Archives for September 2011

NFU: Senate bill must pass to make trade agreements more fair

Bill would help protect U.S. manufacturing & agriculture from currency manipulation by foreign governments

WASHINGTON (Sept. 30, 2011) – National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson sent a letter to U.S. Senate Leadership today urging them to pass S. 1619, the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act of 2011. The bill would give the U.S. Treasury the authority to enforce existing currency manipulation laws with countries that trade with the U.S.

“The Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act is a comprehensive piece of legislation that uses U.S. trade law to counter the economic harm caused to U.S. farmers, ranchers and manufacturers due to currency manipulation,” said Johnson. “In addition to its 19 cosponsors, S. 1619 is supported by a broad coalition of farm, labor and manufacturing trade organizations and businesses.”

Unbalanced trade agreements have negative effects on the economy. They exacerbate our current trade deficit and cause job losses, which would be damaging to an already fragile economy.

“Before our trade can truly be fair, we need to ensure that all countries are playing by the same rules,” said Johnson. “For example, after signing the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico devalued its currency, wiping out most of the gains U.S. industries achieved in the agreement. This action set a precedent for our other trading partners, which continues today. As our country’s economic downturn continues, we cannot afford to continue to ignore the impact illegal currency manipulation has on the U.S. economy.”


Join the Ohio Farmers Union now through February and NFU will donate $10 to feed America’s hungry

If you are concerned about rural Ohio, America’s family farmers and the quality of the food you eat there are many reasons to join the Ohio Farmers Union. From now until February 29, 2012 you can add helping to end hunger in America.

National Farmers Union and Feeding America have partnered to help fight hunger throughout the United States. According to Feeding America, one in six Americans struggles with hunger, including one-fourth of all children. When you join the Ohio Farmers Union, you are also joining NFU. National Farmers Union has pledged $10 to Feeding America for each new membership through next February.  Additionally, OFU/NFU members’ direct donations to Feeding America qualify for a matching grant provided by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. Existing members should visit Feeding America’s NFU page for information and to donate.

“We are very proud to work with Feeding America to tackle this important issue,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “Now, Farmers Union members can make an even bigger impact. The Howard G. Buffett Foundation has challenged Farmers Union members to raise $50,000 by providing a matching grant. Every dollar donated by Farmers Union members will be matched by the foundation, up to $50,000.”

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Video: Nat Gas boom – busy laundromats & increased homelessness

I spent a few hours at the Farm Science Review at Ohio State University’s Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London last week. Along with OFU President Roger Wise and OFU Executive Director Linda Borton, I attended a panel discussion put on by four OSU faculty members whose research and teaching revolve around rural economics, development and environmental issues. I hope to post, in this space soon, the entirety of the panel discussion after I get a few audio things fixed with the recording.

After the panel, I asked OSU Assistant Prof. Mike Lloyd who is based in Noble County as part of the OSU Extension Service. Lloyd has seen the natural gas boom begin in Ohio with an increase in mineral rights lease activity. Since he and others knew the gas rush was coming, he has also observed what has happened on the other side of the border in Pennsylvania and has spent time talking to local officials there about the economic impacts of the gas industry. Lloyd has also been providing some educational opportunities for eastern Ohio landowners on what to expect from the process of negotiating mineral rights on their land.

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Ag News Update – September 29, 2011 – Fracking, Big Ag, & Other Matters …

Dispatch does in-depth on Ohio natural gas drilling

The Columbus Dispatch has just finished a three-day series on the natural gas boom that is just beginning in Ohio. As politicians are hellbent for jobs at seemingly any cost and friendly representatives from multinational oil and gas corporations knock at rural landowners’ doors, precious few of us are taking a moment to consider the long view regarding the exploitation of the Marcellus and Utica natural gas formations deep below much of the eastern half of Ohio. As evidence that some newspapers are still willing to expend resources on investigative or in-depth coverage of an important issue, the Dispatch has run a series of stories shedding light on the gas industry and its record in other states, what’s happening in Ohio with mineral rights and leasing, the hows and whys of hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking,’ and what oversight (actually, lack thereof) we can expect from state and federal officials.

Click Here for The Columbus Dispatch Series: Deep Pockets – Oil and Gas Deposits in Ohio

Ohio’s livestock care standards take effect today

Hannah Report

Comprehensive livestock standards created by the 13-member Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board will become effective Thursday, Sept. 29 when Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Jim Zehringer signs the final administrative order at a special ceremony starting at 2:30 p.m. in Fort Recovery. This will conclude two-months of outreach efforts by the agriculture department and Ohio’s farm organizations to inform Ohioans raising or caring for livestock about the new rules.

