World Dairy Diary

Farm Bureau: Tasty Fourth of July Fare Still a Bargain

AFBF4thofJuly1While prices at the grocery store might have gone up a bit, our friends at the American Farm Bureau Federation say a Fourth of July picnic is still a bargain. The group’s latest marketbasket survey shows a party for 10 people with all the Independence Day favorites, such as hot dogs, cheeseburgers (topped with AMERICAN cheese we’ll assume), pork spare ribs, potato salad, baked beans, lemonade and chocolate milk still comes to less than $6 per person at just $5.72:

“Although retail food prices have increased modestly over the past year or so, most Americans should be able to find summer picnic foods at close to the average prices found by our volunteer shoppers,” said John Anderson, deputy chief economist at AFBF.

“For many of us, nothing says the Fourth of July more than firing up the grill to prepare a meal,” Anderson said. “We’re fortunate here in America to have a consistent, high-quality supply of meats and poultry that can be grilled or prepared any number of different ways.”

AFBF’s summer picnic menu for 10 consists of hot dogs and buns, cheeseburgers and buns, pork spare ribs, deli potato salad, baked beans, corn chips, lemonade, chocolate milk, watermelon for dessert, and ketchup and mustard.

AFBF used input from 60 volunteers in 22 states to check the prices in this informal survey.

AFBF Goes to ‘Music City, USA’

The American Farm Bureau Federation has announced the country music artists who will be performing at its 94th Annual Meeting, Jan. 13-16 in Nashville, Tenn., also known as “Music City, USA.”

The three-part country music group Edens Edge will perform at the opening general session on Sunday Jan. 13, which begins at 9 a.m. The Arkansas trio is composed of Hannah Blaylock, Dean Berner and Cherrill Green

On Monday Jan. 14 at 8 p.m., the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture will host a Night Out at the Grand Ole Opry House for Farm Bureau members and guests, featuring award-winning singer/songwriter Phil Vassar. Vassar has co-written songs with country greats such as Tim McGraw and Alan Jackson. His first self-titled album came out in 2000 and went gold; his latest album, Noel, celebrates the holidays.

Night Out at the Grand Ole Opry House will be hosted by former Miss Mississippi and Great American Country personality, Nan Kelley. Other performers include: The Driven Bow; Line Dancers: Barry and Dari Anne Amato; The Fiddleheads; and Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman performing together. General admission tickets for this fundraiser, which is sponsored by Chevrolet, are $55 each plus tax.

ZimmComm will once again provide coverage of the event.

Thanksgiving Meal Cost Flat, But Dairy Portion Drops

It might cost you about the same to gobble up your Thanksgiving Day turkey dinner this year as it did last year, but while shoppers will be happy, dairy producers might not be so thankful.

“Our meal for 10 people that includes a 16-pound turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries, relish tray, pumpkin pie… the whole nine yards… this year we think is going to cost us $49.48. And that’s only about 28 cents more than we were last year,” explained Bob Young, economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation during an interview at Trade Talk at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting convention. That translates to less than a 1-percent price increase… not too bad when you consider how some commodity prices spiked due to the drought. But Young pointed out that some of holding those costs steady included a drop in what the dairy items on the table brought at the supermarket. “Milk prices are lower today than they were last year, so a lot of the dairy products… the butter, the whipped cream on the pumpkin pie… went down.”

Young went on to point out that overall, the value of the U.S. crop this year increased from this summer’s estimates from about $63-65 billion to today’s $85 billion, because of the high prices when estimates pushed prices for the commodities up and then harvests turned out better than expected. He said while some sectors really took a hit from the drought, such as dairy because of the higher feed prices, obviously, some areas that got good corn crops enjoyed quite a windfall.

Read more about AFBF’s Thanksgiving dinner estimates here.

Listen to Cindy’s interview with Bob here: Interview with Bob Young, AFBF economist

Expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill

Several major agricultural organizations issued a joint statement today on the official expiration of the 2008 farm bill.

The 2008 law governing many of our nation’s farm policies expired on Sunday, September 30th, and the 2012 Farm Bill needed to replace it is bottled up in Congress. While the Senate and the House Agriculture Committees were both able to pass their versions of the new farm bill, the full House was unable to do so. While expiration of farm bill program authorities has little or no effect on some important programs, it has terminated a number of important programs and will very adversely affect many farmers and ranchers, as well as ongoing market development and conservation efforts.

Congress will return in mid-November for a lame-duck session prior to final adjournment in December. We will work to have the first order of business for the House of Representatives be to consider a new Farm Bill. We are urging our members to seek out their House members between now and the elections and remind them of the consequences of not having a new bill in place prior to adjournment at the end of the year.

