FARM NEWS from NATIONAL SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE COALITION

At the conclusion of the May 5 meeting at Blair House between Vice President Biden and six congressional leaders, all parties to the talks said progress had been made toward a deal that would lead both to a deficit reduction budget deal and a positive vote in Congress to raise the federal borrowing limit.

FARM NEWS from NATIONAL SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE COALITION Friday Update: Congress Returns with Budget Front and Center: At the conclusion of the May 5 meeting at Blair House between Vice President Biden and six congressional leaders, all parties to the talks said progress had been made toward a deal that would lead both to a deficit reduction budget deal and a positive vote in Congress to raise the federal borrowing limit. Beyond general platitudes, however, it was not clear to those outside the room just what exactly constituted progress other than they met and agreed to meet again next Tuesday. Republicans leaders insisted that discretionary and entitlement spending was on the table and tax expenditures off the table, while Democratic leaders insist that everything must be on the table. Read more... Senate Bills Take Different Routes to Phase-Out Ethanol Tax Credit: This week saw the introduction of two Senate bills with different routes to phasing out the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) for ethanol blended with gasoline and a tariff and ad valorem tax on imported ethanol, both of which are intended to stimulate ethanol production in the U.S.  Last December, Congress approved legislation that extended until December 31, 2011, the 45 cents per gallon VEETC, as well as the 54 cents per gallon tariff and ad valorem tax of 2.5 percent on imported ethanol. Opposition to the VEETC and ethanol tariff has intensified in 2011.  Those opposed to the VEETC represent a wide array of perspectives. Read more... Results U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Review Jury Award to Poultry Growers: On Monday, May 2, the U.S. Supreme Court declined, without comment, a petition of certiorari to review a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the case O.K. Industries v. Been.  The Appeals Court upheld a federal jury award of $14.5 million to poultry growers from a poultry processor because of the processor’s violations of Section 202(a) of the Packers & Stockyards Act (PSA). PSA Section 202(a) provides that it is unlawful for live poultry dealers, packers or swine contractors to engage in or use any unfair, unjustly discriminatory, or deceptive practice or device. Read more... Farm Service Agency Makes Good Choice for First BCAP Project: On Thursday, May 5, USDA Secretary Vilsack announced that the first Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) project area would cover 30 counties in western Missouri and nine counties in Eastern Kansas, with biomass facilities operated by the Show Me Energy Cooperative as the biomass conversion facilities for the project.  About $15 million will be available for payments to farmers who participate in this first BCAP project. BCAP projects provide funding to farmers, ranchers, and nonindustrial forestland owners to establish and maintain bioenergy feedstocks specified in a BCAP project. Read more... Food Desert Locator Tool Released: Following on previous efforts to make information available to the public using visual interfaces, USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) released the Food Desert Locator this week.  This new tool provides population characteristics of areas considered food deserts according the definition by the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) Working Group. The HFFI, a partnership between the Treasury Department, Health and Human Services, and the Agriculture Department (USDA), with the collaboration of ERS staff, defines a food desert as a low-income census tract where a substantial number or share of residents has low access to a supermarket or large grocery store. Read more...

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