It’s official. Georgia Democrat David Scott will chair the House Agriculture Committee next year. The full House conference voted to approve Scott as recommended by the House Democratic steering committee.

“I will use this critical opportunity to represent the values of our entire caucus and advance our priorities for trade, disaster aid, climate change, sustainable agriculture, SNAP, crop insurance, small family farms, specialty crops, and rural broadband,” Scott said. 

House Republicans approved Glenn “G.T.” Thompson as the committee’s ranking member. 

Take note: House Ag member Sean Patrick Maloney of New York won his race to chair the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, succeeding another Ag member, Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos. Maloney will be responsible for trying to protect the Democrats’ thin majority in the 2022 elections. 

Peterson warns against “pie in the sky”

Outgoing House Ag Chairman Collin Peterson is getting his two cents in about climate policy as he heads out the door. “Why are we going to create some pie-in-the-sky deal somebody dreamed up in some university? You’re not going to sell that to farmers,” he told reporters. 

Peterson didn’t specify what plan he was referring to, but the leader of President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team, Robert Bonnie, is pushing the idea of using USDA to buy and sell ag carbon offsets. Bonnie has been associated with Duke University since serving as an undersecretary at USDA during the Obama administration. 

Peterson questioned whether USDA had the legal authority to operate a carbon bank and said carbon markets would be “tough sell” with farmers. He is proposing instead to mandate that USDA enroll 50 million acres of land in the Conservation Reserve Program, an idea that would be costly and sure to face stiff opposition from grain users.

By the way: Peterson insists he hasn’t decided what he’s going to do next and isn’t sure he wants to become a lobbyist. “For the time being I’m going to step back, take a couple of breaths and figure out what I’m going to do when I grow up,” he said.  

Take note: It becomes clearer by the day that Biden is going to make climate change a top priority of his administration. On Thursday, he announced Obama administration veteran Brian Deese will be the director of his National Economic Council. 

Deese, who helped negotiate the Paris climate agreement and worked on bailing out the auto industry, was described by the Biden transition team as a “veteran economic and climate expert.”

New hope for stimulus deal

The chances for a big new coronavirus relief package appear to have improved somewhat. Support is growing for a $908 billion package put together by a bipartisan group of senators that includes $20 billion in agriculture spending and $10 billion for broadband

President Donald Trump indicated he was ready to sign a deal. “I want it to happen. And I believe we are getting very close to a deal.” 

Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., said Thursday afternoon he has “never been more hopeful that we’ll get a deal.” Graham supports that $908 billion proposal, and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., suggested that the plan gaining support: ”The Gang of 8 is expanding its reach,” he told a reporter.

But, but, but: It’s still not clear that a deal is close on major disagreements, including business liability protections and state and local aid. 

What about the Big Two? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., spoke Thursday, and McConnell told a reporter later, “I think we're both interested in getting an outcome, both on the omnibus (spending bill) and on a coronavirus package.”

How biofuels could benefit from climate push

Veteran energy industry lobbyist Scott Segal doesn’t think Biden’s effort to promote electric vehicles is a near-term threat to liquid fuels. Biden has called for building 500,000 charging stations. 

“If I were a producer of liquid motor fuels, which it could be a petroleum refiner, it could be a biofuel manufacturer or something like it, I don’t believe the internal combustion engine is going to leave us anytime soon,” Segal, who heads the Policy Resolution Group, said on a webinar Thursday.

By the way: Segal said Biden may try improving automobile efficiency with high compression engines to reduce emissions. Those engines need higher octane fuels and that could be good for refiners as well as biofuel producers, he said. 

One way to increase octane is to increase the ethanol content. But there are other ways refiners could increase octane absent new environmental restrictions, a biofuel industry source says. 

US corn exports hit weekly high for the year

The U.S. exported 1.07 million metric tons of corn during the seven-day period of Nov. 20-26, a marketing-year high for 2020-21, according to the latest USDA trade data.

China and Mexico were the two largest buyers, but Japan, Guatemala and Honduras also are destinations. The U.S. shipped 475,800 tons of corn to China and 312,000 tons to Mexico during the week.

In addition to the shipments, Mexican and Chinese customers were also big purchasers for the week. USDA reported export sales of 656,900 tons to Mexican buyers and 154,800 tons to Chinese buyers.

Soybean exports were also strong for the week and China was the main destination. The U.S. shipped about 2.5 million tons of soybeans in the Nov. 20-26 period and China was the destination for roughly 2 million tons.

Canada speeds trade aid to dairy farmers

The Canadian government originally planned to take eight years to disperse $1.35 billion in direct payments to dairy farmers for losses they’re expected to take because of provisions in two of the country’s recent trade pacts. But now that time frame is being cut to just 4 years, according to USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service. 

The two pacts are the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. The government already paid out $265 million in the 2019 fiscal year. The remainder is now scheduled to be paid out by the end of FY 2022.

Separately, Canada will be paying $532 million to poultry and egg producers to make up for market losses as a result of the CPTPP.

He said it. “The point is to make a point.” – House Ag Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., when asked why he was introducing his CRP bill, which has no chance of passing before he leaves Congress. 

Questions? Tips? Contact Philip Brasher at