Farmers union opposes trade authority
The National Farmers Union wants the Senate to reject a bill granting President Bush more power to negotiate trade agreements with other governments.
The Washington-based NFU Monday said it wished the House had rejected the measure reinstating Trade Promotion Authority for the U.S. president, which was put together by a House-Senate conference committee.
The bill still needs Senate approval before it can go to Bush signature. Bush has indicated he considers the bill a priority and a Senate vote is expected some time this week.
NFU President Dave Frederickson said he thinks the bill, as crafted, ignores issues such as exchange rates, currency valuations and labor and environmental standards, all of which impact the ability of U.S. agriculture to compete with farmers in other countries.
"The U.S. trade proposal could cut assistance provided in the recently passed farm bill and could eventually eliminate future domestic support programs," Frederickson said.
"It could also weaken domestic trade remedy protections against the unfair trade practices of other countries."
As structured, the bill would allow the president to negotiate trade agreements with other countries. Congress would only be allowed to approve or reject such agreements, and would not be allowed to amend them in any way.
Supporters contend the president needs such power to gain the trust of foreign leaders, many of whom are reluctant to deal with the United States out of fear their agreements will be negatively altered.
Critics of the concept do not like having so much authority granted to one official.
Trade promotion authority "leaves Congress in a take-it-or-leave-it position in trade pacts," Frederickson said. "Congress should maintain the right to fully review and amend trade provisions on behalf of the constituent interests they represent."
The farmers' union position is not readily accepted among agriculture interest groups. The American Farm Bureau supports the idea, as do the American Soybean Association, the National Corn Growers Association and the American Sugar Alliance.
The latter group on Monday said it was "extremely pleased" with provisions meant to prevent circumvention of U.S. sugar tariff-rate quotas that were added to the final bill.
In a separate measure on Capitol Hill, the NFU supports a bill introduced last week that provides comprehensive assistance for crop and livestock production or quality losses for 2001 and 2002 crop years.
Two food-related United Nations agencies said North Korea needs more assistance from the outside world to eliminate a food shortage that threatens millions of people prior to the main harvests in September and October.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program both said Monday food aid shipments need to be increased to prevent starvation prior to the harvest.
"The safety net being provided by targeted food assistance cannot be removed at this stage without a sharp rise in malnutrition," the groups said, in a joint report.
Officials say that low temperatures and inadequate water supplies are to blame for damage to the main rice and maize crops.
Kentucky Agriculture Department officials are trying to develop a marketing plan to persuade the state's farmers to grow alternative crops, particularly mushrooms.
Officials note farmers in two Kentucky counties already are trying to increase their mushroom production and move into interstate wholesale markets.
John Mark Hack, director of the state's Office of Agriculture Policy, said officials want to study the farm market potential for raising goats for meat or dairy products, fish and freshwater shrimp, and worms.
University of Illinois researchers are studying whether a narrow genetic base in the state's soybean crop could impose limits on future yields.
Soybeans growing in Illinois now are descended from Chinese varieties introduced between 1910 and 1930. Eight of those varieties contribute 75 percent of the genes in the current soybean varieties being grown.
Randy Nelson, curator of the Soybean Germplasm Collection at the university, said officials need to better understand limits of the genes in order to improve the crop in the future.
The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday 77 percent of the corn crop is silking, compared to 41 percent last week, 76 percent at this time last year and 78 percent average for the past five years. Forty-two percent of the crop is in excellent or good condition, with 31 percent fair and 27 percent poor or very poor.
For soybeans, 76 percent of the crop is blooming, compared to 59 percent last week, 76 percent last year and 77 percent the past five years. Of that, 34 percent is setting pods, compared to 16 percent last week, 35 percent last year and 34 percent the past five years.
For cotton, 94 percent of the crop is squaring, compared to 91 percent last week, 95 percent last year and 95 percent the past five years. Of that, 73 percent is setting bolls, compared to 59 percent last week, 78 percent last year and 74 percent the past five years. Fifty-five percent of the crop is excellent or good, with 32 percent fair and 13 percent poor or very poor.
For spring wheat, 97 percent of the crop is headed, compared to 92 percent last week, 98 percent last year and 97 percent the past five years. Thirty-six percent is excellent or good, with 37 percent fair and 27 percent poor or very poor.
For barley, 96 percent is headed, compared to 91 percent last week, 98 percent last year and 97 percent the past five years. Fifty percent is excellent or good, with 34 percent fair and 16 percent poor or very poor.
For rice, 48 percent of the crop is headed, compared to 35 percent last week, 55 percent last year and 41 percent the past five years. Sixty-five percent is excellent or good, with 30 percent fair and 5 percent poor or very poor.
For winter wheat, 88 percent of the crop is harvested, compared to 86 percent last week, 87 percent last year and 87 percent the past five years.
For oats, 36 percent of the crop is harvested, compared to 21 percent last week, 21 percent last year and 27 percent the past five years. Thirty-nine percent is excellent or good, with 29 percent fair and 32 percent poor or very poor.
For sorghum, 49 percent of the crop is headed, compared to 35 percent last week, 53 percent last year and 47 percent the past five years. Of that, 22 percent is coloring, compared to 18 percent last week, 24 percent last year and 22 percent the past five years. Twenty-four percent is excellent or good, with 38 percent fair and 38 percent poor or very poor.
Confusion over weather conditions and forecasts pushed grain futures lower Monday on the Chicago Board of Trade.
Soybeans, corn, wheat and oats all were affected by Monday's rain, following intense weekend heat. Traders were uncertain whether crops would benefit or suffer from the moisture.
Soybeans: Aug 5.34 3/4 off 16, Sep 5.19 1/2 off 13, Nov 5.03 off 12 1/4, Jan 5.05 3/4 off 12 1/4.
Corn: Sep 2.31 off 12, Dec 2.40 1/4 off 12 1/2, Mar 2.46 3/4 off 11 1/4, May 2.51 1/4 off 10.
Wheat: Sep 3.26 1/2 off 8 1/2, Dec 3.36 1/4 off 7 3/4, Mar 3.42 1/4 off 8, May 3.34 1/2 off 5 1/2.
Oats: Sep 1.63 1/2 off 3 3/4, Dec 1.62 3/4 off 5 1/4, Mar 1.64 1/4 off 4 1/2, May 1.67 off 4.