Current Edition

current edition

Federal

Washington, D.C. - The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2012 in a 217-203 vote on June 16.
The Appropriations Bill, known as House Resolution 2112, provides $125.5 billion in both mandatory and discretionary funds for a number of agricultural programs. These funds amount to $7 billion below the presidential request. While discretionary programs were cut by $2.7 billion, or 13.4 percent, mandatory funds increased by $3 billion.
“It increases spending for the human needs that are legitimate for the people in this country by over one-quarter of a billion dollars,” said Representative Cynthia Lummis in debate on the House floor.
Mandatory funding increases represent boosts for Child Nutrition Programs, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Agricultural Marketing Service and Commodity Credit Corporation, offset by a $5 billion cut to the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation.
Child nutrition programs were expanded by $1.5 billion alone. These child nutrition programs provide largely for school lunch programs and include plans to instate new nutrition requirements.
SNAP, commonly known as the food stamps program, saw gains in funding of nearly $6 billion. These funds were allocated under stipulations that efforts be made to decrease fraud within the program. Regardless of the increase, funding levels for SNAP fell short of the 2012 presidential request by $2 billion.
Discretionary programs received the burden of funding cuts in the 2012 Appropriations Bill.
Food and nutrition programs experienced cuts of more than $750 million. The Women, Infants and Children program (WIC), which provides food aid for those women, infants and children younger than five who fall beneath standards for poverty, saw a loss of $685 million, causing controversy in the House.
USDA research funds received reductions of more than $330 million. House Report 112-101 says, despite the cuts, high priority programs will still receive funding, but 10 Agriculture Research Service facilities around the nation will close.
A downsize in funding for APHIS of $73 million will affect the 29 programs involved in controlling and eliminating plant and animal diseases. However, the organization was granted access to emergency funding in the event of threat or outbreak of disease.
Among other program cuts of concern were those to conservation, including the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). CSP saw a $210 million cut, EQIP a $350 million cut, and the NRCS saw a reduction of nearly $100 million.
“This allows NRCS to maintain its core conservation mission and will drive efficiencies to create more farmer-friendly programs,” said Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA), who sponsored the appropriations bill.  
Despite the deep cutbacks in a number of programs, farm subsidies remain intact, as does Wildlife Services funding.
The proposed amendment to block farm subsidies to operations earning over $250,000 was stopped by Republicans, as was a separate amendment limiting subsidy payments to $125,000 per person. Current subsidy regulations set income eligibility for subsidies at $1.25 million income per individual.
“We cannot look at programs that are subject to the five-year farm bill, such as subsidies for farmers,” said Lummis on the House floor.
Lummis also fought to block an amendment introduced by Representative John Campbell (R-CA) that proposed an $11 million cut to the USDA Wildlife Services’ livestock protection program.
On the House floor, Lummis argued, “The federal government doesn’t allow people to kill predators that are attacking their livestock.”
She continued, citing U.S. commercial aviation as another beneficiary of Wildlife Services’ livestock protection program funds.
“The government restricts ranchers and farmers in their ability to protect livestock attacked by certain predators. Abolishing the program that provides predator control would have effectively left these predators to their own devices. When wildlife prey on livestock, it puts the livelihoods of our ranchers and farmers at stake. These predators must be dealt with. I am pleased the shared responsibility this program offers between federal Wildlife Services and farmers and ranchers will continue in its balanced approach,” commented Lummis in a June 16 press release.
Other cuts of concern include $337 million from rural economic development programs. Many rural development grants received these reductions, while housing, business, and economic development loans saw increases in funding.
An additional amendment was made to block a $147 million payment to Brazil’s cotton industry. Following Brazil’s complaint to the World Trade Organization about U.S. cotton subsidies, the payment was agreed on in an effort to quell threats by Brazil to raise tariffs on American products. Many predict that stopping this payment may incite a trade war.
Other noteworthy amendments to the 2012 Ag Appropriations bill include amendments prohibiting funds to be used in approving genetically engineered salmon, construction of ethanol blender pumps and storage facilities in gas stations around the nation and Food for Peace funding to North Korea.
Before the 2012 Ag Appropriations bill can be signed by President Obama, the Senate must pass its own version of the bill.
Saige Albert is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Washington, D.C. – As agriculture communities await the passage of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, commonly referred to as the Farm Bill, the marked up bill’s passage out of the Senate Agriculture committee is a promising start.
    The 2008 Farm Bill expires at the end of September, and in a letter to the Senate Agriculture Committee leaders American Farm Bureau president Bob Stallman said, “The importance of completing a farm bill cannot be overstated.”
