~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Oklahoma's latest farm and ranch news
Your Update from Ron Hays of RON for Wednesday May 2, 2007!A service of Midwest Farm Shows
-- The Farm Bill Keys- No More Money- Need Safety Net and Maybe Permanent Disaster Program.
-- USDA sends two more Farm Bill Titles to Capitol Hill
-- Wheat Growers hoping for Disaster Aid as well as more money for Direct Payments.
-- Tort Reform offers several groups more problems than benefits.
-- Department of Energy looking for Experimental sized Cellulosic Ethanol Plants.
-- Kansas Wheat Crop Tour- a perspective from Mark Hodges of the OWC
-- Practice Rounds Continue Today- the "real" event happens tomorrow at a secret location in Central Oklahoma!
Here's your morning farm news headlines from the Director of Farm Programming for the Radio Oklahoma Network, Ron Hays. Our email this morning is a service of Midwest Farm Shows, featuring the just concluded Southern Plains Farm Show in Oklahoma City, as well as the Tulsa Farm Show held each December. Check out details of both of these exciting shows at the official website of Midwest Farm Shows by clicking here.
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The Farm Bill Keys- No More Money- Need Safety Net and Maybe Permanent Disaster Program.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Three points have come at us from multiple directions as we have been here for a couple of days now in Washington. The first of those points is that if you think there will be more money than what the Budget Committee has allocated- you are heading down a tunnel with a light at the end of it- but the light is a train! One lobbyist described the idea of additional monies that would have to be offset actually coming through as a "mirage."
Everybody is talking about the need for an adequate safety net- and that has got at least the traditional farm groups all wanting to keep the main elements in place from the 2002 farm law. With current commodity prices- you could pretty well leave the Commodity Title of the 2002 Farm Law in place and that could be your 2007 farm bill. Of course, you have lots of folks wanting to change this or that- the Wheat Growers want to up the direct payment, Farm Bureau wants a revenue based countercyclical program instead of the current concept and so it goes. And, you have many groups that want to pull money away from the Commodity Title to fund Energy or Conservation or New Farmer Initiatives or whatever their pet project may be. When you have a pot of money- even if it is a smaller pot of money than five years ago- people show up and want to put their dipper in to get a cup or two or three.
The third things we have heard from several different directions is one of those things that will require money from somewhere- and that is Permanent Disaster Aid to end Ad Hoc requests that are getting harder and harder to navigate through the political waters. Tom Buis of National Farmers Union as well as Bob Young of American Farm Bureau both were expressing interest in making this a part of the 2007 farm language- the question comes back to the money- how do you fund it? I mentioned to Buis the discussion that Congressman Frank Lucas had at a couple of his recent Town Hall Meetings in which he floated the idea of taking some money from Crop Insurance and establishing a Disaster Aid program, with Crop Insurance assuming that Disaster Aid covers the catastrophic problems we might encounter. Buis says it's just one of many ideas that should be out there and then allow the ones with merit to float to the top.
One final "key" to this 2007 Farm Bill Debate is important to note- the Chairmen of the House and Senate Ag Committees both swear they will get this thing done and to the President by September. Ag Secretary Johanns expressed his support of that very aggressive timeline. He did acknowledge that is a "very ambitious" goal. In conversations with several policy wonks here in DC, it's hard to believe that this timeline can hold unless someone like Nancy Pelosi tells all concerned that she won't tolerate allowing this measure to drag into 2008- that it is an issue that Democrats (and really even the Republicans) will prefer to get done and have behind us in the upcoming national elections of 2008.
USDA sends two more Farm Bill Titles to Capitol Hill
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns announced to farm broadcasters on Tuesday morning that USDA has submitted two additional titles of the Administration's Farm Bill proposal to Congress. Johanns tells us that the legal language submitted this week to the House and Senate Ag Committees encompasses Energy and Rural Development. As you might expect, he assures all that if the Congress would accept this language- that there is no doubt that USDA could easily administer these parts of a 2007 farm bill.
Beyond these two new titles, Johanns spent time with farm broadcasters talking about Japan and Korea and US beef, as well as food safety and payment limitations. On the US Beef front, Johanns says he is hopeful audits by the Japanese will proceed quickly and that we will see progress in getting away from checking every box by Japanese inspectors- he considers this a starting point to improve and open trade further for US Beef. He expressed excitement about getting one shipment of beef through the Korean inspection process- but says it's still not a market that is "commercially open" at this stage.
The Secretary had interesting comments about the Administration proposal of using the Adjusted Gross Income threshold of $200,000 as a payment limitation for commodity programs. Johanns defended that concept, saying that only 38,000 taxpayers actually receive farm program payments. He says that number could well be less than that if you are around that threshold and use averaging over a three year period that could keep a producer under the $200K level. Johanns continues to be convinced that this direction on payment limits would be the way to go- he claims $150 million in annual savings if this concept should be a part of the 2007 Farm Bill.
