Monday, September 24, 2018

MFP Instructions from FSA

USDA has added almonds and cherries to the eligible commodities for MFP payments, and FSA issued a new expanded notice covering them plus other changes.

The changes seem to be tightening up the program:
  1. a subparagraph on spotchecking production evidence
  2. more detailed instructions on reviewing evidence for reasonableness (though I don't see any definition of the "Other" category of acceptable evidence.  I don't remember that from 25 years ago--maybe it's been added and is now understood by everyone?) 
And the addition of a worksheet for making the payment calculations and computing a total payment amount.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

MFP and Privacy of Data

Article in the newspaper, lost track of which one, reporting that FSA had issued something like $23 million in MFP payments so far.

I'm impressed less by the speed with which the agency was able to issue the payments than by the ability to provide statistics.  With the centralized payment process the payment data should have been easy but they're also reported applications made and paid.  I'm not sure what's supporting that--maybe the business processes are in the cloud, making such data easy?

The article also went on to note that EWG was asking for release of the payment data.  That reminds me of this notice.  I've read it a couple times and still don't understand it, perhaps because I'm remembering that the 2008 or 2012 farm bill included a prohibition on providing payment data.  My memory may be wrong, or the law may have changed in more recent farm bills.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Toyota--Say It Ain't So--Driverless Cars

Here's a report on a Toyota bigshot's skepticism that we'll get driverless cars any time soon.

I've been driving my leased-Prius 2 for a year, chosen because of its safety features and reasonable price.  The features are good, but not fool proof--I've had a couple close calls, albeit at low speeds so likely the worst result would have been a fender-bender.  But still, I really want improvements in the features, FAST.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Are Ant Colonies Tribal?

We grow dahlias in our garden.  I regularly cut a few and bring them home for a dinner table bouquet.  Unfortunately the blossoms often have some ants in them, presumably harvesting the pollen or something.  So when I get them home and put them in vase (glass) on the kitchen counter I soon see ants running around the counter, all confused because they can't find the trail which will lead them back to their nest. 

Hence my question: is it possible for an ant from colony A of species Z to find and be accepted by ants also of species Z but from colony B?  Or would they identify the ant as an interloper who needs to be rejected, shunned, or attacked?  Assuming the latter to be true I put them out of their misery by squishing.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Connectedness: the NYTimes Map

The NYTimes has an interactive map showing how people are connected by Facebook, which allows them to show the impact of distance: briefly, our friends are close, physically.  The data is at the county level, so they can show which counties people in Fairfax county are closest to (all VA counties plus DC, no MD counties).

It's good to play with.  As their final analysis, they show how the US divides if you divide areas by closeness of connections.  So if you divide the US into 2 parts, they're Hawaii and the rest of the country.  As a failed historian, I was fascinated to see that only at the 20 part division did the Mason Dixon line show up. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

50 Years in the DC Area

I forget what recently reminded me of the fact I've now lived in DC and Reston for over 50 years, but something in the newspaper did.  It's been a  while.   Even more astounding is I'm gradually catching up to the United States.  That is, at 77 my lifespan is getting close to 1/3 of the US (now 242 years).  If I live to be about 82 I'll be there.

Damn, I'm getting old.

Someday maybe I should write about the experience.  But right now I'd rather focus on the midterm elections.

Monday, September 17, 2018

MFPromises Made But Not Kept

It's been 2 weeks since the MFP was activated.  There's this promise on the website which hasn't been implemented yet:

Digital Forms Icons

Use the digital form on

Coming soon, you’ll have the option of completing a user-friendly digital application form right here on - optimized for your mobile phone or tablet. No authenticated account or password required. Just complete the digital form, and the application will be sent automatically to your county office. Then stop by your local USDA service center to sign the form and provide your production evidence any time.

Not sure what the holdup is since the form is online--maybe it's the optimization for phone or tablet?  If so, I wonder if they have statistics showing percent users of PC's versus phones/tablets? 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

How Partisan Are We Really?

Some lines from a Fivethirtyeight chat (onObama's influence today):
According to the 2017 poll I referenced earlier, Obama was seen favorably by 22 percent of Republicans. That’s not awful.
micah: That’s better than I expected, actually.
nrakich: And, according to a Gallup poll from February, 38 percent of Democrats now approve of George W. Bush! Some of that is the Trump effect, but in general, partisans cool their jets once their mortal enemy stops being their mortal enemy.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Congressional Research Service on Market Facilitation Program

Here's the CRS explanation and commentary on the MFP.

Two paragraphs from the summary:
Most farm commodity and advocacy groups have been supportive of the trade aid package even as they have called for solutions that restore export activity.
However, stakeholders have begun to question the equity of the distribution of MFP payments due to difficulties in isolating specific market effects and the lack of transparency around the formulas for determining MFP payment rates. Some trade economists and market watchers have suggested that its potential effects could be longer lasting because the imposition of tariffs and retaliatory tariffs have created uncertainty about U.S. trade policy behavior. Further, the use of CCC authority to mitigate tariff-related losses may establish a precedent for future situations.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Prima Donnas: Trump and MacArthur

I don't think many people would dispute that our president is something of a prima donna.  (See the internet's definition below.)   The question is who in American history is his peer in this regard?

Have I mentioned I'm reading "World War II at Sea"?  It's quite good and comprehensive.  Of course the author has to mention Douglas MacArthur.  I'd put his ego up against Trump's any day of the week, although he had more genuine accomplishments than Trump.

The internet says a prima donna is:
"a very temperamental person with an inflated view of their own talent or importance.
synonyms:ego, self-important person, his nibs, temperamental person, princessdivapooh-bah;
informaldrama queen
"a city council filled with prima donnas"