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  • Thursday, January 19, 2017 10:47 AM | Jill Whitley (Administrator)

    Trump: Former Georgia Governor 'Will Accomplish Great Things'

    By Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor

    1/19/2017 

    OMAHA (DTN) -- After extensive deliberation, President-elect Donald Trump named former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue as his nominee for Agriculture secretary early Thursday.

    In a statement, Trump noted Perdue "embraced polices under which Georgia farmers have thrived," and Perdue would bring that same level of success to USDA. "Perdue is deeply in touch with the concerns of American farmers and will fight for their prosperity," the transition team stated.

    "Sonny Perdue is going to accomplish great things as Secretary of Agriculture," Trump said. "From growing up on a farm to being governor of a big agriculture state, he has spent his whole life understanding and solving the challenges our farmers face, and he is going to deliver big results for all Americans who earn their living off the land."

    Perdue, 70, fills out the final cabinet position just one day before Trump's inauguration. Perdue was governor of Georgia from 2003 to 2011, but he also has a long history in the grain and feed industry as a founding partner for AGrow Star, a grain business with 11 elevator locations across Georgia and South Carolina. AGrow Star grew out a grain and fertilizer business Perdue's family built that later bought and merged with a group of grain elevators in 2000 that had been called Milner Grain.

    "I am proud and honored to be joining President-elect Trump's administration as his Secretary of Agriculture," Perdue said. "Beginning as a simple Georgia farm boy, making sure Americans who make their livelihood in the agriculture industry are thriving is near and dear to my heart, and I'm going to champion the concerns of American agriculture and work tirelessly to solve the issues facing our farm families in this new role."

    Even before the official announcement, several major agricultural groups praised the announcement. Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation and a Georgia farmer, stated that Perdue's nomination "is welcome news to the nation's farmers and ranchers" and would provide a strong voice for agriculture.

    "I have known Gov. Perdue for years. I've seen firsthand his commitment to the business of agriculture as we worked together on issues facing farmers and ranchers in our home state of Georgia," Duvall said. "He understands the challenges facing rural America because that's where he was born and raised. He is a businessman who recognizes the impact immigration reform, trade agreements and regulation have on a farmer's bottom line and ability to stay in business from one season to the next."

    Danny Brown, president of AGrow Star, told DTN in an interview earlier this month that Perdue is the managing member of the company. He also has worked with Perdue for 40 years in the grain business.

    "We are mainly a corn, wheat and soybean operation," Brown said. "We'll certainly handle any type of grain. We'll handle oats, we'll handle soybean meal or grain sorghum, but that that takes care of 95% of our business."

    The company has sold the fertilizer part of the business, but AGrow Star has just over 3 million bushels of storage capacity at its 11 locations and also has a trucking business. As Brown described it, AGrow Star has several marketing services for grain producers in the region.

    In his capacity, Perdue serves on several boards in agriculture, including as a board member for the National Grain and Feed Association and as the secretary for the Georgia Agribusiness Council.

    "He's the big dog in charge," Brown described Perdue. "Sonny's job is to take care of the entity and oversee it and make sure that we do our job."

    Perdue had gone to veterinary school and went back home to be a veterinarian. His father and brother-in-law had started the grain and fertilizer business, but over time Perdue personally got more involved in that side of agriculture as well.

    "The grain business changed in the late '70s from buying and selling to marketing and we were all part of a marketing group called White Commercial and we learned to market grain rather than just buying and selling," Brown said.

    "He knows a lot about the grain business and he knows a lot of people in the industry," Brown said. "He is well versed in fertilizer, chemicals, grain business and marketing."

    In 1988-89, Perdue was president of the Southeastern Grain and Feed Association. Bonnie Holloman, who has been executive director of the association for 37 years, has known Perdue since the 1980s and praised his selection.

    "He is going to bring so much to that position," Holloman said. "I was just so elated when I heard President-elect Trump was considering him ... He is a man of integrity and a family man who just really cares. Agriculture is going to be better off having him in there."

