Agribusiness
Simon: Federal grant expands Link access at farmers’ markets PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Justin Stofferahn   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 13:53
Illinois markets must apply by July 9 for free wireless Link, debit machines

CARBONDALE – June 20, 2012. Up to 150 Illinois farmers’ markets could receive free wireless machines that accept debit, credit and Link cards thanks to a grant partnership announced today by Lt. Governor Sheila Simon, a local food advocate who chairs the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council.

The Illinois Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Wireless Project aims to expand access to fresh produce for low-income residents and boost the sale of locally grown food across the state by enabling farmers markets to accept Illinois Link cards, which access federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, wirelessly at minimal cost for the first time.

The wireless EBT project, funded by a grant of $182,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will be administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Illinois Department of Agriculture with support from the Lt. Governor’s office. The program will reimburse farmers’ markets up to $1,200 for the purchase of a wireless EBT machine and fees for activation and wireless service. Interested markets must apply prior to July 9 and recipients will be announced mid-July.

“Improving access to local food can improve the health of our citizens, our underserved neighborhoods and the state economy,” Simon said. “As a state we spend more than 95 percent of our food dollars on products grown outside of Illinois. This project will ensure we keep more of those dollars in our local communities at no new cost to state taxpayers.”

To be eligible for the wireless EBT grant, a farmers’ market must obtain certification to accept SNAP benefits through the USDA Food and Nutrition Service before seeking reimbursement. Markets that are already certified and own a wireless EBT machine can seek reimbursement as long as their certification and EBT purchase happened after November 18, 2011. The USDA defines farmers’ market as a multi-stall market where farmers sell agriculture products directly to consumers from a central or fixed location.

“This partnership is exciting because it is using technology to enable growers to expand their markets and it helps families get access to affordable, healthy, locally grown produce,” said DHS Secretary Michelle R.B. Saddler.

Markets will be provided community kits developed by the Lt. Governor’s office and the Department of Agriculture that will include training and promotional materials. A training webinar will also be held on the afternoon of Wednesday, June 27 that will be recorded and available online.

“I thank the USDA for recognizing the importance of expanding access to nutritious, locally-grown foods and providing this funding,” said Acting Agriculture Director Bob Flider. “Lt. Governor Simon recognizes that this important USDA program will help consumers make food choices that improve not only their health, but also the health of the local farm economy. The program is a win-win all the way around.”

Illinois’ wireless EBT project is part of a $4 million nationwide effort by the USDA to increase SNAP use at farmers’ markets. SNAP sales at Illinois farmers’ markets totaled nearly $70,000 in 2011, an increase of over 522 percent since 2009. The number of farmers’ markets and direct-marketing farmers certified to accept SNAP benefits has increased from 35 in 2009 to 49 in 2011.

“This funding will help Illinois SNAP customers increase their opportunities to access healthy, local foods,” said USDA Food and Nutrition Service Midwest Regional Administrator Ollice Holden. “And evidence suggests they will take advantage of that access. When we couple this approach with strategies like the education, cooking demonstrations, and community support often found at farmers markets, consumption of healthy foods should rise even more.”

Southern Illinois University Carbondale will use monthly sales data and market surveys to study and measure the impact wireless EBT machines and SNAP accessibility have on overall sales at farmers’ markets and will release findings at the end of 2013 or early 2014. Grant recipients who see a benefit can keep the wireless EBT machines, but must absorb the wireless service costs after the project is complete in September 2013 or when their $1,200 grant is expended. Minimal customer service and transaction fees will not be reimbursed by the grant.

To apply for the Illinois EBT Wireless Project or sign up for the webinar training, please click here, visit www.agr.state.il.us or call 217-524-9129.

 
34 senators urge President to addreess ag export issue with Russia PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Grassley Press   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 13:11

WASHINGTON – June 20, 2012 - Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ben Nelson of Nebraska today released a letter asking President Obama to prioritize Russia’s compliance with scientific standards set for international trade of for beef, pork and poultry products as part of negotiations with Russia over international trade relations.

“As we look to possibly grant Permanent Normal Trade Relations to Russia as part of the WTO accession process, livestock producers in the United States needs the President to give attention to sanitary and phytosanitary issues,” Grassley said.  “As it stands, Russians have standards that simply aren’t supported by science for some U.S. meat and poultry exports.”

“Nebraska livestock producers have seen a drop in sales from Russia imposing standards not based entirely on sound science,” Nelson said. “Russia’s restrictions on American livestock violate the WTO rules, and we must have assurances Russia will abide by all of its rules and standards before Russia joins the WTO.”

On Thursday, the Finance Committee will hold a hearing on Permanent Normal Trade Relations for Russia.  Grassley, a former chairman of the committee, said he will ask questions of administration officials about Russia’s treatment of U.S. agricultural goods.

