Open Mic Replay - An Extensive Catalog of Our Audio Interviews

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas made a return appearance to Open Mic the week of 4/2/12 to discuss the impact of the CBO March baseline projection and the House-passed Ryan Budget and its reconciliation directive on the development of new farm policy. Lucas lays out his roadmap for passing a five-year farm bill out of committee but seems less sure how it will move through the full House. He identifies some common themes that have surfaced during the panel's series of field hearings on the farm bill - themes that will likely be included in the Chairman's mark.

On Open Mic the week of 3/26/12, Kevin Concannon, the USDA Undersecretary in charge of food, nutrition and consumer services, comments on House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's plan to turn the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) into a state-run block grant program and addresses concerns about retailer trafficking of SNAP benefits. Concannon has some ideas about what Congress could do in a new farm bill to enhance the effectiveness of USDA nutrition programs and he talks about steps USDA is taking to get healthy foods to Americans of all ages.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad joined us on Open Mic the week of 3/19/12 to talk about the booming farm economy in Iowa and other Midwestern states and the lessons it holds for Washington. Branstad, the longest-serving governor in Iowa history, recalls the 1980s farm crisis and the impact it had on his state. While understanding the need for the federal government to get its fiscal house in order, Branstad, who chairs the Midwestern Governors Association, says the states have a limited capacity to assume additional financial and regulatory burdens. The governor offers some biofuels policy suggestions for Capitol Hill lawmakers, and he addresses critics of Iowa's first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses.

On Open Mic the week of 3/12/12, Vanessa Kummer, chairman of the United Soybean Board (USB), talks about a recent decision by the 69-member USB to reshape the national soybean checkoff around the four issues most critical to U.S. soybean farmers. Kummer also discusses the checkoff board's efforts to explain to consumers the benefits of modern American agriculture and the impact of more regulation of animal agriculture on their grocery bills. With soybean checkoff collections now in excess of $100 million annually, Kummer, says it's more important than ever for growers to feel comfortable with how their checkoff dollars are being invested.

Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., joined us on Open Mic the week of 3/5/12. A member of the influential House Ways and Committee, Smith says the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations present the U.S. with an opportunity to resolve some outstanding ag trade issues with Japan and its NAFTA partners. On the estate tax, he favors a permanent repeal but suggests permanent relief is the best hope for reformers in 2012. While not a member of the Agriculture Committee, Smith will kick off a Farm Bill listening tour next week to hear what his constituents want included in new farm legislation. One thing Nebraskans want the Obama Administration to do, he says, is to approve construction of the full 1,661 mile Keystone XL pipeline.

On Open Mic the week of 2/27/12, Gene Gregory, president and CEO of United Egg Producers (UEP), talks about the group's historic decision to partner with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) on animal welfare legislation for the egg industry. Gregory insists the UEP-HSUS agreement to move to enriched colony housing is necessary to keep his members in business and equally insistent that it does not set a dangerous precedent for the rest of animal agriculture.

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts joined us on Open Mic the week of 2/20/12. The top Republican on the Senate Ag Committee bristles at the suggestion that hes blocking a legislative fix to a court order requiring EPA to regulate aquatic pesticide applications, and he says the Labor Departments child labor in agriculture proposal should be withdrawn. Speaking the day after the Senate Ag panels first farm bill hearing of 2012, Roberts says he and Chairman Debbie Stabenow are working in a bipartisan fashion to markup a bill ASAP containing a crop insurance-plus commodity title that serves the needs of all of U.S. agriculture.

As United States Trade Representative from 2006 through 2008, Susan Schwab concluded free trade negotiations with Colombia, South Korea and Panama. Now a professor at the University of Maryland, Schwab joined us on Open Mic the week of 2/13/12 to italk about why it took four years to get the three FTA's through Congress and the current state of U.S. trade policy. She suggests that President Obama is the reason why a significant percentage of Americans have doubts about foreign trade and says his proposal to roll the USTR's office into the Commerce Department would be a "real disaster" for U.S. agriculture.

On Open Mic the week of 2/6/12, Senate Ag Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow previews the panel's drafting of multi-year farm legislation and discusses regulatory issues of concern to farmers and ranchers. Stabenow believes the farm bill will come together fairly quickly and says it must provide a safety net for producers in all regions of the country. The Michigan Democrat suggests the Labor Department needs to make more changes in its proposed rules for child labor in agriculture. Stabenow opines on the UEP-HSUS compromise on animal welfare standards for egg production and she says it's not her fault that new EPA pesticide permitting requirements took effect.

Geneticist and molecular biologist Nina Fedoroff was awarded the National Medal of Science in 2006 for her contributions to the development of modern techniques used to study and modify plants. Fedoroff served as Science and Technology Adviser to U.S. Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton from 2007 to 2010. On Open Mic the week of 1/30/12, Fedoroff discusses the challenge of doubling global food production by 2050 and the impact of climate change on agriculture. She also talks about the anti-GMO movement, the politics of science, and the Obama Administration's promotion of organic farming. (Photo credit: Doug Mills/New York Times)

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., one of the four House and Senate lawmakers who developed a farm bill package for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, tells us the week of 1/23/12 why he believes Congress will pass new farm legislation in 2012. The top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee endorses the concept of safety net options for "program" crops and comments on competing ideas being floated by North Dakota Democratic Senator Kent Conrad and the American Farm Bureau Federation. Peterson also talks about GOP efforts to undo the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, the congressional response to the MF Global bankruptcy, and the Obama Administration's Memorandum of Understanding with the State of Minnesota on environmental regulation of agriculture.

On Open Mic the week of 01/16/12, a conversation with the president and CEO of one of America's largest farm lenders. John Ryan of Rabo AgriFinance discusses the outlook for commodity supply, demand and prices and explains how the banking industry is using lessons it learned from the 1980s collapse in farmland values to guide loan decision-making during the current land boom. Ryan also talks about what large ag operations want from lenders today and how a likely move away from direct payments in the next farm bill will impact producers' balance sheets.

With U.S. agriculture in good economic shape, the nation's largest farm organization believes now is the time to look into the mirror to determine how it must change to remain relevant to a new generation of farmers and ranchers. On the opening day of the American Farm Bureau Federation's 93rd annual meeting out in Hawaii, President Bob Stallman sat down with us to discuss the current mood of his membership, the biggest threats to modern U.S. agriculture, and the need for a new approach to farm policy. Stallman indicated he's still "having fun" after 12 years at the helm of AFBF, and despite some whispers to the contrary, he offered no hint that this year's election would be the last time he'd ask delegates for another two-year term in office.

We kicked off 2012 with a conversation with Bart Chilton, a member of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Chilton insists the CFTC is a long way from answering key questions about giant broker MF Globals demise, but hes already identified several corrective steps that the agency and Congress can take to better protect customer funds. Chilton speculates on how long itll take the Commission to fully implement controversial financial regulatory reform legislation, explains why its easier these days to catch futures market cheaters, and comments on a proposal to establish options trading on the outcome of the most important national election results in 2012.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is presiding over arguably the most profitable period in the history of U.S. agriculture. On a special year-end edition of Open Mic, Vilsack explains what USDA needs to do to keep the good times going and also discusses the political fortunes for farmers and ranchers, as well as for President Obama in rural America. The USDA Chief is readying a number of announcements early in the new year with respect to the size, structure and scope of USDA that he suggests will impact both the Department and its stakeholders for decades to come. In the meantime, he remains committed to brokering peace between biotech, conventional and organic producers and expresses doubt that a new farm bill will be enacted in 2012.

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