    The selection process for Agriculture secretary was the longest for an incoming president since Franklin Roosevelt chose Henry Wallace for the job in 1933. It's unclear what delayed the process as Trump focused on Texans, women and a pair of Hispanic candidates for the job before offering it to Perdue. Members of Trump's agricultural advisory team also became upset when it appeared Trump might offer the job to a Democratic senator.

    Perdue met with Trump about the Agriculture secretary job on Nov. 30. Afterward, a parade of candidates met with Trump, Vice President-elect Mike Pence and others on the transition team. Yet, Trump eventually came back around to Perdue.

    If confirmed, Perdue will replace outgoing Secretary Tom Vilsack who is President Barack Obama's longest-serving cabinet member, having served the full tenure of Obama's presidency. USDA is one of the largest departments in the federal government with a budget of $148 billion for fiscal-year 2016, broken down with 73% focuses on nutrition programs; 13% in commodity programs; 8% in conservation and forestry; and all other functions such as rural development and food safety accounting for 6% of the budget.

    Perdue grew up the son of a farmer and a schoolteacher in central Georgia and has a doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of Georgia. He also served in the Air Force as a captain before returning back to Georgia in the mid-1970s to start his career. He was a county zoning commissioner and then became a state representative and later a state senator, serving as a Democrat. Perdue was the top Democrat in the Georgia Senate from 1994-97. He then switched parties in 1998 and continued to win state Senate races as a Republican. Perdue then won the governorship in 2002, becoming the first Republican governor of Georgia since the Reconstruction era after the Civil War. Perdue left office in 2011 because Georgia has term limits on its governorship.

    Perdue's time as a Democrat led to questions by some whether he would be accepted in the hyper-partisan environment of Washington, D.C., but Trump likely focused on Perdue's deep business ties in the grain industry rather than Perdue's political switch.

    Known for its peaches and Vidalia onions, Georgia has a diverse agricultural industry. The state ranks as the country's largest state for chicken broiler production, as well as peanuts and second in the country in cotton production, according to the 2012 USDA Ag Census. The state also ranks among the top five states for fruits, tree nuts and berries.

    As governor, Perdue worked to promote agriculture in Georgia and industry expansion. The poultry industry, for instance, continued to grow in the state. Georgia, though, also was hit by drought during his tenure. He pushed water conservation during the drought and also sued the Army Corps of Engineers over battles regarding water flows between neighboring states. Perdue also drew both criticism and praise when he held a prayer vigil at the state capitol to pray for rain. The event in November 2007 drew hundreds of people.

    "I'm here today to appeal to you and to all Georgians and all people who believe in the power of prayer to ask God to shower our state, our region, our nation with the blessings of water," Perdue said at the time.

    Perdue also has gotten some face time as an actor. He had a cameo in the movie "We Are Marshall" as the football coach for East Carolina University. The movie about the Marshall University football team was filmed in Georgia. Perdue said at the time, "I fit the role perfectly as an old jock," according to the Associate Press article on his cameo. In college, Perdue was a walk-on to the University of Georgia football program.

    After leaving office, Perdue announced he and others started Perdue Partners in 2011, which was reportedly a trading company in Atlanta focusing on exports. Perdue Partners included cousin David Perdue, who is now a U.S. senator from Georgia and a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Perdue Partners has a LinkedIn page, but its website doesn't open to offer any further details about the company.

    While sharing the same last name as Perdue Farms, Sonny Perdue stated in a news release as governor that he is not related to the Maryland family that owns the poultry company, which does have operations in Georgia.


  • Thursday, September 08, 2016 1:11 PM | Jill Whitley (Administrator)

    HERITAGE ADVISES END TO COMMODITY, CROP INSURANCE PROGRAMS 

    The Heritage Foundation is laying out its case for eliminating commodity-support programs and crop insurance policies that protect farmers' revenue losses. Pro Ag on Wednesday obtained a copy of a report that will guide the agenda of the conservative think tank's lobbying arm, Heritage Action, when negotiations over the next farm bill ramp up. The report argues that most farmers have the means to manage risk without taxpayer help, and the roughly $15 billion spent annually on subsidies distorts planting decisions while promoting risky practices, like abandoning crop diversification or farming land that is likely to flood or erode.

