Saturday, February 28, 2009
In the old days, when Jamie Whitten was the head of the House Appropriations Committee (one of the longest serving Congressmen, though I think Dingel just broke his record) one knew the rule would get changed. I'm not clear the current delegation from MS has that much clout. We'll see.
Friday, February 27, 2009
Another example is the metric system--one of the great Enlightenment ideas which Thomas Jefferson hoped to give to the U.S., but only succeeded in part (i.e., money). See here for some of the friction which results from our failure to adopt it. (The difference between EU metrics and US metrics on airline safety.)
- the payments started as replacement for subsidies but have been in place for 2 decades
- most money goes to the biggest farmers with the best land, like Queen Elizabeth II
- landowners get rich, not working farmers
- poultry, pig and horticulture people don't get paid
- the most money often goes to the people who do the least for the environment (i.e, who farm the most intensively)
I believe that by this summer there will be a garden – another garden, a vegetable garden – on the White House lawn...I believe the Obamas are committed to that. It’s a big idea, and its gonna happen. During the campaign, going around shaking peoples’ hands, he never got sick once. He was eating well, and it could have to do with having an organic chef with him. This is someone who 'gets' nutrition.I've got news for you--anyone hoping to garden in DC this year needs to be started already (said smugly as I've turned a majority of my garden space already). And, unless the Park Service has been tending the lawn organically, it will be years before the Obamas can have an organic garden, at least one warranting certification by USDA.
In addition to eliminating redundant or wasteful payments and programs, the Obama administration plans to "fundamentally reconfigure" the Program Assessment Rating Tool, a questionnaire the Bush administration used to determine which federal programs were effective.
The summary said Obama will address criticisms of PART by opening up the "insular performance measurement process" to the public, Congress and outside experts. The administration pledged to eliminate "ideological performance goals and replace them with goals Americans care about and that are based on congressional intent and feedback from the people served by government programs."
This is going to be fascinating. There's a big difference. Sen. Chambliss and Sen. Johanns (former Sec of USDA) had a go-round on this early in the 2008 farm bill fight (if I recall correctly). Let the bloodletting begin--us geezers need the entertainment (think of Imperial Rome and the gladiators).
(See here for Sen. Johann's release, per Chris.)
[Updated] I'm not sure of the logic here. Seems to me the AGI figure is better than a gross figure so the only thing going with gross gets you is the appeal of hitting the big guy, or at least someone who sounds bigger. That's not a good basis for policy making.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Shout out to Charles Cunningham, who keeps going though he's getting up there. (He retired long before I did and now has his own firm: Charles V. Cunningham, President,
Cunningham Associates, Mineral, Virginia. He must have 55 years in the cotton business. A nice guy.
• Reduce direct Payments. As part of an effort to transition large farms from direct
payments provided to owners of base acres to increased income from revenue derived from emerging markets for environmental services, the President’s Budget phases out direct payments over three years to farmers with sales revenue of more than $500,000 annually. Presently, direct payments are made to even large producers regardless of crop prices, losses, or whether the land is still under production. The program was introduced in the 1996 Farm Bill as a temporary payment scheduled to expire, but was included in the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills. The President wants to maintain a strong safety net for farm families and beginning farmers while encouraging fiscal responsibility. Large farmers are well positioned to replace those payments with alternate sources of income from emerging markets for environmental services, such as carbon sequestration, renewable energy production, and providing clean air, clean water, and wildlife habitat. USDA will increase its research and analytical capabilities and conduct Government-wide coordination activities to encourage the establishment of markets for these ecosystem services
The President supports the implementation of a $250,000* commodity programI wonder what was the figure in the print version.
payment limit, which will help ensure that payments are made only to those that most need them. To spur the development of small business and value-added agriculture in rural America, the President’s Budget provides $61 million for five Rural Development programs: the rural microentrepreneur assistance program, rural cooperative development grants, value-added producer grants, grants to minority producers, and cooperative research agreements.
* This page corrects an amount erroneously included in the printed
version of A New Era of Responsibility [Note: because the footnote "1" doesn't copy over, I replaced it with "*".
