named for American statesman and postWorld War II U.S. high commissioner to Germany John J. McCloy, is a program of the American Council on Germany. At its invitation, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Deutscher Bauernverband (German Farmers’ Association) identify four candidates from each country to travel in the fall. Congratulations to this year’s McCloy Fellows!
Crop insurance payouts prove program’s importance In terms of losses paid by insurance companies, 2011 was a year for the record books. Losses paid for last year have now exceeded $10.7 billion and continue to edge closer to the $11 billion mark, according to data from USDA’s Risk Management Agency. This surpasses by almost 25 percent the previous record of $8.76 billion set in 2008. The news of record-high crop insurance payouts comes as Congress works to rewrite the farm bill. Crop insurance is at the heart of the debate because of its growing slice of the farm bill funding pie, due to increased participation and coverage levels. At a May 16 House Agriculture Committee hearing on risk management and commodity programs in the farm bill, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said that “a strong crop insurance program” was one leg of a three-legged stool approach to a farm safety net. Continuing the marketing loan program “with modifications to better reflect market conditions” and creating catastrophic revenue loss protection based on county-level losses are the other two legs of Farm Bureau’s farm policy proposal. Also, in a May 14 letter to committee members, AFBF and other agricultural groups urged the members not to cut crop insurance funding.
“Federal crop insurance provides an effective risk management tool to farmers and ranchers when they are facing losses beyond their control; it reduces taxpayer risk exposure; it makes hedging possible to help mitigate market volatility; and it provides lenders with greater certainty that loans made to producers will be repaid,” the groups said. Six billion dollars worth of cuts to the crop insurance program have already come in the form of a 2010 renegotiation of the Standard Reinsurance Agreement. The agreement establishes the terms under which crop insurance policies sold by private companies are subsidized and reinsured by the federal government. “We believe additional reductions would seriously affect producer access to crop insurance coverage and threaten efficient private-sector delivery following disasters,” the groups added. Despite 2011 being one of the worst weather years many farmers and ranchers can remember, there wasn’t much of a cry for help in the form of ad hoc federal disaster assistance. The reason for that, according to the crop insurance industry group National Crop Insurance Services, is crop insurance. “With damages from last year approaching the $11 billion mark, the fact that there has not been a single call from farmers and ranchers for a federal disaster bill is testimony to the efficacy of crop insur-
ance and proof that farmers and ranchers consider it indispensable,” said Tom Zacharias, NCIS president. Testifying at the House Agriculture Committee hearing, former USDA Chief Economist Keith Collins, an economic adviser to NCIS, said that three factors—more insured acreage, higher crop prices and farmers buying higher coverage levels—have driven up crop insurance liability. The top crops damaged last year, by dollar value, were corn, cotton, wheat, soybeans, grain sorghum, pastureland and rangeland, and tobacco. While the average loss ratio across the country is at .90—which means that for every dollar purchased in coverage, 90 cents was paid out in indemnities—those numbers are much
higher in some key states. Top among them is Vermont, which felt the brunt of Hurricane Irene’s wrath last summer and has a loss ratio of 2.59. Texas and Oklahoma are not far behind, having fallen victim to a historic and prolonged drought and registering loss ratios of 2.35 and 2.15 respectively. “Thanks to the foresight of Congress, crop insurance has been in place to weather enormous natural disasters and help ensure that farmers survive to plant yet another year,” said Zacharias. “Those billions in damages would have landed on the plates of input suppliers, lenders, marketers and farm families if crop insurance wasn’t in place.”
Multi-legged stool is best approach for farm bill Continued from page 1 to allocate more funding for programs that benefit only their producers without worrying about the impact of that funding shift on other commodities, Farm Bureau does not have that luxury and will seek balance among all producers’ interests.” In its farm bill proposal, AFBF has prioritized: 1) protecting and strengthening federal crop insurance funding; 2) developing a commodity title that encourages producers to follow market signals rather than making planting decisions in anticipation of government payments; and 3) refraining from basing any program on cost of production. AFBF’s proposal also covers apples, tomatoes, grapes, potatoes and sweet corn. “The new farm bill must ensure that producers continue to take production signals from the marketplace rather than enticing them to chase federal program benefits,” Stallman continued. “Approaches that allow producers to pick and choose between various program options would impose severe challenges and drive production decisions.”