The Ohio Constitution required the establishment of comprehensive livestock care standards following passage of state Issue 2 in 2009. The ballot initiative specified creation of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board with the responsibility of obtaining industry and public input in developing livestock rules for alpacas, beef, dairy, goats, horses, llamas, pork, poultry, sheep and veal.

The board sought to create comprehensive livestock care standards that also support the state’s overarching policies to promote safe and affordable food, help prevent the outbreak of both animal and human diseases, and encourage local food production.

Members of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board and representatives of Ohio’s agricultural community devoted 18 months to developing and vetting the most comprehensive livestock care standards in the nation, said Zehringer.

“States from around the country are now looking towards Ohio’s leadership in developing these new standards,” he said.

All rules affecting the care of dairy, beef, swine, turkeys, broilers, sheep, goats, alpacas, llamas, and equine standards were approved by the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) before the summer legislative recess.

Group fighting “Big Ag” label is — Big Ag

New York Times

LAST week, a new public-relations campaign about agriculture got off to a splashy start. With full-page ads in newspapers and panel discussions live-streamed on the Internet, the newly formed U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance began what it called a bid to “reshape the dialogue” about the American food supply.

“When did agriculture become a dirty word?” the Alliance asks on its Web site.

Chris Galen, a founding member of the group and head of communications for the National Milk Producers Federation, said, “There is a feeling across the board in agriculture that Americans have concerns about the food supply, and those are best addressed by farmers.”

To assure Americans that food is safe, abundant and affordable, farmers can use their voices and faces to fight the label “Big Ag,” the organization’s leaders say. But the group’s members include the largest agriculture marketing groups in the country, with billions of dollars to spend. They include the American Egg Board (“The Incredible Edible Egg”), the National Milk Producers Federation (“Got Milk?”) and the National Pork Board (“The Other White Meat”).

Its $11 million annual budget will come partly from mandatory marketing fees that the Department of Agriculture helps collect from farmers, and from corporations like Monsanto, the producer of genetically engineered seed, and DuPont, a major producer of chemical pesticides. Each company has committed to an annual contribution of $500,000.

Yet Bonnie West, a spokeswoman for the American National Cattlewomen, a booster group for beef consumption, said her members felt like “small potatoes” in the national debate over food.

The “big potatoes” for the group seem to be advocates and authors like Eric Schlosser (“Fast Food Nation”) and Michael Pollan (“The Omnivore’s Dilemma”), and the filmmaker Robert Kenner (“Food, Inc.”), whose work has criticized industrial agricultural practices like huge feedlots, tight confinement of animals, the widespread use of hormones and antibiotics and the billions of dollars in federal subsidies that they say support an otherwise unsustainable system.

It is a source of pride for their allies that there is now a perceived need for an organized response to their critiques.

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ISU meteorologist says expect cold winter

It’s not far off…and, if you were a fan of last winter’s weather, you’re in luck. But, if your snowblower needs repairs, you might want to get those taken care of before Old Man Winter arrives.

Many signs point to a likely repeat of last winter’s conditions, with cold temperatures and above-average precipitation in much of the Midwest and drier conditions in the Plains, says Don Keeney, meteorologist with MDA EarthSat Weather. Look for one difference from last year, though.

“It should be noted that the coldest conditions should occur earlier in the winter, with December and January being the colder time periods,” Keeney says.

The reason for the repeat in the winter outlook: The La Nina system that was supposed to be gone by now will likely stay in place through March, says Iowa State University (ISU) Extension Ag meteorologist Elwynn Taylor. La Nina is characterized by colder winter temperatures and the potential for a lot more volatile swings in the mercury than normal.

“A year ago, we had one of the 3 strongest La Ninas in the last 100 years. It did a lot of the things we expected it to do, both in the summer and winter,” Taylor says. “Now, we’re seeing it restrengthening. Not as harsh or extreme, but similar to last year.

“So yes, the probability looks like a replay of last year, maybe just not as extreme. But, let’s just say it wouldn’t be smart to do without your snowblower if you are a person who gets tired of shoveling snow.”

