Farmers now have a signup deadline for the USDA program designed to compensates for disaster losses in 2018 and 2019. Producers who suffered losses from natural disasters have until Oct. 30 to apply for payments the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program-Plus says USDA Farm Service Agency Administrator Richard Fordyce.
“The physical and financial loss experienced by farmers and ranchers impacted by natural disaster events in 2018 and 2019 was widespread and catastrophic,” said Fordyce. “If you have not yet submitted your application for assistance, please don’t miss your chance.”
But there’s more: Lawmakers also included funding in the program for crop quality loss that stems from natural disasters, but USDA has not yet set up the process for farmers to take advantage of the funds. FSA said on Friday that the agency is working on it, but that did not satisfy Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
“Better late than never, but when it comes to providing relief to Northeastern Montana farmers who have been waiting nearly a year for FSA to get its act together, this is unacceptable,” said Tester. “I shouldn’t have to hold FSA’s feet to the fire just to get them to follow the law and do right by folks in production ag, but you better believe I’m keeping the coals hot and ready so Montana farmers don’t get left out in the cold. Disaster relief needs to make it into the pockets of these producers immediately — no more delays.”
USDA works to speed farm payment processing
The new WHIP+ deadline at the end of the month is especially relevant as the USDA says it is laboring to speed up the processing of applications during the COVID-19 pandemic that has forced FSA to partially close down some offices.
USDA told Agri-Pulse it continues to explore options to improve processing times and said service center staff are working with producers in offices where conditions allow visitors. Some staff are only reachable by phone and online.
“While ensuring the health and safety of employees is important, we must find a way for these offices to open safely for the sake of our nation’s farmers and ranchers,” said Texas Representatives Jodey Arrington and Mike Conaway in a letter to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue. USDA acknowledged some disaster payment applications “are taking longer than our customers may be used to,” but stressed that all FSA offices are open for business.
China seen buying US cotton for reserves
It’s out with the old and in with the new for China’s cotton reserves. After auctioning off more than a half-million tons of cotton by Sept. 30 to more than 200 buyers, China is buying domestic and imported product to replace the cotton that was originally stored away in 2011, 2012 and 2013, according to an analysis by USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.
“As in the past, the State Reserve is expected to purchase both domestic and foreign cotton,” FAS said in its monthly cotton market report. “Recent activity indicates that purchases and imports of foreign cotton, specifically U.S. cotton, has begun in the last couple of months.”
As of Oct. 1, the U.S. has racked up outstanding sales of about 2.1 million bales of upland cotton to China, according to USDA’s latest weekly trade data. That’s up from about 1.6 million bales at this time last year.  
Fight over Pendley's status at BLM heats up
A legal fight over dozens of resource management plans throughout the West has intensified with comments by Bureau of Land Management official William Perry Pendley that District Judge Brian Morris’s decision ordering him not to exercise the authority of the BLM director “has no impact, no impact whatsoever.”
“I have the support of the president. I have the support of Secretary of the Interior [David Bernhardt] and my job is to get out and get things done to accomplish what the president wants to do,” Pendley, officially the deputy director of policy and programs at BLM, told the Powell, Wyoming, Tribune.
Keep in mind: Montana, the Interior Department and major environmental groups are now locked in a legal battle over the fate of dozens of BLM resource management plans, the result of Morris's ruling that Pendley was serving illegally as BLM director.
Montana brought Pendley's comments to Morri's attention in a court filing on Friday.
In a motion seeking to participate in the litigation, environmental groups said a decision allowing an increase in grazing on the Sonoran Desert National Monument in Arizona should be set aside. They also sent a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt listing dozens of other such decisions.
Nestlé backs dairy’s ‘Net Zero Initiative’
The dairy industry has announced a commitment of up to $10 million from Nestlé as part of a new “Net Zero Initiative” to get dairy to carbon neutrality by 2050.
“Supporting and enabling farmers through the Net Zero Initiative has the potential to transform the dairy industry,” said Jim Wells, chief supply chain officer for Nestlé USA. “Scaling up climate-smart agricultural initiatives is key to Nestlé’s ambition to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and will help reduce the carbon footprint of many of our brands.”
In announcing the initiative, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, funded by the dairy checkoff, said 27 dairy companies representing 70% of the nation’s milk production have committed to measuring and reporting greenhouse gas emissions at their operations. 
“We know a lot more is possible – proven science and evidence from dairy’s existing best practices tells us we can get to net zero,” said Mike Haddad, chairman of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

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