The Biden transition team has been soliciting input from farm groups on what they would like to see in potential nominees to key agencies. That’s the word from the CEO of the National Corn Growers Association, Jon Doggett. 

Doggett tells Agri-Pulse the transition team hasn’t talked about specific names. But officials have asked “what kind of person are you looking for? What’s needed in this position?

“I’m real optimistic that we’ll be seeing some really good names surface and hopefully get confirmed after the first of the year,” he said.

Land grants for Black farmers proposed

A trio of Senate Democrats wants to require USDA to buy land to give to aspiring Black farmers as a way of righting past discrimination. 

A bill introduced by Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Ag Committee member Kirsten Gillibrand of New York would establish an $8 billion-a-year program at USDA called the Equitable Land Access Service. The program would purchase land from willing sellers and then provide 160-acre land grants to eligible Black Americans. 

The Justice for Black Farmers Act also includes a number of restrictions on meat processor contracting practices and a ban on the use of a tournament or ranking system for paying contract growers, a practice common in the poultry sector. 

The bill comes as the control of the Senate hinges on two runoff elections in Georgia, a state where many of the bill’s provisions could have appeal. The bill’s supporters include the National Farmers Union and Family Farm Action. 

Tyson hires Holder to investigate betting allegations

Tyson Foods has suspended without pay some employees who were allegedly betting on how many workers at a Waterloo, Iowa, packing plant would get ill from COVID-19. In a statement, the company said it had also hired former Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the allegations. 

“If these claims are confirmed, we’ll take all measures necessary to root out and remove this disturbing behavior from our company,” said Tyson President and CEO Dean Banks.  

Court reverses damages in Smithfield case

A federal appeals court upheld a nuisance verdict but threw out a multimillion-dollar jury award of punitive damages against Murphy-Brown, a North Carolina company. 

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals mostly agreed with the lower court judge's rulings in the case, including his decision to allow expert testimony presented by the plaintiffs, but said the use of financial and compensation information about parent company Smithfield Foods could have prejudiced the jury.

In 2018, the jury awarded each of the 10 plaintiffs $75,000 in compensation and $5 million in punitive damages. The punitive damages were later reduced to $2.5 million total. The appeals court remanded the case to re-examine the damages.

ADM embarks on world’s largest insect protein operation

ADM, together with French company Innovafeed, plans to build the world’s largest insect protein animal feed operation in Decatur, Ill. The companies will be producing feed from black soldier flies, insects “native to the continental United States” and “found throughout the Western Hemisphere,” an ADM spokeswoman tells Agri-Pulse.

“At a time when the demand for animal feed protein is steadily increasing, insect farming stands out as a true solution for the future,” said Chris Cuddy, an ADM senior vice president. 

Construction is set to begin next year and the companies hope to be eventually producing 60,000 metric tons of animal feed per year at the facility. The operation will also have the capability to produce oils for poultry and swine feed and fertilizer.

Bill Northey

CFAP 2 adequately funded to make payments

USDA officials tell Agri-Pulse they should have plenty available to pay farmers who apply for the second round of Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

“It’s starting to slow down, so I think $14 billion was a pretty good number and we’re keeping up with payments,” said Bill Northey, USDA undersecretary for farm production and conservation, referring to the number of applications coming in.

USDA has approved 616,103 applications as of Monday, with cattle and corn producers receiving the most amount of money.

Report: Global ag emissions going wrong way

Global greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production need to do a U-turn if the world is to keep its temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to a new report from the World Resources Institute.

Global ag production emissions, mainly from livestock production, agricultural energy use, rice cultivation, and soil fertilization, grew by 3% between 2012 and 2017 and are forecast to rise by 27% between 2017 and 2050, WRI said. They need to instead drop by 39% by 2020, and the remaining emissions “would need to be offset by large-scale reforestation,” the report says. 

Crop yields, while on the right track, “will have to increase even faster over the next 30 years than over the past 60 in order to increase crop production on existing agricultural land and avoid additional expansion into natural areas,” the report says.

Keep in mind: Agriculture and deforestation account for 24% of global emissions, according to EPA.  

EPA urged to pull pesticide guidance

An environmental group is pushing EPA to withdraw guidance used to evaluate whether pesticides impact endangered species should be withdrawn. The Center for Biological Diversity said in a petition to EPA that the chemical levels used to determine risk in documents released in 1998 and 2004 “are nothing more than arbitrary and capricious policy choices, and are woefully inadequate in protecting endangered species from pesticides.”

Neither the public nor federal wildlife agencies provided input on the guidance, CBD says.

Australia dairy exports to rebound in 2021

 Much needed rains and improving pasture conditions led to a significant increase in milk production this year in Australia and the country – one of the largest sources of competition for U.S. dairy – is expected to ramp up exports in 2021, according to a new analysis from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

Most Aussie dairy exports are expected to rise next year, but the FAS analysts in Canberra say there will be an emphasis on boosting cheese shipments to Japan, China, Malaysia and South Korea. FAS is now predicting Australia will export 170,000 metric tons of cheese in 2021, a 10% increase over this year.

He said it. "Overtly discriminatory and unjust federal policy has robbed Black families in the United States of the ability to build and pass on intergenerational wealth.” - Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.

Questions? Tips? Contact Philip Brasher at