USDA promised to start getting those Coronavirus Food Assistance Program payments out the door to farmers within a week of signup starting, and that’s what is happening. 

According to USDA’s first report on the program, the department has already made payments totaling $545 million. 

Of that amount, nearly $268 million, has gone to livestock producers. Another $140 million has gone to producers of corn, soybeans, cotton and other row crops. Dairy producers have received nearly $129 million. Specialty crop producers have received just $8.4 million. 

Producers in Illinois, Kansas, Wisconsin, Nebraska and South Dakota have received the largest amounts so far. 

Keep in mind: USDA eventually expects to make payments of up to $16 billion.

Download the report here

Leading the way on CFAP

Take note: Starting today, USDA will be holding a series of webinars to address CFAP issues. This afternoon’s webinar is intended for organizations that serve farmers and ranchers. Additional webinars will focus on different groups of producers. Information on those is available here

Farm Bureau pledges effort to address racism

The American Farm Bureau Federation has joined the National Farmers Union in putting out a landmark statement addressing the issue of racism.

A statement issued by AFBF on Thursday goes beyond expressing sympathy for victims of racial injustice and says the organization will undergo a process of self-examination. 

“We … believe we have a responsibility across our society to honestly examine, identify and address racism. That includes looking within our own organizations. … We are forming a cross-functional working group to determine how we, as staff of the American Farm Bureau, can be a positive influence against racism.” 

Keep in mind: AFBF has long been known for its socially conservative stands on national issues.

The NFU statement, issued May 29, denounced police brutality and called for a national effort to eliminate racism and change society.

Ruling throws dicamba usage in doubt

Growers may have to skip over-the-top dicamba applications on soybeans and cotton this year under a federal appeals court ruling issued this week. But ag groups are holding out hope the EPA can persuade the court to stay its decision.

The Ninth Circuit decision vacated the registrations for Bayer’s Xtendimax, BASF’s Engenia and Corteva’s FeXapan. North Dakota Ag Commissioner Doug Goehring says the ruling “immediately bans the sale and use of these products nationwide.”

Goehring said he expected “an immediate appeal of the ruling along with a request for an emergency stay, which if granted would allow the continued use of the products while the appeal is being heard in court.” Whether dicamba can be used this season “now depends on the outcome of the request for an emergency stay.”

EPA’s take: The agency said it “will move promptly to address the court’s order” but offered no other details.

The plaintiffs say the court was clear that over-the-top uses of dicamba are now off-limits. “We will oppose any stay motion,” said Center for Food Safety Legal Director George Kimbrell.

The Agricultural Retailers Association is urging the government to appeal and is concerned about what dealers should do with existing stocks. ARA is advising members “to take a pause.”

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue examines a Farmers to Families Food Box this week in Georgia. USDA says 5 million have been delivered so far, but goal is 40 million by June 30.

Ag climate bill sets stage for speeding carbon markets

The new climate bill we told you about Thursday is now out – with an impressive array of Senate sponsors and supporting organizations. The big question is whether and when the bill becomes law. 

The Growing Climate Solutions Act is aimed at accelerating the development of ag carbon markets by putting USDA in charge of approving certifiers and consultants that are needed to make sure carbon credit trading is legitimate and transparent. 

A Senate source says a hearing is under consideration, but backers say it’s not clear when there could be action on the legislation. It’s hard to see that happening in an election year, but at the least, the bill sets a marker for action in the next Congress. 

The bill’s lead sponsors include two Republicans, Senate Agriculture Committee member Mike Braun of Indiana and Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, as well as Debbie Stabenow, Senate Ag's top Democrat, and Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, one of the Senate’s most prominent voices on climate policy. 

Organizations and companies supporting the bill include AFBF, several commodity groups, the Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, McDonald’s and Microsoft. 

Keep in mind: One of the key developers of ag carbon trading, the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium, is developing its own certification program and wouldn’t need the USDA-run program. But ESMC Executive Director Debbie Reed tells Agri-Pulse the USDA program would create a needed talent pool of specialists “who understand the markets and their requirements.”

Storm clouds on USMCA horizon

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is still slated for implementation on July 1, but there may be some complications to the roll out in the months ahead, says Kenneth Smith Ramos, Mexico’s former chief negotiator for the North American Free Trade Agreement.

One storm cloud Ramos sees is the continued U.S. efforts to enact so-called “seasonality” provisions that would make it easier for U.S. produce farmers to file anti-dumping cases against Mexico. Another is the threat of more U.S. demands for border inspections. 

Mexico reluctantly agreed recently to allow increased inspections of its tomato exports as part of a deal with the U.S., but now U.S. producers are calling to expand the deal to cover other Mexican crops.

Potential problems brewing on the Mexican side of the border stem from “regulatory backtracking” by government officials. One concern in particular, Ramos said, is the recent suspension of import permits for ag biotech products even though they have been approved in Mexico. Furthermore, Mexico’s Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources has been blocking glyphosate imports from the U.S.

Vilsack: Trump should be clear on China plans

Former Ag Secretary and U.S. Dairy Export Council President and CEO Tom Vilsack says President Donald Trump needs to stop sending mixed signals about the future of the “phase one” trade deal with China.

“Recent statements by the president suggest that perhaps he is growing tired of the phase one agreement, certainly creates uncertainty about the future of that agreement,” Vilsack said Thursday on a call organized by Focus on Rural America, a Democratic advocacy group.

Chinese ag purchases are critical to U.S. farmers, he said. 

He said it: “You’ll make it a better day, it doesn’t mean it will make it a better future.” – Dan Smith, president & CEO of the Cooperative Network on the impact of USDA’s CFAP payments. 

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