Brazil’s tariff rate quota that allows 198 million gallons of U.S. ethanol into the country duty-free expires today, adding pressure to negotiators who are under fire from lobbyists and lawmakers in both countries to get better deals for their farmers.

U.S. lawmakers, led by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, have been pushing especially hard in recent days for U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to convince Brazil to tear down its 20% tariff, doing away with the need for a TRQ.    

Also this week: USDA will release its updated farm income projections on Wednesday. The last forecast was issued in February ahead of the coronavirus disruptions that hammered commodity prices.

COVID impasse: Congress remains out of session this week with no sign of progress on a new coronavirus relief bill. Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, says Republicans have offered to come up from $1 trillion to $1.3 trillion. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insists that Democrats won’t go lower than $2.2 trillion. 

Sept. 30 is the big deadline to watch, because that’s the end of the 2020 fiscal year. Congress will need to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government operating, but that CR could be wrapped into whatever deal on COVID aid that negotiators can come up with. 

Elsewhere: The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture is holding its annual meeting online this week. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue will be speaking on Monday, and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn will address the group on Tuesday.

House Ag chairman (right center) on Biden campaign roundtable for farmers

Peterson eyes CCC reforms, next farm bill

House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson says his committee’s top priority for the near-term is to ensure that USDA has new spending authority to deal with future disease outbreaks, both animal and human. 

The House-passed HEROES Act would revise USDA’s Commodity Credit Corp. to address those concerns as well as compensate ethanol producers for market losses. Senate Republicans are supportive of the idea, but the issue is tied up in the negotiations over a COVID aid bill.

“Once we get that taken care of and we have to start focusing on the next farm bill, which is coming on faster than we like, and … there’s a lot of issues that need to be addressed,” Peterson said, speaking on a Joe Biden campaign roundtable on Friday.

Peterson gave no indication of timing for a new bill. The 2018 farm bill expires in 2023. 

Keep in mind: Peterson first has to get re-elected. He faces an especially difficult race this fall. 

Read our report on the Biden roundtable here

Sonny Perdue (right) with President Trump and Ivanka Trump at recent Food Box promotion. 

Dems: Perdue violated Hatch Act at food box event

Sonny Perdue stepped over the legal line at a Food Box event in Mills River, N.C., by inserting the 2020 election into his remarks, prominent House Democrats charged in a letter to USDA’s chief ethics officer.

At the event, Perdue told Trump, “Mr. President, as you saw those throngs of people lining both sides of the road from the airport all the way to Mills River here, those were part of those forgotten people that voted for you for 2016. And I've got better news for you: they and many others are going to vote for you for four more years in 2020.”

“We believe engaging in such political activity while acting in his official capacity is a blatant violation of federal law under the Hatch Act,” said the six representatives, including Marcia Fudge of Ohio, who chairs the House Agriculture subcommittee on nutrition, oversight, and department operations.

Meanwhile: USDA says it’s extending contracts under the second round of the Food Box program until Sept. 18 as it determines how to use $1 billion Trump added last week to the program, originally funded at $3 billion.

Grassley sees stronger US-Taiwan ties

The overture by Taiwan’s president Friday to lift import restrictions on U.S. beef and pork is widely expected to go further than just improving agricultural trade between the two countries.

Free trade advocates like Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley are lauding the Taiwanese promise as a stepping stone to an improved economic relationship with the country.

Groups like the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute are advocating a free trade agreement between the two countries as a next step after the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Meanwhile, the U.S. ag sector is hoping to sell more beef and pork to Taiwanese importers.

DFA commits to reduction in greenhouse gases

Dairy Farmers of America, the largest dairy cooperative in the nation, has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, becoming the first dairy co-op “to set a science-based target” to cut GHGs.

“By having their targets validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), DFA is supporting the Paris Agreement's broader goals to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius,” DFA said.

Key strategies to achieve the goal include “mitigating methane emissions from cows by supporting advances in feed efficiency, herd nutrition and feed additives designed to reduce emissions; using renewable energy methods, such as solar panels and wind power, on our farms and in our plants; and utilizing anaerobic digesters, which convert manure and food waste to energy, on farms and in plants,” DFA said.

New NEPA lawsuit led by states 

Yet another lawsuit has been filed challenging the Trump administration’s new rule implementing the National Environmental Policy Act. This time, it’s being led by the attorneys general of California and Washington, who are part of a coalition of 27 states, territories, counties and cities.

As in other lawsuits challenging the rule, the latest challenge says the new regulations limit both public input and the types of federal actions that would be analyzed. The final rule itself was issued without the Council on Environmental Quality allowing “a meaningful opportunity to comment on data or technical studies that it employed in reaching conclusions in the final rule,” the complaint says.

At least two coalitions of environmental groups have filed lawsuits to challenge the rule. Like the latest suit, one was filed in the Northern District of California, while the other was filed in the Western District of Virginia.

Drought, storm damage a double whammy for Iowa

The combination of drought and the devastating storms earlier this month are threatening to create serious quality problems for the corn crop that’s left in Iowa. 

Charles Hurburgh, a grain quality expert at Iowa State University, says the drought both reduces yield and also raises the potential for mold toxin development. The storm pushed vast areas of corn crops to the ground, stopping crop development at the dent stage. 

As a result those crops probably will not finish filling out, and there could be mold and toxin problems, he said.

He said it: “It is not that we aren't used to dealing with adverse weather conditions, the challenge here is we are dealing with adverse weather conditions over a large swath, (a) wide area in the state of Iowa.” - Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig. 

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