READ the NAFB’s National Ag News as heard inside the BARN for Thu, Jan 16th…

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“Spending Measure Approved by the House

The House passed a 1.1-trillion dollar spending bill by a vote of 359 to 67 yesterday (Wednesday). This agreement restores federal spending levels set during the final years of the George W. Bush Administration – and also restores nearly 20-billion dollars of funding to the Pentagon budget – while mandating more spending cuts at domestic agencies. The measure now will move to the Senate – and is expected to be passed easily before going to President Obama to be signed.


“Brazilian Cotton Growers Leave Washington Without Much Optimism”

Even if Congress does get the farm bill done this month – Brazilian cotton producers aren’t convinced the legislation will comply with World Trade Organization rules against trade-distorting subsidies. At the end of a visit to Washington – the President of the Brazilian Cotton Growers Association told reporters they did not see sufficient effort to make the new farm bill comply. Brazil previously challenged U.S. cotton subsidies at the WTO and won. The U.S. was making payments to the Brazilian Cotton Institute – but those payments stopped when Congress failed to pass a farm bill to fund the payments. Brazil’s growers say they want to resolve the dispute amicably – but sanctions loom if the farm bill doesn’t pass soon or fails to meet WTO rules. According to former Brazilian Secretary of Development, Industry and Trade Welber Oliveira – who was part of the delegation to the U.S. – they are in the position where there are no options left but retaliation. Just last month – Brazil’s Trade Ministry announced it would start a series of public consultations it described as a preparatory act for an eventual retaliation. The Ministry said a work group is preparing a list of possible measures to implement and will complete its preparations by the end of February.

Brazil’s cotton growers group and the U.S. National Cotton Council developed a joint proposal to resolve the standoff. In a May 2013 letter to the U.S. Trade Representative and USDA – the two groups called for a formula-based loan program for upland cotton producers, voluntary revenue insurance and more cooperation between U.S. and Brazilian industry groups.


“USMEF Chair Looks for Action on TPA, Farm Bill”

U.S. Meat Export Federation President and CEO Philip Seng spoke in favor of the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act introduced in Congress last week – so it likely comes as no surprise that USMEF Chairman Mark Jagels supports the measure. Jagels says extension of trade promotion authority is especially critical as U.S. negotiators attempt to complete work on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and engage in Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership talks with the European Union. Jagels also hopes to see action soon on the farm bill. The House and Senate versions of the farm bill include funding for the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development program. Both are important to the work USMEF does to develop international markets for the U.S. red meat industry. Both programs have strong bipartisan support in Congress – but funding can’t move forward without farm bill action.


“EPA Will Have to Report on Aerial Surveillance”

Thanks to a provision in the omnibus appropriations package – Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns says the Environmental Protection Agency will have to reveal details about its aerial surveillance program. The provision requires EPA to give a full account – including where the flyovers took place, how much they cost and how many were conducted. Johanns first asked questions about the agency’s use of aerial surveillance to monitor ag operations in 2012. He says EPA has done nothing but try to keep these flyovers in the shadows. Johanns says it’s unfortunate Congress had to step in. The omnibus clarifying report language requires EPA to submit a report with data from fiscal year 2003 to fiscal year 2013 to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees within 180 days of enactment of the Act. They must identify the amount of funding spent to contract for aerial over-flights, the contractor performing the work, the number of flights performed, geographical areas (county and State) that the contracted flights surveyed, and data that identifies by fiscal year the number of enforcement actions where aerial survey information was utilized as contributing evidence, and the outcome of each action.


“New Study Shows Carbon Footprint of Corn Ethanol Shrinking”

According to a new study conducted by Life Cycle Associates and commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Association – the carbon footprint of corn ethanol continues to shrink – while the carbon impacts associated with crude oil production continue to worsen as more marginal sources are introduced to the fuel supply. The study found that average corn ethanol reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 32-percent compared to average petroleum in 2012. This estimate includes prospective emissions from indirect land use change for corn ethanol. When compared to marginal petroleum sources like tight oil from fracking and oil sands – average corn ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 37 to 40-percent. By 2022 – the study found average corn ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 43 to 60-percent compared to petroleum.

The study also reveals fundamental flaws with the GHG analysis conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency for the expanded Renewable Fuel Standard regulations. The analysis shows corn ethanol was already reducing GHG emissions by 21-percent compared to gasoline in 2005. The EPA analysis assumes corn ethanol GHG reductions won’t reach that point until 2022. In addition – EPA’s analysis implicitly assumes the carbon intensity of crude oil will be the same in 2022 as it was in 2005 – a presumption already disproven. According to the authors of the study – as unconventional sources of crude oil have grown in recent years – the carbon intensity of petroleum fuels has increased above the levels initially identified in the RFS.

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen says biofuel critics and some regulatory agencies are stuck in the past when it comes to the carbon footprint of ethanol. He says we don’t have to wait until 2022 for corn ethanol to deliver on its promise to reduce GHG emissions. Using the latest data and modeling tools – Dinneen says this study shows corn ethanol has significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector since enactment of the original RFS in 2005. Further – he notes the report shows ethanol’s GHG performance will continue to improve and diverge with crude oil sources that only get dirtier as time goes on. When ethanol is appropriately compared to the unconventional petroleum sources it is replacing at the margin – Dinneen says the GHG benefits are even more obvious. RFA is urging EPA officials to closely examine this new information and make good on the commitment to ensure the RFS regulations are based on the latest data and best available science.

[A three-page summary of the study is available here:]


“In Ranking of World Food Systems, U.S. Lands in 21st Place”

 A report released this week by Oxfam ranks the food systems of 125 countries according to the metrics of food quality, abundance of food, affordability of food and eating habits of citizens. Despite affordable prices and high food quality – the U.S. tied with Japan for 21st place. High diabetes and obesity rates brought down the U.S. score – ranking it behind 20 European countries and Australia. The Netherlands ranked first – followed by France and Switzerland in a tie for second. The U.S. tied with Australia for fourth in terms of food quality – beaten by Iceland, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The U.S. had the best score for affordability of food. But in the unhealthy eating category – only five nations scored worse than the U.S.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service