From subsidies to protecting private information about farmers, here is a look at the latest news from Washington:

  • A bipartisan bill to prevent EPA from disclosing private information about farmers to outside organizations has been introduced in the House of Representatives. Private information about 80,000 livestock operations, including name, address, phone numbers and GPS coordinates, was released in 2013 and many members of the House want to prevent that from happening again. The bill has been sent to the committee on Energy, Commerce, Transportation, Agriculture, Science and Technology.
  • The Animal Health Institute and its member companies will adhere to a proposed Food and Drug Administration guidance that will phase out the use of medically important antimicrobials for growth promotion in animals. The policy that will require veterinary oversight for the use of therapeutic antimicrobials will be phased in over the next three years. FDA has not yet issued the final rule to start the clock ticking on the changes.
  • Agricultural subsidies totaled an estimated $486 billion in the top 21 food-producing countries in 2012, according to a report from Worldwatch Institute. China pays farmers $165 billion according to the report, followed by Japan ($65 billion). The study claims U.S. subsidies totaled $30 billion in 2012. The “subsidies” calculated in the report include essentially all government intervention in the market, including direct payments, crop insurance subsidies and tariffs or quotas on imports.
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack defended the Country of Origin Label (COOL) requirements at the annual meeting of the National Farmers Union this week. Vilsack said that the WTO ruled that the U.S. can label meat by country of origin but the labels needed to be changed from the original versions. A WTO dispute panel ruling on whether the new labels comply with WTO trade rules is expected to be released this summer.
  • The new dairy margin insurance program included in the new farm bill will go into effect on September 1. The new program will replace the Milk Income Loss Contract program that will continue through the summer. Producers will make an annual decision on how much margin to protect between $4 and $8 per cwt. The protection will have no cost at the $4 per cwt level, but the cost of additional protection can be as high as $0.475 to protect the $8 margin. The maximum amount of milk that can be insured is 24 million pounds per year. The margin calculation will be based on futures prices for corn, soybean meal and class III milk. Producers will be able to sign up for the new program at their local FSA office beginning in late summer.
  • Canada and South Korea have finalized a bilateral free trade agreement. Legislatures in both countries must still approve of the deal – but once it goes into effect Korea will eliminate duties on imports of almost all agriculture products and give preferential access to Canadian beef, pork, canola and grain products. This new agreement will result in more competition for U.S. sales to South Korea, which is an important market for meats and grains.
  • USDA has released a 2014 Farm Bill Fact Sheet to help producers understand the new farm program provisions. The six page document provides information on a whole range of topics from the new ARC and PLC programs to farm storage facility programs. The document can be accessed by clicking here.