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DTN’s Chris Clayton reports today that five Republican senators on the ag committee  are citing “questionable behavior” by a USDA employee in advance of Friday’s hearing in Fort Collins, Colorado, on competition in the livestock industry. The Senators (Pat Roberts of Kansas; Saxby Chambliss of Georgia; Mike Johanns of Nebraska; Sam Brownback of Kansas; and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma) wrote Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack saying they “continue to have concerns about the objectivity” of the USDA. Last week 20 Democratic senators and one Republican (Chuck Grassley of Iowa) wrote Vilsack in support of what the department was doing.

• Hoppy Henton’s family has operated a Kentucky farm for over 200 years and he still can’t understand the Kentucky Farm Bureau. “They’ve got policies against gay marriage and against the right of farmers to unionize,” Henton says. “You tell me what the hell does any of that have to do with agriculture?” 

The Kentucky Farm Bureau has issued a “policies booklet” that covers everything from gay marriage to the death penalty to teaching of “alternative lifestyles” in public schools. Henton tells Leo Weekly that he think the inclusion of social issues is a way to avoid talking about the dominance of ag markets by large companies.

“They don’t seem to have a whole lot of affection for family farm operations, and that’s a shame,” Henton says. “Because it’s a remarkably good organization when it wants to be; it just doesn’t want to be.” 

•Brazil will begin limiting the amount of agricultural land that can be purchased by foreign-owned companies. The Brazilians have grown uneasy with the voracious appetite for land being shown by the Chinese.

“This is not about a vision of sovereignty but rather about a way to preserve the country from the domination of foreign capital,” the Brazilian solicitor-general said.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., Reuters reports that sales of U.S. farmland are rising, driving up land prices. Much of the interest comes from non-farmer investors who are competing against farmers who have had good profits recently. The competition for land is also being driven by higher prices for commodities. 

Midwestern farmland is being priced now at over $8,000 an acre, up more than 5 percent over the last quarter.

• Oh, and the winning bid for the 2010 blue ribbon country ham at the Kentucky state fair was $1.6 million. (The 2007 winner above.)

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