"Although we may think of the Amish as earth friendly, it is not always the case. Many whom we have met do have the belief that the land is to use –not that we should care for and cherish the gift. Thus, as we have noticed due to snow melt, piles of garbage and unsafe environmental practices litter our land."
"We'll have to see what specifically the president is talking about, but we just finished the farm bill last year, and I don't think we'll open it up," said Rep. Collin C. Peterson, Minnesota Democrat and chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.
Likewise, the ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, said the farm bill, which lasts for five years, "should not be changed midstream."
"I believe it is premature to make any sweeping changes to the makeup of the farm safety net before we have even had the chance to implement the current farm bill," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
"Officials say the goal is to make local- and state-owned geospatial data interoperable and usable across jurisdictions, with non-federal authorities maintaining control over the data and deciding what data to share.As usual, I'm torn between the thought some top-down direction would be a whole lot more efficient and recognition that, in the current state of today's weak federalized government, this sort of initiative is the best we can expect.
The program was inspired by the success that Alabama had in using information gathered at a local level to aid first responders. The recent meeting was hosted by Alabama’s Homeland Security Department, which created Virtual Alabama. [Google link here and Alabama link here]That is a system built on Google Earth Enterprise software that allows authorities to create data mashups by quickly pulling together information from an array of sources across the state’s 67 counties and make it available to first responders. "
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
But what happens--Pres. Bush and his people at the White House have a great idea. So they call up the departments and say: "do A, B, and C".
The department says: "Sounds like a great idea, do we get any money for it?"
Bush: "No, make it happen using the funds you have available".
Department: "Uh, okay, you're the boss"
House Appropriations Committee says: "Why do you need these dollars?"
Department: "Uh, we had to devote x man-years and $y to the President's great ideas"
House Appropriations Committee says: "But that wasn't our great idea"
All of the above is triggered by this note in the House Approp. Committee's statement on the appropriations bill for 2009 covering USDA:
"There is concern that agencies are being required, after appropriations have been enacted for other purposes, to support E-Gov and PART studies. This diminishes, delays, or eliminates the implementation of the activities for which funds were provided. Thirty days prior to any centrally determined charges being applied to any USDA agency that are different from those amounts displayed in the budget justification materials, the Department must submit a detailed explanation' to the committees of the amounts assessed and the method for determining diose amounts. "
"No, it's not enough money," said Jim Gwinn, the agency's chief information officer...." "
Taitano said 60 percent of the stimulus funds will be used to stabilize the current systems and 40 percent will go toward the agency's modernization efforts. Farm Service is planning to pursue the rest of the modernization funds, about $200 million, through the appropriations process. Several lawmakers have expressed support for the additional funds.
"Kathleen A. Merrigan, former administrator of the agricultural marketing service at the Agriculture Department, was tapped to be the department's deputy secretary."(Buried after discussion of the cars Obama's people drive.)
[Updated--Tom Philpott sings her praises.--Leahy, organic, Jim Hightower.]
Monday, February 23, 2009
“Every school day school nutrition professionals must meet differing local, state and federal nutrition standards; provide quality, safe and healthful meals that kids enjoy; accommodate special dietary needs and food allergies of a diverse student body; all for less than $2.57 per meal,” said Dr. Katie WIlson, SNS, president of SNA. "The time has come to raise the meal reimbursement rate to an amount that reflects the true food, transportation, labor and benefits, training, equipment and indirect expenses necessary to provide a school meal."
The key legislative issues the School Nutrition Association (SNA) is advocating for as part of child nutrition reauthorization are to:
- Increase the per meal reimbursement by 35 cents for all meals in order to keep pace with rising costs and implementing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
- Update the Federal reimbursement rates semi-annually to better reflect increasing costs.
- Expand the “free” meal category from 130% of poverty to 185%, consistent with the WIC income eligibility guidelines (eliminating the reduced price meal category).
- Provide 10 cents in USDA commodities for each school breakfast served.
- Grant the Secretary of Agriculture the statutory authority to regulate the sale of all foods and beverages on the school campus, consistent with the most recent edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (ending the “time and place rule”).
- Require the Department to implement a consistent, science-based national interpretation of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for all school meals reimbursed by USDA.
Of course, if a farm has 1,000 acres in a block, it means it's more than 1 mile square (also known as a "section"), so I'm not sure how well IBM will do in the wide-open spaces.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
(One comment on the idea of gardens at all USDA offices--mostly these facilities are rented, not government-owned, so USDA would need to get the landlord's permission. And I'm very skeptical of any top-down initiative like this--I've seen too many people full of enthusiasm for gardening in the spring, only to drop out by summer.)
Saturday, February 21, 2009
One of those missing is USDA, presumably because only Vilsack has been named.
"Agencies have had mixed success at meeting one of the first deadlines related to the massive economic stimulus package: the goal of selecting by Feb. 13 a high-level official to oversee spending.
A number of agencies contacted by Government Executive have placed someone in charge of economic recovery act activities, as requested by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag in a Feb. 9 memorandum. But at least several others missed the Feb. 13 deadline."
Elsewhere he hits more strongly on the fact that farm prices increased dramatically between 2002 and 2007, which would affect farm numbers.
Friday, February 20, 2009
He will also budget $273 billion in that [10-year] period for natural disasters. Every year the government pays billions for disaster relief, but presidents and lawmakers have long ignored budget reformers’ calls for a contingency account to reflect that certainty.I wonder whether they'll split it between FEMA and USDA? We'll see, but it's a good first step. We should also budget for California to split off and fall into the Pacific, but this is progress.
The job is one of four patronage appointments that change hands when a new president is elected. As the senior Democratic senator from Vermont, Leahy nominates candidates for farm post as well as for U.S. attorney, U.S. marshal and head of the Rural Development Office. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will make the USDA appointments.And Leahy's press release.
What the Alice Waters of the world must realize is the importance of infiltrating their converts into the jobs of aides to Representatives and Senators, both so they can advocate to their bosses as bills go through Congress and cross over to the executive branch when their party wins the Presidency.
I've no comment on the political realism of their remedy.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Minnesota’s growth in small farms is largely concentrated in the Twin Cities area and is beholden to the state’s strong organic product movement and its large immigrant populations in quest of ethnic meats and vegetables. For example, inventories of goats have quadrupled in the state during the past decade.-their "tiny" farms grew in number, as more farms grew through Community SupportThis relates to a book I just finished, a good read: Hit by a Farm, by Catherine Friend which sort of encapsulates the trend, although the two women who owned the farm went with sheep, not goats. It was blurbed by Garrison Keillor, to whom I look for an update on his "Norwegian bachelor farmers" (an uncle was a German bachelor farmer) to include the Hmongs and women crunchies now popping up around Minneapolis/St. Paul.
"(f) Payments made or attributed to a participant, directly or indirectly, mayI find it interesting because, as the AGI regs are FSA's responsibility, it implies a sharing of information, possibly an exchange of paperwork between the two agencies.
not exceed, in the aggregate, $50,000 per year.
(g) Eligibility for payment in accordance with 7 CFR part 1400, subpart G, average adjusted gross income limitation, will be determined prior to cost-share agreement approval."
It's true enough that the enthusiasm of a President and a Secretary can affect the bureaucracy, but in my experience unless the enthusiasm goes down the line, the effects die out. The cautionary lesson in this regard is the "tempos" on the Mall. When I first toured the Mall in 1965, there were these disgusting grey buildings, wood and metal, not stone, lining Constitution Avenue at the west end of the Mall. Turned out these were temporary buildings, or "tempos", occupied by the military. Oh, you say, being smart readers, they were erected in World War II as a stopgap before the Pentagon was finished.
Oh no, smart readers, you are wrong. They were erected in WWI, and were still there 50 years later. The military wasn't about to move out of them and away from their proximity to power. And no leader had the power to move the military bureaucrats. Finally, in his single greatest domestic achievement, President Nixon set his German on them (I think Erlichman, but it might have been Haldeman) and finally got them emptied and torn down. Constitution Gardens and the Vietnam Memorial occupy that area now.
The bottomline: unless the new administrator of FSA is a computer nerd, FSA won't be using Web 2.0 in the next 4 years.
[Updated--this piece in Government Executive is also relevant.]
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Interestingly, from a philosophical viewpoint (that is, in my humble opinion) farmers should not be changing their operations at all because of payment limitation rules. They should organize the way to be the most efficient operation possible, then the rules should apply. I know that's never going to happen, it's like saying someone shouldn't decide whether or not to buy versus renting a house based on the tax deductibility of the interest. Economists point to such changes and say the government is making the economy less efficient. And it is.
According to figures issued by the Pentagon on Wednesday, 98 percent of the more than 170,000 employees rated under the National Security Personnel System received performance-based payouts for 2009, meaning their supervisors graded their work as a 3 or better out of five possible points. The majority of those employees -- 55.4 percent -- earned a rating of 3, defining them as valued performers.I'm overly cynical, since the best year I ever had, in terms of accomplishments, was the worst year according to my boss's evaluation. Designing a good pay system is hard, particularly when the bureaucracy being evaluated doesn't produce measurable outputs. Look at the pay system for investment bankers.
"Specifically, corn has seen the following changes between 1987 and 2007, Dickey [President of National Corn Growers] noted.
1. Land use: The amount of land needed to produce one bushel has decreased 37 percent.
2. Soil loss: Manageable soil loss per bushel of corn has decreased by 69 percent.
3. Energy: The energy used to produce a bushel of corn has decreased by 37 percent.
4. Climate impact: Corn production has seen a 30 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions per bushel."
The U.S. is obviously first, with Argentina and Brazil close and India and China far behind, right?
No--it's China, India, U.S. in that order. Source.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Gross makes another, unrelated mistake. He suggests that, as a Harvard professor, I am an example of a person with a particularly stable income. (That is why, he intimates, I fail to appreciate the consumption decisions facing real people who face substantial uncertainty.) It is true that my university salary is reasonably secure, but more of my income comes from book royalties than salary, and that income is anything but stable. Any day now, someone could come along with a better textbook and put me out of business.Perhaps Prof. Mankiw has something to fear from the open textbook effort described by Timothy Burke. (Although the wikibooks macroeconomics discussion page has not been updated since 2005.)
On this last point, of course, I am speaking hypothetically.
But maybe his textbook is more like the one Kevin Drum describes:
I only have one of my college textbooks still in my possession, but I just got it off the shelf to see if it had a price in it. It did: $17.25. That was in 1976, and adjusted for inflation it comes to $64 in today's dollars. So what does it currently cost on Amazon? Answer: $132. It is, as near as I can tell, the exact same book. Same binding, same number of pages, same charming lack of color. In fact, browsing through it, it looks as if it's being printed from the same plates as it was in 1976.Bottom line: I don't believe Prof. Mankiw's textbook sales are nearly as volatile as say: the income of a small dairy farmer, or even the average crop farmer, or a restaurant owner, or a construction worker, or a waitperson, or... Mankiw, like me, has a good income (mine not quite as good as his) from a nonprofit institution plus somewhat more changeable income from investments (his time, my savings) which puts us in another category than employees of profit-making enterprises now facing losses. Somehow it assuages the guilt if we pretend to be insecure.
This, then, is obviously a book that ought to be cheaper today than it was three decades ago. The costs of production have long since been paid back, there's a ton of competition from the used book market since the book hasn't changed in 30 years, and I imagine that author royalties are the same as ever. For reference, a similar size commercial hardback would run about $40 these days.
It's an unexpected example of the importance of shared definitions, and the problems of merging institutions. It also shows musicians being bureaucratic, which they are.
Tilson Thomas observed that even experienced orchestra players can have trouble shifting from one ensemble to another. He recalled a Carnegie Hall tribute that he conducted shortly after Leonard Bernstein's death, with members of all the orchestras Bernstein had conducted: musicians from the Vienna Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic and other top-flight ensembles.
At the first downbeat, he said, they had trouble coming in together: "There were at least five discernible attacks, because people had such different assumptions about where 'now' is."
Can the universality of music, and of YouTube -- or a strong conductor -- trump 70 different national definitions of "now"? The answer to this question should, at the very least, make for an interestingly different kind of concert.
Monday, February 16, 2009
"Take them [farm program subsidies] away, I've argued more than once, and you'd still have a food system that mainly produces junk churned out by a few big companies...."
Today, HFCS represents just 3.5% of the total cost of soft drink manufacturing as measured by the value of shipments. Meanwhile, the corn content of HFCS represents only 1.6% of this value. Thus, the impact of corn prices on the final retail price of a food product is not as high as one might think.
That means even if you take away the 27 percent discount HFCS producers got for their corn, you'd only be adding a penny or two to the final price of a Big Gulp."
Sunday, February 15, 2009
The household ends by adopting some conservation measures and resolving to spend on their biggest problem--they live in an old house in Arlington, VA, which wastes heat and cooling. That's pretty much the conclusion: focus your energies on the biggest consumers, usually heat/cooling.
The pace of global warming is likely to be much faster than recent predictions, because industrial greenhouse gas emissions have increased more quickly than expected and higher temperatures are triggering self-reinforcing feedback mechanisms in global ecosystems, scientists said Saturday.And George Will attacks Prof. Chu (Energy Secretary) and others who warn of global warming. (If I understand this post the scientists are saying the global sea ice in the Antarctic does not necessarily mean no global warming, it might be consistent with it.)
Saturday, February 14, 2009
The map shows what seems to be a pattern of greater access west of a line running NNE SSW from Minnesota to the Texas Panhandle--not sure why that pattern. Kansas has good coverage. I know 15 years ago the state was big into GIS--whether there's a relationship between state government policies and access I don't know.
Over 2.2 million farms were included in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Census, which is conducted every five years. In 2002, the Census found that half the farms in the country were connected to the Internet in some way (broadband or dial-up). By 2007, the percentage of farms with some kind of Internet connection inched up to 56.5%.
However, only 33% of farms in 2007 had broadband connections.
But Congress cut some IT funding, including money to modernize the Farm Service Agency's computers to process payments to farmers. The final bill set aside $50 million for the effort, far less than the $245 million the House originally set.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Unfortunately, Congress controls GPO, not the President, so Mr. Malamud can't be named GPO head by Obama, as he suggests in this NYTimes article. But otherwise he has a case:
Mr. Malamud said his years of activism had led him to set a long-shot goal: serving in the Obama administration, perhaps even as head of the Government Printing Office. The thought might seem far-fetched — Mr. Malamud is, by admission, more of an at-the-barricades guy than a behind-the-desk guy. But he noted that he published more pages online last year than the printing office did.IMO, if data generated by the government is to become public, it ought to be free and easily searchable, as through Google. I strongly dislike operations like PACER, which charges a fee to access court records. (In their defense, it appears in 1988 they asked Congress for money to provide the records free, Congress said "no", get the money by user fees. But technological innovation has outstripped the courts ability to push IT solutions.
USDA subsidies have been changed for some crop insurance policies which may cause you to adjust your decisions on coverage. William Edwards at Iowa State says whole farm and enterprise units used to have lower premiums than basic and optional units. For 2009 they will have the same dollar value subsidy, which will be 55% for basic units, 77% for enterprise units, and 80% for whole farm units when selecting 75% coverage.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Barbecue ribs, fried chicken, rib-eye steak, lobster tails, crab legs, roast turkey, stir-fry, cheeseburgers, fries, onion rings, egg rolls, breaded shrimp, buffalo wings, chili, crepes, pancakes, omelets, waffles, burritos, tacos, quesadillas, quiches, bacon, polish sausages, pulled pork, corned beef hash, milk shakes and smoothies — and that’s just for starters. (From Edge of the West post quoting a Chicago Tribune article, also going back to GI's in Britain in WWII.)Makes me hungry just to read it. If it's okay for the military to eat comfort food in a war zone, is it okay for the lower class to eat comfort food in their daily life?
- smaller carbon footprint (more efficient to ship pork than grain to feed pigs)
- more efficient use of by-products
- superior taste and texture
- more humane (Temple Grandin has worked on Iowa slaughterhouses)
(The commenters say: well, Californians shouldn't eat pork. Or they should accept the ununiform taste and texture of pigs fed a varied diet.)
