Category Archives: agriculture

Soy Beans: Wherein DB goes off again on her soy beans while readers roll their eyes.

soy beans

A note to patient and loving readers: These are soy beans.  I know, I’ve regaled you with soy beans before.  However, please allow me some latitude to discuss them once again.  The blessed little beans are illustrative of many issues related to the mis-administration of the Angry Man Baby occupying the White House and his minions.  

Let’s begin with what we do with soy beans, and please let’s get past the soy sauce and soy milk bit.  A sixty pound bushel of soy beans will yield about 11 pounds of crude soy bean oil and 47 pounds of soy bean meal.  The beans are about 18% oil and 38% protein.  Trust me, this is good — and it’s especially good for animal feed.  [NCsoy] Thus, most of the commercial use of soy beans goes for animal feed and a smaller amount goes for human consumption wherein we get back to the soy sauce, soy milk, soy flour, and our tofu.  But wait! There are other commercial and industrial uses for soy by-products as well and here’s a partial list:  Biodiesel fuel; biocomposites creating everything from countertops  to furniture to flooring to particle board and even to recycled newspaper. A person could sit at a kitchen counter containing soy while reading a newspaper containing soy, printed with soy ink, while the toddler marks the kitchen wall with a soy based crayon.  A person could escape all this because there are hydraulic fluids and lubricants which are soy based, and even automobile upholstery can be manufactured with soy containing elements.  In short, DB rants about soy beans because they can be environmentally friendly little Glycine Max’s which don’t have just a market, but have several markets — agricultural, commercial, and industrial.

Who grows these things?  We do. The United States of America leads the world in soy bean production with about 108 million metric tons per year.  Brazil produces about 86.8 million metric tons annually.  Argentina grows approximately 53.4 metric tons per year, and China adds another 12.2 million metric tons annually.  India comes in around 5th place in world production with 10.5 million metric tons, then Paraguay chips in another 10 million.  Canada produces approximately 6 million metric tons, Ukraine adds another 3.9 million, and Bolivia grows 3.3 million metric tons.  Last but not least Uruguay comes in with annual production of 3.2 million metric tons.  [WorldAtlas] Notice something about the names of the countries on this list?

One thing that pops out is that one country, China, has been singled out as a competitor, while the others are traditional American allies in diplomatic terms.  Remember that thing about integrated and distributive bargaining?  Recall that integrated bargaining requires negotiators (on trade and other matters) to consider their mutual interests along with the issues upon which they have issues to resolve.  Hold this thought.

Now consider Farmer Jones in eastern Nebraska who grows soy beans and sells his 60 pound bushels to a grain dealer — in dollars.  The financial markets kick in, as with every other commodity there is “future trading.”  At the moment, China, the largest soy bean importer has reduced its purchases of US soy beans, the price of soy beans got so cheap that other countries started to increase their orders from American dealers.  [Bloomberg] Sounds good so far, but caveat emptor.  This puts soy bean values at “fire sale” levels for our allies in Brazil, Argentina, India, Paraguay, Canada, Ukraine, Bolivia, and Uruguay.  So, let’s talk about Brazil for a second or two.

Back in 2011 the US and Brazil signed an Agreement on Trade and Economic Development.  Here comes that integrated bargaining component again, because the framework isn’t just about who sells what individual products to whom, but how the two nations can expand direct trade and investment relationships, incorporating reducing trade barriers and sharing innovations.  It appears to be working, at least if we note the report from the US Trade Representative: “U.S. goods and services trade with Brazil totaled an estimated $88.2 billion in 2016. Exports were $55.2 billion; imports were $33.0 billion. The U.S. goods and services trade surplus with Brazil was $22.3 billion in 2016.”   And, there’s some other nice bits:

The top export categories (2-digit HS) in 2016 were: mineral fuels ($5.0 billion), aircraft ($4.8 billion), machinery ($3.6 billion), electrical machinery ($3.1 billion), and optical and medical instruments ($1.7 billion).

U.S. total exports of agricultural products to Brazil totaled $899 million in 2016. Leading domestic export categories include: wheat ($316 million), prepared food ($54 million), dairy products ($47 million), cotton ($47 million), and feeds & fodders nesoi ($42 million).