    “Farmers, ranchers, and the men and women who live in rural communities deserve to know what the rules will be moving forward,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on April 27. “With the current law expiring, we cannot wait any longer to reauthorize this essential law for rural America. It needs to happen this year.”
Conservation programs
    In Wyoming, conservation programs heavily impact producers and Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts Executive Director Bobbie Frank says they are pleased that Title II, the conservation title, has seen consolidation.
    “Consolidation of programs is something that our association has been advocating for,” says Frank, who notes that the volume of conservation programs in previous Farm Bills have required both program administrators and producers to understand too many details. “We don’t think that producers needed to memorize 26 acronyms.”
    The consolidation of the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP), the Grasslands Reserve Program (GRP) and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) resulted in the creation of the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program. This program saw an increase in funding. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) were combined, with five percent of funding reserved for wildlife programs. Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI), the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) and regional conservation programs were consolidated into the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.
    “There are so many Farm Bill programs that we would have liked to see some aggressive consolidation, and they did some, although it didn’t go as far as we’d like to see it,” adds Frank. “We are pretty happy with what came out of the Senate.”
    “In this budget environment, it is especially important to ensure that current conservation programs are operating as efficiently as possible,” said House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN).
    The conservation title of the Farm Bill was cut by $6 billion over 10 years.
Other programs
    “From our standpoint, it looks like a pretty good bill,” says government affairs specialist and lobbyist for Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Scott Zimmerman. “There are no more direct or counter-cyclical payments, but the changes they made to assist in crop insurance risk management should help give Wyoming producers more options and a better price against natural disasters.”
    Despite cuts, Zimmerman adds that many concerns were addressed, including provisions to ensure competitive markets and monitor concentration in the packing industry, and Zimmerman and Frank agree cuts will be manageable.
    However, Frank Lucas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said, “I am disappointed by the Senate bill’s commodity title because it does not work for all of agriculture. It fails to provide producers a viable safety net and instead locks in profit for a couple of commodities. I have made it clear that my chief priority is making certain that the commodity title is equitable and provides a safety net for all covered commodities and all regions of the country.”
The next step
    “I think everyone wants to get the Farm Bill done this year,” said American Farm Bureau policy expert Mary Kay Thatcher, “but it will be an uphill battle.”
    Wyoming Farm Bureau Executive Director Ken Hamilton says the next step is passing the bill in the Senate, after which the House will have to approve a bill.
    “The House version will get quite a few people excited, and I don’t know how they are going to do it without defunding programs,” says Hamilton, noting that the House budget requires significant cuts.
    Zimmerman elaborates that the Ryan budget proposal shows a cut of $33 billion, while House leadership and the ranking member for the agriculture committee only looked at a $23 billion reduction.
    “We have a $10 billion split between the binding resolution and what the Ag Committee initially proposed to cut,” explains Zimmerman. “I’m not sure those numbers will be reconciled.”
An uphill battle
    With only 30 legislative days left this year, Thatcher said that getting a Farm Bill through will be difficult, and she gives the bill only a 15 percent chance of success. She continued that, without passage, the bill will have to be extended in the first of October to avoid reverting back to the permanent law from 1949.
    “In 1949, there was no food stamp program, so you know we will do something to extend,” she added. “I doubt that we could extend without paying a price, and when we take those reductions, it will be tough to write a bill with an adequate safety net.”
    Zimmerman is also skeptical that a bill will be passed, saying, “I don’t know that there will be time for the House to prepare a bill, do mark up in committee and get it through. I would not be surprised if the 2008 bill is extended.”
    However, the bipartisan nature of the bill is helpful for getting legislation passed.
    “Because of the bipartisan nature of what came out, I would assume that things will go ok on the Senate floor,” says Frank.
    Thatcher echoed her thoughts, saying, “We always have bipartisanship in agriculture, and Senators Stabenow and Roberts seemed joined at the hip in this. That is great, because it will take a bipartisan effort to move forward.”
    “Congress should remember that this bill is about the future, so it must support and grow the next generation of farmers,” added Vilsack. “By focusing on these priorities as they work to pass a bill this year, Congress will help move our nation and our economy forward. They’ll create jobs, support working families, strengthen rural communities and build on the incredible success and productivity of American agriculture.”
    Saige Albert is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In recent recommendations to Congress pertaining to the 2012 Farm Bill, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) said continuing most current farm programs is the best way to ensure a farm safety net that works for all commodities and regions of the country.