The text of the Grassley-Nelson letter is below.  The following 32 senators joined them in signing the letter:  Mark Kirk of Illinois, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, John Thune of South Dakota, Al Franken of Minnesota, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Michael Bennett of Colorado, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Kay Hagan of North Dakota, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Mark Udall of Colorado, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Richard Durbin of Illinois, Dan Coats of Indiana, Orrin Hatch of Utah, John Boozman of Arkansas, and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma.

 

Click here to see a signed copy of the letter.

 

June 19, 2012

President Barack H. Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C.  20500

 

Dear President Obama:

As Congress is faced with a decision of whether or not we grant Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) to Russia, there are a number of issues left to be resolved.  However, we want to raise a particular issue with you that is important to U.S. farmers and ranchers.  Among the outstanding issues yet to be addressed adequately is Russia’s failure to bring its practices into compliance with unambiguous WTO sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards with respect to imports of meat and poultry products from the United States.

We know you understand the importance of beef, pork, and poultry to the U.S. and Russia trade relationship.  Last year, U.S. meat and poultry exports collectively ranked second only to aircraft engines in total U.S. export value to Russia.  We appreciate our trade officials’ efforts in obtaining strong tariff and quota access provisions from Russia in the accession talks.

However, U.S. meat and poultry exports have been steadily falling in recent years due to Russia’s non-science based sanitary measures.  Russia’s restrictions are numerous and range from the unjustifiable de-listing of U.S. meat processing facilities to arbitrary SPS actions that lack scientific justification to limit or even halt poultry and meat imports.  Judging by Russia’s past and current practices on SPS issues, we lack confidence that Russia will all of a sudden treat U.S. pork and poultry products equitably upon entry into the WTO.  Furthermore, while U.S. beef does not currently face the challenges U.S. pork and poultry are dealing with, given Russia’s track record on U.S. pork and poultry, we have little reason to believe U.S. beef won’t eventually face its own issues with non-science based SPS measures instituted by Russian officials.

Officials in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Department of Agriculture are well acquainted with the Russian measures we are referring to, and they appreciate the fact Russia’s approach is not supported by science.  Our trade officials must keep up the pressure on Russia to lower these non-science based SPS barriers, and urge Russia to take these steps prior to formal entry into the WTO.  If we are not able to adequately address the SPS issues, it will undermine the commitments we obtained on tariffs and quotas.

We ask that you direct our trade officials to continue every effort to obtain firm, science-based commitments from Russia on the outstanding SPS issues prior to their formal entry into the WTO.  The commitments we are asking for from Russia are reasonable and achievable and are within the scope of the type of commitments made to the United States by both China and Vietnam in the context of their accessions to the WTO.  In addition, we urge you to address these issues with President Putin at your earliest opportunity.

We hope you will agree every effort should be made to lower these unjustifiable barriers hurting U.S. farmers, and that it should happen prior to Russia’s formal entry into the WTO.  We stand behind our farmers and products they produce, and they deserve to be treated equitably by our trading partners.  While this is only one of many issues that needs to be addressed by Russia, it is a key issue. If it were resolved in a satisfactory manner it would certainly be a crucial step forward in our trade relationship with Russia.

Sincerely,

Chuck Grassley

Ben Nelson

Mark Kirk

Tom Harkin

Jeff Sessions

Claire McCaskill

Richard Burr

Amy Klobuchar

John Thune

Al Franken

Jon Kyl

Sherrod Brown

Pat Roberts

Michael Bennett

Mike Johanns

Herb Kohl

Tom Coburn

Joe Manchin

Richard Lugar

Debbie Stabenow

Mike Enzi

Kay Hagan

Roy Blunt

Mark Udall

Jerry Moran

Tim Johnson

Saxby Chambliss

Mark Pryor

John Hoeven

Richard Durbin

Dan Coats

Orrin Hatch

John Boozman

Jim Inhofe

-30-

 
Senate approves Grassley amendment to farm bill PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Richard Martin   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 08:26
WASHINGTON - During debate this afternoon on the 2012 farm bill, senators voted 75 to 24 for Senator Chuck Grassley's amendment to cap marketing loan gains (amendment #2167).

"We should have caps on Title I commodity programs, and this amendment sets hard cap of $75,000 on marketing loan gains," Grassley said.  "The reform will help to bring about more defensibility for the farm program, along with the other reforms I worked to get in the legislation during committee consideration."

Grassley is a longtime advocate of limits on farm program payments to keep the program focused on small and mid-sized farmers.

 
Soy Checkoff-Funded Video Series Helps Boost Production, Profit Potential PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by United Soybean Board   
Tuesday, 19 June 2012 13:03
Focus on Soybeans” webcasts provide farmers the latest news on production research

ST. LOUIS (June 19, 2012) – To make the most of every acre, U.S. soybean farmers need the latest production research and management information. One thing that can help them get it is the soy checkoff-funded “Focus on Soybeans” webcast series. And with the new, quicker summary versions, U.S. soybean farmers can get the latest information they can use on the farm in five minutes or less.

