Agriculture

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The Farm Bill that passed the House of Representatives last week, and the Senate just Feb. 3, has seen an overwhelming amount of bipartisan support, with very little opposition. Though the only thing standing in the way is a signature from President Obama, some important questions about the bill remain, including the effect the bill will have on state eligibility requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients and what an increase in Federal Crop Insurance Payments will mean for farming states.

Wyoming Representative Sue Wallis passed away early last week. She was 56. Representative Wallis was an active participant in many CSG programs and we are saddened to lose such a dynamic and passionate individual.  Wallis was known for her willingness to speak up and share her thoughts, and as a woman of principles. 

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While grain producers across the Midwest have been anxiously awaiting a new farm bill, produce farmers are just as anxious about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act — the largest reform of the nation’s food safety laws in 70 years. The act itself was signed into law in 2011, but exactly how it will impact the Midwest’s producers won’t be known until final FDA rules are approved.

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In mid-November the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed reducing the amount of biofuels in the nation’s fuel supply for the first time, potentially dealing a major setback to the ethanol industry.
The change would require almost 3 billion fewer gallons of biofuels — mainly ethanol — to be blended into gasoline in 2014 than under the current federal mandate. The proposal comes at a time when domestic oil production has exceeded oil imports for the first time in years, and when falling motor fuel demand has made ethanol an unexpectedly large part of the total fuel supply.
For many years, the livestock industry in Canada and the U.S., especially for cattle and pigs, has been integrated, with animals moving both ways across the border for feeding and slaughter. But new U.S. country-of-origin labeling requirements may change this relationship. 

A decade ago, Minnesota became the first U.S. state with a biodiesel mandate, a move that has since been followed by six other states (none in the Midwest). The state now hopes to advance production and use even further, with plans in place to adopt a first-in-the-nation B10 mandate: a requirement that all diesel fuel sold in the state contain 10 percent biodiesel and 90 percent petroleum. The higher mandate, set to take effect in July of next year, will only apply in warm-weather months.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) announced that it will reduce releases from Lake Powell into Lake Mead to its lowest level since filling Lake Powell in the 1960s. 

Stateline Midwest ~ July/August 2013 

The farm bill, the major legislation for agriculture, rural development and food aid, expires every five years. If it is not extended or rewritten, U.S. agriculture policy reverts to laws passed in 1938 and 1949. The 2007 bill took until 2008 to get passed, and parts of it were extended to September 2013 when it was evident that there would be no 2012 farm bill.

The impact of going back in time on milk prices— to 1949 policy — finally led to a last-minute extension of some parts of the 2008 bill. That congressional agreement occurred in late 2012, thus averting the doubling of consumer milk prices that would have occurred.

The U.S. Congress is once again running up against another deadline — this time the end of the extension that runs through September.

New York City is famous – and infamous – for its policy attempts to curb obesity. News comes this week that the city is unveiling the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program (FVRx) at two hospitals. Doctors will prescribe a menu of fresh fruits and vegetables and give patients coupons from the city to assist with the purchase of the healthy food.

On June 3rd of this year, Connecticut became the first state to pass a law that requires special labeling for foods containing genetically modified organisms, also known as GMOs. Maine followed suit a little over a week later, when the state’s senate voted unanimously to require GMO labeling. Both of these laws contain clauses that require other states to pass similar laws before the labeling requirement actually goes into effect. For example, in Connecticut, four other northeastern states need to enact labeling laws, and one of those states needs to border Connecticut before the requirement goes live.  In addition, the combined population of these states needs to be at least 20 million. In Maine, the law won’t go into effect until five other states—one of which must be New Hampshire—pass the same requirements.

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