Legislative Action News, May 22, 2012

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National Flood Insurance Program Changes
By Stephen Frerichs

The National Flood Insurance Program is currently being reauthorized by Congress. In addition, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which administers the Flood Insurance Program issued a notice in the Federal Register last week that it intends to prepare what it calls a “Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement” on modifications it is proposing.  FEMA is seeking comments on the following:

1. Modify the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) based upon changes identified through the evaluation process to enhance floodplain management standards including provisions to address endangered species and habitat concerns. (This is FEMA’s proposed action).
2. Take no action, which would result in the continued administration and implementation of the NFIP as it stands today.
3. Discontinue the NFIP, recognizing that only Congress can take this action.
4. Request legislative authority to remove existing subsidies and cross subsidies for flood insurance policies.
5. Modify the NFIP based upon changes identified through the evaluation process to enhance floodplain management standards including provisions to address endangered species and habitat concerns and request legislative authority to remove existing subsidies and cross subsidies for flood insurance policies.
You can read more details, and find instructions for submitting public comments on the changes being considered here:  http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-05-16/html/2012-11841.htm

House Agriculture Committee Completes Hearings
By Stephen Frerichs

Last week the House Agriculture Committee completed its farm bill hearings with two days of testimony on the commodity title and crop insurance and one day on energy and forestry programs.  The House Agriculture Committee is now widely expected to hold a mark-up of its farm bill in June.

You can read testimony from the hearings or watch archived video here: http://agriculture.house.gov/hearings/

The commodity title hearings were punctuated by broad support for crop insurance and dissatisfaction with the Senate Agriculture Committee passed Average Revenue Coverage (ARC) program. General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Chairman Conaway (R-TX) summed up the sentiment of the hearings via a press release:

“The clear message from the hearing is that farmers need price protection. If prices collapse, we can’t have policy that collapses right along with them creating a crisis in farm country and calls for expensive, unbudgeted bailouts in Washington. Calls that cannot be answered because the government is broke. I have concerns that the Senate bill fails to provide that kind of protection. The Senate bill also creates a complicated new program that is so lopsided it actually locks in profits for some while denying any safety net at all to others”.

The House Committee is expected to eliminate direct payments, but unlike the Senate, the House Committee will likely continue the current counter-cyclical program albeit with higher target prices.  Most likely, the House Committee will offer producers a choice between a target price and a revenue program. The Senate Committee bill would eliminate the counter-cyclical program.

Senate Farm Bill Consideration in June
By Stephen Frerichs

Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Stabenow (D-MI) has confirmed to the press that Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) has committed to her that he will allow the Senate Committee passed farm bill to come up for consideration on the Senate floor in June. No specific date has been set.  As is the case for most bills, the farm bill will need 60 votes to pass in the Senate, in order to overcome a possible filibuster.  Given widespread discontent by Southern Senators with the Senate Committee commodity title, it is not clear that 60 votes are attainable without some change to the commodity title.

LightSquared files bankruptcy after FCC block
Western Farm Press

LightSquared Inc. filed for bankruptcy, saying it will seek to resolve the concerns of U.S. regulators who thwarted the company’s plan to deliver high-speed wireless to as many as 260 million people.

LightSquared, based in Reston, Virginia, listed assets of $4.48 billion and debt of $2.29 billion as of Feb. 29 in a Chapter 11 filing yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan. The filing followed intense negotiations with creditors, who had requested that the company’s backer, Philip Falcone, step aside. Falcone and the current management team will remain with the company, Terry Neal, a LightSquared spokesman, said yesterday.
Read more on Western Farm Press website: http://westernfarmpress.com/government/lightsquared-files-bankruptcy-after-fcc-block?NL=WFP-01&Issue=WFP-01_20120516_WFP-01_886&YM_RID=sgruba@asfmra.org&YM_MID=1312302

Bernanke: No Issue with Bank Examiners
By Bill Garber

Despite criticism from community bankers and some lawmakers about overzealous bank examiners, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke defended the bank’s examination personnel, saying recent review indicates that they are acting appropriately, American Banker reported May 10.

“The Federal Reserve takes seriously its responsibility to ensure that supervisory actions to protect banks’ safety and soundness do not unintentionally constrain lending to creditworthy borrowers, and we have taken a variety of steps to address these concerns,” Bernanke told the annual Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago banking conference, American Banker reported.

Bankers have consistently said that examiners were cracking down on well-performing loans, causing them to cut back on lending activities for fear of regulatory criticism, American Banker reported. Congress has conducted several hearings on this matter, with lawmakers expressing concern that the agencies have overreacted in response to their inability to halt numerous lending practices that contributed to the housing crisis.

Bernanke said the Fed was monitoring those concerns, but has not found corroborating evidence.

“We have also looked into specific concerns raised about the examination process and its effect on banks’ willingness to lend,” Bernanke said.

In 2011, the Fed evaluated whether examiners were “properly implementing the interagency policy statement on workouts on commercial real estate loans,” Bernanke said, according to American Banker. That evaluation included reviewing documentation for more than 300 loans that were flagged within six of the Federal Reserve Districts; Bernanke did not name the districts.

“We found that Federal Reserve examiners were appropriately implementing the guidance and were consistently taking a balanced approach in implementing the guidance and … determining loan classifications,” Bernanke said, according to American Banker. “Moreover, the documentation we reviewed indicated that examiners were carefully considering the full range of information provided by bankers, including relevant mitigating factors, in determining the regulatory treatment for the loans.”

American Banker reported that the Fed previously instructed supervisors to take a “balanced approach” relative to their oversight of banks and to remove certain lending restrictions.

Banks with lower supervisory ratings usually end up lending to consumers less frequently, and that’s the reason rapid improvements could help eliminate some lending constraints, American Banker reported.

During the two most recent previous quarters, ratings upgrades at banks have exceeded the amount of downgrades, Bernanke said, which hasn’t been the case since 2005.

The Fed also has taken action to enhance its examiner training, and have pushed examiners to remain in communication with bank management, American Banker reported.

2012 Professional Farm Manager of the Year Award

We need your help in nominating your peers for the 2012 Professional Farm Manager of the Year Award, co-sponsored by Syngenta, AgProfessional magazine and ASFMRA. The Professional Farm Manager of the Year Award recognizes professional farm managers whose dedication and commitment to agriculture have benefited their clients, the American consumer and our most precious commodity – the land.

To be eligible, a professional farm manager or farm management team must have at least five years farm management experience and hold membership in ASFMRA. Please submit your nominations online at www.farmmanageroftheyear.com by June 8. The award will be presented during the ASFMRA Annual Convention, which will be held Oct. 29¬-Nov. 2 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Thanks in advance for your support! Link to website: http://www.farmassist.com/Promo/Professional_Farm_Mgr/
Link to Annual Meeting: http://www.agro-nomics.org/

Wild Animals are a Growing Problem
The Kiplinger Agriculture Letter

Wild animals are a growing problem… causing harm to livestock, crops, household pets and, in an increasing number of cases, people, too.
Login to Member Resources to download the latest issue. http://portal.asfmra.org/Scripts/4Disapi.dll/4DCGI/cms/review.html?Action=CMS_Document&DocID=27&Time=820983562&SessionID=62057594yhofx712z58m6ib178uofz4n8xa01t8fypx92ywdh85706r0j6bv566f&MenuKey=123

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