The wait is over. USDA is expected to release the rules this morning for the second round of coronavirus relief payments.

President Trump announced at a Wisconsin campaign rally last night that the program would start next week and cost about $13 billion. He provided no further details. 

USDA has been under heavy pressure from members of Congress to expand the payments to some commodities that weren’t eligible in the first round, including three classes of wheat. Hemp also was left out of CFAP-1.

Watch for further information for CFAP-2.

Senators press for CCC replenishment

Farm-state Republicans in the Senate are pushing congressional leaders to ensure that the stopgap funding bill that’s expected to pass this month includes a provision to replenish USDA’s Commodity Credit Corp. account. 

USDA is using the CCC to make the $13 billion in CFAP-2 payments and will have to tap the account again in October to make annual commodity and conservation program payments. A recent analysis by the American Farm Bureau Federation and the American Soybean Association estimated that those October payments will total $6.9 billion.

"We need to reimburse the CCC up to $30 billion, and we must get that done now in the CR so that we can continue to provide that help and support for our farmers and our ranchers,” said North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. Hoeven discussed the issue in a Senate floor colloquy with six other GOP senators. 

The House is expected to take up the continuing resolution next week to keep the government funded when the new fiscal year starts Oct. 1. The big question is what provisions will be added to the measure, including the CCC replenishment. 

By the way: Pork producers are pushing to include new funding in the CR for Customs and Border Protection agriculture inspectors. The inspections are funded by agriculture quarantine inspection user fees and collections have dropped dramatically due to the drop in travel.

Ice cream maker hit with record food safety fine

Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries has been ordered to pay $17.25 million in criminal penalties for shipping ice cream contaminated with listeria in 2015. It’s the largest post-conviction fine and forfeiture amount in in U.S. history following a conviction in a food safety case, according to the Justice Department

DOJ says the penalties that a federal judge imposed Thursday are consistent with the terms of a previously filed plea agreement, in which Blue Bell also agreed to pay $2.1 million to resolve allegations brought under the False Claims Act.

DOJ says Blue Bell failed to take immediate steps to recall the ice cream after it was initially informed of the contamination by Texas health officials. Ten people became sick with listeriosis and three died.

Blue Bell “has taken significant steps to enhance sanitation processes and enact a program to test products for Listeria prior to shipment,” DOJ said.  

Big start to marketing year for US soybeans, corn

U.S. soybean and corn groups are excited by the export numbers they’re already seeing in the first month of the new marketing year. As of Sept. 10, U.S. exporters have racked up 19.3 million metric tons in sales of corn and 30 million tons in sales of soybeans.

“Since U.S. corn sales tend to pick up post-harvest, between January and March, having such a significant amount of outstanding sales already in place creates a solid foundation for the new crop year and indicates the potential for large corn sales overall in the coming 12 months,” said the U.S. Grains Council. 

“Such large numbers, particularly from sales to China, are also having a positive impact on price, which is influenced by many supply and demand factors.”

USDA says 1.7 million tons of soybeans and nearly 210,000 tons of corn were shipped to foreign buyers – mostly China – in the seven-day period that ended Sept. 10.

Brazil begins buying US rice

Brazil is hitting the market for U.S. rice. Brazil has only imported about 1,000 metric tons of U.S. rice a year over the past decade, but importers bought a whopping 30,000 tons during the seven-day period that ended Sept. 10, USDA reported. 

Brazil, where prices for domestic rice and other products have been on the rise, telegraphed the purchases earlier this month when it announced it had temporarily dropped its 12% tariff on imports from the U.S. and other countries outside of the Mercosur trading bloc.  

The tariff cut lasts through Dec. 31 and only applies to the first 400,000 metric tons of imported rice.

New Food Box contracts awarded

USDA is awarding contracts worth up to $1 billion for the third round of its Farmers to Families Food Box program. More than 90 million food boxes have been delivered.

The program was originally funded at $3 billion, but the Trump administration authorized an additional $1 billion last month. 

RIP: Tony Corbo

Food and Water Watch has announced the death of Tony Corbo, a longtime food and worker safety advocate who was a fixture at congressional hearings.

Corbo had been with FWW since its founding 15 years ago. As a senior lobbyist, “he was a leading national expert and advocate on food safety, consumer safety and worker health,” the group said. He had been especially outspoken trying to stop processors from being allowed to increase line speeds. 

“His work to help ensure food processing workers were protected and treated with human dignity during the pandemic showed that his heart was always with the people who needed him,” FWW said.

FWW posted this tribute to Corbo. The organization didn’t give a cause of death.

He said it. CBP “agricultural inspectors are our first line of defense to ensure our nation’s $1 trillion agriculture sector is safe.” - National Pork Producers Council President AV Roth.

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