Daybreak March 16: House Ag receives feedback on USDA climate programs

Ongoing House Agriculture Committee Hearings on Farm Bill turn today to what the USDA can do to fight climate change.

Witnesses will include Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Agricultural Co-operatives and leader of the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance, a coalition of agriculture and conservation groups. Other witnesses will include former North Dakota senator Heidi Heitkamp, ​​who co-chairs the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Agricultural Climate Task Force.

In his prepared testimonyHeitkamp says Congress’ priorities should include expanding incentives and cost-sharing programs, providing needed technical assistance to farmers, and “improving data and risk management.”

Besides: Ahead of the hearing, the AGree Economic and Environmental Risk Coalition released a set of recommendations focused on maintaining and expanding the climate-smart practices farmers are already using. The report notes that farmers who are “early innovators” are often unable to qualify for carbon payments that are only available for new practices.

Kristin Weeks Duncanson, a Minnesota farmer, who will testify for Agree, said getting more farmers to adopt such practices would require “more and better data that is timely, accessible and can be analyzed to show the costs and benefits of these practices to agriculture”. operations. »

For an in-depth look at farm bill issues, read our weekly Agri-Pulse newsletter and sign up for the Agri-Pulse Farm and Food Policy Summit taking place next Monday at the National Press Club.

USDA seeks information on input prices and market concentration

The USDA provides new clues on the direction of its survey of market concentration in the fertilizer and seed industries.

In a Federal Register document posted online but not yet published, the Agricultural Marketing Service looks for “evidence of collusion, market manipulation or other anti-competitive practices among competitors, buyers of agricultural products, commodity traders or companies financial constraints to fix or change prices, allocate markets or restrict where a farmer buys inputs and sells outputs? »

A separate FR seed advisory states that AMS is “particularly interested in the effects of various forms of [Intellectual Property]such as patents, have on small and medium seed enterprises and plant breeding programs.

A third advisory seeks comment on the impacts of food retail and distribution concentration on agricultural producers “and small, medium-sized and otherwise independent processors (SMEs)”.

Once notices are posted on the registry, there will be a 60-day comment period.

Fresh calls for Biden to appoint an undersecretary of commerce

Some GOP senators are renewing their demands that President Biden appoint a USDA Under Secretary of Commerce. Sens Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Todd Young of Indiana both complained during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Tuesday about the delay in a successor to Ted McKinney, who held the post in the previous administration.

But the general secretary, Tom Vilsack, assured reporters last week that he was working hard to fill the position. So far, two candidates have passed the rigorous ethical and legal check, but both turned down the job because they were unwilling to make the necessary financial sacrifices, Vilsack said.

“It’s frustrating,” Vilsack said. He pointed out that exports are doing very well although there is no senior trade policy officer in the department.

Industry Study: High Demand for Processing Contracts

A study commissioned by the industry argues that chicken farmers make a lot of money contracting processors and other farmers line up for bids.

The study released by the National Chicken Council says there were 1,672 applications from potential producers and 335 expansion applications from existing producers when companies were surveyed.

The top 20% of contract farmers earn an average of $142,000 per year.

keep in mind: NCC releases study as Biden administration drafts rules to crack down on performance-based contracting practices used by industry.

“What this data further shows is that the chicken industry should be viewed as a role model, not the target of unwanted and unnecessary regulations that are being discussed in the Biden administration,” the chairman of the board said. NCC, Mike Brown.

Use of organic seeds not increasing, says new report

A recent survey by the Organic Seed Alliance shows “no significant improvement” in organic growers’ use of organic seeds over the past five years.

“This lack of progress jeopardizes the viability of the organic seed industry and the integrity of the organic label,” the alliance said. “In particular, larger organic farms still use relatively little organic seed, and the data suggests that enforcement of organic seed requirements by organic certifiers could be strengthened.”

The alliance, however, said there had been progress in other areas. More than $39 billion has been invested in organic seed research over the past five years, the largest public investment ever in organic seed systems, according to OSA.

Senate passes DST bill

Yesterday, the Senate unanimously passed a measure to make daylight saving time permanent, which would eliminate the need to “revert” to winter time forever.

The ‘Sunshine Protection Act’ passed by voice vote two days after daylight saving time went into effect for 2022, with both sides of the aisle saying Americans want more sunshine and don’t want to change their clocks.

The measure, which has yet to be passed by the House, would take effect in November 2023. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Marco Rubio, said the postponement was requested by airlines and broadcasters whose schedules were already built around the existing calendar.

Keep in mind: Some of our older readers may remember, fondly or not, when daylight saving time was mandated during the winter of 1974 to reduce energy consumption.

He said it. “Aren’t we in a trade war with China all the time anyway? — Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, asked by a reporter about the risks of sanctioning China for helping Russia.

Questions, comments, advice? Email Philip Brasher at [email protected]