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Update on Key Issues

00:00AM Oct 24, 2008

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Executive summary of this business of agriculture

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

-- Schafer to meet Monday with meat, dairy, poultry groups. As USDA seeks to calm the storm in the wake of comments by USDA Secretary Ed Schafer last week that USDA would utilize a loan guarantee program to help ethanol plants with financing problems, a development which resulted in heavy criticism from meat, poultry and dairy group officials, I have learned that Schafer will meet Monday with the CEOs of the industry groups which sent him a letter on the topic earlier this week.

-- It took a long time, but former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan finally admitted he made mistakes. In comments before a Congressional committee on Thursday, Greenspan said he was "shocked" by the current market crisis, calling it a "once-in-a-century credit tsunami." He admitted there was apparently a "flaw" in his market ideology and that he was "partially" wrong for opposing regulation of credit derivatives, but said it is unreasonable to "expect perfection in any area where forecasting is required," adding that a 60 percent success rate at forecasting would be exceptional.

Perspective: Greenspan was the Fed's chairman during both the Savings and Loans crisis of the late 1980s, early 1990s, and during the start of the current financial system crisis. This has me to say in my speeches that Greenspan was both the arsonist and the fireman in trying to contain the damage begun during his helm at the Federal Reserve.

-- SEC, CFTC merger? Christopher Cox, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said during testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday that he “strongly” supported a merger between his agency and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), according to Reuters. He said the “long-running turf battle” between the two agencies “is one of the reasons that credit default swaps aren’t regulated.
But some CFTC officials contend a merger isn't as simple as it seems as the two agencies really have two different focuses. CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton, a Democrat, said there is "logical strength" to Cox's idea. But because the agencies have different mandates -- the SEC, to protect investors, and the CFTC, to regulate the futures market -- "the issue of merger is not so simple," Chilton said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

-- Bush administration to renew illegal immigration crackdown. The Bush administration in its final weeks “will revive a stalled crackdown on U.S. companies that hire illegal immigrants, issuing a new regulation and asking a federal judge to lift a ban on the measure, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced" Thursday, the Washington Post reported.

Impact: If the court agrees, the government could begin mailing notices to 140,000 employers regarding suspect Social Security numbers used by an estimated 8.7 million workers, pressuring businesses to either resolve discrepancies or fire workers within 90 days, the Post reported.

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.