“The webcasts provide valuable information to help soybean farmers better manage pests, diseases and other crop stresses,” says Jimmy Sneed United Soybean Board (USB) communications chair and Hernando, Miss., soybean farmer. “They also bring to U.S. soybean farmers new developments in production practices, irrigation management, seeding rates, seed-quality preservation and others that are included in the series, too.”

Now the webcasts are available in a shorter format. And although that provides more convenience for some farmers, the full-length versions, which include a lot more science-related information, still remain available for soybean farmers who prefer the longer format.

The webcast series, developed by Plant Management Network (PMN) in partnership with the soy checkoff, feature updates on applied and practical soybean research projects. On the last Monday of each month, the soy checkoff posts new webcasts to www.UnitedSoybean.org, accessible via the “Focus on Soybeans” sign on the homepage. All U.S. soybean farmers have free access to the full-length webcasts for two months. The five-minute summary versions will be accessible at all times.

“We are pleased to work with the USB and the soy checkoff on this effort to help U.S. farmers, crop consultants and others to manage their soybean crops more profitably,” says Greg Tylka, Ph.D., professor and extension specialist at Iowa State University and chair of the Focus on Soybeans editorial committee. “Through this convenient, practical outlet, we provide research-based crop production and protection information to help U.S. farmers increase soybean yields in this growing season and beyond.” PMN serves as an Internet-based resource owned and operated by the American Phytopathological Society and jointly managed by the American Society of Agronomy and the Crop Science Society of America. The website can be accessed at www.PlantManagementNetwork.org.

“With cuts in resources such as extension, it becomes increasingly important that farmers have other resources to turn to help us boost our production,” says Sneed. “That boost in production can help increase the profitability of every U.S. soybean farmer, which has always been a goal of the soy checkoff.”

The soy checkoff has funded “Focus on Soybeans” since 2010, providing access to 12 webcasts per year.

The 69 farmer-directors of USB oversee the investments of the soy checkoff to maximize profit opportunities for all U.S. soybean farmers. These volunteers invest and leverage checkoff funds to increase the value of U.S. soy meal and oil, to ensure U.S. soybean farmers and their customers have the freedom and infrastructure to operate, and to meet the needs of U.S. soy’s customers. As stipulated in the federal Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soy checkoff.


For more information on the United Soybean Board, visit www.unitedsoybean.org
Visit us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/UnitedSoybeanBoard
Follow us on Twitter: www.twitter.com/unitedsoy
View our YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/user/UnitedSoybeanBoard

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Farm, Rural and Environmental Groups call for Crop Insurance Subsidy Limits PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by John Crabtree   
Monday, 18 June 2012 13:00

Lyons, Nebraska - This week, the Center for Rural Affairs joined four other farm, rural and environmental organizations in signing and sending a letter to every U.S. Senator urging them to place limits on the federal crop insurance premium subsidies granted to individual farmers, establish income limits for subsidy recipients and require that recipients be actively engaged in farming.

“We are a diverse group of organizations united by the belief that responsible farm policy should direct subsidies for crop insurance premiums to farmers who need it,” said Chuck Hassebrook of the Center for Rural Affairs. “And Congress should cap those premium subsidies at levels that do not make it easier for the nation’s largest farms to drive out small, mid-sized and beginning farmers.”

To view or download a full copy of the letter go to: http://files.cfra.org/pdf/crop-insurance-letter.pdf

According to Hassebrook, federal farm spending is dramatically shifting from farm payments to subsidies for crop insurance, with the federal government now paying an average of 60% of premiums. Crop insurance expenditures are more than double traditional farm programs under the proposed new farm bill, with no subsidy limit and no eligibility requirements.

“The result will be an increase in the already excessive subsidies to the nation’s largest farms,” Hassebrook explained.

"In a time when federal dollars are scarce we are sending precious government resources to large and highly profitable agribusinesses while cutting food assistance to needy children and environmental protections for soil, water, and wildlife," said Craig Cox, senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources at Environmental Working Group. "It is simply irresponsible to send unlimited subsidies to farm businesses that can easily afford to pay more of the cost for their crop insurance - 26 mega farms received over a million dollars apiece per year in crop insurance subsidies in 2011.”

The joint letter also explains that capping individual premium subsidies and setting income limits will not deny farmers access to needed risk protection.  And it is important to note that such a policy would not deny or cap insurance payments (indemnities) to farms facing losses.  Rather, it would limit subsidies on the front end for payment of premiums. These subsidies are highest in the best of times because it costs more to insure a crop at market value when its price is high.

“Federal crop insurance is a valuable tool for producers – one which we support.  Farmers need to be able to manage risks of failed crops and low prices to maintain their farms from year to year,” said Chuck Hassebrook of the Center for Rural Affairs. “But the emergence of crop insurance as the primary element of farm policy requires that it be subject to payment limitations and eligibility requirements, just like traditional farm programs.”

 
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