The House and Senate return to Washington this week with a loaded agenda before the annual August recess, including securing another relief package for the nation’s lingering fight against the coronavirus.

But Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts tells Agri-Pulse coronavirus relief for producers isn’t the only item on the committee’s plate. He hopes the committee can address livestock price reporting reauthorization and get floor consideration of grain standards language. 

“There are some things we have to reauthorize and I’m hopeful we can do that without a lot of unforeseen problems,” Roberts noted.

Saudi Arabia begins wheat flour privatization

The Saudi government has taken the first steps in privatizing its wheat milling sector by selling two of the country’s four relatively new facilities, potentially paving the way for more opportunities for U.S. wheat exporters, according to a report from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. The remaining two are expected to be sold off soon.

Before the government commissioned construction of the four mills just five years ago, Saudi Arabia imported flour for all of its baking needs. Since the mills went online, the state-run Saudi Grains Organization has been importing about 3.5 million metric tons of wheat, but the grain is mostly lower quality and destined for subsidized flour production. 

The government is still in charge of procuring most of the wheat for the mills, but the newly privatized operations are now allowed to buy higher quality grain for premium products, which could create a new opening for U.S. suppliers.


Farmers reassured on phase one ag commitments after Pompeo visit

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reassured Iowa farmers he is confident China will follow through with “phase one” trade deal commitments.

“He thought that the trade agreement by both parties, by both China and the U.S., is one that is mutually beneficial, and they will live up to,” Iowa Farm Bureau Federation President Craig Hill told Agri-Pulse after he and Farm Bureau members met with Pompeo Friday evening in Des Moines.

Despite large corn purchases last week, Craig says China needs to pick up the pace on ag purchases through the end of the year. He says Pompeo also noted trade talks with the United Kingdom will be difficult because of its separation from the European Union.  

Bill to fully fund LWCF on tap in House this week

The House of Representatives is expected to vote this week on a Senate bill to permanently and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million annually.

The House Rules Committee cleared the bill for House consideration Friday, at a hearing where Utah Republican Rob Bishop, ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, said the bill prioritizes federal land purchases over the $12 billion maintenance backlog at national parks. He wanted amendments to be allowed on the House floor.

But Rules Committee Chairman and Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern said if the bill were amended, it would have to go back to the Senate and “there’s no guarantee it will even be considered.” In the end, the bill allows an hour for debate but no amendments.

The LWCF provides funds for state, local and federal parks and conservation projects. The Senate bill earmarks $360 million annually for land acquisition and $6.5 billion over five years for national parks maintenance.

APHIS seeking comments on latest glufosinate-resistant corn variety

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has opened a 30-day comment period on its proposed approval of a new corn variety genetically engineered with resistance to glufosinate-ammonium herbicides.

With 11 GE herbicide-resistant corn varieties already available to growers, such as LibertyLink and Genuity SmartStax, the new variety, known as DP202216 corn, would offer growers another option, APHIS said. “Glufosinate is but one of around 40 herbicides used in corn production, comprising 0.23% of total herbicide use on corn in 2018,” APHIS said in its environmental assessment.

The agency said approval of variety “is unlikely to have a notable effect on an increase or decrease in total U.S. corn acreage. … As a higher yielding cultivar DP corn could potentially require less acreage per bushel.”

LULAC likes what it sees at Tyson poultry plant in Arkansas

The League of United Latin American Citizens said it’s pleased with changes Tyson Foods has made at its Springdale, Arkansas, poultry plant.

The group, which says it’s the oldest and largest Latino civil rights organization, met with Tyson CEO Noel White before touring the plant last week. “What we have seen confirms Tyson is making significant changes and investments to improve worker safety and America’s food supply,” LULAC President Domingo Garcia said. “LULAC will work with Tyson Foods and other meat processing companies that are taking every possible step to protect their employees.”

Last month, hundreds at the plant tested positive for the coronavirus at the Springdale plant. The number now, according to state figures, is 28. More than 100 activist groups signed a letter earlier this month urging the 10 biggest shareholders of Tyson stock to press the company for public disclosure of all COVID cases at its facilities, a slowdown in line speeds, and increased availability of testing.

Pence woos Wisconsin farmers

Vice President Mike Pence was in Wisconsin Friday, telling dairy farmers why they should vote to help give Donald Trump another victory in the battleground state he won narrowly in 2016.

The passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement was key to Pence’s pitch. U.S. negotiators fought to give U.S. dairy farmers wins in the new NAFTA, but Wisconsin producers are still expressing skepticism that Canada won’t backtrack on agreements to reduce subsidies and allow in more U.S. dairy.

In response to questions on how to keep Canada in line, Pence stressed only “that President Donald Trump means business.” 

They said it: “The world is a better place because John Lewis spent his life in pursuit of freedom, justice, opportunity, and peace for all of humanity.” – Georgia Democrat Sanford Bishop, chairman of the House Ag Appropriations Subcommittee.  

“John Lewis was not only a civil rights legend for the country, and an icon in Congress, he was my friend. It has been an honor to know and serve with him. I will miss John greatly and I join the country in mourning this loss.” – Minnesota Democrat Collin Peterson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

Congressman Lewis, a civil rights icon, represented Georgia’s Fifth District in the House for more than 33 years.

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