Tales from the Trail

Think brussels sprouts and cauliflower are agricultural commodities? Think again.

While the financial bailouts tossed to automakers, banks and other groups during the recent economic crisis left a funny taste in the mouth of some Americans, one former U.S. regulator hopes efforts to prevent another panic doesn’t go rotten.

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission is immersed in drafting dozens of rules to assist it in increasing oversight of the once opaque over-the-counter derivatives market, widely blamed for exacerbating the recent financial crisis. USA/

Among the rules it must craft is what the definition of an agricultural commodity is? Of course, corn, cotton, soybeans and livestock, among other items, fall into this realm.

 But what about those “other foods” such as brussels sprouts, artichokes, cauliflower, or anything with curry? A former CFTC chairman says they are “abhorrent to American sensibilities” and should be banned.

“Like every U.S. citizen, there are certain agricultural commodities that are abhorrent to me,” said Philip McBride Johnson, who is now with the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

from Commodity Corner:

Obamamania missing in farm country

obama1Many U.S. farmers don't have confidence in President-elect Barack Obama, with many fearing the new administration will not be receptive to the needs of American farmers and ranchers.

A Reuters straw poll of more than 800 farmers at the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual meeting in San Antonio found 72 percent of the respondents did not believe Obama would have the best interest of the farmer in mind.

Instead of helping U.S. sectors that produce goods for the country, such as farmers, several mentioned Obama would focus on programs that work to even out income and help those that are seeking something from the government.

from Commodity Corner:

First in, first out in the USDA hunt

One of the great rules of inventory management -- first in, first out -- could apply to the process of deducing who will be agriculture secretary in the Obama administration with a wry renaming. In this iteration, it is "first named, first discarded."

The list of potential nominees deemed as front-runners or consensus choices to run USDA has churned continuously since Barack Obama won the presidential election. And it is unclear when a nominee will be named. Most of the front-runners have faded from attention like flowers at the approach of winter.

In early November, the list of potential nominees was filled with Washington heavyweights, like National Farmers Union president Tom Buis or former Texas Rep. Charles Stenholm, along with former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack.