Information from the 2011 Farm Journal Forum will be posted throughout the week. Here are some of the key takeaways from the daylong political discussion in Washington, D.C.
- Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) hinted at some of the key proposals submitted to the budget supercommittee from leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. Among the things she revealed:
- The cuts submitted equate to about 2% of the $1.2 trillion the budget supercommittee was asked to come up with. USDA’s budget accounts for about 2% of the total federal budget.
- The committees will fight any cuts that go beyond that because they feel that is only fair.
- The committees are willing to sacrifice direct payments to landowners, but they will not waiver on risk management programs like crop insurance.
- Senate Ranking Republican Pat Roberts of Kansas is not comfortable with the final submission of the farm bill to the budget supercommittee because he has not seen what was submitted.
- Collin Peterson, the Ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, will submit a bill, likely today, that will prohibit futures clearing houses from using money in customer accounts to cover their own investments, which has led to frozen assets in customer margin accounts after the Oct. 31 bankruptcy filing by MF Global.
- Howard Buffett, president of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, in his keynote address said food security in the U.S. is a bigger problem than most people realize.
- Buffett says there are a billion people in the world who go to bed hungry every night, and another 2 billion who are on the edge of hunger and poverty.
- Hunger in the U.S. is very prevalent, with more than 50 million Americans not knowing where they will get their next meal.
- Buffett challenged agriculture to take better care of soils, saying that 23 million acres of productive farmland have been lost in the past 60 years.
- The third issue Buffett addressed was the degrading workforce in agriculture, issuing a challenge to address the migrant worker debate taking place in America.
- Informa Economics Chair and CEO Bruce Scherr believes the U.S. economy is improving and he predicts the unemployment rate will fall below 8% by election day 2012 and President Obama will be reelected.
- Jim Weisemeyer, Informa Economics policy analyst, says it is likely the next farm bill will be completed in 2012.
- Extending the farm bill past its expiration in September 2012 will cost $10 billion, putting pressure on Congress to pass a new bill.
- May is the key month for a finished farm bill. If it is not completed by May, he says, the political atmosphere will make the bill impossible to pass before the elections.