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CRS — U.S. Farm Income Outlook for 2015 (February 18, 2015)

February 25, 2015 Comments off

U.S. Farm Income Outlook for 2015 (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

According to USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), national net farm income—a key indicator of U.S. farm well-being—is forecast at $73.6 billion in 2015, down 32% from last year’s level of $108.0 billion. The 2015 forecast would be the lowest since 2009. Net cash income is projected down 22.4% in 2015 to $89.4 billion.

The forecast for lower net farm income and net cash income is primarily a result of the outlook for lower crop and livestock receipts—down a combined 6.3%. The fall in cash receipts comes despite record corn and soybean harvests in 2014, as commodity prices plunged in the last half of 2014 and are expected to remain at substantially lower levels compared with the period of 2012- 2014, when prices for many major program crops experienced record or near-record highs.

Government payments are projected up by 15% to $12.4 billion, which partially offsets the $25.8 billion decline in crop and livestock receipts. The 2014 farm bill (Agricultural Act of 2014; P.L. 113-79) eliminated direct payments of nearly $5 billion per year and replaced them with a new suite of price and revenue support programs. In particular, the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program replaced the previous Counter-Cyclical Price (CCP) program, but with a set of reference prices based on substantially higher support levels for most program crops. Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) relies on a five-year moving average price trigger in its payment calculation, but also adopts the PLC reference price as the minimum guarantee in years when market prices fall below it. The higher relative support levels of PLC and ARC are expected to trigger payments of $6.2 billion in 2015.

Copyright and the Music Marketplace

February 25, 2015 Comments off

Copyright and the Music Marketplace (PDF)
Source: U.S. Copyright Office

Few would dispute that music is culturally essential and economically important to the world we live in, but the reality is that both music creators and the innovators that support them are increasingly doing business in legal quicksand. As this report makes clear, this state of affairs neither furthers the copyright law nor befits a nation as creative as the United States.

The Copyright Office has previously highlighted the outmoded rules for the licensing of musical works and sound recordings as an area in significant need of reform. Moreover, the Office has underscored the need for a comprehensive approach to copyright review and revision generally. This is especially true in the case of music licensing—the problems in the music marketplace need to be evaluated as a whole, rather than as isolated or individual concerns of particular stakeholders.

While this view is hardly a surprising one for the U.S. Copyright Office, it is no simple matter to get one’s arms around our complex system of music licensing, or to formulate potential avenues for change. For this reason, in early 2014, the Office undertook this study—with all industry participants invited to participate—to broadly consider the existing music marketplace.

This report is the result of that effort. In addition to identifying the shortcomings of the current methods of licensing music in the United States, it offers an in‐depth analysis of the law and industry practices, as well as a series of balanced recommendations to improve the music marketplace.

All of This Has Happened Before and All of This Will Happen Again: Innovation in Copyright Licensing

February 25, 2015 Comments off

All of This Has Happened Before and All of This Will Happen Again: Innovation in Copyright Licensing
Source: Social Science Research Network

Claims that copyright licensing can substitute for fair use have a long history. This article focuses on a new cycle of the copyright licensing debate, which has brought revised arguments in favor of universal copyright licensing. First, the new arrangements offered by large copyright owners often purport to sanction the large-scale creation of derivative works, rather than mere reproductions, which were the focus of earlier blanket licensing efforts. Second, the new licenses are often free. Rather than demanding royalties as in the past, copyright owners just want a piece of the action — along with the right to claim that unlicensed uses are infringing. In a world where licenses are readily and cheaply available, the argument will go, it is unfair not to get one. This development, copyright owners hope, will combat increasingly fair use — favorable case law.

This article describes three key examples of recent innovations in licensing-like arrangements in the noncommercial or formerly noncommercial spheres — Getty Images’ new free embedding of millions of its photos, YouTube’s Content ID, and Amazon’s Kindle Worlds — and discusses how uses of works under these arrangements differ from their unlicensed alternatives in ways both subtle and profound. These differences change the nature of the communications and communities at issue, illustrating why licensing can never substitute for transformative fair use even when licenses are routinely available. Ultimately, as courts have already recognized, the mere desire of copyright owners to extract value from a market — especially when they desire to extract it from third parties rather than licensees — should not affect the scope of fair use.