U.S. exports of services to Brazil were an estimated $24.9 billion in 2016, 11.4% ($3.2 billion) less than 2015, but 235% greater than 2006 levels.  Leading services exports from the U.S. to Brazil, in 2015, were in the travel, transport, and telecommunications, computer, and information services sectors. [USTR]

Thus, the Brazilians are exchanging their Brazilian reals (current exchange rate 0.26/dollar) to buy US mineral fuels, electrical machinery, processed food, medical equipment, telecommunications systems, computer gear, and IT services from us, among other trade goods and services.  Now, ask the question: Do we really want their soy beans on the market at fire sale prices earning fewer “reals” when we want them to exchange those “reals” into US dollars to buy travel, computer, and IT services?  Fuel? Medical equipment? Aircraft? Our agricultural products? At what point does our “winning” come back to haunt us?

Or, consider this from our competitor’s side of the frame. China.  Again, with our little soy beans:

While the Asian nation is targeting a slew of American farm goods in this round of taxes, soybeans are the top agricultural commodity the country imports from the U.S. by far. The oilseed, used to make cooking oil and animal feed, accounts for about 60 percent of the U.S.’s $20 billion of agricultural exports to China. Before the tariffs were announced, a study by the University of Tennessee forecast that a 25 percent duty would spark a drop in American shipments of at least $4.5 billion. Brazil, already the world’s biggest soybean shipper, is set to be the biggest winner, filling the gap left by the U. [Bloomberg]

Wow, there comes Brazil again! Now the Chinese are exchanging their yuan (current exchange rate 0.15/US dollar) for Brazilian reals in order to buy their Brazilian soy beans.  And those grain deals? — they aren’t being made with US grain dealers in dollars, they are being made using yuan/reals.  Lower demand for the US dollar? There’s a delicate balancing act playing out in international currency markets every day. In our integrated system of international trade the old distributive system of winners and losers doesn’t serve very well. The agricultural market is connected to the futures market, the futures market is connected to the commodities market, the commodities markets are connected to the financial markets, the financial markets are connected to the currency markets… “foot bone connected to ankle bone, ankle to leg, leg to hip, hip to back bone,” right up the economic body with the old song as metaphor for the global economy.

And, we haven’t even talked about whether or not we want China to pick up more of our national treasuries to keep financial markets steady?  So, this is why DB gets excited about her soy beans, and other components of US trade and economic development.  It’s not that I am fascinated with soy sauce on my chow mein, or even on my potstickers, but because the little beans are illustrative of wider, larger, economic issues which seem much more important than whether my soy sauce is embellished with hot peppers.

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Amodei Quacks Like A FLAG-waving Duck

Amodei 3

Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) doesn’t like being categorized as “anti-public land,” or more precisely lumped in with the Bundy Boys.  However, his sponsorship of legislation and other activities have him on the Anti-Public Land list:

“Amodei landed on the list for sponsoring legislation that would give the state control of 7.2 million of the approximately 58 million acres of federally controlled land in Nevada, opposition to the creation of the Basin and Range National Monument, membership in Federal Lands Action Group and a statement about the Malheur occupation.

The statement, attributed to Amodei and two other members of the action group, said the lawmakers didn’t condone the Oregon action but added, “we do understand their frustration with increasingly heavy handed federal agencies that continue to violate the rights of hardworking American farmers and ranchers.” [RGJ]

Duck looks The poor little Republican has been cast amongst the Bundys.  How did he end up bunched up with them?  First, he’s a “FLAG” member.

“Rep. Amodei is a FLAG member and introduced H.R. 1484, the Honor the Nevada Enabling Act of 1864—which would seize Nevada public land for state control. In 2015, Rep. Amodei also introduced H.R. 488, which would cripple the Antiquities Act by blocking the extension or creation of national monuments in Nevada, unless authorized by Congress. Rep. Amodei has also cosponsored four other bills aimed at curtailing the Antiquities Act and seizing public lands. In response to the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Rep. Amodei signed on to a joint statement that condemned federal officials for law-breaking, rather than condemning the actions of the armed militants.” [CAP]

So, what is FLAG, and how does it relate to the Anti-Public Lands crowd?  The organization is the brain child of two Utah Representatives, Stewart and Bishop, who announced its creation on April 28, 2015.  And, the purpose?

