Legislative Action News, April 17, 2012

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GAO – Limit Crop Insurance Subsidies Would Have Saved $1 Billion in 2011
By Stephen Frerichs

At the request of Senator Coburn (R-OK) the Government Accountability Office (GAO) examined the impact of limiting federal crop insurance subsidies to $40,000 per entity.  The GAO found that if such a limit had been applied in 2011, it would have affected up to 3.9 percent of all participating farmers, who accounted for about one-third of all premium subsidies and were primarily associated with large farms. GAO estimated the savings at $1 billion dollars in 2011 by assuming farmers would not have changed their crop insurance purchases with the $40,000 limit, but instead paid more premiums for the same level of coverage.

You can find the full report here: http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/589305.pdf

House Agriculture Chairman Lucas (R-OK) reacted swiftly with the following press statement:

“Over and over again we have heard from our farmers about the importance of crop insurance because it forms the backbone of the safety net. I do not support the repeated attacks on an actuarial sound risk management program that serves as a good example of a public-private partnership where producers pay for coverage. This proposal would discourage participation in the crop insurance program and as a result endanger its integrity.”

While it is not likely the Agriculture Committees will consider such a proposal, it is likely that when the farm bill is considered on the Senate or the House floor a member will offer an amendment to limit crop insurance subsidies.

House Agriculture Committee Schedules Mark-up for Budget Reconciliation Package
By Stephen Frerichs

House Chairman Lucas (R-OK) has scheduled a business meeting to consider a proposal to satisfy the House Agriculture Committee’s reconciliation instructions required by House Resolution. 112. Those instructions require the House Agriculture Committee to develop a proposal to save $33.2 billion over 10 years and report its proposal to the House Budget Committee by April 27, 2012.  It is widely anticipated that the cuts to meet this requirement will largely come from the food stamp program.

Senate Agriculture Committee Mark-up
By Stephen Frerichs

While no mark-up has been officially announced, it is widely anticipated that the Senate Agriculture Committee will mark-up its version of the farm bill sometime during the week of April 23, 2012.  Senate Committee staff have been working overtime to pull together a comprehensive bill during the past two weeks of recess. Some titles are far enough along that Committee member staff have been briefed and allowed to see bill language.  Senators will be briefed this week as they return from a district work period. The commodity title remains a challenge to pull together.

House Agriculture Committee to Hold Field Hearing in Kansas
By Stephen Frerichs

The House Agriculture Committee will hold a field hearing in Dodge City, Kansas at the Magouirk Conference Center starting at 9 am on April 20, 2012.  This will be the final field hearing leading up to the farm bill.  The House Agriculture Committee is expected to hold additional hearings in Washington, D.C. prior to marking up its version of the farm bill.

Child labor laws stoking backlash
By David Bennett, Delta Farm Press

Proposed U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) rules governing child labor on farms continue to stoke a firestorm of criticism. Backlash has come from rural communities, agriculture advocacy groups, state and federal lawmakers.

To bolster their case, critics of the DOL proposals – which aim to update 40-year-old laws – cite everything from teaching youngsters responsibility to lessening the need for migrant labor to encouraging youth to consider a farming career as the average farmer age climbs.
Read more on the Western Farm Press website: http://westernfarmpress.com/government/child-labor-laws-stoking-backlash?NL=WFP-01&Issue=WFP-01_20120412_WFP-01_408&YM_RID=sgruba@asfmra.org&YM_MID=1304607

New ULDD Requirements Coming This Month
By Bill Garber

The Federal Housing Finance Agency said it’s finalizing its standardized loan data reporting requirements for newly originated Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages, National Mortgage News reported April 4.

Beginning April 23, lenders will have the option of submitting new Uniform Loan Delivery Dataset files to Fannie and Freddie; the new format will become mandatory July 23. The FHFA previously had expected to implement ULDD requirements in March before pushing the date back to July, National Mortgage News reported.

ULDD is one of the initiatives included in the Uniform Mortgage Data Program, which is intended to streamline Fannie and Freddie loan and appraisal data collection. ULDD files will solely be comprised of upfront data, replacing the existing 2,000-character flat files that Fannie and Freddie currently require from their lenders.

On March 19, another UMDP initiative — the Uniform Appraisal Dataset — became mandatory. UAD is a new electronic system that Fannie and Freddie use to collect appraisal reports on all residential mortgage originations.

Appraisal Organizations Testify Before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on High Voltage Transmission Towers
By Brian Rodgers, Appraisal Institute

On Saturday, Jim Henderson, SRA, testified before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity, on the Impact of Overhead High Voltage Transmission Towers and Lines on Eligibility for Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Insured Mortgage Programs. The hearing was Chaired by Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA), and was mainly focused on concerns of residents from  Los Angeles suburb Chino Hills, regarding the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project. Chino Hills property owners have voiced concerns about possible decrease in their property value, and healthy risks if high voltage transmission towers are erected as planned.

In his testimony in front of an overflow crowd, Mr. Henderson  stated FHA policies relative to properties near transmission lines are generally consistent with standard appraisal practices, but specifically “require the appraiser to indicate whether the subject site, dwelling or related property improvements are located within the easement serving a high-voltage transmission line. If the subject site, dwelling and improvements are located outside the easement, the property is considered eligible for funding and no further action is necessary. If the easement encroaches upon the subject property it becomes the requirement of the lender to obtain a letter from the owner or operator of the tower stating that the subject improvements are not within the (engineered) fall distance of the tower. We note – this is not an appraisal issue, but one of agency policy and lender decision”.

To help determine property values, Mr. Henderson, recommended Chino Hills residents “hire a local, professional designated appraiser, specifically, one with residential experience relative to properties that have transmission line influence, to determine if there’s any loss in value as result of the power lines. It’s easy to assume your property values will lose major value, but an unbiased, professional appraiser can analyze the market thoroughly, to determine whether that is actually the case.” Studies have shown that properties located near power lines may lose value, but not always as much as residents fear.

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