Roundup: Finally, a Farm Bill

Farm bill to be signed • Deregulating telcos in Kentucky? • Are tax breaks worth it? • Coke moves into rural India • 35th anniversary of the farmers' protest • The leadership of Jon Tester

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The long-overdue passage of the farm bill came yesterday when the Senate voted 68 to 32 across party lines to approve the five-year piece of legislation.

The bill projects spending at about $100 billion a year, an average savings of about $1.7 billion a year, bill supporters said.

President Obama is scheduled to sign the bill (which weighs in at nearly 1,000 pages) Friday at Michigan State University.

The Associated Press reports

To gather votes for the bill, Democrat [Senator Debbie] Stabenow [head of the Senate Ag Committee] and her House counterpart, Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., included a major boost for crop insurance popular in the Midwest, higher subsidies for Southern rice and peanut farmers and land payments for Western states. The bill also sets policy for hundreds of smaller programs, subsidies, loans and grants — from research on wool to loans for honey producers to protections for the catfish industry. The bill would provide assistance for rural Internet services and boost organic agriculture.

The legislation cuts 1% or about $800 million a year from the food stamp program. The New York Times reports that means “850,000 American households, about 1.7 million people spread across 15 states … would lose an average of $90 per month in benefits because of the cuts.”

The AP says this is how the food stamp cuts will work:

he $800 million-a-year savings in the food stamp program would come from cracking down on some states that seek to boost individual food stamp benefits by giving people small amounts of federal heating assistance that they don’t need. That heating assistance, sometimes as low as $1 per person, triggers higher benefits, and some critics see that practice as circumventing the law. The compromise bill would require states to give individual recipients at least $20 in heating assistance before a higher food stamp benefit could kick in.

The Housing Assistance Council announced that the bill restores cuts to rural housing programs that were part of Obama’s original budget proposal.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the bill wasn’t perfect but “bill is a strong investment in American agriculture and supports the continued global leadership of our farmers and ranchers.”

He said the bill builds on “historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years.” Farm profits are up, but overall, the number of jobs in rural America continues to decline, according to analysis by the Daily Yonder – here’s an example.

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A bill to deregulate phone service in Kentucky is back in the Legislature after getting defeated in the last session. The bill has passed the state Senate and is in the House Economic Development Committee. The legislation, backed by big telephone giant AT&T, would reduce requirements that phone companies provide land-line service to all customers in their service areas. The Kentucky Resources Council says the measure would affect more than 11,000 customers.

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What do governments get in return for the tax breaks they offer corporations? It’s hard to say, according to a report from Good Jobs First, an economic subsidy watchdog group.

The Center for Public Integrity reports: “The 50 states and the District of Columbia award $12 billion a year in subsidies to businesses each year, but fewer than a quarter of 246 incentive programs disclose how many jobs were created or how many workers were trained, according to a new study.”

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Coca-Cola is hoping residents of rural India will develop a taste for the soft drink. Pepsi leads in India’s rural market. Coke is offering its product at a discount to encourage “sampling.” “There are large parts of India which haven’t tasted a Coca-Cola till now,” a Coke India vice president told the Times of India.

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Modern Farmer remembers the 35th anniversary of the farmers’ protest in Washington, D.C. in their piece “When Tractors Invaded D.C.” by Sam Brasch.

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The Washington Post looks at the leadership style of Montana Senator Jon Tester on the Senate workforce subcommittee:

Don’t let that dirt farmer from Montana fool you.

From his brush cut to his size 12C cowboy boots, Jon Tester exudes the image of the wheat grower he is. With his frequent references to his farm near Big Sandy, you’d almost think he drove to Washington on a tractor.But his plain-spoken, self-effacing manner can be disarming. Tester, a second-term Senate Democrat, has a way of confronting administration officials without making a show of it, a skill not always practiced by some of his blow-hard congressional colleagues, particularly those in the House.

 

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The Obama administration will announce today the establishment of regional hubs focusing on mitigating climate change.

The hubs will be run through USDA and will be established in Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Colorado, Oklahoma, Oregon and New Mexico

The Hill reports:.

Dubbed “climate hubs,” the new centers will address issues like increasing risks of fires, invasive pests, devastating floods and crippling droughts. … The centers will aim to translate science and research into usable information for farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to adjust their resource management. 

 

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