Legislative Action News, February 19, 2013

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Senate Proposal Eliminates Direct Payments
By Stephen Frerichs

Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) introduced a bill last week, “American Family Economic Protection Act,” that would cut spending and raise taxes by a total of $110 billion. In turn, the sequester (see more detail below) that is set to start on March 1, 2013 would be postponed until January 2014. A major program cut contained in the bill is the total elimination of the direct payment program, presumably starting for crop year 2014. The counter-cyclical, loan and ACRE program would continue. Elimination of direct payments saves some $31 billion over ten years. Of the $31 billion, roughly $3.5 billion would be spent on the continuation of 2008 farm bill programs that did not have a baseline and therefore are without funding as well as disaster assistance for specialty crop and livestock producers. The proposal is an opening bid in a Congressional effort to delay or void the sequester.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Lucas response was swift. In a press release he said:

“Farmers and ranchers want to be a part of the solution to the fiscal crisis we face in this country. And, the House Agriculture Committee demonstrated that commitment to being a part of the solution when we passed a comprehensive, balanced farm bill that cut more than $35 billion from all of agricultural spending, including the farm safety net, conservation programs, and reforming the SNAP program.

“We made those reforms in the context of a comprehensive, five-year farm bill that ensured we still met the food and fiber needs of all Americans. The Senate’s approach of taking away our investment in rural America without addressing the hole it will create is not balanced and not acceptable.”

USDA Sequester Impacts Detailed
By Stephen Frerichs

At the beginning of the year, Chairwoman Mikulski (D-MD) of the Senate Appropriations Committee requested each Federal agency to send information regarding how their department would be impacted by sequestration. The Committee made those letters public last week. USDA Secretary Vilsack spells out the impacts to USDA which includes furloughing USDA meat inspectors for up to 15 days, curtailing USDA conservation programs, and a decrease in fire suppression activities. You can find a copy of the letter here.

Senate Agriculture Committee Holds Hearing on Disasters
By Stephen Frerichs

Last week the Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing on “Drought, Fire, and Freeze: The Economics of Disasters for America’s Agricultural Producers.” The first panel of witnesses consisted of Dr. Joe Glauber, USDA’s Chief Economist, and Dr. Roger Pulwarty, Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Integrated Drought Information System. The second panel included farmers and ranchers from across the country: Leon LaSalle from Montana, Anngie Steinbarger from Indiana, Jeff Send from Michigan, and Ben Steffen from Nebraska. You can watch a replay of the hearing or download written testimony by clicking here: http://www.ag.senate.gov/hearings/drought-fire-and-freeze

If you watch the video skip ahead to the 19th minute which is when the hearing starts. As you can expect, much of the hearing focused on crop insurance and the need for livestock and specialty crop disaster assistance.

EPA urged to mandate weed resistance management
National Cotton Council

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) released a seven-page letter to EPA, urging the agency to limit the use of glyphosate and to undertake other measures to slow the spread of resistant weeds.

In the letter, Gregory Jaffe, CSPI biotechnology director, says that the agency should limit farmers’ use of glyphosate especially in geographic areas where resistant weeds are becoming a problem. Such a limit might forbid farmers from applying glyphosate in the same field two years in a row.
Read more on the Western Farm Press website: http://westernfarmpress.com/management/epa-urged-mandate-weed-resistance-management?NL=WFP-01&Issue=WFP-01_20130218_WFP-01_964&YM_RID=sgruba@asfmra.org&YM_MID=1373525&sfvc4enews=42

ASFMRA and AI Urge Exposure of Appraisal Complaint Hotline Protocol
By Bill Garber

On February 12, ASFMRA and the Appraisal Institute urged the Appraisal Subcommittee to expose for public comment the planned protocol of the appraisal complaint hotline, which was authorized by the Dodd Frank Act. The hotline intends to refer individuals to the appropriate regulatory agency, rather than compile the complaint on behalf of the individual and refer it to the appropriate agency. For example, if an appraiser has a complaint regarding mortgage broker influence on the appraisal process, the hotline intends to provide the appraiser with the contact information of the appropriate regulatory agencies – in this case, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the state mortgage licensing agency. Likewise, consumers who have complaints regarding USPAP compliance will be provided contact information for the appropriate state appraiser regulatory agency and/or the appropriate bank regulatory agency if the matter involves a federally regulated institution.

ASFMRA and AI wrote, “In speaking with state appraiser regulatory officials, practicing appraisers and others involved with real estate and mortgage finance, virtually no understanding of the hotline and its intended purpose, as well as the proposed protocol, exists. As such, we believe that the protocol could be met with unnecessary trepidation simply because to date the ASC did not seek stakeholder input. As such, we respectfully request that the ASC refrain from approving the protocol, and instead release the protocol for public comment, similar to the process used by the ASC in drafting Policy Statements.”

The organizations concluded that such exposure may actually engender support for the proposed protocol.

On February 13, the Appraisal Subcommittee Board reviewed the proposed protocol and accompanying website in public session. The ASC Board consideration of the proposed protocol occurred in private session and is not known at the time of this entry. To view the ASFMRA and AI letter click here http://www.appraisalinstitute.org/newsadvocacy/downloads/ltrs_tstmny/2013/AI-ASFMRA-to-ASC-on-Hotline.pdf  

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