NFU News Clips Oct. 9, 2013




  1. Livestock producers hit hard after early snow
  2. Industry sues EPA over Renewable Fuel Standard
  3. GAO report shows need to cap subsidies to those who don’t work on farms – senator
  4. TPP members encouraged by Japan ‘determination’
  5. House Democrat’s Low Fundraising Sparks Retirement Rumors (Again)



1. Livestock producers hit hard after early snow


Oct. 8, 2013

Jacqui Fatka


Over the past few days, Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming and other areas have seen record amounts of unseasonably early snowfall. Livestock producers have been some hit hardest by the unseasonal weather.  

“This early season, record setting blizzard is devastating to our producers and our thoughts are with them,” said South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture Lucas Lentsch. “We are working to coordinate with ag industry stakeholders to establish and execute a response plan.”

SDDA is working closely with the Office of Emergency Management, Animal Industry Board, Brand Board and Governor’s Office on recovery efforts.

A statement from Sen. John Thune (R., S.D.) said he's received many reports of property damage and significant livestock losses throughout western South Dakota.

The New York Times reported that cattle ranchers in western South Dakota were reporting losses between 20% and 50% of their herds, and early estimates suggest the region may have lost 5% or more of its cattle. National Farmers Union said their early estimates indicated losses of 15 to 20% of entire herds.

NFU president Roger Johnson criticized the government shutdown as limiting the government's ability to assist in the before and after of the massive weather event.

"With government agencies operating in limited capacity, the residents of these areas were lacking information and saw delays in reports and warnings in order to be prepared for the extreme conditions experienced," Johnson said.

He added that since U.S. Department of Agriculture offices are not collecting or receiving data, this is an "extremely concerning situation." He added, "Ranchers do not have access to assistance with the USDA Farm Service Agency offices closed, Livestock Indemnity Program benefits are not available; and other sources of support and information are unavailable."

South Dakota ranchers with livestock losses due to the devastating snowstorm over the weekend should carefully certify losses in the event federal assistance becomes available, Thune said. Certification can include second party certification, rendering receipts, photos or video with date stamp of dead livestock, calving/lambing records, or purchase records to verify the number of livestock owned on the day prior to the snowstorm, Thune recommended.

Producers should document all livestock losses with pictures, vaccination and hauling receipts, or any other records for possible future use in disaster relief programs.  Third-party verification of losses is recommended, SDDA said.



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2. Industry sues EPA over Renewable Fuel Standard

The Hill

Oct. 8, 2013

Ben Goad


The American Petroleum Institute filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday challenging Obama administration regulations requiring biofuel to be mixed with conventional gas. The suit, filed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, drew immediate criticism from the renewable fuels industry, which derided the action as “frivolous” and “slavish.” 


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the Renewable Fuel Standard in August, long after the agency’s statutory deadline in November of last year. The industry has repeatedly called the standards unworkable. “EPA’s unrealistic ethanol mandates for 2013 are simply bad public policy,” said Harry Ng, American Petroleum Institute (API) vice president and general counsel. “EPA issued this year’s requirements nine months late and has once again mandated significantly more cellulosic ethanol than is available in the marketplace.”


The standards require refiners to use millions of gallons of cellulosic ethanol this year, but the API argues that only 142,000 gallons have been made available to refiners thus far for blending.


Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, scoffed at the assertion, arguing that the standard can easily be met.


“This is another frivolous effort by API to abuse the court system in their slavish effort to repeal a public policy that is working for farmers, gasoline marketers, and consumers,” he said. “While the 2013 [Renewable Volume Obligations] were issued later than anyone would have liked, the fact is the statute is crystal clear, and all stakeholders have been producing and blending at levels that will unquestionably meet the 2013 requirements.”


The EPA initiative calls for 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel to be mixed with transportation fuel by the year 2022. The effort is meant to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. But industry groups warn of a “blend wall,” at which point gas producers are forced to make a blend of gasoline consumers cannot use and that would be harmful to some vehicles.  


