SFNToday Headlines Tuesday March 13

Peterson: House Ag Plans Farm Bill Mark up Soon

Ranking House Agriculture Committee Democrat Collin Peterson says the committee plans to mark up the farm bill on March 20th, but a revolt over food stamp provisions could stop the bill from moving forward. The Hagstrom Report says Peterson and Committee Chairman Mike Conaway had “hit an impasse” regarding the nutrition title, and a spokesperson for Conaway could not confirm the March 20th mark up date. Conaway’s office does say that moving the bill forward by the end of the first quarter of 2018 “remains the goal,” adding that the Chairman’s staff is “working closely” with those across the aisle to “try and get there.” Peterson said the Republican proposal regarding nutrition is similar to what killed the current farm bill the first time it came to the House floor in 2013. Meanwhile, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts says the Senate will not make any significant changes to the bill. The Senate is expected to consider it’s version of the bill in committee next month.

 

Hartzler Introduces Legislation to Address Broadband in Farm Bill

Republican U.S. House member Vicky Hartzler of Missouri is seeking to include rural broadband in the next farm bill. Monday, Hartzler introduced the Expanding Rural Access to Broadband Act, which she says would make necessary changes to existing Rural Utilities Telecommunications programs to ensure rural Americans aren’t left behind in the digital age. Hartzler says she plans to work with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway to include the legislation in the next farm bill, which is expected to be released soon. Hartzler serves on the House Agriculture Committee, which oversees the Rural Utilities Service. The bill would modify the Rural Utilities Telecommunications loan program to include loan guarantees, find ways to incentivize private investment, streamline loan applications and raise statute baseline speeds for broadband deployment. Current law sets a minimum standard speed of four megabits per second download and one megabit per second upload, and this bill would increase the baseline to 25 megabits per second download and three megabits per second upload.
USDA Finalizing Organic Livestock Rule Withdrawal

The Department of Agriculture Monday announced the formal process to withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule. Published January 19th last year, the last-minute Obama-era rule would have increased federal regulation of livestock and poultry for certified organic producers and handlers, according to USDA. The withdrawal becomes effective May 13th, 2018. Following review last year, USDA claims the rule exceeds the federal agency’s statutory authority, and that the changes to the existing organic regulations could have a negative effect on voluntary participation in the National Organic Program. USDA Marketing and Regulatory Program Undersecretary Greg Ibach (eye-bah) said in the announcement that existing organic livestock and poultry regulations are “robust” and “effective.” According to USDA reports for 2017, the number of certified organic operations increased domestically by seven percent and globally by 11 percent. Industry estimates show that organic sales in the United States reached almost $47 billion in 2016, reflecting an increase of almost $3.7 billion since 2015.

 

Early Stage Ag Tech Investments Up 29 Percent

Investments in the early stages of agricultural technology in 2017 increased 29 percent, compared to 2016. AgFunder, a self-proclaimed online investment marketplace for agricultural technology, reports early stage investment in agriculture tech startups reached $10.1 billion in 2017, up 29 percent. The increase reverses a downward trend seen in 2016, when agriculture tech investing dropped nine percent to $7.8 billion from $8.6 billion in 2015. AgFunder announced the figures through its AgTech Investing Reports. The reports say large funding agreements pushed the total investment volume up, but a number of agreements fell by 17 percent to 949. Meanwhile, AgFunder says the investor base participating in agriculture tech deals continued to diversify with 1,048 unique investors participating during 2017, including Silicon Valley venture firms, state-backed government funds, pension funds, corporate entities, as well as the growing number of agriculture tech specialists.
Commodity Classic Attendance Tops 8,000

Attendance to the 2018 Commodity Classic in Anaheim, California topped 8,000 guests. Convention organizers say included in the preliminary number of 8,055 registered in Anaheim were a record number of non-exhibitor first-time attendees, at 1,553. More than 3,600 farmers from across the nation and beyond attended the event, along with more than 150 media representatives. The event featured more than 40 educational sessions, along with a keynote address by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Commodity Classic co-chair Paul Taylor of Illinois says organizers were “very pleased” with attendance. Established in 1996, Commodity Classic is presented by the American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Sorghum Producers and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. The 2019 Commodity Classic will take place February 28th to March 2nd in Orlando, Florida.