While the Senate Agriculture Committeepassed bill addresses many of Farm Bureau’s policy priorities, Stallman said there was room for improvement. The bill may cause planting decisions to be based on farm program benefits that accrue more beneficially to certain crops, he said. Also, AFBF is concerned that the net effect of the Agriculture Risk Cover-
age Eligible Acres provisions will “recreate the ‘base acres’ issues that have given rise to equity and planting distortion concerns.” AFBF also is concerned about the potential for a 90 percent farm coverage level “being so high as to induce fraud or abuse.” Lastly, AFBF opposes the Senate Committee’s proposed changes to make the current law’s payment limit and Adjusted Gross Income
provisions more restrictive. Stallman said that AFBF continues to oppose payment limits and means-testing of farm program benefits in general. Stallman highlighted two Senate committee-passed provisions he said AFBF hoped the House would include in its bill. First is the Supplemental Coverage Option whereby program crop producers and specialty crop growers could purchase a county-level revenue policy on top of their individual crop insurance coverage to cover all or part of a producer’s deductible. “Importantly, this program insures against area-wide losses rather than individual losses,” Stallman said. Second, restoring critical non-program crop disaster programs, such as the Livestock Indemnity Program, Livestock Forage Program and Tree Assistance Program, would give producers basic risk management tools to help them deal with catastrophic losses, Stallman said. The House Agriculture Committee has now concluded a series of three subcommittee-level farm bill hearings before writing a new farm bill this summer.
May 28, 2012
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Steep budget hurdles for energy, forestry programs At a recent congressional hearing on the farm bill’s energy and forestry programs, witnesses acknowledged that energy programs do not have baseline funding beyond this fiscal year. However, they said, the programs are critical to helping drive the innovation and capacity building our nation needs to meet rising demand and produce more domestic, renewable energy. Agricultural energy programs are “revitalizing rural economies, reducing farmer dependence on commodity support programs and ushering a new generation of advanced biofuels” to commercialization, said James Greenwood, president and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) in testimony May 18 before the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry. It was the Agriculture Committee’s third and final Capitol Hill hearing before it begins to write a new farm bill. The energy title debuted in the 2002 farm bill, and Congress renewed it in 2008. However, because Congress did not provide mandatory funding for the energy programs beyond the end of the 2008 farm bill, they have no
budgetary baseline after this year. The Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) baseline projections are estimates of what federal programs would cost if no statutory changes were made and current law was extended. Because the energy programs’ authorization ends this Sept. 30 and, consequently, they are not included in CBO’s projected baseline, lawmakers will need to find funding offsets to include them in the new farm bill. CBO estimates it will cost about $1.2 billion to extend all provisions of the energy title for the five years of the new farm bill. The Healthy Forests Reserve Program within the forestry title of the farm bill also has no baseline after this year. CBO’s estimated cost for extending it is $39 million. “Looking ahead to the next farm bill we need to work together and look for ways to ensure that we can accomplish our energy and forestry goals under the current challenging fiscal environment,” Rep. Tim Holden (D-Pa.), the subcommittee’s ranking minority member, said at the hearing. AFBF’s policy is that farm bill funding cuts should be proportional to current program levels;
one title should not leech from any others. BIO’s Greenwood testified that energy programs such as the Biorefinery Assistance Program (BAP) have been key to developing production of cellulosic ethanol—ethanol fuel made from biomass such as crop waste rather than grain. The program helped INEOS Bio and its joint venture partner, New Planet Energy, prepare to open the nation’s first commercial cellulosic biorefinery near Vero Beach, Fla., he said. “Raising private capital investment to build this first-of-a-kind facility would have been nearly impossible in today’s financial environment without the (BAP),” he added. In addition, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program helps farmers and forest landowners establish forests and other biomass crops, providing the feedstocks needed for cellulosic ethanol production. The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) also presented testimony in support of continuing the energy programs. Gary Haer, NBB chairman, said the group has particular interest in the Biodiesel Fuel Education Program and Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels.
“NBB recognizes that the energy title programs do not have baseline funding beyond 2012,” said Haer, “which creates a significant challenge to extending these programs and building on the benefits they have provided.” However, Haer added, the biodiesel industry is just as critical to America’s energy independence as it is to the agriculture and manufacturing sectors. “The recent oil price spikes should remind us all why this is important,” he said. A Virginia tree farmer testified about the value of both the energy and forestry titles. John Burke, who is also chairman of the American Forest Foundation, said that America’s family-owned forests are facing a “perfect storm” of threats of wildfires, invasive species and insects and diseases, pressures from development, significant declines in markets for timber products and an impending demographic shift as “more than 170 million acres are owned by people 55 years or older.” Burke said the farm bill’s forestry and energy programs, in addition to conservation programs, are needed if families like his are to keep forests as forests.
