Lots of farm bill news today:
An editorial in the Des Moines Register writes that “secrecy is not the way to craft a new federal farm bill.”
The Iowa newspaper notes that there is a move by leaders in Congress to fold the farm bill into a giant deficit reduction package being prepared by the “super committee” appointed earlier this year. The paper says:
That is a really bad idea.
The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, which was assigned to find the budget cuts, is doing its work behind closed doors. What’s more, whatever it proposes will be voted up or down by the full Congress without debate.
Thus, if a farm bill is largely written into the budget-cutting bill, it will be done in the dark and there would be no opportunity for public comments or floor amendments in the House or Senate.
Indeed, the paper writes, there are several bad ideas making their way into the farm bill that could result in no net savings and subsidies for poor farming practices.
Meanwhile, Jerry Hagstrom at DTN reports that there could be a final farm bill reported out this week. He writes that many of the proposals being considered would likely be classified as “trade distorting” under current World Trade Organization rules.
At Politico, David Rogers reports that “once-promising farm bill talks — tied to the deficit panel — bounce about like flotsam on the ocean.”
Rogers says there is an ongoing conflict between corn belt reps and Great Plains Democrats over a new crop insurance program. The Great Plains Democrats (Sens. Conrad and Baucus) want the price insurance program tied to individual, farm-based standards. (They come from geography with a great deal of variability in land, so national standards make less sense.) The Corn Belt Republicans would prefer a national standard, since they come from land that is more uniform, Rogers says.
• While we’re on the farm bill, Food & Water Watch has a little animated ditty about who will be the biggest loser in the current farm bill debate.
• Letter From Langdon writer Richard Oswald has put together a slideshow of before, during and after the Missouri River flood of 2011.
Actually, we’re still waiting for the “after.” The area is still soggy and is in no way close to having all the damage repaired.
• Is there a turkey glut?
Stores in Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky, are selling birds for as low as 29 cents a pound. Nationally, the average cost of a 16 pound turkey is up $3.91 (22 percent) this year. But the Meijer’s chain of supermarkets is selling low.
• The House passed a bill that would require states that issue concealed-weapons permits to honor similar permits from other states. Backers say it will allow gun owners to travel more easily from state to state.
• Health insurance premiums for on-the-job health insurance have risen faster than incomes in every state.
• A House subcommittee Wednesday approved Republican-backed legislation that would weaken the regulatory power of the Federal Communications Commission. It was a party-line vote, according to the National Journal.
The legislation would preclude the FCC from imposing conditions on telecom companies that are seeking permission to merge. Democrats said that could reduce the FCC’s power to promote expanded broadband.
“What [passing this bill] means is that conditions to promote broadband adoption, to require minimum broadband speeds, or to ensure broadband coverage or access in rural or low-income areas could no longer be required. Conditions to protect smaller companies from harm could also fall by the wayside,” said the committee’s ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif.
• There is a bipartisan coalition of House members who have asked the Joint Select Committee to protect “small, rural hospitals and the communities that depend on them,” the Grand Island Independent (Nebraska) reports.
The group is concerned about pending cuts to the Critical Access Hospital program. There are 88 Critical Access hospitals in Nebraska, 72 of them in rural areas.
• Creighton University’s Mainstreet Economy Index turned up in October.
Economist Ernie Goss does a monthly survey of bankers in small Great Plains towns. His respondents say employment is improving, although it’s still down from pre-recession levels. Bankers, however, are less confident about the future than they were a year ago.
• Ken Ward Jr. has summarized a report finding that clean energy alternatives can be both dependable and competitive.