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READ the NAFB’s National Ag News as heard inside the BARN for March 14th…

Posted by Brian Allmer on March 14, 2013

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Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

“Hagen Addresses Furloughs at Subcommittee Hearing”

Speaking to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture Wednesday – USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen explained that furloughs would be unavoidable under the projected sequestration scenario. She emphasized that all FSIS employees will be affected – not just frontline inspectors. Hagen said restricting furloughs to non-frontline personnel wouldn’t generate a large enough cut to meet the projected sequestration target of 52.8-million dollars. Therefore – she said the current plan is for all employees – including federal meat inspectors – to be furloughed for 11 days. According to Hagen – FSIS will furlough all employees at once for industry fairness.

Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt of Alabama expressed hope that the challenges of sequestration could be met in a reasonable and responsible way – while minimizing the impact on frontline inspectors and industry. But Hagen said USDA lawyers have examined the meat inspection and sequester statutes and found no alternative to the furloughs planned. Reminded that FSIS has kept inspectors on the job during government shutdowns – Hagen said this situation is different. She said Congress doesn’t plan to provide the agency the money that has been sequestered for this year – and is planning to maintain the cuts in future years. Hagen said the furloughs will result in an enormous economic disruption – but said food safety is not an issue since meat that hasn’t been inspected can’t be sold.

“Vilsack Continues to Argue Congress Holds the Keys to Avoiding Sequester Furloughs”

USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen echoed what U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack has been saying for some time – furloughs are the only way to accomplish the savings required under sequestration. Lawmakers are not happy with the idea that meat and poultry inspectors will be furloughed. The furloughs will limit or halt meat inspections – which USDA says would result in 10-billion dollars in production losses and more than 400-million dollars in lost wages to employees. Vilsack has said there is still time for Congress and the White House to mitigate the impact of the automatic spending cuts. Hagen reiterated that – telling the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture that she believes Congress can solve the problem. Vilsack says the problem is there is no flexibility to move money around because of the way Congress structured the sequester. He can’t shift money from rural development programs – for example – to avoid cuts in food safety. Without much optimism Congress will act to prevent the department from implementing its cuts – Vilsack says he must prepare to make them. He says furloughs are the only way to find the projected FSIS reduction of 52-million dollars.

“Senators Take Steps to Avert Furloughs”

Missouri Senator Roy Blunt has introduced an amendment that would provide the Obama Administration with the flexibility to ensure essential federal employees continue to provide vital services – including meat inspections. Nebraska Senators Mike Johanns and Deb Fischer are cosponsoring the amendment. Johanns says the legislation gives agency and department heads the flexibility the President asked for so there would be no excuse for essential services to be the first things on the chopping block. The amendment would apply identical language used during occurrences of inclement weather or other government shutdowns to the sequestration spending reductions at each agency. Essential employees are defined as those that perform work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property, as determined by the head of the agency. The amendment provides agencies with funding flexibility so fiscal responsibility is maintained but essential services are not cut. The transfers can only be made within agencies and may not occur for any purpose other than keeping essential employees from facing furloughs.


“Coalition Worried Senate CR Rider Could Harm Poultry Farmers”

A coalition is urging opposition to a policy rider in the Senate version of the Fiscal Year 2013 Continuing Resolution that would rescind regulations that help ensure fair markets for poultry growers. A letter to Senate Appropriation Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski and Ranking Member Richard Shelby requests the removal of the policy rider. According to the letter – the gross mistreatment of poultry growers has been widely reported and the USDA regulations respond directly to the directives from the 2008 Farm Bill requiring USDA to address the most egregious of these abuses. It goes on to note that those rules – which are now in effect – would be rescinded by the CR now pending in the Senate.

National Farmers Union signed the letter. The group has long supported better enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act in order to ensure farmers and ranchers have access to fair prices that aren’t manipulated by packers and processors. NFU President Roger Johnson says concentration has left poultry and livestock markets uncompetitive. If the rider is included in the Senate’s continuing resolution – he says poultry farmers – who have suffered the most from the lack of competitive markets – will be hurt even more.


“Management of National Forest System Examined by Ag Subcommittee”

The House Ag Subcommittee on Conservation held a public hearing on the management of the National Forest System and how this management affects rural communities. The decline of timber harvests, how sequestration could impact USDA goals to increase annual timber harvests and other restoration efforts, the possibility of sequestration resulting in the closure of recreation sites, fire threats and invasive species were among the issues discussed.

