The House and Senate are both heading back to Capitol Hill this week as a partial government shutdown looms at the end of next week.

A continuing resolution that expires next Friday is currently funding the government, giving lawmakers the next two weeks to either pass another stopgap measure or an omnibus package to last the rest of the fiscal year.

One bright spot? Agri-Pulse is told House and Senate leaders have agreed on spending caps for the 12 individual appropriations bills that are expected to make up the omnibus.
Read more on the days to come in our Washington Week Ahead on

Broadband stakeholders to Biden: fix maps

Rural broadband advocates are urging the incoming Biden administration to prioritize improving the maps used to identify gaps in high-speed internet service around the country. 
Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, says the country could do a better job understanding where coverage is rather than just relying on carriers doing self-reporting.

“We need to know where the broadband is, what speeds are available, and we need to target these resources to those areas where they are unavailable or low speeds,” Bloomfield told Agri-Pulse.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is among the critics of the existing coverage maps, referring to them once as “fake news.”

Can tech fix ag’s environmental challenges? 

Don’t miss Part 4 of our series, “Agriculture’s sustainable future: Feeding more while using less,” which posts at today. This week we look at the potential for various types of technology – from new biologicals to feed additives and vertical farming – to help farmers produce the food the world wants and needs while reducing U.S. ag’s environmental impact. 

Marty Matlock, a University of Arkansas professor who advises sustainability programs for numerous farm commodities, is excited about the potential of nitrogen-fixing microbial products to slash the carbon footprint of animal feed and the pork and poultry that it’s used to produce.

EU-US trade spat snares US wheat

U.S. wheat farmers are some of the latest victims in the back-and-forth subsidy battle between the U.S. and European Union, according to the U.S. Wheat Associates.

The EU began hitting $4 billion worth U.S. goods with a 25% duty this month to retaliate against illegal subsidies for Boeing and U.S. exports of hard red spring wheat are expected to be hit hard. The tariffs exclude durum – the largest category of U.S. wheat sold to Europeans – but the U.S. also exports hundreds of thousands of tons of HRS to the EU annually and that trade will be sharply impacted, says USW.

“With the tariffs, HRS farmers lost competitive access to the EU, a considerable, consistent market,” says USW. “EU customers regularly import about 300,000 metric tons of HRS per marketing year, making the bloc a top-10 export destination for the Northern Plains wheat. The market disruption will also disrupt the routine of EU customers who have come to depend on the unique functionality of high protein HRS, unmatched by domestic varieties, for valuable products like holiday breads and pizza dough.”

US grain export sales buoyed by China and Mexico trade

Strong purchases by China and Mexico boosted U.S. grain sales in mid-November, according to the latest weekly trade data released Friday by the USDA. The week was a 2020-21 marketing-year high for U.S. wheat sales, largely due to big sales to China, while Mexico made large purchases of U.S. corn, pushing sales from Nov. 13 – 19 up more than 50% from the previous seven-day period.

Chinese buyers contracted sales of 330,000 metric tons of U.S. wheat – just over 41% of the total the total 795,700-ton total for the week. Meanwhile, Mexican importers purchased 555,000 tons of U.S. corn, nearly a third of all export sales for the same time period. Mexico and China were the two largest destinations for physical exports of U.S. wheat and corn from Nov. 13 – 19.

As to sorghum, most – if not all – of the U.S. export sales for the week were to Chinese buyers. China purchased 300,800 tons out of the 355,800-ton total for the week. The remaining 55,000 tons were sold to “unknown destinations,” says USDA. All of the 120,900 tons of sorghum exports for the week were shipped to China.

House Republican: Address climate by unlocking technology

South Dakota GOP Rep. Dusty Johnson says the key to addressing climate change in a way that’s economical is to promote innovation rather than relying on what he calls the “economics of scarcity,” or requiring Americans to make do with fewer resources. 

“We are going to do a lot more in technology. We ‘re going to do a lot more in entrepreneurship,” Johnson says in this week’s Agri-Pulse Open Mic interview. “We’re going to do a lot more to help people do better practices. That’s the way you solve environmental problems. 

Take note: Johnson, who's the ranking Republican on the House Ag Committee’s subcommittee on USDA oversight and nutrition, appears to have a favorite for the next agriculture secretary: former North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. Johnson says the ag secretary needs to understand agriculture sector as well as nutrition programs and other responsibilities of USDA. Heitkamp “understands all sides of this equation in a way that many other candidates don’t.”  

Johnson also says he’s going to press the Biden administration to make sure China doesn’t backtrack on the changes it made in trade regulations and policy as part of the phase one agreement. “If they try to be kind to China, that kindness is going to be mistaken for weakness, and we’ll be taken advantage of. We have to hold the line there,” he said. 

Western Growers backs aquaponics in defending organic certification

Aquaponic producers are fighting a lawsuit that seeks to revoke organic certification for hydroponic operations because they don’t grow food in soil. 

“Aquaponics is a food production method integrating fish and plants in a closed, soil-less system,” the group said in a Nov. 23 statement signed by dozens of other groups. “This symbiotic relationship mimics the biological cycles found in nature.”

 The association, along with the Coalition for Sustainable Organics, Western Growers Association, and The Scotts Co., has asked to participate as a friend of the court in the lawsuit in California, which is led by the Center for Food Safety.

“Numerous studies demonstrate that organic hydroponic growers are able to establish the same quantity and diversity of microbiology — a fundamental component of organic agriculture — found in in-soil production methods,” their brief says.

Questions? Tips? Contact Philip Brasher at