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DTN FORECASTS TOP AG STORIES FOR 2014
by Chris Clayton, DTN/Progressive Farmer

Anyone can tell you what the top stories were in the past year. It takes true forecasting abilities to tell readers what the biggest stories will be over the next year.

After consulting market analysts, political insiders, economists, an Ouija board and the Heritage Foundation, here are the most likely farm policy stories you can expect to see DTN/The Progressive Farmer reporting on in 2014:

USDA unveils a new web portal for farmers to buy crop insurance, www.cropinsurance.gov. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says of the new program, "If you like your crop insurance, you can keep your crop insurance."

The final vote on the farm bill in the House appears in trouble until Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp comes to the rescue by demanding his colleagues vote it down. The bill garners 300 votes.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow is caught trying to choke fellow senator John McCain of Arizona in the Senate cloakroom after McCain tries to block final passage of the farm bill in the Senate. Stabenow politely tells reporters, "We're making progress."

Colorado's congressional delegation fails in a last-minute push to add marijuana to the crop-insurance title of the farm bill. In a concession, USDA agrees to add organic certification for any marijuana operations that qualify -- after months of appropriate tests are conducted by USDA staff.

Despite passing both chambers last year, the final farm bill eliminates tighter payment caps and rules on being actively-engaged in farming. Rep. Michael Conaway explains that's because it can take up to five generations of people to decide which crop to plant.

The World Trade Organization again agrees with Canada that U.S. country-of-origin labels distort trade. In a separate ruling, the WTO also rules Canada can block imports of U.S. mozzarella to protect its own domestic market from foreign competition. Canada has a 245.5% tariff on imported mozzarella. Holy crap!

Edward Snowden reveals he has information not just about NSA, but NASS. Snowden releases documents to DTN/The Progressive Farmer showing that USDA crop production forecasts are settled by all-night poker tournaments in the basement of USDA's south building.

Biotech companies beat back attempts in more states to label GMOs in food. Companies tell voters there is no difference between ingredients from biotech crops and non-biotech varieties.

Biotech companies successfully defend their patents in another Supreme Court case. Companies tell justices patent protections must be extended because seeds for biotech crops are unique and distinctly different from non-biotech seeds.

After getting a great deal on the seed price, U.S. farmers plant 25 million acres of a new corn variety approved only for export to Burundi.

DTN Markets Editor Katie Micik is arrested for revealing national secrets regarding the inner-workings of USDA crop reports and all-night poker games.

Processed chicken from China is ready to arrive on U.S. grocery shelves until Iowa Rep. Steve King introduces a bill declaring any chicken imported from China must be served exclusively in the Longworth, Dirksen, USDA and EPA cafeterias. Lo and behold, USDA border inspectors find that they can't verify the chicken is actually a meat product.

The House of Representatives cancels a vote on immigration reform after the patriarch of Duck Dynasty tells GQ that illegal immigrants are happy with the way things are now.

Corn prices fall to $2.00 a bushel in October after EPA announces it is dialing back the Renewable Fuels Standard to 5 billion gallons for 2015. In an unrelated announcement, Gina McCarthy says she is resigning as EPA administrator to pursue her dream of becoming CEO of Exxon Mobil.

Environmental Working Group issues a news release in November citing that low crop prices will drive up farm subsidies. "We wouldn't have such high subsidies if farmers would just find new markets for their commodities like, say, renewable energy," EWG lobbyist Scott Faber tells the New York Times.

Associated Press investigates the environmental consequences of ethanol in a slanted piece quoting a single Iowa farmer. A top AP editor then resigns to take a job doing public-affairs work for BP. Oh, wait. That's already happened.

The House votes down a higher minimum wage law. Rep. Conaway explains the bill had to be defeated because it would raise taxes for people who make minimum wage on their jobs, but also collect farm-program payments.

Hillary Clinton says she hasn't made any decisions to run for president in 2016 as she sits in a new John Deere combine at the Iowa State Fair declaring her appreciation for farmers, biofuels and pork chops on a stick.

After expecting to close a deal on one side of the ocean or the other, the USTR announces the TPP and TTIP are SOL because of an untimely outbreak of Acronym Deficiency Syndrome, a sickness not normally known to infect major bureaucracies. The CDC, WHO and WTO agree to send help ASAP.

On Dec. 31, 2014, USDA sends me a letter acknowledging the department has received my Freedom of Information Act request from May 21, 2013. Now that's funny!

Happy New Year! And may the markets be ever in your favor.

Follow me on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN.


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