IMHO, if you accept these arguments, you accept something like a global agricultural system, because similar arguments can apply to other foodstuffs.
In the long run, you only get rid of surplus housing inventory by finding more buyers at the bottom of the ladder or taking the time to work off the surplus.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Should I start a pool on how long it will take for FSA to post its first video?
Our $4 ticket price for folks over 60 (which I found out today folks over 62 are seniors at the E Street Cinema in DC) has been wonderful for attendance, but nobody buys any snacks.I feel guilty but my wife and I never buy snacks at the theater.
What a difference a bad economy makes. The collapse of the construction industry and a slump in the restaurant and food service sector have sent thousands of people back to looking for work on California farms, which not so long ago were hurting for workers.Apparently there's some mobility in labor at the lower end. I don't know why this surprises me, but it did.
"TR: But can you get rid of skips in voice calls and jitters in streaming video?Some nominees forget to pay all their taxes, some forget their cell phones. The problems a new President faces. As an increasingly forgetful senior, I suggest a blanket amnesty for all memory lapses.
PW: Quality of service continues to be important. One of the things we believe, that we've put a lot of effort into...
PW: (a minute later) Hi, sorry, I didn't plug in my cell phone last night!"
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
High fructose corn syrup makes a convenient target for those who would blame our ills on big business, but the reality is we love sweets.
All told, 2009 offers a unique chance for renters to differentiate from many competitors. And contract fulfillment is a tactic at least as practical as meticulous roadside maintenance or colorful newsletters.
So how about this alternative guideline for 2009: A deal’s a deal.
Monday, February 09, 2009
Sunday, February 08, 2009
(A bit of background--ASCS used to hire lots of summer help to measure crop acreages, often one way it recruited its permanent employees. Over the years changes in the programs and the use of certifications and spot checks have lessened the need for measurement, and aerial imagery has enabled in-office measurement, saving taxpayer dollars.)
Saturday, February 07, 2009
magazine and newspaper subscriptions
shopping at high-end department stores for apparel
entertainment, such as movie and theater tickets.
An attractive feature of CRC insurance this year is that the price used to establish the estimated revenue guarantee for wheat in 2009 is $8.77 per bushel. Wheat futures for spring wheat are currently trading in the $6 to $6.50 per bushel range for September. That means that CRC is providing an opportunity to insure the price, one component of expected revenue, well above what the futures market believes the price will be at harvest time. If you have not purchased a CRC policy already, visit with your local insurance agent before March 15.Sounds like a no-brainer, but there must be a catch (like maybe the futures markets are wrong, as if that ever happens).
Friday, February 06, 2009
And today the NYTimes reports that men are losing their jobs in the recession while women aren't (because men and women are concentrated in different fields), meaning it's possible we'll have a higher percentage of women employed than men. (It looks as if the story is based on all jobs, not full-time jobs, but still it's a big change from my childhood, when women mostly didn't work outside the home.)
Thursday, February 05, 2009
There was also a piece, probably through Treehugger, that quoted a Canadian study that one day of a wood stove released more carbon than a year of driving (or some such comparison).
IMO, these examples show that sometimes greens are no more rational than Wall Street bankers have proven to be.
So I'm shocked, absolutely shocked, to find the FAA still using it, as in the transcript of the airliner ditching in the Hudson. Come on people, join the 21st century.
Townshend introduced to England the four-field crop rotation pioneered by farmers in the Waasland region in the early 16th century. The system (wheat, barley, turnips and clover), opened up a fodder crop and grazing crop allowing livestock to be bred year-round, and increased productivity by avoiding leaving the soil uncultivated every third year. Previously, a three-year rotation was practiced by farmers in Europe with a rotation of rye or winter wheat, followed by spring oats or barley, then letting the soil rest (leaving it fallow) during the third stage. Crop rotation is necessary in order to avoid the build-up of crop-specific soil pests and diseases, and because different families of plant have varying nutritional requirements. The four-field crop rotation was a key development in the British Agricultural Revolution.I should also note the Mark Overton, BBC series, who ties this into organic and industrial farming.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
Given the long history of the provision, I'm wondering if there will be unanticipated effects. But, that's a question which the future will answer, I guess.
"Heralded as an innovative new risk management tool, ACRE is yet another countercyclical scheme, this time for revenue," the report highlights. "So it is business as usual in that the countercyclical nature of US farm support continues, with a bewildering array of schemes all addressing the same issues. For many observers it represents a significant step backwards in terms of agricultural policy."
See also Keith Good's FarmPolicy which puts this assessment in the broader context of challenges to free trade.
Among the items that the Collins-Nelson initiative is targeting: $1.1 billion for comparative medical research, $350 million for Agriculture Department computers, $75 million to discourage smoking, $20 million in Interior Department funding, $400 million for HIV screening and $650 million for wildlife management.
[Updated} See this Government Executive piece as well.
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Well, it's become a House Divided, as the definition of what, exactly, a family farm is has come under increasing debate. We're talking economies of scale here: A 10,000 acre "family-owned farm" is profoundly different in its capitalization and where it sells crops, in the use of genetically engineered crops, machines, animal confinement, and energy than is, say, a three/four-hundred-acre family farm. A 10,000 acre family farm, despite being "owned" on paper by a single family, is actually Big Ag, when you parse it. NFU, under Buis's leadership, has increasingly leaned towards protecting the interests of huge family farms (thus protecting the interests of Big Ag), toward commodity programs, and has foregone its progressive history.IMO a family farm is defined as no more than 40 acres of cropland, owned by one family, and operated by one family, with minimal hired help and contracted services (like baling hay), located in upstate NY. More seriously, while a 10,000 acre farm is industrial agriculture, I could conceive it being a family farm, as in owned and operated by one nuclear family, or the families of two siblings.
Then again, sometimes animals earn names. (I wonder whether the piglets in this story got named, other than the expletives I'm sure Stonehead surpressed in writing it.) Which all reminds me of a cow we had named "Battleaxe". As one might expect, she didn't have a pleasant personality, nor was she particularly productive, but dad endured her for a few years, years which saw him educate his son in profanity.
Monday, February 02, 2009
How about imposing a team weight limit--say set the cap at 95 percent of the weight of the average NFL team? Then you'd have judgment calls--do you keep your 350 pound nose tackle and cut your 280 pound middle linebacker or vice versa?
Just a thought. (The Ivy schools have a lightweight football league.)
I think the primary concern with ACRE is the administrative burden. Proving yields and keeping records straight at the FSA office could be a Herculean effort even for a 1,000 acre farm. And who wants to share all that proprietary information. And is there some ridiculous cross compliance between landowners? So if one little old lady bows out, your work is in vain?
Notice EQUIP with Tier 1, 2, 3 funding failed to launch for the same bureaucratic reasons. It just plain disappeared.
Maybe FSA finally did it, they developed a program so complex that even they don't understand it!
- note that these days a 1,000 acre farm leaps to the tongue as an example of a small farm. Just a generation ago Jane Smiley wrote her novel of that title as an example of a large farm, a kingdom even (she based her plot on King Lear).
- several comments to the post, all interesting, a couple on the challenge to FSA. Some confusion evident, and these are farmers who presumably should be the best informed. That's the FSA educational problem (although Illinois extension is sharing the burden, apparently). [Updated link]
- an observation about the intra-state differences in climate in ND, which makes the program work better for some farmers than others.
Sunday, February 01, 2009
Freed from the bureaucratic restraints of Washington, Cohen [ex-CIA man heading the shop] set about building his 600-person unit with astonishing speed and efficiency, infuriating former federal colleagues along the way. In no time, he had twice as many fluent Arabic speakers on his staff as in the entire Federal Bureau of Investigation. His agents speak some 50 languages and dialects in all, which matches the reported linguistic capabilities of the Central Intelligence Agency.The book is: SECURING THE CITY Inside America's Best Counterterror Force -- the NYPD By Christopher Dickey.
But there's also this:
"Dickey might have dug a little deeper in addressing the persistent but vague allegations in Washington that the NYPD counterterrorism unit cuts legal corners and that some of its methods are unconstitutional. "They do stuff that would get us arrested," says one three-letter guy."