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Report: Emergency food pantries have become a mainstay in many people’s diets

Associated Press

Rosalinde Block receives $241 a month in food assistance for her and her 18-year-old son, to add to the money coming in from the piano lessons she teaches and the art commissions she gets. In one of the world’s most expensive cities, it’s not enough.

“That goes pretty fast,” said Block, 59, of the amount she got for September, “it was already gone by the 12th or the 15th.”

So Block, who lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, adds to it with visits every other month to a food pantry in nearby Harlem, where she’ll get some chicken or milk, or some ingredients for soup or a few other meals. It’s been like this for a couple of years.

A report released Wednesday by Feeding America, a hunger-relief organization, finds that food banks that were originally created to serve as stop-gap emergency food providers are now taking a long-term, chronic role for Americans turning to them routinely to get enough to eat.

The organization’s Hunger in America 2010 report, the “Food Banks: Hunger’s New Staple,” found through data compiled in 2009 that 18 percent of those surveyed said they used food pantries six to 11 months of the previous year, while 36 percent they used them every month.

The survey also found that among those 65 years and older, 56 percent went to a food pantry every month. And even those receiving aid in the form of supplemental nutrition money still needed more help, with 58 percent of them being frequent or monthly users. “Those dollars don’t go very far,” said Vicki Escarra, president of the Chicago-based Feeding America.

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Crackdown on excessive speculation in commodities markets stymied at CFTC


The U.S. futures regulator delayed a final vote on controversial measures to crack down on excessive speculation in commodity markets because it lacks the three votes needed for approval, sources familiar with the situation told Reuters on Wednesday.

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission announced on Tuesday it was delaying by another two weeks to October 18 its meeting to consider the long-awaited rule on position limits. It was the second time a vote had been postponed.

The disagreements hinge on some of the smaller, seemingly less-contentious elements of the plan, not on the areas in which the CFTC has yielded to industry complaints.

This may suggest that Chairman Gary Gensler does at least have in principle an agreement on the need to impose limits on energy and metals markets, something several commissioners have questioned.

Two sources familiar with the agency’s rule-making said the CFTC commissioners and staff were working on ironing out a myriad of differences, including details of conditional limits — which allow for a higher limit in the spot month in a cash-settled contract than in a physically deliverable contract — as well as the timing of imposing the limits.

“He doesn’t feel like he has the votes,” one source familiar with the CFTC’s thinking told Reuters.

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 Farmers group backs plan to overhaul dairy policy

Associated Press

A leading dairy farmers group threw its support Monday behind a proposed overhaul of federal milk subsidies after its creator agreed that participation in a program limiting milk production in hard times would be voluntary.

The plan developed by Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson would replace current federal dairy programs with new ones intended to do a better job of protecting farmers from the kind of crisis they suffered during the recession in 2009, when milk prices plunged, feed costs skyrocketed and hundreds were forced out of business.

Peterson’s original plan called for limits on how much milk farmers could produce when the difference between milk prices and the cost of producing milk, as determined by feed prices, fell to a certain level. The intent was to balance supply and demand.

Some farmers objected to the federal government limiting how much milk they could produce, saying the answer to problems facing the dairy industry was less government interference, not more.

After getting feedback for several months, Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, agreed to make participation in the so-called dairy market stabilization program voluntary.

But, farmers would have to participate in that program to qualify for another, more popular one that works like an insurance system. In effect, dairy producers would pay premiums in good times that would enable them to collect more generous government payouts in bad times. If they chose to pay nothing, they would get a minimal subsidy.

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NE Ohio Farmers Union Leaders to Hold Informational Meeting on Fracking Tonight

Family Farmers Sponsor Public Meeting on Fracking in NE Ohio

COLEBROOK – Leadership of the Ashtabula, Geauga and Lake Counties Farmers Union and the Trumbull County Farmers Union will hold an information sharing meeting tonight on the subject What Fracking Will Mean to Us.

The meeting will be held at the Colebrook Community Center at the corner of SR 322 and SR 46 in Ashtabula County from 7 to 9 p.m. There will be a question and answer period. The event is free and open to the public.

Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing – a drilling method employed to extract natural gas or oil from wells in hard rock strata thousands of feet below the ground. Fracking will be used during the drilling of the Marcellus and Utica shales in Eastern Ohio for natural gas extraction.

Joe Logan, Trumbull County Farmers Union president and director of agricultural issues for the Ohio Environmental Council will discuss possible impacts of fracking on agriculture and natural resources with a focus on fresh water supplies.

