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Wednesday, December 12, 2018
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  • CARMEL – Back home in Indiana some Hoosiers are dreaming that they may soon see the welcomed light of steel furnaces once again shining through the sycamores. But for many in the heartland that light is clouded by uncertainty because President Trump has promised to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.  Concern that those tariffs may trigger retaliatory tariffs on American products by key international trading partners is generating apprehension throughout Indiana’s agricultural community. The uncertainty faced by agriculture as farmers make their final planting decisions before the 2018 growing season are only exacerbated by the steel tariff proposal. Already bearing on those decisions are issues such as the outcome of the ongoing NAFTA renegotiation which hasn’t really focused on agriculture yet, the upshot of ongoing discussions in Congress regarding the renewable fuel standard (the requirement that gas for cars contain 10 per cent ethanol), the future of the federal farm bill and, as always, long-term weather predictions. What, they ask, will be the demand for American agricultural products if the United States finds itself in trade battles with traditional buyers by the time of this fall’s harvest?
  • CARMEL – As Americans we have morphed our right to free speech into a national inclination to grumble about our government and the ineptitude of bureaucrats who are charged with regulating industries that they know nothing about.  Rarely do we agree, at least out loud, with any government action that affects us directly. But that is exactly what consumers should be doing in the wake of a recent Food and Drug Administration decision to change a proposed rule that addressed the packaging, processing and handling requirements for any human food by-products consumed by animals.  Significantly, the proposed rule would have placed severe restrictions on the use of leftover grain by brewers and distillers as animal feed.
        
  • CARMEL - In late March most of the United States pretty much ignored the 100th anniversary of the birth of Norman Borlaug, the man most responsible for the current phenomenon of engineered food in the world’s diet. The one notable exception to the general indifference to Borlaug’s centennial was that of his native state of Iowa, which used the occasion to enshrine him as one of that state’s two honorees in the National Statuary Hall in the U. S. Capitol.  To do so, Iowa had to remove the statue of James Harlan, a college president, U.S. senator and secretary of the interior in the Andrew Johnson administration. (For the record, Indiana’s two honorees are Civil War Gov. Oliver P. Morton and Civil War general and Ben Hur author Lew Wallace). Dr. Norman Borlaug, born and raised on an Iowa farm, was a plant scientist and innovator who is widely known as the father of the Green Revolution.
  • CARMEL - A few years ago I became convinced that industrial hemp was inappropriately banned because of its reprobate cousin marijuana and that its legalization represented a growth opportunity for Indiana agriculture.  Since my retirement from Indiana Farm Bureau in October, I have assumed a greater level of involvement in the effort to legalize industrial hemp’s production in Indiana. What is industrial hemp?  The bill currently being considered by the legislature (SB 357) defines industrial hemp as a variety of the cannabis sativa plant that contains less than 0.3% tetrarahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration.  THC is the chemical that induces the drug effect of marijuana where its concentration levels generally range between 5% and 20%, although higher concentrations occasionally occur.
  • CARMEL – On Friday this week, President Obama will travel to the campus of Michigan State University to sign a bill titled the Agricultural Act of 2014 but almost universally known as the 2014 Farm Bill. Both of these titles are misleading because they imply the bill deals primarily, if not exclusively, with farming or agriculture. While it’s true that the bill is the single most important piece of federal legislation addressing agriculture, it is significantly more than that. The final bill took over two years of congressional negotiations and left both liberals and conservatives frustrated that the eventual compromise failed to address some of their primary concerns. The most expensive, and therefore most confrontational, among the bill’s dozen titles is that entitled simply “Nutrition.”
  • INDIANAPOLIS - My first reaction to President Barak Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday evening was to wonder why agriculture received no mention whatsoever. With our dysfunctional Congress congratulating itself on finally reaching a compromise on a farm bill earlier in the day, it seems the President could have used that as a timely example of the bipartisan cooperation he has been demanding. But no, I heard no mention of it whatsoever. Since my mind wandered occasionally during the evening, I thought I may have missed at least a passing reference to ag, so I downloaded a copy of the speech and ran a word search. Neither “farm” nor “agriculture” made it into an hour long discourse by our nation’s chief executive on the state of our union.
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  • Lugar, Bayh warn Senate about emerging scandals
    "As former members of the U.S. Senate, Democrats and Republicans, it is our shared view that we are entering a dangerous period, and we feel an obligation to speak up about serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security. We are on the eve of the conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and the House’s commencement of investigations of the president and his administration. The likely convergence of these two events will occur at a time when simmering regional conflicts and global power confrontations continue to threaten our security, economy and geopolitical stability. It is a time, like other critical junctures in our history, when our nation must engage at every level with strategic precision and the hand of both the president and the Senate. We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld. Regardless of party affiliation, ideological leanings or geography, as former members of this great body, we urge current and future senators to be steadfast and zealous guardians of our democracy by ensuring that partisanship or self-interest not replace national interest." - 44 former U.S. Senators, including Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh from Indiana, writing a Washington Post op-ed article warning current senators about the emerging scandals involving President Trump.
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  • Weird scenes inside the White House
    The Nick Ayres saga fallout continues to be just ... weird. Vanity Fair's  Gabriel Sherman reports that last Friday, President Trump met with Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence, and out-going Chief of Staff John Kelly to finalize the CoS transition. A press release announcing Ayers’s hiring was reportedly drafted and ready to go for when Trump planned to announce Kelly’s departure on Monday. But Kelly was pressing for top aide Zachary Fuentes to get the job, Trump got pissed and leaked the story on Saturday. Ayres began getting calls from the press about his net worth estimated to be between $12 million and $54 million.

    Ayres then insisted he only wanted the job for several months. Sherman: “Trump was pissed, he was caught off guard,” a former West Wing official briefed on the talks said. By Sunday, Ayres not only bolted the Trump gig, but the Pence job, too, deciding to head back to Georgia. So by year's end, Trump and Pence will both be on their third chief in less than two years.

    This all comes amid rampant speculation that with scandal, House Democrat investigations and a tariff-bruised economy all looming over the horizon, who would want to work for a guy like Trump, where loyalty is a one-way street, allies get thrown under the bus, and careers can be tainted forever after folks wallow in Watergate or get the Kremlin Kramps. Trump and Pence had lunch on Monday. Wonder what was on the menu? Crow, perhaps?
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher.
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