Legislative Action News, February 5, 2013

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USDA Announces Continuation of Commodity Programs for 2013 Crop
By Stephen Frerichs

In a press release and a Federal Register notice, USDA announced that the Farm Service Agency will begin sign-ups for Direct and Counter-cyclical Payments (DCP) and ACRE for the 2013 crops on Feb. 19, 2013. The DCP sign-up period will end on Aug. 2, 2013; the ACRE sign-up period will end on June 3, 2013. Because the 2008 Farm Bill did not authorize advance direct payments for the 2012 crop year, such payments are also not authorized for the 2013 crop year; direct payments will be made in October 2013.

The 2013 DCP and ACRE program provisions are unchanged from 2012, except that all eligible participants in 2013 may choose to enroll in either DCP or ACRE for the 2013 crop year. This means that eligible producers who were enrolled in ACRE in 2012 may elect to enroll in DCP in 2013 or may re-enroll in ACRE in 2013 (and vice versa). Producers who elect to enroll a farm in ACRE must agree to: (1) Forgo counter-cyclical payments, (2) A 20-percent reduction in their direct payments, and (3) A 30-percent reduction in the marketing loan rates for all commodities produced on the farm that are eligible for ACRE payments.

Debt Ceiling Breach Punted to May
By Stephen Frerichs

Last week the Senate agreed to the House’s plan to suspend the nation’s $16.4 trillion debt ceiling until May 19. The vote was 64-34. It now heads to the White House for President Barack Obama’s expected signature. By suspending the debt ceiling, Congress has set the following calendar of events into motion:

March 1 – Sequester kicks in
March 27 – Continuing Resolution expires
April 15 – Congressional budget deadline
May 19 – Debt ceiling reached

The order of events will ensure the continued debate over federal spending. It also has effectively frozen any farm bill activities until the budget picture becomes clearer.

House Agriculture Committee Sub-committee Chairs and Ranking Members
By Stephen Frerichs

In an organizational meeting last week, the House Agriculture Committee approved the following sub-committee chairs and ranking members:

Department Operations, Oversight, and Nutrition
Jurisdiction: Agency oversight, review and analysis, special investigations, food stamps, nutrition and consumer programs.
• Rep. Steve King (IA-4), Chair
• Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, (OH-11), Ranking Member
General Farm Commodities and Risk Management
Jurisdiction: Program and markets related to cotton, cottonseed, wheat, feed grains, soybeans, oilseeds, rice, dry beans, peas, lentils, the Commodity Credit Corporation, risk management, including crop insurance, commodity exchanges, and specialty crops.
• Rep. K. Michael Conaway (TX-11), Chair
• Rep. David Scott, (GA-13), Ranking Member
Conservation, Energy, and Forestry
Jurisdiction: Soil, water, and resource conservation, small watershed program, energy and biobased energy production, rural electrification, forestry in general and forest reserves other than those created from the public domain.
• Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (PA-5), Chair
• Rep. Tim Walz, (MN-1), Ranking Member
Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture
Jurisdiction: Fruits and vegetables, honey and bees, marketing and promotion orders, plant pesticides, quarantine, adulteration of seeds and insect pests, and organic agriculture, research, education and extension, biotechnology and foreign agriculture assistance, and trade promotion programs, generally.
• Rep. Austin Scott (GA-8), Chair
• Rep. Kurt Schrader (OR-5), Ranking Member
Livestock, Rural Development, and Credit
Jurisdiction: Livestock, dairy, poultry, meat, seafood and seafood products, inspection, marketing, and promotion of such commodities, aquaculture, animal welfare and grazing, rural development, farm security and family farming matters, and agricultural credit.
• Rep. Eric A. “Rick” Crawford (AR-1), Chair
• Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16), Ranking Member

CFPB Issues New Appraisal Rule, Mortgage Servicing Standards
By Bill Garber

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau addressed borrowers’ access to appraisals in a new rule released Jan. 18 and issued new standards for mortgage servicing Jan. 17. The appraisal rule is designed to increase transparency of the valuation process while the mortgage standards are designed to protect borrowers from faulty foreclosure practices.

The appraisal rule will take effect Jan. 18, 2014. The mortgage standards will take effect Jan. 10, 2014, and apply to most servicers; smaller lenders (those holding 5,000 or fewer loans) are exempted.

The new appraisal rule, which is included in an amendment to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, makes it easier for borrowers to review a valuation before getting a loan. Specifically, the rule requires lenders to tell mortgage applicants within three days of applying for a first mortgage that they are entitled to receive a free copy of any valuation, including appraisals, automated valuation models and broker price opinions after the reports are completed or three days before the loan closes, whichever comes first.

A summary of the new appraisal rule is available here: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201301_cfpb_ecoa-appraisals-rule_summary.pdf

Immigration reform takes spotlight
By David Bennett

Leaders in the House and Senate are vowing that immigration reform will take a large portion of the legislative spotlight this year.

On Monday (Jan. 28), a bipartisan group of eight senators offered proposals to deal with the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country. Obama will present his own proposals on Tuesday and a group in the House is expected to offer its own ideas soon after.
Read more on the Southwest Farm Press website: http://southwestfarmpress.com/government/immigration-reform-takes-spotlight?NL=SWFP-01&Issue=SWFP-01_20130130_SWFP-01_643&YM_RID=sgruba@asfmra.org&YM_MID=1369665&sfvc4enews=42

FHA Releases New FAQs 1-13-13
Official Name: Frequently Asked Questions – Valuation Protocol

Topics covered include:

- New Construction
- Wood Destroying Insects/Termites
- Utilities – Well and Septic
- Inspections & Certifications
- Cost Approach
- Accessory Dwelling Units
- Manufactured Housing
- Two Unit Properties
- HECM Appraisals
- Lender Concerns
- Reconsideration of Value
- 203k loan/Eligible Repairs
- Appraisal Portability
- FHA Appraisals
- Title Concerns
- Conventional Heating System

Download this 28-page document for complete info: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=aprval.pdf