Biofuels lobbyists turn to farm bill DeLauro seeks info on crop payments to …

November 13, 2013 by  
Filed under Wind Energy Tips

BIOFUELS LOBBYISTS TURN TO FARM BILL:  Until the EPA really publishes its intention to reduce the amount of ethanol it will require gasoline blenders to buy, farm and biofuel groups say they are still lobbying against such a change.

The White House Office of Management and Budget is still reviewing EPA’s proposal regarding its 2014 renewable fuel standard, but based on a leaked agency draft, the corn industry and its proponents should expect bad news. Still, Chandler Goule, the vice president for government relations at the National Farmers Union, remains optimistic. There is no proposal yet from EPA and, even when there is, it will only be a proposal and the agency is required by law to consider public comment before making it final, he asserts.

But NFU and other groups also are lobbying hard to protect $900 million contained in the Senate farm bill that would fund biofuel friendly programs like the Rural Energy for America Program and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. No such provisions exist in the House bill. Pro’s Bill Tomson and Tarini Parti have the story here:

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DELAURO SEEKS INFO ON CROP PAYMENTS TO BILLIONAIRES: Speaking of the farm bill, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), along with Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Ron Kind (D-Wis.) will hold a briefing of Capitol Hill staff today following the announcement that DeLauro is specifically asking a group of 50 billionaires who are said to have received farm subsidies to disclose whether they also benefited from crop insurance payments. It’s part of an effort to highlight the discrepancy between those payments and likely cuts to the food stamp program in a new farm bill.

DeLauro sent letters to each of the 50 billionaires, named by an Environmental Working Group report that found they were the recipients of farm subsidies between 2008 and 2012. In her letters, she asks, “Have you or your business holdings received any farm subsidies since 2008? Since the crop insurance payments are not public, can you confirm what you have received in crop insurance subsidies and over what period?”

The list includes many notable names, including: Paul Allen, the cofounder of Microsoft; Stewart Lynda Resnick, the owners of POM Wonderful, Fiji Water and Teleflora; and S. Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A. The EWG report, in case you missed it, is available here:

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‘MISTAKES AND MISCHARACTERIZATIONS’: And speaking of ethanol, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is questioning the accuracy of AP’s report, released yesterday, that suggests EPA’s policies encouraging the use of ethanol as an energy source represent an environmental failure.

“I think it’s unfortunate,” Vilsack told reporters after a presentation at the annual meeting of the Association of Public Land-Grant Universities, in Washington. “I think there were a lot of mistakes and mischaracterizations and half-truths in the article. And we tried to point that out, but that’s the nature of the business today so we’re going to continue to make sure that folks understand that there is a record number of acres enrolled in conservation programs of one kind or another in this country; that [Conservation Reserve Program], as important as it is, is not the be all and end all of conservation … that it’s probably not fair to the industry to characterize the environmental impacts without taking into consideration all the changes that occurred in production — both at the agricultural side and in the ethanol production side that have made things more environmental friendly — from precision agriculture to utilization of renewable energy sources to fuel, ethanol production.”

AG, ETHANOL GROUPS DENOUNCE AP STORY: Vilsack wasn’t the only one to attack the AP story:

-Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, in a statement argues that while the story blames biofuels for environmental problems, it ignores that congress reduced the conservation program by “roughly seven million acres in the 2008 Farm Bill and is poised to be reduced by seven to eight million acres in the next farm bill.” What’s more, Johnson adds: “American-produced biofuels are a clear and environmentally-friendly alternative to oil. Today’s ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by more than 30 percent compared to gasoline.” 

-The Illinois Farm Bureau, in a note to MA points to a September land-use study developed for the farm bureaus of seven Midwestern states. “Our economic research does not support the notion that crop insurance subsides and net returns alone are the dominant factors contributing to loss of Grassy Habitat, especially when observed from a regional perspective,” says the report, which is available here:

- And in a sign of the times, groups took to Reddit to air their concerns. In a live chat with AP reporter Matt Apuzzo on the site, Geoff Cooper, vice president of research and analysis for the Renewable Fuels Association, argued “if you are striving for balance and objectivity you should have at least referenced the fact that there are as many (or more) studies showing ethanol provides GHG benefits as there are showing otherwise.” The full conversation is available here:

SENATE REACTS TO MASSAD NOMINATION: Treasury official Timothy Massad, President Obama’s pick to the head the CFTC, can look forward to some tough questions based on comments made by  Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a Republican on the Agriculture Committee. Chambliss notes that the CFTC has had a “poor track record” of protecting farmers and ranchers from rules in the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and says he wants to learn more about Massad before the nomination moves forward. Senate Banking Chairman Tim Johnson, meanwhile, praised the pick, saying Massad is “exactly the type of leader the CFTC needs.”

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**A message from Fuels America: America’s farmers are feeding and fueling the nation. The Renewable Fuel Standard drives the investment and innovation that have helped America’s farms increase crop yields while also producing more than 13 billion gallons of renewable fuel and 37 million tons of animal feed. **


- Vidalia onion growers in Georgia are taking issue with the state — including a legal challenge — over new rule that would push back the shipping date, which officials say is needed to prevent rushing the crop to market, Reuters reports:

- Farmers in Montana are raising concerns that pending FSMA produce rules could subject them to a high regulatory burden, forcing them out of business, the Billings (Mont.) Gazette reports:

- McDonalds and baby food maker Gerber are not rejecting the GMO Arctic apple, as claimed last week by the group Friends of the Earth. The companies are just waiting until the regulatory approval of the fruit before deciding how to move forward, Okanagan Specialty Fruits, the apple’s creator, argues in an op-ed in Food Safety News:

- Reuters takes a look at what the decision by a Mexican court to halt any new permits to grow GMO crops means in the long term:

WHO TO FOLLOW IN ENERGY: POLITICO has launched a one-of-a-kind resource for tracking the energy conversation, leveraging a newly released Twitter technology. Sponsored by Chevron, the “Energy Insider Tweet Hub” is an online destination featuring the most influential handles in energy, as compiled by POLITICO’s energy team. The hub uses Twitter’s new custom timeline technology to filter tweets more specifically focused on conversations that matter to those involved with energy policy. Follow the tweets here: #EnergyInsider

THAT’S ALL FOR MA! We will see you tomorrow, and in the meantime, drop your host and the rest of the Pro Ag team a line: and @JsonHuffman; and @mjkorade; and @billtomson4; and @hbottemiller; and and @tparti. You can also follow @POLITICOPro and @Morning_Ag

** A message from Fuels America: The Renewable Fuel Standard is one of the few policies that has consistently driven innovation and growth in the agricultural economy, which now is responsible for 1 in 12 American jobs. Farm income is up and rural communities are thriving because America’s farmers are doing more with less: producing record yields using less water and energy inputs. The RFS is driving that progress, ensuring that the ag sector can both feed and fuel the country. **

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