Options for Improving Conservation Programs: Insights from Auction Theory and Economic Experiments

February 25, 2015 Comments off

Options for Improving Conservation Programs: Insights from Auction Theory and Economic Experiments
Source: USDA Economic Research Service

USDA spends over $5 billion per year on conservation programs, mostly on voluntary programs that pay farmers and landowners to provide environmental services. This report studies the use of auctions in conservation programs to determine if auction design can reduce Government expenditures or encourage landowners to provide greater environmental services.

UK — Copyright and creation: a case for promoting inclusive online sharing

February 25, 2015 Comments off

Copyright and creation: a case for promoting inclusive online sharing
Source: London School of Economics

The creative industries are innovating to adapt to a changing digital culture and evidence does not support claims about overall patterns of revenue reduction due to individual copyright infringement. The experiences of other countries that have implemented punitive measures against individual online copyright infringers indicate that the approach does not have the impacts claimed by some in the creative industries. A review of the UK Digital Economy Act 2010 is needed based on independent analysis of the social, cultural and political impacts of punitive copyright infringement measures against citizens, and the overall experience of the creative industries.

Randomized Trial of Peanut Consumption in Infants at Risk for Peanut Allergy

February 24, 2015 Comments off

Randomized Trial of Peanut Consumption in Infants at Risk for Peanut Allergy
Source: New England Journal of Medicine

Background
The prevalence of peanut allergy among children in Western countries has doubled in the past 10 years, and peanut allergy is becoming apparent in Africa and Asia. We evaluated strategies of peanut consumption and avoidance to determine which strategy is most effective in preventing the development of peanut allergy in infants at high risk for the allergy.

Methods
We randomly assigned 640 infants with severe eczema, egg allergy, or both to consume or avoid peanuts until 60 months of age. Participants, who were at least 4 months but younger than 11 months of age at randomization, were assigned to separate study cohorts on the basis of preexisting sensitivity to peanut extract, which was determined with the use of a skin-prick test — one consisting of participants with no measurable wheal after testing and the other consisting of those with a wheal measuring 1 to 4 mm in diameter. The primary outcome, which was assessed independently in each cohort, was the proportion of participants with peanut allergy at 60 months of age.

Results
Among the 530 infants in the intention-to-treat population who initially had negative results on the skin-prick test, the prevalence of peanut allergy at 60 months of age was 13.7% in the avoidance group and 1.9% in the consumption group (P<0.001). Among the 98 participants in the intention-to-treat population who initially had positive test results, the prevalence of peanut allergy was 35.3% in the avoidance group and 10.6% in the consumption group (P=0.004). There was no significant between-group difference in the incidence of serious adverse events. Increases in levels of peanut-specific IgG4 antibody occurred predominantly in the consumption group; a greater percentage of participants in the avoidance group had elevated titers of peanut-specific IgE antibody. A larger wheal on the skin-prick test and a lower ratio of peanut-specific IgG4:IgE were associated with peanut allergy.

Conclusions
The early introduction of peanuts significantly decreased the frequency of the development of peanut allergy among children at high risk for this allergy and modulated immune responses to peanuts. (Funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and others; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00329784.)

CRS — The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): In Brief (January 16, 2015)

February 24, 2015 Comments off

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): In Brief (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which mandates that U.S. transportation fuel must contain a minimum volume of biofuel, is a federal statutory requirement. The mandated minimum volume increases annually, and can be met using both corn-starch ethanol and advanced biofuels. In order for a biofuel to be applied toward the mandate, it must meet certain environmental and biomass feedstock criteria. A variety of factors (e.g., infrastructure, technology, weather, the “blend wall,” and federal assistance) have led to challenges, including delays by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in setting the annual volume standards and a lack of cellulosic biofuel production. Further, it is not clear how declining oil and gasoline prices will impact the biofuel industry. Challenges in implementing the RFS have led to investigations of the RFS by some in Congress, and to court rulings. More specifically, the 113th Congress held seven hearings where the RFS or renewable fuels was the focus or a recurring topic of discussion, and since 2010 there have been five legal challenges regarding EPA’s administration of the RFS. Because of concerns about the implementation and feasibility of the RFS, some Members of Congress have questioned whether it is time to amend or repeal the RFS, or to maintain the status quo.

This report provides a basic description of the RFS, including some of the widely discussed issues.

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