Vanessa Pesec, president of the Network for Oil and Gas Accountability and Protection (NEOGAP), will present a detailed lecture on what fracking will mean to us as individuals, landholders and communities. Pesec will also talk about what landholders should look for in a fair lease should they decide to lease their mineral rights.


Event: NE Ohio Farmers Union Members to Hold Fracking Information Meeting

What Fracking will Mean to Us

Monday, September 26, 2011


Colebrook Community Center

Colebrook (northeast corner of state routes 322 and 46)

Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake Counties Farmers Union and Trumbull County Farmers Union are presenting a joint educational meeting: What Fracking will Mean to Us? Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing – a drilling method employed to extract natural gas or oil from wells in hard rock strata thousands of feet below the ground. Fracking will be used during the drilling of the Marcellus and Utica shales in Eastern Ohio for natural gas extraction.

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VIDEO: Vilsack addresses National Farmers Union gathering

The National Farmers Union sponsored its annual legislative “Fly-In” in Washington, D.C. recently. The Fly-In is an opportunity for state Farmers Union leadership and rank and file members to descend on Capitol Hill and visit with legislators on family farming issues.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack addressed members during the Fly-In. The video was produced by USDA – fake news alert – but we thought we would share it with you in any event. What would be great is if the USDA would make available Vilsack’s full appearance before the National Farmers Union without the slick edits and fake news report vibe – now that would be information … Take this for what it’s worth:

Ag News Roundup – September 23, 2011 – Harvest, Fracking among topics

A few things of interest from the national & Ohio media:

Kasich advocates switching state vehicles to nat gas, says “We cannot stop fracking”

Columbus Dispatch

Ohio might join with neighboring states and convert government vehicle fleets to run on natural gas, which would boost demand for gas from the region’s shale formations, Gov. John Kasich said yesterday.

The governor spoke about the plan in the closing address of his two-day energy conference. He also said his office will announce a comprehensive energy policy by spring, although he gave few details about what it might include.

Kasich said he spoke with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett about the natural-gas-fueled vehicle idea, and members of his staff have brought up the idea with counterparts in Indiana and Michigan.

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Nat Gas industry says 200,000 jobs could result from Ohio shale gas

 Dayton Daily News/AP

Natural gas trapped in two shale formations beneath Ohio could mean thousands of new jobs, if activity in other states is any indication.

In Pennsylvania, which sits on one of the same shale formations as Ohio, gas and oil industries hired 72,000 people between the fourth quarter of 2009 and the first quarter of 2011, according to Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry statistics.

The number of new hires for the core gas industries — extraction, drilling and pipeline work — is smaller but still doubled to 18,837 from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the fourth quarter of 2010.

Tim McElhinny, an analyst with the Pennsylvania Labor Department, said all hires can’t be attributed to new drilling, but there are so many of them that a portion must be caused by work on the Marcellus shale.

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Industry says gas boom could produce economic miracle

The Plain Dealer

… The new jobs study, contained in a 92-page economic impact analysis, was prepared by economic research company Kleinhenze & Associates of Cleveland for the Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Association.

The conclusions are based on propriety information obtained from large gas and oil corporations that jockeyed for months to lease mineral rights from rural land owners. Marietta College, Ohio State University, Central Ohio Technical College and Zane State College contributed to the data analysis.

Among the study’s main conclusions:

• Over the next five years, oil and gas producers are expected to spend $34 billion in exploration and development, pipelines, royalty payments to landowners and other leasing expenditures.

• New jobs would start slowly — 4,614 jobs this year, increasing to 22,297 next year — and then mushroom by tens of thousands from 2013 through 2015, culminating at an estimated 204,520 jobs by 2015.

• Wages, salaries and personal income attributable to the production would soar to an estimated $12 billion per year, including $1.6 billion in royalties, by 2015.

• Annual tax revenues, including income, property, commercial activity and “severance” taxes or royalties tied to the production would total $478.9 million by 2015.

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Corn Yields Coming in Mixed

Combines are rolling in the Corn Belt. So, what’s the crop making so far?

Yields are all across the board as harvest gets rolling in corn and soybean country. Corn moisture levels are still on the high side in a lot of areas, though, keeping harvest progress a little on the slow side.