    "Although farms are generally financially healthy ... some farmers are going to lose their farms, just as restaurant owners will lose their restaurants and pastors will lose their churches," the report says. "The federal government should not be guaranteeing that all operations will survive, and, even worse, guaranteeing that all operations will flourish."

    The Heritage Foundation calls for an end to several programs enacted in the 2014 Farm Bill, including the commodity-support programs Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage, as well as the new dairy insurance program. U.S. sugar policy that controls production and imports to maintain certain prices also should be eliminated, it advises. The group also recommends that federal crop insurance only protect against deep yield losses and disasters, not against losses in revenue, which now account for 77 percent of all policies. Producers could select the same coverage levels available now, but taxpayers would only subsidize policies with up to 70 percent protection. To help with the transition, one-time block grants should be given to states to use for agricultural purposes, the group suggests. Read the report here.

    Some early reactions:

    Dale Moore, executive director of public policy at the American Farm Bureau Federation: The Heritage Foundation has once again proposed leaving farmers and ranchers without a viable safety net, he says, and he questions whether researchers at Heritage Action considered the current farm economy and the challenges facing dairy and cotton producers, in particular. Congress and agriculture groups in recent years have worked to move toward a more market-oriented system, Moore says. The Farm Bureau doesn't believe good agriculture policy means sacrificing the people who grow food.

    Tom Sell, principal of the lobbying firm Combest, Sell & Associates: Congress has rejected the Heritage Foundation's arguments in the past, as lawmakers realize farmers take on "extraordinary financial risks" growing crops for a "volatile and distorted world market."

    "They know the farm policies that Heritage's 65 pages of ink try to demean represent one-quarter of one percent of the federal budget and that the risk of getting this area of policy wrong is far greater than this small cost, which has fostered the most productive and dynamic agricultural sector in the history of the world," said Sell, who is an adviser to Farm Policy Facts, a coalition of agricultural groups.

    Tom Sell response in full

    "While Heritage puts out some thoughtful work on many subjects, their studies on agriculture policy are the same old recycled, detached, ivory tower babble.

    "Thankfully, most of the Members of Congress they are trying to influence know some farm families. They know they work incredibly hard and take on extraordinary financial risks to do important work that is of intrinsic value to our society. They know that growing crops for a volatile and distorted world market is more risk than most Americans would be willing to take on. They know family farms are better equated to small businesses than wage earners.  They know the farm policies that Heritage's 65 pages of ink try to demean represent one quarter of one percent of the federal budget and that the risk of getting this area of policy wrong is far greater than this small cost, which has fostered the most productive and dynamic agricultural sector in the history of the world.

    "In a nutshell, Congress and the American people have rejected these aloof arguments in the past and we have no reason to believe this reprise will change that."  

    We are working on a more detailed response for Farm Policy Facts (www.farmpolicyfacts.org) to address some of the particular problems with the Heritage study.  We just wanted to forward this along this morning so that you know we are in the fight.

    Stand proud.  Thanks as always for what you do.


  • Tuesday, August 30, 2016 3:20 PM | Jill Whitley (Administrator)

    PRACTICAL TO REPLANT

    On June 22, RMA published an interim final rule which, among other things, would change the definition of "practical to replant."  You can access it at the link below:

    http://www.rma.usda.gov/bulletins/managers/2015/mgr-15-007.pdf.

    Many just recently became aware of this and started thinking through the implications after the sales season and acreage reporting.  The CIPA Regulatory Affairs Committee and Board deliberated on this issue over the last couple of weeks, and CIPA submitted comments yesterday on the August 22 deadline.  You can read the comments here.

  • Friday, August 05, 2016 11:21 AM | Jill Whitley (Administrator)

    Secretary Vilsack hit it out of the park in his advocacy of American agriculture in this video of testimony he offered earlier this year.  Click here to view the video.

