The issue of climate change and, more specifically, the role farmers could play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions will be the focus of a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing today. 

The committee will hold a hearing on the bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act, which is supposed to guarantee legitimacy and transparency to ag carbon trading by establishing a USDA-run system for certifying third-party verifiers and technical service providers. 

Jason Weller, vice president of Truterra, the sustainability unit of Land O’Lakes, Inc., will tell the committee that the bill would provide the “core building blocks of transparency and information” needed for ag carbon trading. The legislation also would make USDA a “trusted source of information” on the carbon credit protocols and standards, while also providing estimates of market size and activity, he says. 

Weller is a former chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. 

Paul Dacier, an executive with Indigo Agriculture, a biotech firm that has established a carbon credit program of its own, says in written testimony submitted to the committee that the USDA system could  “accelerate the role of agriculture as a climate solution while bringing greater economic and environmental resiliency to rural communities.”

Dacier is asking Congress to pass a transferable tax credit based on a set rate per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent that is sequestered by agriculture and forestry. He says the tax credit could be attached to the Growing Climate Solutions Act.

Keep in mind: The lead Republican co-sponsor of the bill, Mike Braun of Indiana, has acknowledged the bill likely won’t go anywhere this year. He’s looking to the next Congress. 

USTRs Doud: US beef exports to China to pick up

 U.S. beef exports to China have dried up in recent weeks, but shipments should pick up soon, Gregg Doud, USTR’s chief agricultural negotiator, tells Agri-Pulse.

Chinese importers began buying some U.S. beef after the country finalized new rules to remove outdated mad cow restrictions – thanks to a provision in the “phase one” trade deal – but USDA data shows there haven’t been any recent purchases.

“My assessment was we were just getting going when we got hung up on the (COVID-19) problems domestically and we got ourselves way out of whack on price,” Doud said in an interview. 

“We’ve gotten ourselves back to normal and so hopefully that bodes well for getting back on track with regard to beef sales to China,” he said. “We were seeing somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 tons a week. I think that is what the potential is going forward on a week-to-week basis now that we’re back to normal.”

Doud talked to Agri-Pulse at length about the preparation for the implementation of USMCA next week as well as Chinas increased purchasing of U.S. soybeans. For more, check out this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter. We also look at an increasingly bitter congressional race that’s pitting Texas farm groups against President Donald Trump.

Panel to move grain standards

In addition to the ag carbon hearing, the Senate Ag Committee is set to move a bill today to reauthorize the Grain Standards Act for five years. The existing law, which authorizes the work of USDA’s Federal Grain Inspection Service that is critical for international trade, expires this fall.

The National Grain and Feed Association and North American Export Grain Association endorsed the draft reauthorization bill in a letter to the committee on Tuesday. The bill includes a provision to ensure user fees paid by grain handlers are used only for inspection and weighing services. Also in the bill: States that are delegated to perform inspections would be required to notify companies at least 72 hours before discontinuing service. 

“Stakeholders – ranging from producers to grain handlers and processors to end-users and consumers – benefit when (FGIS) and its delegated and designated state and private agencies provide state-of-the-art, market-responsive Official inspection and weighing of bulk grains and oilseeds, and do so in a reliable, uninterrupted, consistent and cost-effective manner,” the groups said. 

Ag Secretary Perdue at Food Box delivery

USDA Food Box delivery hits 20 million

USDA reports that more than 20 million Food Boxes have now been delivered since the coronavirus relief program started in mid-May. That is still only halfway to the department’s original goal of delivering 40 million boxes by the end of this month

But Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who has been traveling the country promoting the program, insists that it is picking up steam. “This milestone is a testament that the program is accomplishing what we intended – supporting U.S. farmers and distributors and getting food to those who need it most. It’s a real trifecta, which is why we call it a win-win-win,” he said. 

Bayer appears closer to glyphosate settlement

Bayer’s supervisory board is due to discuss and vote in the next few days on a settlement of thousands of claims by plaintiffs that exposure to Roundup caused their cancer, a German business publication reported Tuesday. The settlement is expected to worth $8 billion to $10 billion.

Citing sources, Handelsblatt reported that $2 billion of the total amount would be set aside for future claims.

A settlement has been in the works for some time, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed negotiations over the last few months, the company had said. Bayer stock rose 4.8% in U.S. trading Tuesday. 

SNAP benefit increase gets push

Anti-hunger groups are moving quickly to make their case to the Senate to include a 15% increase in SNAP benefits in the next coronavirus relief bill.

“We know there is very limited time between now and when the Senate adjourns for August recess, to get a bill done and in conference with the House,” said Ellen Teller, director of government affairs for the Food Research and Action Center.

Teller said advocates will be working hard this week and during the July 4th recess to make sure senators hear about the issue. Recently, 2,500 organizations across the country sent a letter to House and Senate Leadership urging them to take action.

Grassley wants cattle markets hearing

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, says the Senate Ag Committee also should hold a hearing on cattle markets. Grassley told reporters Tuesday the hearing should address his livestock price transparency bill he recently introduced with Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana. 

But Grassley acknowledged that committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., doesn’t support the bill. With reauthorization of the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act on the horizon, Grassley says it would be “out of touch” for Congress not to address cattle pricing transparency.

He said it. “The integrity that USDA would bring to the marketplace by setting standards for providing farmers and ranchers technical assistance and for verifying GHG credits would offer confidence in the system for farmers who want to participate.” Jason Weller of Land O’Lakes’ Truterra, in testimony prepared for Senate Ag. 

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