President Barack Obama signed the Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that these three agreements will increase farm exports by $2.3 billion. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, “These agreements will support tens of thousands of jobs here at home, put unemployed Americans back to work, and open new opportunities for American businesses. For America’s farmers and ranchers, the trade agreements are an opportunity to strengthen U.S. agriculture, already a bright spot in our economy.” A coalition of 120 agricultural groups worked for months on the successful passage of these FTAs.

Agriculture Committee Leaders Propose Cuts of $23 Billion - The Senate and House Agriculture Committees are recommending to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction a $23 billion cut in mandatory programs under their jurisdiction. The leaders in a letter to the Select Committee said they are in the process of finalizing policies that will achieve the $23 billion in cuts and will provide a complete legislative package by Nov. 1. They also reminded everyone that commodity program spending represents less than one quarter of one percent of the federal budget and the commodity title of the farm bill is $25 billion below the Congressional Budget Office’s estimates when the 2002 and 2008 farm bills were passed. The letter also reminded the Select Committee that agriculture has already taken cuts. “Crop insurance underwent $6 billion in reductions through the most recent renegotiation of the Standard Reinsurance Agreement, $6 billion in cuts in the last Farm Bill, and $2 billion in cuts in the 2002 Farm Bill – a total of $14 billion in cuts since the passage of the Agriculture Risk Protection Act in 2000. Conservation has been cut by over $3 billion during the last five years. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was cut by nearly $12 billion in the last Congress to offset other spending. In addition, there are 37 programs, totaling nearly $10 billion, which expire and have no baseline into future years.” The letter was signed by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Pat Roberts (R-KS), ranking member, and Congressmen Frank Lucas (R-OK), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and Collin Peterson (D-MN), ranking member. The super committee is to make its recommendations to Congress by Nov. 23, with congressional action by Dec. 23.

More E15 Testing – Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) has introduced H.R. 3199 that would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to seek independent scientific analyses on the effects of E15. EPA would be required through the National Academies to provide a comprehensive assessment of the scientific and technical research on the implications of using mid-level ethanol blends. The evaluation would include the short- and long-term environmental, safety, durability and performance effects of E15 on on-road, off-road and marine engines. Sensenbrenner said, “The EPA’s decision to allow E15 into the marketplace will impact every American who owns a car, lawnmower or boat. Automakers insist that using E15 will void warranties, lower fuel efficiency and cause premature engine failure. In off-road engines, the effects can even be dangerous for user.”

Soaring Pork and Beef Exports – According to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), pork and beef exports hit yearly records in August. Pork exports reached their highest monthly volume for the year at 186,086 metric tons (205,067 tons), with the second-highest value total of $531.2 million. Beef exports established a monthly value record at $514.2 million with a volume of 116,406 metric tons (128,279 tons). USMEF indicates that both pork and beef exports are on pace to set new value records in 2011 surpassing $5 billion for the first time ever.

P. Scott Shearer
Vice President
Bockorny Group
Washington, D.C.