Bipartisan group of senators joins call for farm bill vote A strong crop insurance program and support for specialty growers are among the farm policy topics getting attention recently, as farmers, ranchers and lawmakers continue to call for votes on the 2012 farm bill as soon as possible.
Senators urge farm bill vote The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, the farm bill approved last month by the Senate Agriculture Committee, should be considered on the Senate floor as soon as possible, 44 Republican and Democratic senators said in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (DNev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The senators said the measure’s approval by the Agriculture Committee sets an example of how lawmakers “can come together in a bipartisan way to craft meaningful, yet fiscally responsible policy.” It’s not only farmers and ranchers who benefit from the farm bill, the lawmakers noted. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, nearly 16 million jobs are related to agriculture. “But federal farm policy affects more than those directly involved in agriculture or living in rural areas,” they wrote. Without a farm bill this year, a number of farm bill programs, including those related to risk management, nutrition and conservation, will expire. “We need to act soon to complete a farm bill in 2012 and provide certainty for farmers, ranchers, rural communities, other stakeholders, and all Americans,” the letter said. At press time, reports indicated Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) is strongly hinting the farm bill may be on the Floor as early as the first or second week of June.
Specialty crop growers have a seat at farm bill table Included for the first time in a farm bill in 2008, specialty crop growers are looking to lawmakers to continue funding for research and state block grants, among other programs, in the 2012 farm bill. In a recent statement to the House Agriculture General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman urged lawmakers to increase funding for research on mechanical production, harvesting and handling techniques for the fruit and vegetable industry to help specialty crop producers offset labor shortages during peak production stages. While the House Agriculture Committee has kept quiet about its plans for the specialty crop title, the farm bill approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee would provide mandatory funding over 10 years for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative. Stallman also urged the subcommittee to expand the State Block Grants for Specialty Crops program. Under the Senate bill, the grant allocation formula would be adjusted to ensure states receive credit for both high value crops as well as the number of acres devoted to specialty crop production in a state. In addition, in his statement Stallman encouraged House lawmakers to include a provision, similar to the Supplemental Coverage Option contained in the Senate Committee’s farm bill. That would allow program and specialty crop producers to purchase a county-level revenue policy on top of their individual crop insurance coverage to cover all or part of the deductible portion of their individual insurance policy. Stallman emphasized to House Agriculture Subcommittee members that the farm bill should benefit all types of growers in a balanced, coordinated manner. Farm Bureau’s proposal for crop insurance under the farm bill covers apples, tomatoes, grapes, potatoes and sweet corn, but Stallman said it could be expanded. “Conceptually, our proposal can cover all specialty crops that have crop insurance available, but we thought it best to walk before we run,” he said.
May 28, 2012
USDA study: You don’t have to open your wallet wider for healthy fruits, vegetables and grains A new USDA study debunks the idea that carrots and other healthy foods are more expensive than candy, potato chips and the like. The report is the result of research done by Andrea Carlson and Elizabeth Frazão, who set out to determine whether it’s true that healthier foods are more expensive than less-healthy foods, which is commonly used as an explanation for why most Americans consume diets that do not meet federal dietary recommendations. The researchers from USDA’s Economic Research Service compared prices of healthy and less-healthy foods using three price metrics: the price of food energy ($/calorie), the price of edible weight ($/100 edible grams) and the price of an average portion ($/average portion). The cost of meeting the recommendations for each food group also was calculated. Healthy foods were defined as food items that contain an amount of a food in at least one of the major food groups equal to at least half the portion size that the federal government’s nutritional guidelines use for measuring the nutrients in that food. The foods also contain only moderate amounts of saturated fats, added sugars and sodium. The major food
groups are vegetables, fruit, grains, dairy and protein foods. Foods in the less healthy category, called “moderation foods,” are those that are high in saturated fat, added sugar and/or sodium, or that contribute little to meeting dietary recommendations. For all metrics except the price per calorie, the researchers found that healthy foods cost less than moderation foods. The price per calorie is one of the most common metrics used in studies. In fact, the idea that healthier foods are more expensive than less healthy options is grounded in research using this measurement. However, Carlson and Frazão contend that since this measurement doesn’t account for the amount of food consumed, it is not a good representation of out-of-pocket costs. Looking at the price of edible weight, or the dollar per 100 edible grams, the researchers considered to what degree food needs to be prepared after it is purchased from the store. “This can be as simple as opening a package or washing a piece of fruit, or it may involve many steps, including peeling, chopping and cooking,” Carlson and Frazão said. “The edible weight price differs from the purchase weight price for many store-purchased items because the skin, seeds, shell, bones and other ined-