Among the organizations issuing the joint statement is the National Milk Producers Federation, since one of the programs that is now expired is the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program. “Dairy producers will face considerable challenges,” said the groups’ statement. “That program compensated dairy producers when domestic milk prices fall below a specified level. Without a new farm bill, dairy farmers are left with uncertainty and inadequate assistance. While milk prices are high enough that the price support program doesn’t kick in; unfortunately, there is no other safety net to help battle the highest feed costs on record.”

Read more here.

Ag Groups Show United Front for Farm Bill Now Rally

Two agricultural organizations that are often on the opposite side of the fence have joined together in the fight to get the Farm Bill passed. The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) has united with the National Farmers Union as masters of ceremonies for the Farm Bill Now rally in Washington, D.C. on September 12 at 11:00 am EDT at Union Square by the Capitol Reflecting Pool. Among lawmakers scheduled to speak are Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, Kansas Senator Jerry Moran, House Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson and South Dakota Representative Kristi Noem.

Craig Hill, a board member of AFBF and the president of the Iowa Farm Bureau, said that efforts have been underway for several years and organizations across the board, such as ranchers and dairy farmers that comprise several dairy associations, have worked out their differences and come to a consensus.

The Farm Bill, says Hill, is not just for farmers. It is for everyone including consumers. Dairy farmers have been especially hit hard this summer. With the devastating drought throughout the country, dairy farmers have dealt with dying grasslands and higher feed prices. That is why it is especially important that this Farm Bill include a disaster package.

Hill says that the two versions of the Farm Bill are not too disparate from what we have in the Senate Ag Committee or the House Ag Committee. “They are easily conferenced. We have a barrier in that we can’t get this through the House, and we need the President’s signature.”

No other sector in the country has done more to cut budgets than the ag sector, says Hill. “We have over 100 programs that have either been eliminated or have been reduced in some way or another. Many of which large features of the programs, such as direct payments, have been eliminated in both versions.”

Listen to an interview with Craig Hill here: Craig Hill interview

NMPF Among Those Urging Rejection of Disaster Bill

The National Milk Producers Federation is part of a coalition of about a dozen agriculture groups urging Senate leaders to “refrain from supporting” any legislation resembling the House-passed disaster bill should it come up in the Senate. The group also includes the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Soybean Association, the National Association of Wheat Growers, the National Corn Growers Association, and the National Farmers Union. This news release from the AFBF says the letter sent to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) states that “such a measure would detract from the larger mission of passing a long-term farm bill.”

“This is something our groups do not support,” the letter stated. “We strongly urge you to refrain from this as we fear that passage of a bill similar to the House bill could result in further delays in completing a full five-year farm bill.”

According to the group, in comparison to a disaster bill, completing a five-year farm bill would deliver assistance to eligible livestock producers nearly as quickly and would put into place certainty for future years, and it is paid for in both the House and Senate versions. This highlights the House disaster bill’s $600 million price tag, which clearly would impact funding available for long-term agriculture needs.

The current farm bill expires at the end of this month, and the group makes the case that the Senate and House versions of the new farm bill have the provisions for disaster relief with long-term benefits.

Committee, Ag Leaders React to FARRM Bill Passage

It took nearly 15 hours, but members of the House Agriculture Committee were able to pass their version of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM) Bill. Committee Chair Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) praised the bipartisan legislation:

“This is a balanced, reform-minded, fiscally responsible bill that underscores our commitment to production agriculture and rural America, achieves real savings, and improves program efficiency, said Chairman Frank Lucas.

“The House leadership needs to bring the farm bill to the floor for a vote. We should not jeopardize the health of our rural economies which, by and large, have remained strong the last few years. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers need the certainty of a new five year farm bill and they need it before the current farm bill ends,” said Ranking Member Collin Peterson.

But the USDA is not pleased about cuts to the nutrition title of the bill. “Unfortunately, the bill produced by the House Agriculture Committee contains deep cuts in SNAP, including a provision that will deny much-needed food assistance to 3 million Americans, mostly low-income working families with children as well as seniors. The proposed cuts will deny 280,000 children in low-income families access to school meals and reduce farm income across rural America. These cuts wouldn’t just leave Americans hungry – they would stunt economic growth. The bill also makes misguided reductions to critical energy and conservation program efforts,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in a statement.
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House Ag Hearing on Biotech Focuses on Alfalfa

The future of biotech alfalfa was in the spotlight as the U.S. House Agriculture Committee held a hearing Thursday to review the biotechnology product regulatory approval process.