“Things are moving slow. Corn is not drying down very fast, if at all it seems,” says Benton, Illinois, farmer Kelly Robertson. “Working on odds and ends between trying to haul some corn out and it doesn’t seem like I am getting much accomplished.”

But, where harvest activity has been able to pick up, the results are mixed.

“We are running here in northeast Kansas. Corn is pretty good — above average from what I was expecting,” says Seneca, Kansas, farmer Rod Tangeman says. “So far, we have had fields go 168 [bushels/acre], 170, 105, 142, 163 and 158.”

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Obama would cut ag programs

When it comes to farm policy, Congress often ignores White House proposals. It passed the 2008 Farm Bill over President George W. Bush’s veto and it’s possible both parties will ignore some of the ideas put forth Monday in President Barack Obama’s Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction Plan,

Obama didn’t ignore agriculture, however. He wants to eliminate or reduce these ag programs:

  • Eliminate Direct Payments. The White House says they’re not needed at a time of high farm income, adding that “Economists have shown that direct payments have priced young Americans out of renting or owning the land needed to enter into farming.” It would save $3 billion per year.
  • Crop Insurance. The Administration is looking for more cuts here. It says currents costs are $8 billion per year, with $2.3 billion going to insurance companies and $5.7 billion to farmers as premium subsidies. USDA has already trimmed $600 million a year from support for insurers and hasn’t touched subsidies of farmer premiums. Obama’s deficit cutting plan would trim another 200 million a year from insurance companies, arguing that they would still have a return on investment of 12%. Farmer premium subsidies for coverage at the 50% catastrophic level would not change but premium subsidies on higher levels over coverage would be shaved by two basis points, or $200 million per year (a 3,.5% cut from current levels).
  •  Conservation. Obama would cut conservation programs by $200 million a year “by better targeting conservation funding to the most cost-effective and environmentally- beneficial programs and practices.” Even with those cuts, conservation assistance is projected to grow by $60 billion over the next 10 years.

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Farm lobby’s power withers as programs face cuts


Washington’s debt crisis brings American agriculture to a crossroads this fall and no other sector of the economy may have more to gain or lose from the debate in Congress over deficit reduction.

With record exports predicted for 2011, farmers begin with a proven self-interest in stable world markets, but their very success makes them all the more vulnerable now to deep cuts from the federal subsidies so synonymous with agriculture for decades.
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NFU President says trade with Cuba makes sense

WASHINGTON (Sept. 15, 2011) – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson issued the following statement after the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to allow direct cash transfers between U.S. and Cuban financial institutions by a vote of 20-10:

“NFU is encouraged that the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the amendment that would allow U.S. and Cuban financial institutions to directly transfer payments to each other. Currently those payments must be routed through a financial institution in another country, leading to additional fees and complications.

“NFU has long been a supporter of trade with Cuba. These self-imposed restrictions hurt our own domestic producers and make U.S. trade less competitive. The U.S. has exported $4 billion of agriculture goods to Cuba since 2000, and that number will grow with the elimination of this unnecessary trade barrier.

“At a time of high unemployment and stagnant economic growth, allowing direct cash transfers between the U.S. and Cuba provides a unique opportunity to create jobs and stimulate economic development in rural America. U.S. farmers and ranchers should be able to do business with customers in the United States’ backyard. It just makes sense. I encourage the full Senate to pass this amendment in its current form as quickly as possible.”


Five Ohio members of Congress receive award from NFU

Five Ohio Members of Congress Recognized by NFU

(R-L) Sen. Sherrod Brown, Rep. Marcy Kaptur, Rep. Marcia Fudge, Rep. Betty Sutton and Rep. Tim Ryan

Five Ohio members of Congress were awarded the Golden Triangle Tuesday by the National Farmers Union for demonstrating leadership and supporting policies that benefit family farmers, rural residents, ranchers and fishermen.

The five Ohioans are:

  • U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio
  • U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo
  • U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Warrensville Heights
  • U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Copley
  • U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles

“Recipients of the Golden Triangle Award have been strong advocates for family farmers and ranchers, and exhibit similar principles and policies to Farmers Union,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “We are pleased to honor those who have proven to be true allies of our organization and our members across the country.”

Roger Wise, president of the Ohio Farmers Union said, “These members of Congress get it. The deck is stacked against family farmers and rural communities when it comes to policy and legislation. All five of these representatives have worked to ensure that our local economies are not left out in the cold when the big money interests show up on Capitol Hill.”

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