ible parts have been removed.” Using the price of edible weight metric, grains, vegetables, fruit and dairy foods are less expensive than protein foods and less healthy foods. The study found the same results when comparing the cost per portion size. A portion size was estimated as the mean amount consumed in a single sitting by people 19 years and older. Using this metric it was also determined that mixed dishes are the most expensive, which may indicate larger portion sizes, particularly for entrees. Since people eat different amounts of the various types of foods, the price comparison based on weight does not serve as a guide for their total out-of-pocket expense for food, the researchers said. “For example, a consumer might eat a 1-ounce package of potato chips, but a slice of watermelon (1/16th of a watermelon) weighs approximately 10 edible ounces.” Carlson and Frazão pointed out. The final metric Carlson and Frazão analyzed was the cost of meeting the federal government’s dietary recommendations. They used the price per cup or ounce equivalent to estimate the cost of meeting the food group recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010.
Their daily cost metric showed that vegetable and protein recommendations are the most expensive to meet, followed by fruit, grains and dairy. Although they did not include less healthy foods when assessing this cost, Carlson and Frazão did share their thoughts on the costs associated with meeting the guidelines with moderation foods. “An average portion of potato chips might be cheaper than an average portion of baked potato, but if it takes two average portions of potato chips to make up a cup equivalent of starchy vegetables, then the baked potato might be a cheaper way to meet the recommendation,” they pointed out. However, consumers value factors besides nutrition, like taste and convenience, they acknowledged. Based on their findings, Carlson and Frazão recommended that people consider the entire cost of their diets when making food choices. “Cheap food that provides few nutrients may actually be ‘expensive’ for the consumer from a nutritional economy perspective, whereas a food with a higher retail price that provides large amounts of nutrients may actually be quite cheap,” they wrote.
Your bank deposits might put you at risk By Valerie Connelly If your farm operation deals in cash transactions, you will want to consider the nightmare that two Maryland farm families experienced before making your next deposit. Last year, federal Treasury Department investigators showed up at the home of Calvin and Debbie Taylor, owners of Taylor’s Produce in Preston, Md. The investigators asked a series of questions, allowed the Taylors to provide details about activity at their fresh produce stands and then informed them that the government already had seized their entire bank account because of suspicious deposits. The government took all $90,000 of the operating cash in the Taylors’ account because they had made repeated deposits of just under $10,000. The same situation played out last month in Frederick County, Md. This time the target was Randy Sowers, owner of South Mountain Creamery. The government seized almost $70,000, but claims the Sowers’ repeated deposits of under $10,000 amounted to more than $250,000 last year. Many farmers and most other business people know that making deposits or withdrawals of over $10,000 triggers a Currency Transaction Report (CTR) to the Internal Revenue Service. What most of us do not know is that
purposely depositing less than $10,000 to avoid triggering the CTR is a crime called structuring. These deposits trigger a form called the Suspicious Activity Report (SAR), which the bank must file without informing the customer. Most people understand that the government monitors currency transactions to catch terrorists, drug dealers and money launderers. But when law abiding citizens like the Taylors and the Sowers find themselves the targets of overzealous federal prosecutors, something has gone terribly wrong. The Taylors’ attorney advised them that they likely would be found guilty of structuring. Instead of proceeding to trial and enduring the cost of the attorney over the duration of the case, they agreed to a civil forfeiture of $42,000 rather than risk a much larger criminal fine and jail time. The Justice Department is now free to use the $42,000 for its own purposes. The case against Randy Sowers is just getting under way, but the government has already filed paperwork to keep $62,000 of his money. The Taylors have settled their case but are very concerned that there are farmers out there like them who don’t know that the crime of structuring exists. Farm Bureau advises all members to discuss this issue with your accountant, your attorney and possibly
your banker. And by all means, make sure you call an attorney before answering any questions posed by friendly Treasury investigators who visit your farm. Maryland Farm Bureau is working with the American Farm Bureau Federation and members of Congress to review the intent and implementation of the
structuring law. Farm Bureau is looking for ways to ensure farmers do not get caught up in a process that is intended to stop terrorism and organized crime. Valerie Connelly is director of government relations for the Maryland Farm Bureau.