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3. GAO report shows need to cap subsidies to those who don’t work on farms – senator

Environment & Energy Daily

Oct. 9, 2013

Amanda Peterka


Individuals last year collected millions of dollars in farm payments for "managing" operations from afar, as opposed to actually working on the farm, according to a government watchdog report released yesterday.

The Government Accountability Office found that individuals arrayed in general partnerships received about half of total farm subsidy payments last year, or $736 million, but 3 percent of them performed actual farm labor. The rest claimed to be active managers of farms and in some cases lived states away from the farming operation.

The top 50 entities receiving the most farm program payments last year raked in, on average, $395,000 spread among 10 individual members claiming contributions to the farming operation.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who requested the GAO report, said the results showed the need to reform the farm subsidy system through a new five-year farm bill that's being considered by Congress.

"The loophole has been allowed to stand for too long," Grassley said. "It's time to close it once and for all and put the issue to rest so we can maintain a safety net for the farmers who really need it."

Last year, 103,235 entities received federal farm payments of about $1.5 billion. Under the rules of the Farm Service Agency, a branch of the Agriculture Department, each individual actively engaged in a farm's operation can claim a payment.

But in one instance highlighted by GAO, a farm in the Midwest received $400,000 in payments for 2012 and was organized as a partnership of six corporations and 11 individual members of the same family. The family members ranged from ages 18 to 88, and at least two lived in South Florida.

The Farm Service Agency's definition of active engagement in a farm is too broad, the GAO concluded. But while FSA has the authority to narrow it, the agency has repeatedly insisted it will not do so unless Congress explicitly directs it to change the regulations.

A provision authored by Grassley and contained in separate versions of farm bills passed by the House and Senate would cap payments and close the loophole that allows so many individuals to receive subsidies for a single farming operation.

Grassley said the report shows the need for quick resolution of work on the five-year bill.

There is "still far too much subterfuge of the actively engaged law," he said.

The most recent farm bill expired last week, but the House has yet to appoint members of a committee that will formally negotiate with the Senate to reconcile the two new versions of the bills.

The GAO report also found that state FSA offices have had a dismal record in sending compliance reports to headquarters on time. In 2009, 24 percent of state offices completed their reviews on time, while in 2010 performance fell to 14 percent.

The delays in sending reports to the head office mean FSA can't accurately assess whether only eligible recipients are receiving payments, the government watchdog said.


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4. TPP members encouraged by Japan ‘determination’

Financial Times

Oct. 7, 2013

Shawn Donnan in London and Ben Bland


When Japan joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks this summer, many sceptics questioned whether the government of Shinzo Abe would be able to take the hard decisions needed to open up its long-protected markets for everything from beef to cars.


Mr Abe helped reinforce that view when, before July upper-house elections, he pledged to protect five “sacred” agricultural commodities – rice, wheat, beef, dairy products and sugar – in the TPP negotiations.


But, as talks reach a critical point and TPP leaders gather in Bali, those in the negotiating room with Japan say evidence so far points to the Abe government being determined to press ahead and use the trade deal as leverage for domestic reforms.


The tough political decisions that traditionally make up the end-game in trade negotiations have not been made yet by any involved. Indications so far, however, point to Tokyo’s willingness to make politically awkward decisions. That, participants say, is an encouraging sign that if and when the deal is concluded it will live up to its billing as a “21st-century” agreement.


“There is a very strong sense of [Japanese] determination to be bold,” Tim Groser, the New Zealand trade minister, told the Financial Times. “After 20 years of drift [Japan has decided] that being decisive works for them in every sense.”


The determination, participants say, is a sign of how important the TPP is to Mr Abe, who in Bali on Monday described himself as a “drill bit” intent on demolishing anti-competitive regulations and called reform “a matter of utmost urgency”.


