January 20, 2006
China to quit taxing farmers
Agricultural taxes on farmers and their production has been a mainstay of taxation for centuries in China.
The Chinese government recently announced an end to agricultural taxes as a way to relieve the financial burden on the country's 800 million farmers. It is seen as an attempt to narrow the widening income gap between urban and rural Chinese families.
The tax was scheduled to be phased out within five years, but
is now set to be phased out within months, according to news
reports. The central government will replace some of the tax
income to local governments.
Japan tightens corn
Government quarantine offices across Japan were put on alert to the potential of more aflatoxin reaching the country. Japan imported 3.76 million tons of U.S. corn during 2005, according to Japanese government reports.
Aflatoxin is a fungus found in corn and other grains, often occurring in grain grown under drought conditions. Consuming contaminated grain is a health concern for both humans and animals.
First round of ag
spending cuts passed
But the bill still faces another hurdle. A non-ag related point of order means the House will have to vote on the bill again. However, there is little doubt that the provisions included in the bill will ultimately be implemented.
Here's how spending will be affected:
The amount of scheduled direct payments a farmer can receive in advance will be reduced from 50 percent to 40 percent for the 2006 crop year, and to 22 percent for 2007.
There will be $943 million cut in funding for conservation programs.
There will be $400 million cut from rural development programs.
There will be $620 million cut from funding for research programs.
As expected, the bill ends the cotton Step 2 (export subsidy) program next July and extends the dairy MILC program for two years.
Some of the "savings" are imaginary.
As noted, the direct payments for program crops are not actually cut, only delayed by shrinking what you can receive "in advance."
And some of those other "cuts" mentioned were for programs that were never funded anyway.
All that really happened was elimination of funding requests, and it was claimed as a "cut." It is clear from all this that meaningful cuts in spending for farm programs are very difficult.
First biotech drug
The company is thought to be the first to try developing large-scale production of protein-based drugs and industrial chemicals in genetically engineered plants.
CAFTA-DR treaty delayed indefinitely
The foreign countries that are party to the agreement must also pass additional laws that will govern how the treaty is implemented.
Jan. 1, 2006 was the original target date for implementation of CAFTA-DR. It is expected that the agreement will be implemented on a rolling basis in the coming year, as individual countries pass the necessary laws.
The American Farm Bureau Federation supports the CAFTA-DR.
EPA releases regs
for renewable fuels
The regulations are a first step in EPA's Renewable Fuels Standard Program, with additional program announcements to come. Implementation of the Energy Policy Act's renewable fuels standard will require doubling current use of renewable fuels from American crops by 2012.
Biodiesel controversy boils in Minnesota
Since September, when Minnesota began requiring a 2 percent blend of soybean oil/diesel fuel, or biodiesel, to be sold throughout the state, two different program hiccups have occurred.
Agriculture Commissioner Gene Hugoson said weather-related problems in October and December appear to have been caused by biodiesel not being mixed properly to meet state quality standards. He also said that cold-weather problems occur with conventional diesel, too.
On the other side of the controversy are those including diesel engine manufacturers and some truckers who claim biodiesel is harder to handle in cold weather. The state is running tests on samples of the problem fuels.
EU takes biofuels achievements seriously
The European Union has warned countries that are falling behind in achieving the EU rule of having 5.75 percent of diesel and gasoline sold in 2010 from biofuels.
The EU is reportedly also taking Luxemburg, Italy and Portugal to the European Court of Justice for not enacting domestic laws outlining how they will achieve the biofuels sales goal. Slovakia could be next on the lawsuit list.
Web site details EU ag subsidies
International activists and journalists have collaborated to establish a new web site to show the agricultural subsidies that European Union countries provide to agricultural enterprises. "The purpose of the site is to publish data about farm subsidy payments obtained under public access to information laws," the site says.
It is anticipated that the information will lead EU non-farming consumers to question spending. The site lists an explanation of how 43.5 billion euros were spent in 2004 on Common Agricultural Policy, and that this was more than 40 percent of the whole EU budget. Leading the pack for agricultural expenditures is France, which spent 72.9 percent of its total EU outlay on agriculture.
The activists involved in establishing the site are being compared to the Environmental Working Group in the U.S., and stirring controversy is definitely one of their goals. The web site is located at this address: http://www.farmsubsidy.org/.
Livestock odor filters work
The idea of pushing the air from building exhaust fans through a biofilter has been around for 40 years or more.
Biofilters can be made of many different materials, including compost, straw and wood chips. But it's been proven too costly to run the fans continuously.
Iowa State University ag engineers Steve Hoff and Jay Harmon have refined biofilters to run cheaply and yet remove 90 percent of odor.