Report shows increasing environmental, economic benefits of biotechnology Continued from page 1 ment and more cost-effective for growers,” Richards said. “Also, for many biotech crops, farmers don’t have to till the soil, which helps keep carbon in the ground and fuel in the farm machinery tank.” According to the report, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions due to the use of biotech crops in 2010 was equivalent to taking 8.6 million cars off the road for one year. In that same year, the farmlevel net economic benefits from planting biotech crops amounted to $14 billion, with 55 percent of those farm income gains going to growers in developing countries. Of the total farm income benefit, 60 percent has been
due to yield gains, with the balance arising from reductions in the cost of production. The importance of growing more food on less land goes beyond farm income, said Cathleen Enright, executive vice president for food and agriculture for the Biotechnology Industry Organization. “The advantages of advanced seed technology for farmers in developing countries come at a time when food availability is becoming more of an issue around the world,” she said. “The population continues to grow, but for many farmers, their ability to produce food remains stuck in the past. In order to double food production by 2050 to meet demand, new seed technologies must be utilized.”
May 28, 2012
State FB Links
Strategic review affirms Iowa Farm Bureau’s direction, goals With input from nearly 500 Iowans involved in all levels of Farm Bureau and various types of agriculture, the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s strategic review process has shown that while the organization is on track with its goals, it’s time to tweak some strategies and objectives. The strategic review, not the first IFBF has undertaken but the largest in scope in recent years, started last August. The first step in the process involved picking the brains of different Farm Bureau insiders, like county leaders and active members, as well as others outside of the organization. IFBF staff, led by Mary Foley Balvanz, IFBF leadership training manager, did this by facilitating small group discussions about the issues and opportunities for Iowa agriculture and Farm Bureau. “We asked, ‘What keeps you awake at night? What are the most important things that Farm Bureau does for you?’ Those kinds of questions,” said Balvanz. For the convenience of IFBF members, Balvanz said her team tried to piggyback their discussions on existing events, like the IFBF annual meeting, where all the voting delegates were together. The county presidents conference and the annual gathering of IFBF’s young farmers were also ready-made venues for the focus
group sessions. In addition, IFBF held focus group discussions in three corners of the state with successful growers who were not necessarily actively involved in Farm Bureau. A separate session involved agriculture college deans, former agriculture officials and leaders of state commodity groups. “Based on the volume of comments on specific topics, themes quickly emerged. It wasn’t a broad list, which was good because it was pretty clear what areas needed attention,” Balvanz explained. The focus groups resulted in a number of bullet points detailing the themes, challenges and opportunities the participants identified. Once a report was compiled, the IFBF management team and the board, working with an outside facilitator, took the lead. The management team was tasked with determining IFBF’s role in addressing the themes and issues surfaced during the focus groups. “We went through this whole process to identify potential goals, but as we looked at the issues and our role, the three goals that we’d been operating under for most of the past decade were still very relevant, with minor tweaks,” Balvanz said. Once the board signed off on
the goals and objectives drafted by the management team, the entire IFBF staff gathered for an afternoon to focus on how to put the objectives into action. “We looked at what we’ve been doing that’s working,” Balvanz said. “What should we stop doing because it’s not relevant to today’s agriculture? We also talked about ideas for activities, actions and programs to address the objectives.” From there, each of the departments crafted strategies and tactics that relate to the objectives in their areas of responsibility. “In June, the board will go through to make sure these are the right strategies to get to our goals and objectives. If they’re approved, we will continue on with fleshing out our tactics, which will drive our budget requests, new resources requests, staffing requests, those sorts of things,” Balvanz said. The board has not given final approval to the organization’s three goals, but Balvanz said this should be a mere formality since they were drafted with a great deal of input from these leaders and affirmed through the focus group discussions. The organization’s first goal is to broaden the influence of Farm Bureau and its members. The objectives and activities in that area include the organization’s advo-
Bill protects landowners from hunting violations
Virginia governor signs two agriculture-friendly bills
Wisconsin FB endorses the Dairy 30x20 Initiative
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau praised the state Senate for unanimously approving a bill that would limit the liability of farmers and other landowners who allow hunters on their property. The legislation will now move to the State House of Representatives for consideration. The bill will prevent landowners from being prosecuted for Pennsylvania Game Code violations committed by hunters who are given permission to use their property. Currently, landowners who allow hunting on their property could be held responsible for violations by hunters, such as taking an animal out of season. “This is a commonsense piece of legislation, which protects landowners from being prosecuted for the misdeeds of others. Why should landowners be penalized for opening up their property for recreational purposes?” said PFB President Carl Shaffer. PFB noted that landowners typically provide hunters with some ground rules prior to allowing them on their property. Under the bill, landowners could still be held responsible for violations committed by hunters, if the landowner receives a fee, payment or gratuity from the hunter.
