Net farm income is estimated to reach a record of $100.9 billion this year. According to USDA's latest report, "Farm Income and Costs: 2011 Farm Sector Income Forecast," the projection is 28% higher than net farm income last year. The report estimates that crop receipts will rise over 16% in 2011, while livestock receipts are expected to rise nearly 17%. Cash receipts for corn are estimated at $60 billion, a 34% increase over 2010, while oil crops will reach $38 billion, an 8% increase. Cash receipts for pork are estimated at $39.4 billion and cattle at $62.3 billion. Total production expenses for 2011 are expected to reach a record $320 billion. Government payments paid directly to producers are expected to total $10.6 billion in 2011, which is a 14.4% decrease from 2010 payments. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, "A strong U.S. agricultural economy means more opportunities for small business owners and jobs for folks who package, ship and market agricultural products. Our farmers and ranchers have worked hard to keep their debt low and to capitalize on a broader economic recovery. Their willingness to adapt, innovate and embrace new research and technologies have ensured their success and can be a blueprint for the rest of the country's economic recovery."

Coalition Asks Congress to Review Renewable Fuel Standard — A coalition of hunger organizations, agricultural groups and environmental groups are asking the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to hold a hearing on the impacts of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) on the environment, food price volatility and the economy. In a letter to the committee, the coalition said, "The RFS is failing to achieve its intended goals of bringing about truly environmetnally and economically sustainable alternative transportation fuels, while mandating massive volumes of harmful fuels like corn ethanol." Those signing the letter included Freedom Action, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Milk Producers Council, Oxfam America, Public Citizen and state dairy groups from New Mexico, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

Congress Returns to Unfinished Business — Congress has a number of items to complete by the end of the year. There are nine remaining FY '12 appropriations bills that need to be completed by Dec. 16. The agriculture appropriations bill was signed into law by President Obama in November. A key issue for the Senate Democratic leadership is a renewal of the payroll tax cut. If this provision is not extended, it is estimated the average family would pay an additional $900 in federal taxes, annually. Extending federal unemployment compensation will also be considered. There are a number of expiring tax provisions that are important to business, such as the research and development tax break, which need to be addressed by the end of the year. The Senate is expected to vote on the House-passed balanced-budget amendment before the end of the year.

Meat Industry Injury and Illness Rates Record Low — The Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest report shows that the meat industry’s workplace injury and illness rates remain at a record low. Total recordable injury and illness rates for 2010 were at 6.9 cases per 100 full-time employees. This compares to a rate of 14.7cases per 100 full-time employees per year 10 years ago.