Thursday Roundup: Houses Passes Farm Bill

Smithfield CEO testifies before Senate Ag Committee  • U.S. oil production sets 30-year record • Imperial, Nebraska, sponsors YouTube promotional contest • Author and rural demographer part of NPR program.

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House Splits Nutrition Program from Farm Bill — The House passed a version of the farm bill today, one that does not include the nutrition program known as SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

President Obama has vowed to veto any farm bill that doesn’t include the nutrition program.

The House passed its new version of the bill by a narrow margin, 216 to 208. No Democrats voted for the bill. Thirteen Republicans voted against it. Last month Republican defection from a different version of the farm bill doomed it to failure.

The bill’s future is uncertain. Apart from the veto threat, the House bill must be reconciled with a Senate version, passed last month. The Senate’s version includes funding for SNAP. 

The House bill keeps changes in farm policy that were in its June version, including trimming about $20 billion in subsidies. The New York Times reports:

The money saved …  would be directed into the $9 billion crop insurance program, and new subsidies would be created for peanut, cotton and rice farmers. The bill adds money to support fruit and vegetable growers, and it restores insurance programs for livestock producers, which expired in 2011, leaving thousands of operations without disaster coverage during last year’s drought. The bill also made changes to a dairy program that sets limits to the amount of milk produced and sold in the United States.

Senate Hearing on Smithfield Purchase — U.S. senators grilled the CEO of Smithfield Foods yesterday about the company’s proposed sale to Chinese-owned Shuanghui International Holdings.

told the Senate Agriculture Committee that Smithfield would produce safe, plentiful food if the deal is approved. He said the sale would be good for pork producers and U.S. food exports.

USA Today reports on the Senate Ag hearing:

Lawmakers expressed concern the takeover would squeeze the U.S. pork supply by shipping more of the meat to China and leave the U.S. susceptible to food safety concerns that have plagued Chinese companies, including Shuanghui.

They also raised a host of other concerns, including what would happen to Smithfield’s intellectual property and the impact of the deal on U.S. agriculture producers.

“In the short term, I know this deal looks good for our producers. This also needs to be a good deal in the long-term,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairwoman of the Agriculture Committee. “One pork company alone might not be enough to affect our national security, but it’s our job to be thinking about the big picture and the long-term for American food security and economic security.”

U.S. Oil Production Rises – U.S. oil production reached its highest level since 1992 last week, thanks to new drilling techniques such as hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

Crude output rose to 7.401 million barrels a day in the week that ended July 5, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Bloomberg reports: “Rising crude supplies from oilfields including North Dakota’s Bakken shale and the Eagle Ford in Texas have helped the U.S. become the world’s largest exporter of refined fuels including gasoline and diesel. The shale boom has also helped cut world reliance on OPEC oil even as global demand gains.”

The United States met 89% of its own energy needs in March. That’s the highest rate since April 1986.

Video Contest – Imperial, Nebraska, wants some help spreading the good word about the town. The city is sponsoring a video contest to highlight things to do in and around Imperial, a town of about 2,100 located in the southwest part of the state.

All the video in the productions must be shot within 15 miles of the town. And half the footage has to be from within the city limits.

The winner receives 1,000 “chamber bucks,” which can be traded at local businesses. If the video goes viral (more than 1 million views on YouTube), the prize doubles.

Aspiring filmmakers who want to enter the contest need to keep it clean, however. No cussing in the videos. As the organizers say, “If you have to ask if something is appropriate [to include in the video], the answer will probably be, ‘NO.’ ” Now that sounds like practical advice.

More information here.

Secret of a Good Life. Catching up on developments over the July 4 holiday week … NPR’s “On Point” with Tom Ashbrook interviewed Rod Dreher, author of  “The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life” and Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute. Dreher talks about growing up in a small Louisiana community of about 700 folks and his decision to return home later in life.

 

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