Today, Representatives Chris Stewart (R-Utah) and Rob Bishop (R-Utah) launched the Federal Land Action Group, a congressional team that will develop a legislative framework for transferring public lands to local ownership and control. […] This group will explore legal and historical background in order to determine the best congressional action needed to return these lands back to the rightful owners. We have assembled a strong team of lawmakers, and I look forward to formulating a plan that reminds the federal government it should leave the job of land management to those who know best.” [Stewart]

Who were among the first members of the FLAG group? “Other members of the Group include Representatives Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), Cresent Hardy (R-Nev.), and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY).” [Stewart]

We should assume the group means what it says.  It wants to transfer public land to local ownership and control.   Towards this end the FLAG group held its first “forum” in June 2015, and among the speakers was a representative of the “Independent Institute.”  Board members of this organization include a private equity manager, a person from Deloitte & Touche USA, a member of the Howley Management Group, the Botto Law Group, a managing director of Palliser Bay Investment Management, Reditus Revenue Solutions, Audubon Cellars and Winery, Berkeley Research Group LLC, and the former chair of Garvey International.  [II.org]  This isn’t a list that inspires one to ask if they are primarily interested in public land for the sake of conservation.

Prof. Elwood L. Miller (UNR) was on the initial panel, adding a touch of accounting expertise to the argument that the federal government is too bureaucratic and caught up in procedural questions to be a good steward of public lands.  Attorney Glade Hall added the usual federal control isn’t constitutional argument. “It is a patent absurdity to assert that such full powers of governance cover 87 percent of the land surface of a state of the Union and at the same time assert that such state has been admitted to the Union on an equal footing with the original states in every respect whatever,” Hall said.” [STGU] A sentiment echoed by the head of the Natural Resources Group, whose book on the “theft” of the environmental issue is available from the Heritage Foundation.

In short, there was nothing to remind anyone of a fact-finding operation in this inaugural panel sponsored by FLAG.  It was of, by, and for individuals who want to ultimately privatize federal lands.

It’s also interesting that the panel members offered these opinions based on personal experience, or “talking to people,” but nothing in the presentations was offered to demonstrably prove that the federal government has no authority (beyond the usual crackpot interpretations spouted by the Bundy-ites and allies) or is actually and provably incompetent to manage public lands.  The guiding assumption – however poorly demonstrated – was that the local agencies could do a better job. Period.

If anyone is still unsure of the ideology driving FLAG, please note that the Heritage Foundation and the Mercatus group aren’t the only players supporting the efforts.  There’s also the John Birch Society (They’re still around) touting the confab on Facebook.  Additionally, there’s the ever-present American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) imprimatur on the project.

One segment of ALEC testimony from a February 2016 FLAG meeting can serve as an illustration of their argument:

“Bureaucratic inflexibility and regulatory redundancy make it almost impossible for the federal government to handle the lands in its charge for optimal environmental health. Any change in strategy on how to manage the lands, such as harvesting trees on forest lands to reduce wildfire fuel loads and prevent pest infestation, can take years to adopt and implement. By the time the federal government is able to act, it is often too late.”

Examples? The argument is made that three factors are responsible for the severity of wildland fires – poor logging practices, overgrazing, and over aggressive fire control. At this juncture, we could well ask how, without regulatory control, can better logging practices be promoted throughout the region? Or, if the Bundy Bunch isn’t convinced by the Federal authorities to pay their grazing fees and not trespass on BLM lands, then how is a state with less in the way of resources supposed to take on the task? 

However, the most intriguing element of the ALEC position is this: Further, they have operated with budget shortfalls for over a decade calling into question whether they even have adequate funds to get the job done.”  At this juncture it’s appropriate to ask – and who is touting cutting the federal and state budgets?  Who, if not ALEC?  Thus, the federal government can’t do a better job because the funding has been cut, and because the funding has been cut it can’t do the job?  Circular Reasoning at its finest, looped in with the obvious cuts and shaving from state budgets.   The ultimate argument would be that neither the federal government nor the state governments can “do the job” and therefore the lands should be transferred to private hands.  Nothing would please the Koch Brothers more?

The second way one gets attached to the Bundy-ites is to get mealy and smushy about their activities.  As in, “we do understand their frustration with increasingly heavy handed federal agencies that continue to violate the rights of hardworking American farmers and ranchers.” [RGJ]  It’s past time to get specific.  Exactly what constitutes “heavy handed federal agencies?”  Are they agencies which are tasked to collect grazing fees?  How long is an agency expected to wait for a person to decide to pay those fees? 

Exactly what constitutes a “violation of rights of hardworking people?”  Exactly what rights have been violated?  How is it a violation of my rights to have to pay the same grazing fees, or have to move cattle from overgrazed areas, just like every other rancher in a given area under Federal management?  Freedom, rights, and independence are easy words to toss around, but without actual evidence of real violations of RIGHTS then the argument is hollow.

Bundy rally And, one lands on the anti-public lands roster by sponsoring legislation like Representative Amodei did in April 2015:

“Most recently, Congressman Mark Amodei (R-NV) introduced a “large-scale” public lands bill, which would allow the state of Nevada to seize and sell off public lands. Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT), chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, also requested $50 million in the federal budget in order to facilitate immediate transfer of public lands to state control.”  [TP]

Looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then there’s no reason to list it as anything other than a duck.

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Blood Stained Bandits Fleecing Sheep

Jefferson AirplaneRemember Jefferson Airplane?  Remember this?

If you want to get to heaven
Over on the other shore
Stay out of the way of the blood-stained bandit
Oh good shepherd
Feed my sheep” [traditional/Kaukonen]

Now, take a click over to the Nevada Rural Democratic Caucus website and look at the letter from Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2).  And, what are Representative Amodei’s concerns about the SNAP program?

#1. He believes it “imperative” to be a “good steward” of “taxpayer dollars.”  Any good steward of taxpayer dollars would have recognized by now that for every $1.00 spent on SNAP benefits approximately $1.73 is generated for the U.S. economy.  Sounds like a good ‘bang for the buck’ to me.   If he’d been paying attention since the January 2008 release  of the Moody’s Analytics report by Mark M. Zandi (pdf) he’d have been aware of this.  A GOOD steward should seek ways to make those taxpayer dollars stretch.  Instead, Representative says of the program: “At this rate the CBO predicts by 2022 the SNAP program will be among the highest non-health related federal support programs for low income families.”

Here’s the portion of the CBO Report he chooses to repeat:

“By fiscal year 2022, CBO projects, 34 million people (or about one in 10 U.S. residents) will receive SNAP benefits each month (roughly the same number as in 2009), and SNAP expenditures, at about $73 billion, will be among the highest of all non-health-related federal support programs for low-income households.”

Here’s the part he left out:  (pdf)  Outlays for 2012 are set at $80,993,000.  While program outlays for 2022 are projected as $72,642,000.  Speaking of the actual benefits as a program component we find that the 2012 the cost is $74,849,000 and the projected total benefits cost is $54,912,000.   That’s right — the total program costs were projected to be LOWER  in 2022.

Grab a calculator the arithmetic is easy, if the Moody’s calculations are adopted, that $64,912,000 in benefits could mean $125,280,160 generated in the American economy.   Evidently, Representative isn’t really all that interested in boosting the U.S. economy.

What he gives every appearance of meaning to convey is that the SNAP program is Big Government for Low Income Households … and we can guess what message his constituents will make of that.  Does he presume they will have images of Welfare Queens dancing in their heads?   Perhaps, because here’s more information he omitted:

“In 2010, about three out of four SNAP households included a child, a person age 60 or older, or a disabled person. Most people who received SNAP benefits lived in households with very low income, about $8,800 per year on average in that year. The average monthly SNAP benefit per household was $287, or $4.30 per person per day. On average, SNAP benefits boosted gross monthly income by 39 percent for all participating households and by 45 percent for households with children.” [CBO] (emphasis added)

Not only do the House Republicans want to slash some $39 billion out of the SNAP program, they’re doing at a time when the commodities markets are predicting about a 3% to 4% increases in grocery prices in the next year. [Navigator] And, allow me to beat this horse one more time:  Most grocery stores operate on a profit margin ranging from 1% to 4% per year.  Now, take the 10% of their receipts which come from SNAP benefit redemptions out of their calculations and see how good the GOP is at “helping small businesses.”