While the new farm bill normally would not be written until next year, this fall’s push for budget cuts means major farm policy decisions will come sooner rather than later. The Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction or “super committee” is charged with coming up with at least $1.2 trillion in budget cuts this fall, and about $10 to $40 billion of the cuts are expected to come from farm bill programs. Those cuts would be deep enough to result in a de facto rewriting of the farm bill this year, and the House and Senate agriculture committees will need to submit ideas to the super committee soon to ensure those in Congress who best understand agriculture and rural America have a meaningful opportunity to weigh in on the process.

The AFBF recommendations include maintaining all current commodity programs, including direct payments, crop insurance, ACRE (Average Crop Revenue Election), target prices, and marketing loan programs. Farm Bureau is willing to consider modifications and adjustments to these programs to make them more effective in a reduced budget environment.

Wyoming Farm Bureau President Perry Livingston was a part of the recommendation process. He says the 32 state Farm Bureau presidents make up the AFBF board of directors, which is charged with giving direction to AFBF’s Washington, D.C. staff.

“We stick to our policy book as closely as we can, but most of the time the policies we have written are not necessarily what Congress says, so we have to have the ability to work within the system and with what Congress is trying to do,” says Livinston of developing recommendations that could work for Congress while still remaining true to their members’ intent. “Sometimes our policy is clear, and sometimes we have to interpret its intent.”

Livingston says the recommendations have been in the works this fall, ever since August, when Congress began talking about rewriting the farm bill as opposed to making cuts to the 2008 bill. He says that, after much discussion by the board of directors, with input from staff, it was decided there are several priorities in the new farm bill: commodities, conservation, crop insurance and research and development.

In its final recommendations, AFBF acknowledges that funding reductions will have to be made, and recommends spreading them out by making 30 percent of the necessary cuts in each of three program areas: commodity programs, conservation and nutrition, with 10 percent of the cuts in crop insurance. Those four areas make up 99 percent of the funding in the farm bill.

“It’s my understanding that the crop insurance program is something that’s utilized by many of our members in Wyoming,” says Livingston. “Quite a few ranch people use the rangeland insurance, which is a relatively new product that’s only been available a few years.”

AFBF recommends apportioning the commodity program cuts in a way that provides 94 percent of the reductions from reduced outlays for direct payments, five percent from the ACRE program and one percent from the dairy program.

Because the research and rural development titles already are small parts of the farm bill budget and are high priorities for Farm Bureau, AFBF recommends those programs be maintained at current funding levels.

“Because research and development is such a small part already, we encourage Congress to maintain it at current levels,” says Livingston.

Recently the Obama administration proposed even deeper cuts than those already expected of the super committee, to help offset the cost of the president’s American Jobs Act plan.

The president’s proposal would include a $33 billion reduction in agriculture programs, and AFBF says it “adamantly opposes” reductions of that magnitude. However, using the $33 billion figure as an example, the percentage cuts recommended by AFBF would break down as 15 percent from the $65 billion commodity programs baseline, 16 percent from the $63 billion conservation programs baseline, one percent from the $700 billion nutrition programs baseline and four percent from the $80 billion crop insurance baseline.

Direct payments have become a target because they are not based on crop production or prices. However, AFBF says that if it were not for direct payments during droughts over the past few years, “many family-owned and operated farms would be out of business.” One way to reduce the cost of direct payments, AFBF suggests, is to lower the percentage of the acreage base used to calculate the payments.

AFBF says additional savings could come from consolidating conservation programs into a working lands program, a retirement lands program and the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), as well as reducing the number of acres eligible for CRP.

“We believe 23 conservation programs are too many,” says the organization, which recommends two-thirds of the cuts in conservation programs come from the retirement lands program, with the remaining third coming from the working lands program.

Livingston says that, in addition to AFBF, a number of farm bill proposals have been presented to Congress, and that the House and Senate ag committees are working on different proposals.

“Everyone has their own ideas, and Congress has to put their hands around the subject and figure out what they want to do, but it’s a continual moving target. We have an extensive staff that’s right there in D.C. to visit with the people on a daily basis. It’s extremely important for our members to know we have that ability, and we utilize it from day to day,” states Livingston.

Although AFBF has a position on the subject, Livingston continues that it’s important to remain flexible.

