The American Farm Bureau Federation has given the Senate a 4 1/2-page list of priorities for the next coronavirus aid package, which the chamber is expected to consider in July. 

The proposals include another round of direct payments to farmers to cover losses after April 15. The $16 billion in Coronavirus Food Assistance Program payments going out now are designed to offset losses from January to mid-April. 

Business liability protection is also on the wish list. 

Read more about the AFBF requests here

Ag dealers may get dicamba relief

EPA has apparently agreed to allow ag retailers to distribute dicamba herbicides to growers who already paid for them, provided payment was made by June 3 and the product was in the hand of the dealer by that date.

Kevin Paap, president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler conveyed the news to more than 100 state and national Farm Bureau representatives on a call Wednesday.

Richard Gupton, senior vice president for public policy & counsel at the Agricultural Retailers Association, said that is also his understanding, but ARA is “waiting for EPA to officially post on their website.” The issue is important for dealers with prepaid product on hand.

Meanwhile: The plaintiffs in the case that resulted in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to vacate the registrations of the three herbicides — Xtendimax, FeXapan and Engenia — are expected to ask that court any time to prevent the use of existing stocks.

Ag climate bill likely to get hearing, action later

Sen. Mike Braun, the lead Republican sponsor of the landmark, bipartisan ag carbon bill introduced recently, confirms to Agri-Pulse that the legislation is likely to get a hearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee this year. 

But the first-term Indiana senator (above) acknowledged in an interview that it will take some time to get the bill enacted, probably as part of a larger bill, and that won’t come before the next Congress. 

The Growing Climate Solutions Act is aimed at providing legitimacy and transparency to ag carbon trading by establishing a USDA-run system for certifying third-party verifiers and technical service providers. 

USDA’s role in the carbon markets is important because the Farm Service Agency can provide a familiar place for farmers to get reliable information. “For good stewards, which farmers are almost across the board, this will enable the technical hookup you need to get with markets that will reward you for” reducing greenhouse emissions, he said. 

Take note: Braun believes there is growing interest from farmers in carbon markets. “They’re looking for ways to maybe do things differently,” he said. 

Keep in mind: A recent Agri-Pulse poll found nearly one in every two American farmers would be interested in carbon markets, even though the climate issue is still a relatively low priority for them.

Meat, poultry push up supermarket prices

Supermarket prices jumped 1% in May, driven by a record increase in beef prices and higher costs for other types of meat as well as poultry and eggs. 

Beef prices were up 10.8%, the largest monthly increase ever, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which released the monthly Consumer Price Index on Wednesday. 

Dairy prices were up 1% and prices for fruits and vegetables rose 0.5%. 

Bottom line: Supermarket prices, as measured by the CPI’s food-at-home index, have increased 4.8% over the last 12 months. 

Fed: Holding interest rates low

Good news for the farm economy: The Federal Reserve is committed to keeping interest rates low until the U.S. economy recovers from the COVID-19 crisis. 

The Fed is forecasting an economic recovery “beginning in the second half of this year and lasting over the next couple of years, supported by interest rates that remain at their current level near zero,” Chairman Jerome Powell said on Wednesday. 

Keep in mind: The historically low interest rates are a key difference between the situation for farmers today versus the farm crisis of the 1980s.

Lighthizer to testify twice next week on trade policy

U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer will be testifying twice on Capitol Hill next Wednesday to answer questions by Senators and House members. First up will be the House Ways and Means Committee for morning hearing and then it will be the Senate Finance Committee in the afternoon.

Lighthizer (above) is sure to want to talk about recent successes such as the free trade agreements he has negotiated (or renegotiated) with Japan, South Korea, Mexico and Canada, but just about anything related to U.S. trade policy will be up for discussion, one Hill aide said. That includes issues with the U.K., the European Union, Kenya and China.

Union to lawmakers: Compensate essential workers

Essential workers affected by the coronavirus, including those in meatpacking plants and throughout the food industry, should receive compensation for the risks they’re taking, says the head of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. 

At a House hearing Wednesday, UFCW President Marc Perrone endorsed a bill introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., in the House and Illinois Democrat Tammy Duckworth in the Senate that would set up a compensation fund for essential workers who have become ill or died as a result of COVID-19.

Some 29,000 UFCW members have become ill and 225 have died, Perrone said. Seventy members at meatpacking plants have died from COVID-19 and another 20,000 have tested positive, Perrone said in his testimony.

Obtaining Personal Protective Equipment such as face masks is still an issue, Perrone said. He said one major company with 400,000 employees is thinking of eliminating its mask requirement.

Dems urge USDA to fund local food projects

A group of Senate Democrats led by Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota (above) and Sherrod Brown of Ohio is urging USDA to prioritize local food programs to help low-income communities find healthy and affordable food. 

“In some of the more rural regions of the country, individuals may have to travel further than 10 miles to the nearest grocer. Low-income Americans and people of color are more likely to live in neighborhoods with few healthy food options,” says a letter signed by 20 other senators. 

The letter points to studies showing a significant barrier to the consumption of healthy foods in poor neighborhoods is limited access to a grocery store.

They said it. “We think the word canceled is so final, and we know that we will be back next year, so we choose to say the 2020 Iowa State Fair is postponed.” – the Iowa State Fair, which canceled the 2020 fair on Wednesday, explaining why the website says the fair was “postponed.” The next fair will be in August 2021. 

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