  • Friday, August 05, 2016 11:20 AM | Jill Whitley (Administrator)

    NEW VIDEO SPOTLIGHTS PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR US FARMERS, FARM POLICY

    (OVERLAND PARK, Kan.) – America's farmers and farm policies, including crop insurance, receive overwhelming, bipartisan support from voters, according to a new video released by National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS).

    The video comes after the Republican and Democratic parties wrapped up their national conventions, moving America into the heart of the election season.

    "As the first Tuesday in November approaches, voters will be busy examining candidates from the left, candidates from the right, and hoping they won't be left behind," the video states. "But there's one thing almost everybody can agree on: America's farmers and farm policies are moving the country forward."

    The educational piece is based on results from a recent public opinion poll showing that nearly 90 percent of U.S. voters have a favorable view of farmers, with 92 percent agreeing it is important to provide farmers with federal funding.

    NCIS's video also illustrates that the majority of voters prefer crop insurance, which is delivered by private companies instead of the federal government and partially funded by farmers.

    "That's a winning set-up in most voters' minds," it states. "Nearly 80 percent of whom said they approved of farmers getting discounts on crop insurance premiums, with nearly three-fourths applauding farm policy's current cost-sharing structure."

    These results, the video continues, shouldn't be a surprise as eight in 10 voters agree that a strong and thriving farming industry is critical to America's national security.

    "So while agriculture's critics may continue their unrelenting, misguided fight on farmers and farm policy," it concludes, "the numbers show that Farm Country will have a powerful ally in its corner this November and beyond…the American people."

    Click here to view this video on YouTube.


  • Thursday, July 28, 2016 11:09 AM | Jill Whitley (Administrator)

    CIPA held their Annual Board Member Election at their CIPA Business Meeting in Kansas City on May 3, 2016. Below is the list of our CIPA Board of Directors for the 2016-17 membership year.

    2016-17 BOARD OF DIRECTORS
    TERM EXPIRES
    William Cole, Chairman 2018
    Gid Moore, Vice Chairman 2019
    Marva Ulleland, Secretary 2017
    Jack Tank, Treasurer 2018
    Mark Andreasen 2019
    Tom Babel 2019
    Roger Buchanan 2019
    Pete Dunn 2018
    Matthew Flemming 2019
    Joanie Grimes 2017
    Travis Keister 2017
    Sam Sonnenberg 2017
    Jason Williamson 2019


  • Thursday, June 30, 2016 12:52 PM | Jill Whitley (Administrator)

    USDA Provides Targeted Assistance to Cotton Producers to Share in the Cost of Ginning

     

    One-time Payments to Begin in July to Assist with 2016 Ginning Season

     

    WASHINGTON, June 6, 2016 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) will provide an estimated $300 million in cost-share assistance payments to cotton producers through the new Cotton Ginning Cost-Share program, in order to expand and maintain the domestic marketing of cotton.

     

    “Today's announcement shows USDA continues to stand with America’s cotton producers and our rural communities,” said Vilsack. “The Cotton Ginning Cost Share program will offer meaningful, timely and targeted assistance to cotton growers to help with their anticipated ginning costs and to facilitate marketing. The program will provide, on average, approximately 60 percent more assistance per farm and per producer than the 2014 program that provided cotton transition assistance.”

     

    Through the Cotton Ginning Cost Share program, eligible producers can receive a one-time cost share payment, which is based on a producer’s 2015 cotton acres reported to FSA, multiplied by 40 percent of the average ginning cost for each production region. With the pressing need to provide assistance ahead of the 2016 ginning season this fall, USDA will ensure the application process is straight-forward and efficient. The program estimates the costs based on planting of cotton in 2015, and therefore the local FSA offices already have this information for the vast majority of eligible producers and the applications will be pre-populated with existing data. Sign-up for the program will begin June 20 and run through Aug. 5, 2016 at the producer’s local FSA office. Payments will be processed as applications are received, and are expected to begin in July.