“It won’t end up exactly the way we want– Congress doesn’t work that way – so we have to have policies in place to get us as close as we can to where we want to be, yet maintain flexibility. If we become rigid in our policy positions we can be assured we won’t get what we want,” he says.
Of the future of the 2012 Farm Bill, Livingston says it’s still uncertain.

“The super committee hasn’t given direction to the ag committees in the House and Senate, or the percentage they have to cut. Those committees are working blind, because they don’t know how many billion dollars they have to cut,” he explains. “They’re playing this by ear until somebody establishes a point where we need to be, and they haven’t made that decision yet.”

Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

With approximately 80 new members in the U.S. House of Representatives, that means one in five members will soon change, and that creates an educational opportunity for the ag industry, says American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Bob Stallman.
Stallman, a cattle producer from Texas, has led the national organization since 2000.
“Almost all of the new members of Congress don’t really know anything about the issues that affect agriculture, and their staffs also won’t know the issues,” says Stallman. “We have an obligation and a responsibility to spend a lot of time educating the new members.”
Stallman says more than half of the House Ag Committee lost their bids for reelection. “Most were Democrats that have been our friends on a lot of issues, so what does that mean for the make-up of the new House Ag Committee? We won’t have the rural, moderate Democrats. Instead, we might have individuals who represent urban areas, and they may be more interested in nutrition programs or environmental focuses. We don’t know yet.”
In tax, regulatory and trade issues, Stallman says the new Republican-controlled House will be closer to Wyoming priorities, with a shift to a small business perspective.
“I’ve always said that farmers and ranchers are small business. They’re talking about us, too,” he says.
“We are not in a good place,” says Stallman of national debt and spending. “It’s doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out. All of us, as farmers and ranchers, know the same thing my grandfather taught me: When your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep will be your downfall. If we don’t get our fiscal house in order ourselves internally, it will be put in order externally. We have a huge challenge, and we have a responsibility as an organization to help meet that challenge.”
As part of that responsibility, Stallman said even organizations like AFBF must prioritize their policy to fix the fiscal mess. “Cutting spending has to be part of it. In the campaign speeches, for the most part, no candidate would mention where they would make the cuts, and right now neither party is willing to step up and say where they’re willing to face the pain and make the cuts. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us to fix that problem.”
“We as an organization do everything we can to create bipartisanship, and we’ll continue to do that. We will pursue the same issues in 112th Congress that we’ve pursued in 111th. The next farm bill is coming up, and the timing will be different with the recent election,” says Stallman, noting the farm bill will probably be passed in 2012 instead of 2011.
“The challenge is to try to think about the future of agriculture. We’ll have less money to apply to farm programs, and we’ll have to figure out how to use the resources we have to create something for the future that’s effective and fiscally responsible,” he notes, pointing out that 70 percent of the farm bill is dedicated to nutrition programs. “It’s unlikely the big cuts will be made in nutrition programs, which leaves the other 30 percent subject to the cuts.”
However important the farm bill is, Stallman says he thinks environmental and regulatory issues have more affect on U.S. agriculture. “In general, this administration has had the attitude that if a little regulation is good, then a lot is a whole lot better, and unfortunately they’ve been pursuing that.”
“Our environmental opponents have used the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act as their weapons of choice in pursuing their agenda in the courthouse,” says Stallman. “That legislation has allowed them to have a whole lot more control over the things you and I do than they ought to have.”
Stallman says the Clean Water Act is a prime example. “Forty years ago it was passed with the wonderful goal of cleaning up some real messes in this country. The word ‘navigable’ is in the law over 80 times, and that’s the scope of the Clean Water Act. To me, ‘navigable’ means you ought to be able to float a boat, and go somewhere in that boat. Two Supreme Court rulings have agreed with that, and it’s limited the scope of the Clean Water Act.”
Stallman says the efforts by environmentalists to delete ‘navigable’ have most likely ended, with the shift in the House.
Regarding the Endangered Species Act, Stallman says it was passed with the best of intentions. “We all know which road is paved with good intentions,” he says. “Unfortunately, it hasn’t met its original goal of species recovery. Less than one percent of 1,300 species have been recovered with an annual cost of over $3 billion. In a business world, you would have been bankrupt a long time ago with performance standards like that.”
Stallman says the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been very busy lately. “I characterize it as the EPA running amok,” he notes. “Their budget has increased to $10 billion annually, and they employ 17,000 people. We have more pressure than we’ve ever faced from the EPA, and we hope the new Congress will find a way to reign in the overreaching of EPA.”
He says the only way that will happen is to put riders on bills to delay the implementation of some of the regulations. “That will be a difficult fight, as we have a lot of Republican friends who, when it comes to environmental issues, won’t stand up and support us.”
Of the cap and tax legislation, Stallman says it’s been stopped in the Senate. “I think it’s dead. We may get overrun, but no one will sneak up on us, so we’ll keep watching it.”
“We still need comprehensive energy legislation geared toward filling as many of the energy needs as we can from this country, and not excluding any particular sector. We have huge natural gas reserves, and areas we haven’t even drilled. We have the opportunity to meet our needs if we put the policies in place to do it,” he adds.
Even though the cap and tax is dead, the EPA is still pursuing regulation of stationary sources of greenhouse gases. “They couldn’t pass a law legislatively, but this administration is pursuing another path to control greenhouse gases. It’s not initially applied to agriculture, but it will be expanded through livestock production in particular, and our estimate is that 90 percent of livestock operations will come under the thresholds that exist today,” he explains. “That smell of money – the smell of methane – that we’ve smelled all these years is, in some people’s estimation, the worst greenhouse gas.”
In addition to those red-letter topics, Stallman says AFBF is also keeping tabs on estate taxes, federal lands grazing, the GIPSA rule and animal rights.
AFBF President Bob Stallman visited the November meeting of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation in Cody. Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