Subcommittee Chair Glenn Thompson said the National Forest System is currently threatened by land mismanagement, invasive species outbreaks, endless litigation against productive land use and other problems that result in fewer jobs, more fire-prone forests and communities struggling to make ends meet. He said Wednesday’s hearing brought together forestry stakeholders to identify obstacles to a stronger National Forest management system and ways to expand rural job creation through healthier and more productive forests. Witnesses on the second panel said more aggressive management practices are necessary to improve forest management and rural job creation.

Ranking Member Timothy Walz said the discussion was robust and bipartisan. Walz said his focus is on ensuring federal funding for state and private forestry is well-spent and that our national forests are managed in a way that meets the multiple-use mission of the Forest Service.


“FAO Hopes to Capture Better Picture of Hunger with Pilot Project”

In an effort to capture a more timely and precise picture of hunger around the world – the U.S. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will soon begin testing a new way of measuring food security. The new approach relies on gathering information on the extent and severity of hunger with a carefully-designed annual survey. The initiative – known as the Voices of the Hungry Project – will be tested on a pilot basis in Angola, Ethiopia, Malawi and Niger. Eventually the FAO – in collaboration with the polling firm Gallup – plans to extend the survey to more than 160-thousand respondents in up to 150 countries. Through a set of eight questions – the survey will establish a respondent’s position on a scale from mild to severe food insecurity. The FAO’s Jomo Sundaram says this innovative method will be an essential tool for governments, civil society and other national and international organizations in the fight against hunger.


“Corn Growers Could See Benefits of Strip-Till Systems”

DuPont Pioneer agronomy research suggests strip-till systems combine many of the best aspects of no-till and conventional tillage systems. For corn following corn – strip-till can help improve seedbed uniformity and reduce plant-to-plant variability compared to no-till. Compared to no-till systems – DuPont Pioneer notes strip tillage encourages more favorable soil temperature, moisture and aeration conditions for germinating seeds and seedling plants – which can improve crop establishment and early season performance. With strip-till it’s also possible to place fertilizers directly into the root zone – away from crop residues that could otherwise intercept or immobilize nutrients. Strip-till also provides conservation and efficiency benefits over conventional tillage practices. By leaving the interrow untilled – crop residues are retained on the soil surface – providing increased erosion resistance and organic inputs. In comparison to conventional tillage – strip-till also can reduce field passes and input costs.

In order to successfully implement strip-till – it is important to consider field selection, tillage timing and strip placement. According to DuPont Pioneer – guidance systems and strip-till units with parallel linkage help ensure accurate seed placement and consistent depth control.

More information – including the four most common types of strip-till systems – is available at www dot pioneer dot com (


“Deeper Roots Help Plants Handle Drought Stress”

Many states are still experiencing the effects of last season’s drought and farmers are looking for ways to help mitigate risk as they head into planting season. A root comparison study conducted at Monsanto’s Gothenburg Water Utilization Learning Center showed the benefits of deeper root systems. An incorporated root dig revealed the featured DEKALB product to have a significantly deeper, more evenly spread root structure than competitive products. DEKALB drought-tolerant corn plants have deep, strong root structures that allow the plants to reach crucial moisture locked within the subsoil. According to Michael Peterson – lead agronomist with a tillage and earth-moving company that participated in the root dig excavation – more water and more nutrients are contained from 30 to 80 inches below ground. He says deeper roots can help plants withstand lengthy drought stress. He says DEKALB brand has been a leader in the development of what’s going on below ground – so they can produce 700 to 800 kernels per ear.

Corn farmers in areas where drought conditions range from severe to exceptional can look forward to deeper roots and strong yields with Monsanto’s latest tool for combating drought stress – DEKALB Genuity DroughtGard Hybrids. DEKALB will lead the stewarded commercial introduction of new Genuity DroughtgGard Hybrids this season. These hybrids combine the DEKALB brand’s drought-tolerant genetics with the industry’s first drought-tolerant biotech trait and agronomic practices. During the 2012 season – Genuity DroughtGard Hybrids experienced strong performance in trials – with commercial products showing a yield advantage of more than five-bushels per acre over competitor hybrids.

Monsanto’s Gothenburg Learning Center Agronomist Mark Reiman says the root dig demonstrated the superiority of DEKALB drought-tolerant genetics. He says combining those breeding genetics with the new drought-tolerant biotech trait in DroughtGard Hybrids will mean the potential for even more powerful yield protection for DEKALB farmers in 2013.

For more information on the root dig – visit www dot dekalb dot com slash rootdig ( For more information about DEKALB – farmers can contact their local dealer or visit www dot DEKALB dot com (

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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