Two agriculturefriendly bills were signed into state law by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell during a May 9 ceremony. Both will provide opportunities for producers to grow their businesses. HB 766 and SB 128 created the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund, an economic development grant program. Grants will support localities’ efforts to attract value-added or processing facilities that will use Virginia-grown products. “We are extremely thankful that Gov. McDonnell, his administration and the General Assembly are actively looking for new opportunities for farmers in Virginia,” said Trey Davis, assistant director of governmental relations for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “The Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund will allow our members to partner with localities and use funds to support facilities using Virginia-grown products. We’re excited to see this mechanism moving forward and encouraging new ways that entrepreneurs can utilize products grown right here in the commonwealth.”
The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation has endorsed the Dairy 30x20 Initiative that was announced by Gov. Scott Walker in March. The goal is to increase Wisconsin’s annual milk production to 30 billion pounds by the year 2020. “A growing business is a healthy business and therefore we are very pleased with Governor Walker’s commitment to grow Wisconsin’s dairy industry,” said Bill Bruins, WFBF president. Bruins served on the task force that developed the Dairy 30x20 Initiative; he noted the importance of farmers, processors and supporting agribusinesses capturing value-added market opportunities. He also said the goal is realistic if you combine an increase of productivity within Wisconsin’s current milking herd and by adding cows. In 2011, Wisconsin’s herd of 1.26 million milk cows produced 26.1 billion pounds of milk. “With 2 percent annual growth, we would add 500 million pounds of milk per year,” he said. “This could be accomplished by adding 25,000 cows with a 20,000 pound herd average.”
cacy work, which encompasses everything related to policy and a great deal of its marketing, communications and ag literacy efforts. The second goal is to improve opportunities for farm and rural prosperity. This goal focuses on the business side of farming and includes value-added agriculture, renewable fuels, rural entrepreneurship and risk management. The third goal, to ensure organizational relevance and excellence, is centered on the membership, leadership, the strength of the county Farm Bureaus, the organization’s brand, financial strengths and more. “I look at that third goal as having that strong foundation that enables us to do all the things we need to do in those first two goals,” Balvanz said.
Newsmakers S.M. True, a well-known leader in Texas agriculture, was killed Tuesday, May 15, in a farming accident. True, 88, was working on his farm when part of a tractor fell on him. True began farming in 1933. He was the second longest-serving president of Texas Farm Bureau, holding that office for 11 years. True also served on the American Farm Bureau Federation’s board of directors and was recognized with the organization’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award. To colleagues, True was known as “Mr. Texas Agriculture” and the “heart and soul of Texas farming.” Erik Leroy Ness, former director of communications for New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau, passed away on Saturday, May 12, after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 57. Ness worked for NMFLB for more than 30 years before retiring in 2010. He was a perennial winner of multiple public relations awards from AFBF. He also served as a member of the board of directors for the Agricultural Relations Council. After his retirement, Ness continued as contributor to AFBF’s weekly Focus on Agriculture commentary series. Sue Schultz, librarian, will retire from AFBF on June 30, after a 35year career. She began working for Farm Bureau on May 1, 1977, with the Illinois Agricultural Association and Affiliated Companies Library in Bloomington, Ill. Rick Krause, senior director of congressional relations, has announced he will retire from AFBF on Aug. 10, after 32 years. Rick began his career with AFBF in 1980 and served in the General Counsel’s office in Park Ridge, Ill., before moving to the Washington, D.C., office and the public policy staff in 2001.
