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The implosion of the efforts of the Joint Deficit Reduction Committee (“Super Committee”) to cut the nation’s staggering deficits and mounting debt have left voters engulfed in bewilderment. Members of Congress privately shared with us that they had hoped the Super Committee would be successful, thus avoiding confirmation or reinforcement of voters’ suspicions that the Congress is, in many ways, dysfunctional.
The fact of the matter is that you cannot address the deficit and debt issues without touching Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, defense and the current tax code. Every one of those issues is a political lightning rod with its own vocal and politically active base.
In the aftermath of the Super Committee’s failure to produce any results, there is no clear path forward except to begin adjusting to across-the-board cuts throughout the government in 2013. In the meantime, congressional leaders will have to assess both the political and economic fallout from the debacle. Politically, when Congress has a 9% voter approval rating, there is not a lot of room to fall — it is equivalent to plunging to the ground after jumping out your basement window.
2012 Farm Bill
The future of the 2012 Farm Bill is now in question. The Joint Ag Committee (House and Senate ag chairs and ranking members) was the only authorizing committee to come forward with a bipartisan plan to take a $23 billion cut over 10 years with major changes in farm policy. Congressional ag leaders should be applauded for their efforts, and hats off to staff who worked so diligently to put a bill together. In the end, the 2012 Farm Bill was essentially all dressed up with no place to go.
Now what? Farmers need clarity and certainty as to what the future holds for farm policy as preparation begins for planting the 2012 crop. The fact and the truth is that there is no certain, clear path forward. If Congress does nothing, a farm bill will be written next spring and summer in a brutal economic and political environment. If congressional leaders can engage the White House and collectively find solutions to the nation’s fiscal problems, progress could be made — but it is a bit naïve to expect that in an election year.
Congress still has a month to sort out what the next steps will be after a cooling-off period during the Thanksgiving holiday, when they will face voter reaction. Perhaps some of the political fog will clear and new options or opportunities will emerge. The one fundamental issue you have to always remember is that Congress makes the rules it plays by. As one former Appropriations chairman used to say, “The rules are the rules until we change the rules. Then those are the rules!” We will be watching and monitoring the events in December very closely.
Roundup Ready Sugarbeets
As you know, the public commenting period on the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) ends on December 13. The industry has spent a good deal of time digesting this comprehensive analysis and recommending that the crop be deregulated once again. Many thanks go out to all of the growers and processor leaders who spoke out at public meetings in Fargo, N.D., and Corvallis, Ore., to support the full deregulation of RRSB. Each of your comments is important, and we appreciate each and every one of you who took the time and effort to support this important technology.
Once all of the comments are received, the draft EIS will be reviewed and perhaps modified before it is finalized sometime next summer. In the meantime, litigation continues to proceed on schedule, and I will report on it once it is timely and appropriate to do so.
RMA has agreed to begin a pilot project to cover field piles (“clamps”) in Michigan and southern Minnesota through the coverage period of November 15, starting with the 2012 crop. We believe this will help all parties reduce losses due to adverse weather during harvest.
2012 ASGA Annual Meeting
Mark your calendar to attend this meeting in sunny Orlando, Fla., February 9-11 at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Hotel. Group rates will be offered until January 19. Program, destination and registration information are available on the ASGA website (www.americansugarbeet.org). Register online before January 6 to avoid a $25 late registration fee.
Luther Markwart, author of Dateline Washington, is executive vice president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association.