The Senate Agriculture Committee’s top Democrat is insisting the next coronavirus relief bill contain more money for food assistance.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., says she’s had conversations with Chairman Pat Roberts and another top committee Republican, Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., on the subject.
“They are open, I’ve had good conversations, but no commitments,” Stabenow told Agri-Pulse, referring to the talks.
“We’ll need to see if we can come to an agreement,” Boozman told Agri-Pulse. “A lot of our conference is open and looking; we don’t want people going hungry.”
Stabenow is calling for a 15% increase in maximum benefit for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and a boost in the minimum monthly benefit from $16 to $30, which is also in the HEROES package passed by the House in May.
Boozman vows accountability toward USDA on COVID-19 payments
Boozman, in line to be Senate Ag’s top Republican in the next Congress, says he will hold USDA accountable for how it spends future COVID-19 payments to producers.
“Certainly, we’re going to hold their feet to the fire and make sure that these dollars are going to be spent in the way that was broadly outlined with the language we finally come up with,” Boozman told Agri-Pulse.
Boozman did commend USDA for being able to roll out programs in a matter of weeks compared, noting some farm bill programs can take years to implement.
US-China woes seen impacting soybean trade
China has been off its expected pace of purchasing U.S. soybeans recently, and that’s because tensions between the two countries have risen sharply, according to U.S. Soybean Export Council CEO Jim Sutter.
“We certainly see plenty of tensions between the United States and China and I think all of those kind of pool together to create a little bit of uncertainty,” Sutter said on an AgTalks webinar Thursday after the countries shut down consulates in Houston and Chengdu.
Sumner said USSEC agents in China explained to him that the slowdown in purchases is “because the companies in China that were actively buying U.S. new crop soybeans are just worried … that there could be a disruption in the implementation of the ‘phase one’ agreement.”
Keep in mind: Newly released data shows that China was still on a buying spree not too long ago. Net sales of U.S. soybeans to China for delivery in the 2020-21 marketing year totaled 1.989 million metric tons for the week of July 17 through July 23. Physical exports, though, were just 135,600 tons.
Since July 23, there have been sales to China of 132,000 tons of U.S. soybeans, according to USDA data.
Legislation would make all students eligible for school meals because of pandemic
A new bill introduced Thursday by Virginia Democratic Rep. and House Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott would make all students eligible for free school meals in the upcoming academic year.
The Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act also would allow schools and non-profit community partners to operate meal services, including after-school meals and snacks, and allow meals to be available for students learning remotely through “grab-and-go” or meal delivery.
The bill, co-sponsored by 16 Democrats, is endorsed by a wide variety of groups, including the School Superintendents Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Feeding America and the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Biden, Espy to talk rural diversity efforts with farmer panel
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will be joined by a former USDA leader today to chat about the ag and rural components of his racial equity plan.
Mike Espy, an ag secretary during the Clinton administration who is currently running for the Senate in Mississippi, will join Biden and a handful of producers and ag stakeholders for a panel discussion today.
Biden’s plan includes a pledge to address “longstanding inequalities in agriculture,” including forming a farmland assistance program “to assist in both the purchase of farmland and the ability of Black, Brown, and Native farmers to keep that land.” There’s also provisions to increase rural broadband spending and boost research funding at historically black colleges.
Take note: Biden also pledges to “appoint officials at every level of the USDA who have a demonstrated commitment to supporting Black, Brown and Native farmers” and “eliminate the USDA’s backlog of civil rights complaints.”
Lawmakers and farm groups seek protection to use food names
U.S. cheese makers can no longer use the name “asiago” on the cheeses it exports to Mexico thanks to a trade deal the European Union signed with Mexico. That’s the kind of barrier farm groups and 61 Democratic and Republican senators are imploring U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue to end.
The Consortium for Common Food Names, U.S. Dairy Export Council, American Farm Bureau Federation, North America Meat Institute, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Milk Producers Federation and the Wine Institute all signed on to a letter to Lighthizer and Perdue, beseeching them to ramp up efforts to head off European efforts to wall off cheese, wine and other food names that the Europeans seek to protect as “geographical indications.”
Sens. John Thune, R-S.D. and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., spearheaded the letter that asks the USTR and USDA leaders to create a “core policy objective” of defending U.S. companies right to use what they call common food names.
“The overwhelming bipartisan support demonstrated by the U.S. Senate for this goal underscores the importance of breaking down these GI-related barriers and achieving greater export safeguards for U.S. cheeses and other common name products,” says USDEC President and CEO Tom Vilsack. “By putting protections for common food and wine terms first, we will ensure that American-made products do not come in last."
Burger King execs to visit Farm Babe to talk cattle
Burger King officials, apparently chastened by criticism the company has received for promoting lemongrass as feed to reduce methane emissions from cattle, plan to visit an Iowa farm in August.
“I'm very excited to be hosting @BurgerKing execs on our farm next month to show the true meaning of beef and sustainability!,” farmer and social media influencer Michelle Miller said in a tweet Thursday.
Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, touted the meeting and the “power of engagement” in a blog post Wednesday.
“Just a week after Burger King released its new Cows Menu ads, they have dialed back, pulling an offensive farmer stereotype from their ad and promising to take a more serious approach with their sustainability campaign,” Duvall said. “We would ask that they fully put the cow video out to pasture, as it’s still on their Twitter and YouTube accounts as of this writing.”
Argentina seen exporting less wheat
Argentina’s wheat exports this year and next year won’t be reaching initial USDA forecasts, according to a new analysis from the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. That could be good news for U.S. wheat exporters.
Brazilian importers buy most of the exports from South American neighbors, but U.S. farmers have been offering increased competition to Argentine suppliers and new Brazilian quotas have been fueling U.S. shipments.
The latest USDA data shows the U.S. exported 62,100 metric tons of wheat to Brazil in the week of July 17 through July 23. Brazilian millers purchased an additional 62,100 tons for future delivery.
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