House Republicans are struggling to come up with budget cuts promised by new members for the current fiscal year. The House Appropriations Committee put together a plan to cut $40 billion during the second half of this fiscal year, but many conservatives, mostly new members of the House are demanding that the reductions be more than twice that large. President Obama’s budget for fiscal 2012 will be released on Monday and the plan is expected to include major cuts to farm program spending. In the past Congress has rejected the president’s proposed cuts, but the mood in Congress may be significantly different this time around.

Farmers will be allowed to grow Roundup Ready sugar beets with some restrictions this spring. USDA’s decision to partially deregulate the crop is an interim order that will last only through the end of 2012. But by then USDA will have completed the required environmental impact study mandated by a court ruling last fall. The USDA decision is based on a determination that the Roundup Ready sugar beet root crop can be planted (with certain restrictions) without posing a plant pest risk or having a significant effect on the environment. Seed crops for Roundup Ready sugar beets will remain regulated, at least for now, and can’t be planted in California and several counties in Washington. Sugar beet processors and producers will face detailed documentation requirements at planting, during the growing season, and for the movement of Roundup Ready sugar beets.

The Senate voted 81 to 17 to repeal a small business tax reporting requirement that forces businesses to fill out 1099 tax forms to any vendor that supplies $600 or more worth of goods or services. The provision affects about 40 million businesses, according to Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). The provision kicks in at the beginning of 2012 unless Congress acts. A bill similar to the one passed in the Senate is being discussed in the House of Representatives. Chances of passage look good, but Congress may need to cut spending or raise revenue some other way to offset the revenue not collected through the 1099s.

Only two-thirds of folks eligible for food aid are getting it. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called the Food Stamp Program, provides assistance for more than 43 million people each month. Half of them are children. This is only about 66% of the people who are eligible for the program, according to a new report from USDA. However, participation rates vary widely by state. According to the report, research shows that every $5 in SNAP benefits generates as much as $9 in economic activity.

A new “flexible framework for animal disease traceability” in the United States has been announced by USDA. The framework will provide the basic tenets of an improved animal disease traceability capability in the United States. USDA says its efforts will:
• Only apply to animals moved interstate;
• Be administered by the States and Tribal Nations to provide more flexibility;
• Encourage the use of lower-cost technology; and
• Be implemented transparently through federal regulations and the full rulemaking process.

USDA says it remains committed to working in partnership with States, Tribal Nations and industry to develop an effective, yet practical, animal disease traceability solutions.

There will be no partial counter-cyclical payments to producers of wheat, corn, sorghum, barley, oats, cotton, rice, peanuts, soybeans, sunflowers, canola, or other minor oilseeds. Market prices for these crops exceed levels that would trigger the counter cyclical payments. And there will be no final 2009-crop counter-cyclical payments for rice, also because of relatively high market prices.