Disaster Package Added to Jobs Bill
A 1.5-billion dollar bipartisan disaster package has been added to the American Workers, State, and Business Relief Act which could be voted on in the Senate yet this week. The package, if passed, will provide assistance for farmers affected by heavy rains, floods and other weather-related disasters.
Poultry Welfare Guidelines Updated
The National Chicken Council made changes in its animal welfare guidelines and audit checklist. The revisions were recommended by a task force of industry veterinarians and other experts and approved by the NCC executive committee and board of directors.
NCGA Asks Agriculture to Help Set the Record Straight on Food Inc.
Before this Sunday’s Oscars - the National Corn Growers Association is calling on its grower members and industry friends to get the truth about the documentary film Food Inc. The movie - which NCGA says is filled with lies, factual inaccuracies and misrepresentations about America’s farmers and food suppliers - is nominated for Best Documentary.
Dollars Released to Improve Electric Service
USDA Rural Development's Electric Loan Program will make it possible for more rural residents to enjoy more reliable electricity. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says 29 rural utilities and cooperatives in 16 states have been selected to receive loans and loan guarantees. The Halifax Electric Membership Corporation in Enfield, North Carolina will receive a 6.5-million dollar loan to provide automated meter reading and repair nearly 70 miles of distribution lines.
Top USDA Officials Defend 2011 Budget
The top two officials at the Agriculture Department pitched the President’s 2011 budget priorities for USDA to the Senate Ag Appropriations Subcommittee. Secretary Tom Vilsack and Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan fielded questions from panel members for 90 minutes on topics ranging from food stamps to biofuels.
Calling renewable energy a critical component to revitalizing rural America -Vilsack indicated that EPA would make a decision on higher ethanol blends relatively soon going on to explain that they are in the process of working with the Department of Energy in a series of tests that are being conducted on a variety of engines. Early tests are showing that in newer vehicles E15 will work without significant problems, but in older vehicles that’s a bit of a issue-- they’re working on finding exactly where that cutoff point is.
The USDA chief defended the Administration’s plan to reduce the administrative and operating subsidy paid to the 15 companies that sell crop insurance to farmers - explaining that agents are paid on the value of the policy as opposed to the number of policies they sell, and the companies have done pretty well, getting about a 16% return on their investment.
So, what we’re proposing is a change that would adjust the A&O so that agents would be paid on the number of policies they sell, the reality is that most bankers require crop insurance as a condition of loan, so it’s not all that difficult to sell this product. Then on the profit side and we feel that a 12% return is a fair return, and so there’s a slight adjustment.
Vilsack pledged to use some of the projected 6.9-billion dollars in savings to make crop insurance a more attractive risk management option for farmers in underserved areas of the country.