By Jennifer Womack, WLR Managing Editor 

Cheyenne – “It’ll be crazy here next week,” says Marlene Zumo. Behind her the room buzzes with the noise of phone conversations and the clicking of data being entered as operators ask questions about cattle and sheep.
    Zumo supervises 66 people who next week will begin taking questions from across the nation pertaining to the 2007 Ag Census. When they’re not working on the census, Zumo’s team gathers data for the numerous statistical reports relating to agriculture. Many in Wyoming agriculture are familiar with the phone calls that include questions about numerous aspects of the industry and result in a detailed report on prices, trends and more. Two examples of excerpts from those reports can be found in the news briefs within this edition of the Roundup.
    Zumo is an employee of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, an entity that contracts with USDA’s National Ag Statistics Service (NASS) to carry out survey work and once every five years, the Ag Census.
    NASS mailed the 2007 Census to agriculturalists across the nation on Dec. 28. Starting Monday Zumo and her team will begin fielding questions from across Wyoming and the nation. They expect the 16 telephone lines at the call center to stay busy for the next few months.
    “Wyoming is one of six call centers in the nation,” says Director of NASS’s Wyoming Office, Glenda Shepler. Her office is one floor below the call center where she and her staff can interact with the call center and obtain the timely information they need. Reaching the fourth floor, explains Shepler noting the agency’s commitment to protecting the information it gathers, requires a special pass.
    Location of the call center in Cheyenne increases the likelihood of finding employees with an agricultural background. When the 2002 Census was carried out Shepler says the there were four call centers across the nation. Noting that her agency wants there to be someone on-hand to answer questions, as opposed to a messaging system, the number was expanded. “Those four units received just fewer than 200,000 phone calls,” she notes of the 2002 Census.
    As the 2007 Census gets underway Shepler says 100 phone lines are available nationwide. Sixteen of those are in Wyoming. When individuals call the toll free number on their census form to ask a question they’re directed to one of the six call centers based on the time of day and the availability of open lines.
    Shepler has spent a great deal of time traveling the state this past year speaking to Wyoming agriculturalists about the importance of the census. “It’s the data USDA uses when working on the Farm Bill,” says Shepler of one application. It’s also a source of information for many about various aspects of agriculture nationwide.
    Agriculturalists now have three ways to complete the survey. Completing the written survey is one option. A second is phoning one’s answers in to the call center at 888-424-7828. A third, and new this year, is visiting the agency’s website at www.agcensus.nass.usda.gov. Shepler says the website is set up so producers can begin work on the survey, save it and return to it for completion.
    Shepler says those individuals who received a survey in error should contact her agency or mail the survey back with a note. That way, she explains, her agency’s mailing and calling lists can be updated.
    Surveys are due Feb. 4. In March Shepler says operators in the call centers will begin calling those who haven’t returned their survey. They also visit some farms and ranches sitting down with producers to complete the document.
    Wyoming, according to Shepler, has less than a 10 percent refusal rate. It’s one of the better in the region, she notes. Call center employees, she says, like it when they get to make calls to Wyoming producers.