Farm Bill Extended Again
Negotiators and the Bush Administration were closer to finding acceptable funding sources to pay for the $10 billion increase, over 10 years, in the Farm Bill. The House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee have become involved, demanding that programs, such as the permanent disaster program, be added if money was approved. Answers to securing the funds are not complete.
The Bush Administration, through Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer, said they were considering changing the “beneficial interest” interpretation, charging that farmers are taking advantage of a loophole in the Farm Bill. The question is whether farmers should maintain ownership of commodities after they get loan-deficiency payments.
The administration has also agreed to a cap of $500,000 on farmers receiving crop subsidies, instead of the earlier amount of $200,000 a year adjusted gross income. Sen. Chuck Grassley, of Iowa, has not given up his campaign to cut the amount of money that an individual farmer can receive in federal payments each year.
Sen. Charlie Rangel, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, recently stated that with soaring food prices, they wanted more money spent on nutrition programs including the food stamp program, school lunch and women, infants and children programs.
Leaders in the House and Senate prefer a new Farm Bill to an extension of the 2002 bill because of the increased spending for nutrition, fruits and vegetables and even the anti-obesity programs. But time is running out. Leaders agree that a strong Farm Bill safety net is needed.
Some of the documents included are lab reports, grade certificates, EU forms, aflatoxin forms, flavor certificates, foreign material reports, blanching certification and any other certification required around the world.
A password and ID code allows those involved to access the system. All documents are on the USDA computer system for three years with back up in another location, such as Kansas City.
The USDA-FAS grant will allow similar e-Document Exchange for almonds, dairy, eggs and pistachios in year one and many more commodities in the future. The system is about ready to launch, and peanuts are the first commodity to have e-Document Exchange.
Farmers applied for crop losses in 2005, 2006 or 2007, but could only apply for one year. Funds for the crop disaster section were $1.56 billion, the remainder being paid to livestock producers. Most of the crop claims were in Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas where claims took up 45 percent of the funds allocated.
The Peanut Foundation agreed to move ahead to create genetically modified peanuts with enhanced traits. Officials said it would take a minimum of three to five years to get to foundation stock and seven years before commercial stocks will be available.
The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) collect farmer-stock peanut prices and volumes from shellers and buying points through a survey. This information, by law, is provided to NASS voluntarily and NASS cannot release individually identifiable information without the permission of the party reporting the information.
The report says they are unable to provide assurance that the data reported to NASS is reliable because the first handlers denied them access to the records needed to validate price and volume information. Auditors admitted that there is no cash or spot market or futures exchange for peanuts. These prices impact program payments. The auditors estimated that a 1 cent change in the average peanut price per pound as determined by NASS would have affected total counter-cyclical payments by an average of over $33 million a year.
The report concluded that without mandatory price reporting, they can provide no assurance that the marketing assistance program or counter-cyclical payments for peanuts are based on reliable or supportable market price data. The report said, “We believe that the department should seek authority to verify [what it] reported by first handlers to ensure that the data reported to NASS is accurate and complete and to conform to the provisions of the price reporting instructions.”
Growers have filed a letter opposing mandatory reporting of price data.
Representing American peanut producers, NPB rewards a future peanut researcher’s hard work and community spirit with this honor commemorating America’s foremost peanut researcher. The standards for judging exemplify the spirit of Dr. Carver – a positive, measurable impact on peanut cultivation or peanut product development and strength of character as reflected by community involvement or service.
Applications are available online at www.nationalpeanutboard.org. Once completed, entries should be mailed to the National Peanut Board Dr. Carver Award, 2839 Paces Ferry Road, Suite 210, Atlanta, GA 30339. For more information, send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadline for applications is May 23, 2008. The winner will be presented with a plaque and a check for $1,000 at the APRES conference in Oklahoma.
Chairman Otis Lee Johnson of Seminole, Texas, Vice Chairman Larry Don Womack of DeLeon, Texas, TPPB Executive Director Shelly Nutt and Stephanie Grunenfelder, the American Peanut Council director of international programs, toured factories and met with manufacturers in Mexico City and Monterey.
Ninety-five percent of all United States peanut exports to Mexico come from Texas peanut producers. TPPB has taken great measures to retain and build their relationships with their largest export customer.
Recent peanut prices and supply have been of concern to Mexican manufacturers of peanut products. Last year, due to high demand, Mexico felt the strain of an in-shell peanut shortage just before the holiday season, which is their highest peanut product consumption period.
“We wanted to assure manufacturers the peanut supply to Mexico from Texas would remain consistent and reliable,” said Nutt, regarding their efforts to build on the relationship.
“USA-grown peanuts may be a little more expensive, but most customers believe the high quality and great tasting U.S. peanuts are worth the extra price being paid.”
The relationship between Texas and Mexico has been a focal point of TPPB’s efforts for several years. The first contact Nutt had with the Mexican manufacturing group was in the fall of 2005 when TPPB and the American Peanut Council hosted a harvest tour in South Texas. The next spring, Chairman Johnson and Nutt made a trip to Mexico along with representatives of APC to continue building those relationships. In the fall of 2006, TPPB hosted the Big Ol’ Texas Peanut Tour and a large group from Mexico made the trip north to tour harvest in West Texas. And in 2007, the Mexicans were again hosted by TPPB and APC in West Texas for another harvest tour.
“The Texas board believes it’s important to maintain a strong relationship with our neighbors south of the border,” Nutt said. “We want them to know us by name and have a trust in us. We want to take every opportunity to show off our peanut crops and prove to potential buyers that farmers are doing everything in their power to produce the highest quality, best tasting peanut possible.”
While in Mexico, the group heard a presentation on Mexican markets and their key customers and was hosted on several tours of peanut manufacturing factories, including Coca-Cola-owned Bokados in Monterrey, and the Galdisa and Sabritas facilities in Mexico City. The next harvest tour for Mexican manufactureres was planned for South Texas.
Shellers participating in the program must sign a Memorandum of Understanding signifying their compliance with all the regulations of USDA and the Food and Drug Administration plus the EU pre-export regulations. Shellers also agree that EU regulators have the right to audit their facilities and pre-export system at any time. Laboratories have been selected to perform testing.
Howard Valentine, executive director of The Peanut Foundation, says, “This is quite an honor for U.S. peanuts as Origin Certification is approved.”
This amendment to the Peanut Order would add a producer member and alternate from the state of Mississippi, bringing the total number of National Peanut Board seats to 11. The Board currently has a member and alternate from nine major peanut-producing states and one at-large member representing the minor states.
Mississippi is now considered a major peanut-producing state based on a review and verification of the geographical distribution of the production of peanuts. “We are extremely pleased that Mississippi will be joining us, and we look forward to their active participation in setting the vision and objectives of the National Peanut Research and Promotion Board,” said Wes Shannon, 2008 Board Chairman.
The comment period on the rule closed April 21.