Wheat Growers hoping for Disaster Aid as well as more money for Direct Payments.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~The Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of Wheat Growers, Daren Coppock, says that he thinks that Congress will hang tough with President Bush and include Ag Disaster help in followup versions of the Iraqi War Supplemental after this initial veto by the President. And, he thinks we will see President Bush argue against it but end up signing the measure.
Beyond Disaster aid, Coppock argues for the wheat grower position of needing a higher Direct Payment in the new farm bill- knowing full well that there are lawmakers who are looking at the direct payment part of the Commodity Title as a way to fund their various pet projects.
We also talked with Coppock about Wheat Summit II which was held about a week ago- he says that there will be four reports out from that Summit in about a week- if all agree. If there is disagreement in some areas, there will still be a "majority" report issued in the four areas to be reported on. Coppock tells us it's his view that this could be a structure where periodically the wheat industry could come together to agree on common ground to speak as a "single voice" for the wheat industry- a voice similar to what the Cotton Industry has with the Cotton Council- with the wheat industry hoping to bring some unity about without the layer or another group.
Tort Reform offers several groups more problems than benefits.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~At least that's the opinion of one farmer who after farming for several years in north central Oklahoma decided to make a change- he studied law and has now been a lawyer for the past five years. Roger Ediger says that he's not buying the need for across the board tort reform- he was not a fan of SB 507, which was vetoed this past Saturday by Governor Henry.
Ediger says there are two examples of types of cases that would never have seen the light of day if SB 709 had been in effect. The first example he points to are class action lawsuits brought on behalf of Mineral Rights Owners to force energy companies to honor contracts they have agreed to- things like not charging various fees that the contract spells out as not being the responsibility of the land owner. The second example that Ediger brings up is a case that he had a hand in- the Class Action case against Gold Bank that forced payment to farmers participating for illegal interest rates charged by the bank that proved to be a violation of federal law.
As we reported yesterday, it does appear that the State Chamber of Commerce is pushing lawmakers to come up with a revised tort reform measure that make bring the Governor to a point of agreement on a "do over." Governor Henry vetoed SB 507 and given the closeness of the vote in the Senate for that measure, there is zero chance of a successful override vote on that measure.
Department of Energy looking for Experimental sized Cellulosic Ethanol Plants.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman met with farm broadcasters on Tuesday afternoon here in Washington- and spoke of three areas where the Department of Energy is putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to renewable energy research.
In an announcement that came at the meeting with Farm Broadcasters, Secretary Bodman says they will be taking proposals to build five to ten experimental sized cellulosic ethanol plants across the country- with the goal to test and experiment on new feedstocks and new processing methodology. Grants for these plants will total $200 million over five years.
Secretary Bodman also said good progress had been made on the naming of three new BioResearch Centers that will be positioned around the country. He indicates that over a dozen sites are applying for consideration, with announcement of the winning locations to be made this summer. We asked the Secretary during Q&A what makes him think that we can find the magic bullet and make cellulosic ethanol an economic reality- you can click below to hear what he told us.
Kansas Wheat Crop Tour- a perspective from Mark Hodges of the OWC
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~The Executive Director of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission, Mark Hodges, is in the Sunflower state for a couple of days this week, as the annual Kansas wheat crop tour is underway. Mark tells us that they traveled from Manhattan and ended up in Colby yesterday evening, seeing a lot of freeze damage early with the epicenter of that damage in and around McPherson, Kansas. Yield potential in the hardest hit area was from zero up.
Mark seems to agree with other reporters that we have heard from on Day One that as you moved away from the hardest hit areas of freeze damage, you are seeing a lot of regrowth of secondary tillers and if that wheat is given a chance, it will yield fairly well.
Mark says that he saw a lot of Powdery Mildew in the fields he observed- just a limited amount of leaf rust and yield potential as high as 60 bushels an acre as they neared Colby. Overall, we understand the average yield per acre for the first day territory was right around forty bushels per acre- about unchanged from the guesses of a year ago. It appears that many of the scouts are surprised that the Kansas crop looks as good as it does in the area covered on day one.
Practice Rounds Continue Today- the "real" event happens tomorrow at a secret location in Central Oklahoma!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~We are speaking of the National Land Judging Competition that is going on this week in and around the OKC metro area. This is the World Series of Land Judging for 4-H and FFA teams- and I understand besides teams from several dozen states here in the continental US, there is a team entered this year from Hawaii.
Actual judging is tomorrow at a secret location- but the site of the banquet to honor the winners is no secret- that's at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Center in Oklahoma City on Thursday evening. There are a lot of groups that help make this annual event possible- but two key groups that really help everything take flight include the Oklahoma Conservation Commission and the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts.
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