Democratic Reps. David Scott of Georgia and Jim Costa of California have made it official: They’re seeking the chairmanship of the House Agriculture Committee. 

Scott has the most seniority on the committee. Costa is a third-generation family farmer and almond grower from California’s Central Valley. Both are members of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition,

Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, also is considered a leading candidate though she has not said anything publicly. 

In a statement, Scott noted that he had worked on his grandparents’ farm as a boy and promised to address a wide array of concerns. "Each hearing, markup, and legislative action must take a step forward toward building a more equitable, dynamic, and resilient agriculture industry that lays forth a new path for future generations,” he said. 

Costa used a letter to Democratic colleagues to appeal to more progressive members of the caucus: “I have a track record of working with traditional agriculture, while also pushing for more progressive policies to better position our food systems for the future. I believe the voice of the committee can be better leveraged for the greater good of our Caucus.”

By the way: The Associated Press on Wednesday declared that two Democratic members of the House Ag Committee had won close re-election races: Cheri Bustos in western Illinois and Angie Craig in Minnesota’s 2nd District. Bustos chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, so a loss there would have been especially embarrassing for the party. 

Republican committee member Jim Hagedorn was declared the winner in Minnesota’s 1st District.

USDA study: EU’s ‘Farm to Fork’ threatens food production

USDA economists say that the European Union’s Farm to Fork strategy for reducing agriculture’s environmental footprint could cut the EU’s ag production by as much as 12%. Gross farm income is projected to drop 16%, while EU food costs are estimated to rise by $153 per person a year, according to the study by USDA’s Economic Research Service. 

The Farm to Fork plan, which is part of the EU’s broader European Green Deal, is an effort to increase agricultural sustainability by reducing farmers’ usage of pesticides, fertilizers and antibiotics. 

Because of the potential cut in EU productivity, U.S. farmers could benefit from the EU plan so long as it remains limited to Europe: The study estimates that U.S. farmers will see an increase in gross farm income of more than 6%

Keep in mind: Trump administration officials are worried the EU strategy will further discourage African farmers from adopting new technologies. African leaders have long cited European resistance to GMOs as a reason to continue banning biotech food crops. Europe is a major export market for Africa. 

US pork exports on track for record year in 2020

September was a big month for U.S. exports, which helped keep the U.S. on track to have a record-breaking year in 2020, according to a new analysis from the U.S. Meat Export Federation. The U.S. exported 222,475 metric tons of pork in September, 10% more than it did during the same month last year.

“Shipments to China/Hong Kong remained higher than a year ago in September but made up a smaller share of the global total compared to recent months, as exports set a new record for Canada and increased year-over-year to Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Chile and the Caribbean,” the group said.

The U.S. exported about 2.2 million tons of pork over the first nine months of 2020, a 16% increase from the record-setting pace last year.

China continues major purchases, imports of US soy

The fate of the “phase one” trade deal and the U.S.-China trade war is up in the air after the election, but Chinese importers are still purchasing and importing large amounts of U.S. soybeans to help feed the country’s growing livestock sector.

Over the Oct. 23-29 period, China purchased 810,000 metric tons of U.S. soybeans while about 1.9 million tons were shipped to the country, according to the latest weekly trade data from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. USDA is also reporting 14.7 million tons in outstanding sales of U.S. soybeans to China, as of Oct. 29.

US, Mexico avoid another conflict over steel

The last time the U.S. hit Mexico with steel tariffs, Mexico retaliated with taxes on U.S. cheese, potatoes, apples and pork. This week the two countries avoided any potential for a repeat of the spat that hurt U.S. farmers.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said Thursday that the U.S. and Mexico “successfully concluded consultations” over Mexico’s exports to the U.S. of grain-oriented electrical steel. The issue was Mexico shipping the steel from countries outside North America into the U.S., a situation that could precipitate the U.S. taking action under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 – which is what happened previously.

The U.S. has accepted Mexico’s pledge to “closely monitor shipments of these products to the United States,” the Trump administration says.

JBS settles price-fixing claims

A Minnesota federal court filing this week has revealed that JBS USA is settling some price-fixing claims. A spokesperson says the settlement was “in the best interests of the company.” The filing contained no details and doesn’t cover claims made by consumers and retailers. 

“JBS USA has entered into an agreement to resolve all claims against the company regarding the direct sale of pork products,” the spokesperson said. JBS USA “denies the allegations in the lawsuit and does not admit any liability.”

EPA issues atrazine impact analysis

EPA has concluded that most endangered species in the U.S. will probably be “adversely affected” by applications of atrazine. That finding was contained in a biological evaluation that was released Thursday along with evaluations of propazine and simazine.

There are 1,013 species that the agency says could be affected, including 439 plants. Others include aquatic invertebrates and fish. The evaluations are the first step in a process that involves consulting with federal wildlife agencies about what actions might have to be taken to avoid jeopardizing the species’ continued existence.

EPA says its interim registration decision in September for the chemicals provides measures to protect human health and “mitigate potential ecological risks while providing America’s farmers with valuable tools they have come to rely upon.”

Critics’ view: Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, which recently sued EPA over its approval of atrazine, said the evaluation "leaves no doubt that this hideously dangerous pesticide should be banned.”

Atrazine registrant Syngenta said it was still reviewing the documents. 

He said it. “For thirty years, Congressman Collin Peterson has been a stalwart advocate for American agriculture. Thanks to his leadership at the helm of the House Committee on Agriculture, America’s farmers and ranchers have benefitted from smart farm policies that ensure our food supply remains abundant.” - American Sugar Alliance, comment on the House Ag chairman’s defeat Tuesday despite strong backing from his region’s sugar growers and farm groups across the country. 

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