     

    Since 2011, cotton fiber markets have experienced dramatic changes. As a result of low cotton prices and global oversupply, cotton producers are facing economic uncertainty that has led to many producers having lost equity and having been forced to liquidate equipment and land to satisfy loans. The ginning of cotton is necessary prior to marketing the lint for fiber, or the seed for oil or feed. While the Cotton Ginning Cost-Share program makes payments to cotton producers for cotton ginning costs, the benefits of the program will be felt by the broader marketing chain associated with cotton and cottonseed, including cotton gins, cooperatives, marketers and cottonseed crushers and the rural communities that depend on them.

     

    The program has the same eligibility requirements as were used for the 2014 Cotton Transition Assistance Program, including a $40,000 per producer payment limit, requirement to be actively engaged in farming, meet conservation compliance and a $900,000 adjusted gross income limit.

     

    To learn more about the Cotton Ginning Cost-Share program, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/CGCS/index or contact a local FSA county office. To find your local FSA county office, visithttp://offices.usda.gov.

     

    Since 2009, USDA has worked to strengthen and support American agriculture, an industry that supports one in 11 American jobs, provides American consumers with more than 80 percent of the food we consume, ensures that Americans spend less of their paychecks at the grocery store than most people in other countries, and supports markets for homegrown renewable energy and materials. USDA has also provided $5.6 billion in disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; expanded risk management tools with products like Whole Farm Revenue Protection; and helped farm businesses grow with $36 billion in farm credit. The Department has engaged its resources to support a strong next generation of farmers and ranchers by improving access to land and capital; building new markets and market opportunities; and extending new conservation opportunities. USDA has developed new markets for rural-made products, including more than 2,500 biobased products through USDA's BioPreferred program; and invested $64 billion in infrastructure and community facilities to help improve the quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/results.


  • Tuesday, February 16, 2016 10:44 AM | Jill Whitley (Administrator)

    For more information contact Jeff Harrison at jeff@combest-sell.com.  

     

     

    Crop Insurance Support Among Farmers Nearly Unanimous

     

    (INDIAN WELLS, Calif.)—Almost every farmer who uses crop insurance supports the risk management tool and opposes legislative attempts to undermine it.  That’s according to a new study conducted by the Crop Insurance Professionals Association (CIPA), which was released at this week’s annual crop insurance convention.

     

    Crop insurance agents represented by CIPA delivered the survey to their customers, and more than 1,300 farmers, growing 20 different crops in 26 states, responded.  Among the results:

     

    • 96 percent oppose funding cuts to crop insurance like the one recently proposed in the White House’s FY2017 budget request;
    • 97 percent oppose reopening the 2014 Farm Bill to change crop insurance;
    • 94 percent oppose the AFFIRM Act, a legislative proposal introduced last year to reduce crop insurance benefits and limit coverage options;
    • 97 percent prefer that crop insurance be administered by the private sector instead of the government;
    • 93 percent said their banks demand crop insurance coverage before extending needed operating capital; and
    • 99 percent noted that current low commodity prices and extreme weather make crop insurance coverage a necessity.

    “It is clear that farmers depend on crop insurance and are willing to fight to defend a policy that helps them combat extreme weather and volatile markets,” said William Cole, an agent from Batesville, Mississippi and current chairman of CIPA.  “Farmers made their support very clear late last year when they rallied together to beat back attempts by some in Congress to erode the current system.”

     

    The survey also took on two vocal farm policy opponents that are working to undermine crop insurance.  The first is the Center for Rural Affairs, which recently produced a report card on crop insurance’s effectiveness and gave it a failing grade. CIPA asked farmers to grade crop insurance, and fewer than 1 percent agreed with the Center for Rural Affairs’ assessment.  Instead, nearly six in 10 respondents gave crop insurance an A and 36 percent selected a B.

     

    Next, the survey asked if it were appropriate for university professors to profit from designing crop insurance policies and then take money from farm policy opponents to criticize crop insurance.  Ninety-four percent of respondents said, “Making money being on both sides of an issue is a conflict of interest.”      

    The survey can be viewed at this link

     


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