Prior to the hearing, committee chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) joined Senate Republican colleagues in sending a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting that the department “return to a science based regulatory system for agriculture biotechnology and to deregulate without conditions genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa.” The letter noted that while science strongly supports the safety of GE alfalfa, USDA’s proposal politicizes the regulatory process and could set a harmful precedent for open pollinated crops in the future.

Vilsack was the main witness at the hearing and in his testimony he pointed out that the legal challenges related to GE alfalfa have taken years. “APHIS made its initial decision to deregulate GE alfalfa in June 2005. Yet here we are nearly six years later with the process not yet concluded,” said Vilsack. “The situation needs to be resolved. The legal challenges, and the resulting effects, have created uncertainty for all growers. Growers need to order seed and make planting decisions, but have difficulty when the legal challenges cause so much uncertainty. There are companies and researchers who have devoted significant resources to developing safe products that can help us meet our food security needs, but find themselves fighting in the courts, or waiting to see how a judge’s decision in a separate case will affect them.”

When asked about the issue during a press conference on another subject Thursday, Vilsack made several points. “Number one, we recognize our responsibilities under the plant protection act and we take them very seriously,” said Vilsack. “Number two, we understand that our decision needs to be done in a timely basis so that folks that are waiting to decide what to do and when to do it and how to do it will have enough time and enough direction to be able to do it. Number three, we recognize that any decision that is made has to be science based, that is what the law requires and that is what we will do.”

Listen to those comments from Vilsack here: Vilsack comments on GE Alfalfa

Vilsack also commented on the issue during his address at the recent American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting. “What we’re trying to do is to stimulate a conversation and to ensure that every person, every farmer, every rancher, every grower has the capacity to do on their land what they wish to do,” he said. “If you want to grow GM crops you ought to be able to do that, if you want to grow identity-preserved conventional you ought to be able to do that, if you want to be an organic farmer you ought to be able to do that.”

Listen to Vilsack’s comments on the alfalfa issue from AFBF here: Vilsack at AFBF

Farm Journal Offers Dairy Seminars at AG CONNECT Expo

Farm Journal Media is offering a series of in-depth educational programs and events co-located at the AG CONNECT Expo that starts Friday at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

Sunday morning’s Farm Journal Media Presents is devoted entirely to the dairy industry with a Dairy Today Forum: Meeting Dairy Challenges: In the Parlor, In the Field, In the World. The cost is $49 for the 9 am to 12:00 noon event that includes sessions on BMR Forage Sorghum: Opportunities and Challenges; Making Milk Quality Simple; and Dairy’s Brave New Exporting World.

There are even more educational opportunities at this second AGCONNECT EXPO – including breakout sessions, the Progressive Farmer Innovations Theater,and new Town Hall forums.

To find all the educational opportunities, use the handy search function on the AG CONNECT website to create a customized agenda based on your own personal interests.

Hope to see you in Atlanta starting Friday for AG CONNECT, followed by the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting.

Pioneer Funds Ag Literacy Website

afbfDuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred is helping to fight ag illiteracy with a $500,000 donation to the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture’s My American Farm virtual education program.

pioneer“The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture has identified a great opportunity for teaching the public about modern agriculture. Through science and productivity, farmers are feeding the world and bettering the lives of people every day,” said Frank Ross, vice president and regional director for Pioneer, North America. “We are pleased to partner on this initiative and support the cause of increased agricultural literacy.”

The My American Farm virtual education program is anticipated to engage millions of youth, teachers and parents over the next five years through unique educational experiences. The website, www.myamericanfarm.org, is a destination for children to be entertained by playing games while learning math, social studies, language arts and science in the context of agriculture and food production. There are a number of grade school level games on the site that incorporate facts about dairy, corn, soybeans and other agricultural commodities.

Dairy Farmer is New AFBF YF&R Chair

A dairy farmer who is a YouTube hit with his original “Water ‘n Poo” song is the new chairman of the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee.

afbfWill Gilmer of Alabama was elected as by the committee as chairperson for 2010 and will take over those duties in February to serve for one year.

Gilmer owns and operates Gilmer Dairy Farm, which includes a herd of 450 Holstein cows, heifers and calves, as well as more than 500 acres of pasture and forage crop production.

In addition to his daily farming duties, Gilmer maintains a Web site, www.gilmerdairy.com, along with The Dairyman’s Blog, in an effort to reach out to the public about modern farming practices. Gilmer also is active on the micro-blogging Web site Twitter under @gilmerdairy.

And if you have never heard or seen Will’s funny YouTube hit about nutrient management – viewed over 9,000 times – here it is. Heck, even if you have seen it – worth watching again so you can be singing “Water ‘n Poo” all day long!