With incredible heat and drought conditions across much of the U.S., some have compared this time period to previous record-breaking droughts dating back to the 1930's Dust Bowl years. Yet with new technologies and conservation techniques, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Ann Mills explains how farmers and ranchers are preserving precious resources despite the weather-related challenges and how new conservation innovation grants might lead to even better practices. Mills, who previously directed the Senate office of Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle and worked on bio-fuels issues for then-Congressman Richard Durbin, talks about how a new farm bill might shape future conservation programs and how environmental markets could emerge as a new revenue stream for producers.
Rick Tolman, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of Corn Growers for the last 12 years, is our guest on Agri-Pulse Open Mic. As a member of the "Farm Bill Now" coalition, Tolman talks about his group's disapointment that members of Congress can't get the job done. He also talks about how ethanol has allowed agriculture to be a bright light in the national economy and explains how, from a technical standpoint, NCGA needs to be supportive of those who want to petition the EPA for a waiver of the Renewable Fuels Standard. We also asked him to grade the Obama Administration's approach to agriculture.
This week's guest on Agri-Pulse Open Mic is Jon Scholl, President of the American Farmland Trust, the nation's leading farmland conservation organization. Previously, he served as Counselor to the Administrator for Agricultural Policy at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and talks about his experiences connecting farmers to consumers and the importance of being good stewards of the land, especially in critical watersheds like the Cheseapeake Bay. Scholl gives his perspective on the conservation title in the 2012 farm bill and potential cuts in conservation programs to pay for livestock disaster aid. Although the rate of farmland conversion to development has slowed, Scholl says more focus should be given to protecing what he calls "America's greatest natural resource."
Joe Jobe, the Chief Executive Officer for the National Biodiesel Board joins us on Agri-Pulse Open Mic to discuss the current state of his industry and the important roles that the biodiesel tax credit and the Renewable Fuels Standard play in supporting biodiesel production in the U.S. Jobe, who grew up on a farm in central Missouri, also explains how biodiesel, which is the only advanced biofuel in commercial production, is very diverse in terms of technology and feedstock sources and represents an important path forward for anyone interested in energy independence.
Steve King, a five-term U.S. Representative from western Iowa, joins us on Agri-Pulse Open Mic to talk about how the House plans to consider livestock disaster assistance and a one-year extension of the 2008 farm bill this week. The fourth-ranking Republican on the House AgricultureCommittee talks about his efforts to prevent states from imposing trade barriers on livestock production methods against other states. King, a small business owner who says he has probably built more terraces than any other member of Congress, also talks about conservation and shares the importance of keeping the RFS in place, while preserving the delicate balance between corn, soybean and livestock production. King is facing a tough reelection race in the Fourth District against Christie Vilsack, a well-funded political newcomer and the wife of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
USDA's Chief Economist Dr. Joe Glauber joins us this week on Agri-Pulse Open Mic to discuss the drought that's dramatically cutting yields across the Midwest and how high participation in the crop insurance program in that region will protect many farmers from a total financial loss. Glauber, who oversees the World Agricultural Outlook Board, also talks about recent changes in the USDA's supply and demand reports, the potential implications of farm program changes included in the Senate and House Ag Committee versions of the 2012 farm bill, and export opportunities in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks.