Dr. Keith Collins served in the federal government for 32 years, working with several Agriculture Secretaries as USDA's Chief Economist for the last 15 years of his career before retiring in 2008. During his tenure, federal crop insurance evolved to be the primary safety net for the majority of U.S. farmers. Collins, now a consultant for the crop insurance industry, discusses how crop insurance is an underpinning of the overall economy. He also addressed the impact of billions of dollars in crop insurance claims in 2012 and whether or not the industry can withstand similar challenges.
Congressman Steve Southerland is a Republican from Florida. He may be best known for an amendment to the 2013 House Farm Legislation that required a work component for a certain sector of recipients to continue receiving food aid. The "Southerland Amendment", upon party line passage, caused Democrat support to disintegrate and the the first defeat of farm legislation since it originated in the 1930's. Southerland talks of what he learned from the debate and the prospects for conferees, which he is one, to negotiate a merged bill that can be passed by both houses and signed by President Obama.
Congressman Mike Conaway is a Republican from a rural and agricultural district of west central Texas. He is the subcommittee chair for general farm commodities and risk management of the agriculture committee. Conaway sits just below the four principal negotiators on the conference committee for the farm, food and jobs bill that is currently being negotiated. He stated last week that he disagreed with Chairman Frank Lucas that the bill would come out of conference before Thanksgiving. "I would like for the Chairman to be right and for me to be wrong," he said on further questioning, "but I feel there are just too many areas that are unresolved to allow that." Conaway turned out to be right as many areas of the bill are still unsettled.
In the 1960's, Dr. Mary Del Chilton, a biologist, had an interest in a bacterium that would snip the genes of a tobacco plant and allow scientific manipulation or gene splicing. She was not sure it was anything that had commercial viability until CIBA-GEIGY (now Syngenta) came to see her at Washington University in St. Louis, where she was teaching. They convinced her to bring her skills to the fledgling biotechnology industry and switch from tobacco to corn. The rest is history as she was awarded the World Food Prize this year along with two other scientists who laid the groundwork for advancement in crop biotechnology. Agri-Pulse spoke with her during a news conference at the World Food Prize event as she was countering anti-biotechnology claims and discussing the unrecognized potential in this new era of genetic modification
Ray Offenheiser is President of Oxfam America, a Non-Governmental Organization that focuses on food aid to developing countries. Oxfam is a member of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network and favors major reform in the food aid system, moving away from shipping grain in more costly American flag vessels to buying food near the area of famine to support the region, citing proposals offered by both Presidents Bush and Obama. Offenheiser also discusses the science, yet the wariness - within some countries - to receive genetically modified grains.
As House and Senate leaders head into a farm bill conference meeting this week, Sen. Amy Klobuchar provides keen insight on the negotiations. She says the challenge is to merge the reductions in spending, contained in the House of Representatives Farm Bill, with the more moderate reductions in the Senate bill and to mediate those provisions in the final bill. She discusses the prospect of rolling the entire farm bill into a larger budget bill and how large a reduction there can be in nutrition spending without risking a presidential veto. Finally, she discusses a provision of the WRDA bill that would permanently close the Upper St. Anthony Lock on the Mississippi River to block Asian Carp from penetrating northern Minnesota rivers and lakes.