May 28, 2012
The first Kid’s Day at Young Family Farm featured a craft project to create a hand-painted Mother’s Day gift using terra cotta pots and an annual plant.
some strawberries, put them out on a spool in the front yard and we went to the beach. The spool had a little money box on it and when we came back, the strawberries were gone and the money box was full,” Young said. The Youngs eventually put four wagons full of their produce in the front yard, but they still had people knocking on their door
Burgers — 84%
Tasty Grilling Trends Meats top the list of most popular foods prepared using a grill
Some of Tyler Young’s 100 acres of potatoes are used to make the popular homemade French fries the family offers to the thousands of people who attend the farm’s annual Apple Fest in the fall.
For Rhode Island grower Tyler Young, farming—and Farm Bureau—are a birthright. The Rhode Island Farm Bureau vice president first got his hands dirty as a child on his grandfather and uncle’s farm. In 1997, he and his wife Karla started Young Family Farm in Little Compton, in the southeastern part of the state. Their three daughters, two who are in college and one a recent graduate, are also heavily involved in the family business. To feed the Youngs’ thriving wholesale and direct-to-consumer enterprises, the farm has grown from its original 180 acres to close to 250 acres, which is pretty big for the smallest state, as Young pointed out. On the wholesale side, which is Tyler’s domain, Young Family Farms sells its sweet corn, summer squash, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant and cucumbers to a number of Northeastern supermarkets. Young’s business is about much more than getting it right out in the field, he said. Making his wholesale customers happy is equally important. “I work closely with [grocery store] produce managers. In order to sell sweet corn, it’s got to be fresh. If you don’t have good, fresh sweet corn and [the store] lets it sit there, people are not going to want it. We always back our product.” When the weather cools, Young harvests close to 400,000 pounds of butternut squash and about 100 acres of potatoes, much of it headed to the Boston market. Young’s wife Karla, who grew up on a farm in Minnesota, runs the retail side of the business, which took root, perhaps not surprisingly in the Ocean State, during a trip to the beach. “My wife and kids picked
Rhode Island’s Tyler Young continues family history of farming and serving Farm Bureau
Steak — 83% Hot dogs — 82% Chicken parts — 74%
Source: Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association
asking for more. Knowing they were on to something, the Youngs built a large stand by the road and put in an apple orchard and a peach orchard. In addition to their produce, they also sell a variety of flowers, such as dahlias, sunflowers, zinnias, Oriental lilies and hydrangeas. “We offer a good product at a fair price,” Young said, explaining the farm’s popularity. “We want to make sure people are happy and leave with a good experience because when they do that the word of mouth travels like gangbusters.” Young Family Farm’s biggest event is its annual Apple Fest in October, which draws close to 5,000 people over two days. The festival offers music, kids’ events, hay rides, apple picking and food, a good deal of it grown on the farm, including the potatoes for the very popular homemade French fries. “It’s a fun New England thing,” Young said. This spring and summer, the farm is also hosting “Make & Take Workshops” during which participants are given hands-on instruction on various crafts and projects, such as making colorful potted creations, spicing up their gardens and recipes with herbs and creating window boxes. One of the sessions is a celebration of the Little Compton heritage rose, which is grafted on the Young Family Farm. Additional upcoming events in-
At the stand, the Youngs offer seasonal annuals and perennials, fruits and vegetables picked daily and an abundant selection of fresh cut Oriental lilies, sunflowers, dahlias and zinnias.
clude the Strawberry Fest and Corn Fest. The late June Strawberry Fest will feature a pie contest and other strawberry-inspired goodies, while the Corn Fest is all about the 2012 sweet corn crop. With a mother whose family has been established in agriculture since the late 1600s and a father with a farm background, Young has farming in his DNA. His affinity for Rhode Island Farm Bureau could be genetic, too. Not only is he following in his uncle’s footsteps as vice president of the organization, his grandfather was a founding member. Talking about his leadership role, Young said he and Farm Bureau take very seriously the organization’s responsibility to speak for all types and sizes of agricultural operations. “Rhode Island is one of the most diverse agricultural states,” Young said. “We go from aquaculture to horticulture to turf to vineyards. We’ve got hog farms, dairy farms, farm stands [and] farmers’ markets. We’re here to represent everybody.” 2012 marks 18 years of Young’s service as vice president, which he says makes him the longest serving state Farm Bureau vice president.