There’s no way to be a “good steward” of those sacred tax dollars and advocate cutting a program which boosts the economy at the same time.   There’s no way to argue that cutting a program benefits us when the result is lower revenues for retailers, who must then pass on cost increases to middle class customers.   No, in this instance it is not rationale to look for “reasonable ways to cut costs to federal programs, including SNAP.” (Amodei)

#2.  Amodei: “I also agree that it is important for American families to make their own healthy diet choices, which will reduce their health care costs and grocery bills and will improve their quality of life.”   What are we to make of this Amodei-ism?

Let’s accept the obvious — the SNAP program is supplemental, and the benefits do not cover all food related expenses for a family. Further, that food purchases constitute a higher percentage of very low income family resources than would be the case in  middle or upper class families.   A USDA in-depth study (pdf) issued in March, 2013 points out:

“The fundamental reality of most SNAP recipients’ lives is that expenses often outstrip income. SNAP households experience both recurring and episodic financial strain that is eased but not alleviated in full by participation in the SNAP program. SNAP allows families to set aside more easily a portion of their resources—SNAP—for food, and to prioritize a healthier, more consistent diet without compromising as much on obligations such as rent, utilities, transportation, and other basic needs. Families in this study often build their monthly budgets around SNAP, allocating their fungible cash resources toward their bills and other, often urgent, financial needs…” (emphasis added)

Bottom line: If families are to have the resources to make those “healthy diet choices” Representative Amodei promotes, then they have to have the resources to do that without fudging the budget on heat, electricity, rent, loan repayments, water bills, and the like.  The recipients find their financial situations “eased” but NOT “alleviated” by the SNAP benefits.  Thus the imagery of the “welfare bum” slouched on the front stoop, with all his “hunger” needs provided for by those sacred taxpayer dollars is just that — imagery.  Imagination, mythology, and down-right mean-spiritedness.

House Republicans who voted to add about $20 billion to the Defense Department budget in their CR, while slashing the SNAP program missed the lyrics:

Can’t you hear my lambs a’callin
Oh good shepherd
Feed my sheep

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More? Heck, Amodei answer Oliver Twist’s Question

Oliver TwistRepresentatives Heck (R-NV3) and Amodei (R-NV2) voted in favor of H.R. 2642, the Food Stamp Free Farm Bill, which passed the House on a 216-208 vote on July 11, 2013. [roll call 353]  Lovely.  However, might I be excused for asking about the “Pro-Life” bona fides of the two conservative representatives from the Silver State when it’s laudable to decry a woman’s right to choose the medical procedures necessary to terminate a problematic pregnancy, or even to deplore the use of contraceptives  — BUT once the child is born it is equally laudable to criticize the profligacy of women who have “too many children” and therefore require public assistance to feed them?

That said, two of Nevada’s Congressional representatives have voted to cut food assistance to approximately 156,319 households in this state.

“In 2011, 12% (332,959) of the population participated in SNAP in Nevada, which is 3% less than the average for all SNAP Participation and Benefits.

In 2011, 16% (156,319) of the households participated in SNAP in Nevada, which is 2% less than the average for all SNAP Participation and Benefits.”  [NVSNAP]

What benefit has been slashed?  The average individual benefit in NV as of 2011 was $124 per month.   Who are the people assisted by this meager benefit?  71% of all SNAP participants are families with children.   26% of all Nevada SNAP participants are families with elderly or disabled individuals. 42% of all Nevada participants are WORKING. [CBPP pdf]

The GOP’s stereotypical imagery of the food stamp recipient as a loafer consuming brew on the porch steps while “hard working” Americans underwrite his existence is just that — an marketable image for ideological consumption, a stereotype suitable for assuaging the I Got Mine You Try To Get Yours Sucker self-serving philosophy of selfishness.

