A second trade-related concern was first addressed by Vilsack in August. Vilsack said without Congressional action the United States would be unable to make good on $150 million annual payments to Brazil over a cotton subsidy-related trade settlement. The United States was forced to the negotiating table by a Brazil-friendly World Trade Organization ruling.

“I think it’s incumbent on Congress -- and I’m sure people are sensitive to this -- not to create another opportunity for the WTO to criticize the way in which we’re supporting producers and reducing the risk associated with farming,” said Vilsack.

“We’re obviously encouraging (lawmakers) to find that compromise that allows them to respond to the needs of all different types of commodities. … There needs to be a blend, a balance. There also needs to be an awareness that we’re engaged in a global economic activity and are abiding by the rules if we want others to abide by them.”

Brazil trade officials will decide by late February (http://deltafarmpress.com/markets/farm-bill-inaction-threatens-ignite-brazilian-trade-retaliation) whether to pursue cross-retaliation measures, potentially worth $830 million annually and approved by the WTO, on all manner of U.S. export goods.  

In recent days, Mark Lange, CEO of the National Cotton Council, addressed the situation on The Hill blog (http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-budget/194284-farm-bill-proposals-offer-resolution), where he encouraged more dialogue and cooperation between the nations.

Meanwhile, piling on more farm bill pressure over food stamps and nutrition, Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, spoke with the media on Monday morning.

“We’re very anxious to have a farm bill … because it provides some stability for both families, organizations, states and counties in moving forward, providing and responding to people’s needs,” said Concannon.

“Of the considerations before Congress, personally I more generally favor the recommendations coming out the Senate. I’m pleased that there are negotiations underway to have a combined bill … that doesn’t deal with nutrition separately from other aspects of (agriculture). Staffers from the White House have been very actively involved in trying to bring to resolution the different groups in Congress.”

The stimulus benefit that expired last November hit “millions of households” leading to “food banks seeing more foot traffic because those households are suffering.”

Currently, said Concannon, “We’re living through a period with among the highest number of people who are ‘food insecure.’ I don’t particularly like that term because it sanitizes the experience. I think these are households where people have to skip meals or they have to serve food that (should be healthier).

“We certainly have the capacity as a country … to produce enough food for everybody in the United States and for most of the world. It’s a matter of getting our policies better aligned.”