Open Mic Replay - An Extensive Catalog of Our Audio Interviews


Rep. Collin Peterson
Our Open Mic conversation this week is with the Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee, Congressman Collin Peterson. The Minnesota Democrat's says he is pleased with the success of approving a new five year farm bill and the USDA is on task with implementation. Peterson says the appropriations process, tax issues and the highway trust fund are top issues before the Congress for the balance of the year, but also shares concerns about EPA's regulatory action and the school lunch program.

Patti Montague, CEO School Nutrition Association
Our guest on Open Mic this week is Patti Montague, CEO of the School Nutrition Association. With the debate heating up between First Lady Michelle Obama and House appropriators over what should or should not be required in school lunches, we asked her to provide more insight on SNA's position. The SNA supports the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act to provide not only healthy meals for students, but also to help them learn better eating habits. But SNA believes schools should be granted flexibility to meet the nutritional needs of students and avoid costly food waste. She explains why SNA supports the spirit of the law, but is concerned about some of the most rigorous regulations for both whole grains and sodium levels in foods.

Jo Ann Emerson, CEO of the NRECA
Our guest this week is Jo Ann Emerson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. After a failed attempt to bring legislative change in carbon emissions through the US Congress in 2009, President Obama is now using the regulatory arm of the EPA to bring about a major reduction in carbon emission from fossil fueled power plants. The move brings no guarantee that other counties around the globe will follow the lead of the United States. Coal-fired power plants provide about 40 percent of the nation's electricity. Opponents of the administration's plan see the move as another attack on coal that ultimately will raise electricity rates, eliminate jobs, and depress the nation's economic recovery.It's estimated that if the 30 percent reduction goal is achieved by 2030, global carbon emissions would be reduced by less than 2 percent. Ms. Emerson says the NRECA is concerned about the environment and points out that they've voluntarily cut carbon emissions in half over the past decade without additional government regulations.

Chris Novak, CEO National Pork Board
This week's Open Mic guest is Chris Novak, CEO of the National Pork Board, which provides the producer leadership for the Pork Checkoff. Novak discusses the challenges and opportunities U.S. pork producers have experienced this year, including the loss of more than 8 million piglets from the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV). Even though some pork supply will be made up through the marketing of heavier weight hogs, the dramatic losses - couple with strong domestic and global demand - are resulting in substantially higher prices for producers and consumers. Novak also discusses key demand factors and industry consolidation.

Senator Mike Johanns
Senator Mike Johanns is well seasoned in international agricultural trade and U.S. farm policy. He served as governor of Nebraska and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture before he was elected to the U.S. Senate. As the 2014 farm legislation goes into effect, he comments on his view of new and existing programs. He also talks about expanding agricultural trade and the factors that limit the ability of negotiators to strike advantageous deals with Asian and European nations.

Rodney Davis-IL
Congress has finally passed the second authorizing bill to improve inland waterways and ports and streamline the approval process by the Corps of Engineers. Congressman Rodney Davis from Illinois was a co-sponsor of the bill and a member of the House-Senate conference committee. Davis says WRRDA is primarily a jobs bill and predicts it will shorten the approval process for new projects from fifteen to three years. However, it remains an authorizing bill that does not yet have appropriations to construct or repair any waterway or port.

Laura Batcha
Laura Batcha is CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association which is meeting in Washington, D.C. this week.Organic appears to be going mainstream. USDA certification of organic production has allowed the word "Organic" to become one of the three top trademark words for foods. Wal-mart is planning to expand sales of organic products in its stores in the United States.Batcha speaks of the challenges of growth while maintaining standards and developing an organic "checkoff" that will do as much, or more, than other checkoff programs for commodities.

Frank Lucas, R-Okla
In this wide ranging interview, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., shares his thoughts about why it was so difficult to pass a new farm bill and his perspective on issues like the definition of actively engaged as USDA works on implementation. The Oklahoma Republican is also concerned about pending rules and regulations regarding the EPA's proposed rule on the waters of the U.S. and how it impacts the ability of farmers and ranchers to make a living off the land.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith is the U.S. Representative from the third district of Nebraska. His district is rural, agricultural and covers over half the state. He is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and is actively working for a variety of interests in his home district. Congressman Smith speaks about trade negotiations with nations on the far side of two oceans. He also looks at the prospects of Congress giving "fast track" trade authority to President Obama and passing tax extenders legislation that benefit biofuel production. Smith is co-chair of the "Modern Agriculture" caucus and explains how the focus will be on understanding new technologies in agriculture. Finally, he states his position on the Keystone XL Pipeline that, if built, will cross his district.