Akira Amari, Japan’s minister for economic revitalisation and the man charged with overseeing the TPP discussions, told a small group of reporters that he viewed the trade deal as the “fourth arrow” of the government’s bid to restore Japan’s economy to past grandeur, dubbed “Abenomics”. “TPP will strengthen our growth strategy,” he said.


That view of the TPP underlines what analysts see as its importance for Japan. “TPP is probably the most important domestic reform that Abe has tabled so far. If he is successful, it will go a long way to sustaining Japan’s growth,” said Frederic Neumann, chief Asian economist for HSBC.


However, it still remains unclear just how far Mr Abe’s government is willing to go on opening up politically sensitive industries including the agricultural sector. The positive signals Tokyo is sending to TPP members does not necessarily match the message back home.


When a member of Mr Abe’s ruling LDP, which is traditionally close to the country’s agricultural lobby, told reporters in Bali on Sunday that Japan might have to contemplate reducing tariffs on agricultural products he drew an angry response from farmers at home. The government was quickly forced to deny it was backing away from its pledge to protect “sacred” sectors.


One of the solutions may lie in opening sensitive sectors to foreign competition gradually over many years, a technique used by trade negotiators in other pacts. But there is little doubt tough negotiations still lie ahead.


Leaders of the TPP countries, bar US President Barack Obama who was forced to cancel his trip because of the government shutdown, will on Tuesday consider a report from trade ministers laying out the remaining issues and a plan to conclude negotiations by the end of the year.


Mr Groser said 15 of the TPP’s 29 negotiating chapters had effectively been completed and a further seven to eight needed “just a little bit of tidying up”. Among the remaining chapters, however, the sensitive issue of reducing tariffs still looms large. “People have got to take some very, very tough decisions,” he said.


He also stressed that when – before Japan had joined the discussions – TPP leaders signed a declaration in Honolulu in 2011 laying out their aims they had “agreed in principle that we were going to eliminate all tariffs”. And that remains the goal, he said.


Given the differences in the economies involved not everyone would reduce tariffs on the same schedule, Mr Groser said. Besides the US, Japan and New Zealand, the TPP countries are: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.


But he praised Japan’s role in the negotiations. “They have folded into the negotiation in a seamless way,” he said.

Mr Amari said Japan had tried to be a balancing force in the TPP negotiations, between both Asian and non-Asian countries and developed and developing economies.


“Japan understands developing countries better and can also understand the position of the US so we have been able to play a role for both sides to compromise with each other,” the minister said.


He added that other Asian nations had expressed an interest in joining TPP in future and all would be welcome, including South Korea, despite its often fractious economic and political relationship with Japan. “We support any country which accepts the principles and ideas of TPP,” he said.



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5. House Democrat’s Low Fundraising Sparks Retirement Rumors (Again)

Roll Call

Oct. 8, 2013

Emily Cahn


Rep. Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., raised about $83,000 in the third quarter, according to his third-quarter fundraising report filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Peterson’s fundraising haul is $10,000 less than last quarter’s fundraising total — both considered to be paltry sums for a long-time member of Congress. He reported $227,000 in the bank.

Such a small haul raises questions about Peterson’s plans for 2014 because weak fundraising can signal that a member is looking to retire. On Tuesday, Peterson’s campaign said in a statement that the congressman is still considering his plans for 2014.

“It’s premature to read too much into Congressman Peterson’s report this fundraising quarter given that he does not yet have an opponent, he is still considering whether he will run again, and the amount raised is similar to what he’s raised previously in off-year quarters,” the campaign said in the statement. “At this time, he remains focused on getting the farm bill completed.”

Republicans publicly pushed Peterson to retire earlier this year, knowing that Minnesota’s 7th District would be more competitive if he was not on the ballot.

GOP nominee Mitt Romney carried Peterson’s district with a 10-point margin in 2012.

There are no Republicans currently challenging Peterson this cycle. However businessman Scott Van Binsbergen has been eyeing a bid, and moved closer to making a decision last month, he told CQ Roll Call in a phone interview.

Minnesota’s 7th District is rated a Democrat Favored contest by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.


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