It appears this stereotype is alive and well and vivid for at least two of Nevada’s Congressional representatives, Dicken’s beadle would have been proud.  Representative Titus (D-NV1) voted against the bill, Representative Horsford is recorded as not voting.

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>Ensign and other conservatives Vote Against Ag and Rural Programs

>

True to ultra-conservative form, Senator John Ensign (R-NV) voted in opposition to H.R. 2997, the bill to fund Agriculture, Rural Development, the Food and Drug Administration, and related agencies for FY 2010. [roll call 261] The bill passed 80-17 (3 members not voting) on August 4, 2009.

Among the programs Senator Ensign voted against funding: the Agricultural Research Service; the National Institute of Food and Agriculture; the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; the Food Safety and Inspection Service; and the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation Fund. Anyone unconvinced that food inspection and safety programs are a necessary function of government to protect the health and well-being of citizens might want to click over to “Recalls.gov” a resource with links to recalls of contaminated foods and other health warnings. One more click will open the “Current Recalls & Alerts” page. Three alerts have been issued since July 22, 2009: E.S.Miller ground beef products; Camacho’s Foods pork skin products; and, Beef Packers, Inc. ground beef products. [R&A] Senator Ensign’s “principled stand” against wasteful government spending and onerous regulation would have cut funding for these public safety and public notification services. Does anyone really want to stand at the fast food counter or the supermarket and guess if the beef is acceptable for human consumption?

Title 3 of the bill funded rural development programs such as the Rural Community Facilities Program Account; Rural Housing Services; Rural Business Cooperative Service; the Rural Utilities Service; and the Rural Economic Development Loan Program Account. A person could ask why Senator Ensign found rural development programs so distasteful, especially those like the one announced on June 4, 2009 to allocate a little more than $1 billion to “build and repair more than 10,000 miles of distribution and transmission lines, and make (electrical) system improvements benefiting 60,000 rural customers.” [USDA] “These investments help rural electric cooperative utilities continue to provide reliable and affordable electric power to their communities.” [USDA] Additionally, what could the Senator find unworthy about the Rural Business Cooperative Service, one function of which is to partner with private sector and community based organizations to provide financial assistance and business planning?

Title 4 funded the federal Food and Nutrition Service and the Commodity Credit Corporation export loans program account. Title 7 funded the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Farm Credit Administration. Ensign voted against these programs and services. Evidently according to Senator Ensign, farmers, ranchers, and agricultural cooperatives can do without the Farm Credit System administered by the FCA. In case the Senator could use a reminder; the Farm Credit System affiliates offer loans for land and operating equipment, agricultural loans and services; facility and equipment leases, tax planning and management, multi-peril and crop hail insurance, appraisal services, and producer education programs including support for younger farmers. [FCS]

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) voted in favor of the legislation. Joining Senator Ensign in opposition were: Barrasso (R-WY), Bayh (D-IN), Bunning (R-KY), Burr (R-NC), Chambliss (R-GA), Coburn (R-OK), Corker (R-TN), DeMint (R-SC), Enzi (R-WY), Graham (R-SC), Gregg (R-NH), Inhofe (R-OK), Isakson (R-GA), Kyl (R-AZ), McCain (R-AZ), and Sessions (R-AL). [Senate] Apparently, we’re fresh out of farmers, ranchers, and rural communities in Wyoming, Indiana, North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Arizona.

Had Senator Ensign and his fellow conservatives prevailed there would be no crop loans and crop insurance, and rural Americans would be sitting in the dark wondering if the lettuce from the supermarket was safe to eat.
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>McCain’s Unfortunate Example: Hard White Wheat in the Farm Bill

>Why would Senator John McCain use a provision for supporting hard white wheat as an example of “out of control pork barrel spending” during his opening comments during his town hall campaign session in Reno, Nevada? The Senator may want to back pedal on this particular example before touring the central plains and the northwestern U.S. with this note card in his pocket. Of all the egregious examples of special interest inclusions he might have cited, he emphasized the one that just might increase American exports and improve American eating habits.