Bill Reinsch
Bill Reinsch currently serves as President of the National Foreign Trade Council. He oversees NFTC's efforts favoring open markets and opposing unilateral sanctions. Mr. Reinsch also serves as a member of the U.S.-China Security Review Commission. He provides a concise overview of pending trade deals and disputes with optimism and criticism. Reinsch indicates that negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Altantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are the most ambitious of the new century and could move free trade to a new plateau. Reinsch says China, even though it is not part of any multilateral agreement, is still a major player in all negotiations on international trade.

James Moll
James Moll produced "Farmland", a documentary about six farmers and ranchers from across the United States. The funding for the film came from the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance but Moll says he had complete editorial control. The film had its debut on Thursday, April 14 at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. Five of the farmers featured in the film attended the gala event. Moll is a very high profile film maker for this type of project. He has academy award credits to his name but says he had never been on a farm until he produced "Farmland". His point of view remains understated as he says he wanted the farmers to speak for themselves and tell about their industry and affection for their livelihood and lifestyle.

John Garamendi
"This is the worst drought in forty years and maybe ever," says Congressman John Garamendi, who represents agricultural areas of the highly productive state of California. He projects reductions in water usage from twenty to one hundred percent this year. As a result, he wants to build new water storage lakes in a state that has said no to such construction for fifty years. Along with support from other California Congressmen, he introduced HR 4300: "The Sacramento Valley Water Storage and Restoration Act of 2014." Garamendi comes from a strong agricultural and public policy background. He grew up on a California ranch and still has livestock interests. He holds a degree in business from Berkley and an MBA from the Harvard Business School. Garamendi served as Lt. Governor and chaired the Economic Development Commission. He served in the state legislature, rising to Senate Majority Leader and later became California State Insurance Commissioner. In 1995, President Clinton appointed him to be Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior. He was elected to Congress in 2009.

Jennifer Sirangelo
If you have ever participated in 4-H, you will undoubtedly want to hear from Jennifer Sirangelo, the new CEO of the National 4-H Council. The youth organization has membership of seven million young people worldwide with programs in science, agriculture, health and citizenship. She comes from a Midwest background, graduating from William Jewel College in Kansas City before receiving a MBA from Syracuse University and attending Oxford University. She was a Harry S. Truman scholar as an undergraduate. After joining the National 4-H Council in 2006, Sirangelo served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer as she led development of the council's strategic plan and tripled annual fundraising.

Bob Dinneen
With prices trending downward, many commodity growers are paying close attention to the Renewable Fuels Standard and whether the EPA will eventually stick with their proposal to lower the amounts of renewables required to be blended. At the same time, livestock producers and the oil industry are stepping up their attacks to have the RFS removed altogether. In this week's Open Mic, broadcaster Cindy Zimmerman asks Bob Dinneen, the president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, to offer his prognosis on what the EPA will do on the RFS and whether there are other avenues to expand biofuel consumption. Dinneen credits USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack with being a strong biofuels supporter, even though he can't say the same about some other members of the White House team.

Alan Tracy
From biotech to international trade and a wide variety of other issues, U.S. wheat growers have a lot on their plates and Alan Tracy, President of the U. S. Wheat Associates plays a key role. Tracy first entered the national scene in 1981 at the beginning of the Reagan Administration. He worked under Agriculture Secretary John Block in a number of high level positions including Deputy Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for Marketing and Inspection Services, and Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs and Commodity Programs. He later worked in the White House as Special Assistant to the President for Agricultural Trade and Food Assistance and served for seven years as Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture. Tracy directs the organization's global export market development program, attempting to increase wheat consumption and U.S. market and talks about some of the challenges as well as opportunities for opening up more global trade.

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