Some states, including Minnesota have been trying to convince farmers to grow more hard white wheat at least since 2002 when the Minnesota Department of Administration released this information:
Millers must remove the bran coating on hard red wheat, an unnecessary step with white wheat. Bran is a source of fiber and nutrients. Bread and other products made with white wheat have a milder, sweeter flavor. White wheat is preferred for noodles, and international demand includes the North African and Middle Asian flat bread markets.” [MDAd] (emphasis added)

The state of North Dakota has been paying attention to the possible conversion to HWW as well: “Although U.S. HWW production is not significant compared to Australia, for example, there is some production and interest in growing HWW in California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Washington. In addition, there are substantial breeding efforts in many states to develop new HWW varieties. HWW can make bread in a domestic market, and it can be used in export markets for making Asian noodles and Middle East flatbreads. Quality characteristics required depend on the end-use. In general, HWW for the domestic market should have high protein and strong dough; whereas, HWW for export and noodle production should have low protein (11 to 12.5%), low ash content, and good starch swelling properties.” (emphasis added)

And why are the North Dakotans and Minnesotans interested? “The U.S. stands to capture a greater share of the wheat export market, especially with respect to Asia, if white wheat production increases. In fact, a preference for white wheat products in Asia has contributed to a decline in the export of U.S. red wheat to this rapidly growing region of the world.” (emphasis added)

Nutritionists are interested in increasing the production as well because the hard white wheat varieties do not contain the strong flavored phenolic compounds found in Red wheat, giving whole grain white wheat a milder flavor. “Whole grain white wheat flour” is not an oxymoron; a person could be eating white bread that is, in fact, whole wheat. [WGC]

Why haven’t American farmers converted more acreage to the production of hard white wheat? The answer is not that the demand for the product isn’t there. The Kansas Extension Service reported that production practices for hard white and red wheat are similar enough to preclude significant changes in farming techniques, however the agency noted one significant problem for the state’s farmers – HWW is susceptible to “pre-harvest sprouting,” where germination occurs when the grain is still on the spike especially if there is prolonged rainfall or humidity. The results are lower grain harvest, starch degradation, and greater amylase activity. In short, the end product loses its thickening ability, volume, and crumb structure. [Kstate] Another issue for wheat growers is that HWW seed is generally more expensive than that of Red or Durum varieties.

Section 1612 of the Farm Bill (H.R. 2419) calls for the Secretary of Agriculture to administer a hard white wheat development program to “promote the establishment of hard white wheat as a viable market class of wheat in the United States by encouraging production of at least 240,000,000 bushels of hard white wheat by 2012.” The initial program would be limited to 2.9 million acres or an equivalent volume of production based on a 50 bushel per acre yield, with payments to farmers of not less than 20 cents per bushel and in an amount not less that $2.00 per acre. The total authorization for the program is $35 million. [GovTrack]

So, for $35 million dollars, Senator John McCain is willing to leave the Australians as the major exporter of HWW to the Asian markets, and unwilling to consider the notion that HWW could be an exportable crop for farmers from central California to western New York, including northern Nevada. He’s also completely unwilling to consider that $35 million might be a good investment in getting more Americans to eat more whole grain products. We’ve been told already that economics isn’t the Senator’s strong suit – it’s beginning to look like Agriculture isn’t one either.

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>Heller votes against farm and ranch bill

>Listening to Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV2) explain during the upcoming campaign why he voted against the conference report on H.R. 2419, the Farm, Nutrition, and Bioenergy Act should be interesting. [rc 315] The bill passed the House 318-106. The legislation covers agricultural and related programs concerning commodities, conservation, exports and trade assistance, food stamps and nutrition programs, agricultural credit, rural development, rural electrification, agricultural research, forestry, energy, specialty crops, and livestock. [LOC]

Among those specific items Representative Heller voted against were the provisions of Section 1621 for “geographically disadvantaged farmers and ranchers,” Section 2807 on “desert terminal lakes,” Section 4211 related to food distribution programs on Indian Reservations, and the Title V provisions on farm credit, farm ownership loans, the down payment loan program, and the suspension of the limitation on borrowers eligible for guaranteed assistance. [GPO pdf]

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