President-elect Joe Biden is out with a $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal that includes some significant new food assistance provisions, including an extension through the summer of the 15% increase in SNAP benefits provided by the COVID aid package enacted in December.

Also in the plan is the bipartisan FEED Act, which would provide funding through local governments to restaurants and nonprofits to prepare meals for needy individuals. Biden also wants $3 billion added to the WIC feeding program.

The plan also calls for paying back hazard pay to essential workers and includes $1,400 direct payments to Americans, plus an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The minimum wage hike would likely get little to no support from Republicans.

Read our report on the plan here. 

Ag groups unite behind DHS pick


Groups representing farmers who rely heavily on immigrant labor are appealing to the Senate to quickly confirm Biden’s pick for Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas.

In a letter to senators, the groups note that from 2009 to 2013 Mayorkas ran U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the DHS agency that processes H-2A visa applications. He “has the requisite background, agency mission and issue knowledge to provide serious and stable leadership at the helm of DHS,” the letter says.

Alejandro Mayorkas

By the way: The American Farm Bureau Federation adopted some policy changes on the H-2A program as well as livestock marketing issues at their annual convention. California and New York delegates tried but failed to end AFBF’s support for exempting farmworkers from minimum wage laws. Read our report here.

IRS won’t budge on co-op tax deduction

As expected, the Internal Revenue Service has refused to change its restrictions on the Section 199A tax deduction provided by the 2017 tax overhaul. The final regulations for the deduction limit the deduction to patronage income. Non-member income won’t qualify.

“Treasury is siding with large, multinational grain companies and their friends on Wall Street at the expense of the hardworking farmers and the rural communities where they live,” said Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. He said the group would “pursue every avenue available to overturn this example of bureaucratic overreach."

Nationally, about 20% of co-op business is non-patronage. According to NCFC, limiting the deduction only to member income will fall especially hard on members of co-ops that rely more heavily on buying commodities from non-members to ensure stability in operations.

Valadao, Hinson get House Approps seats

California GOP Rep. David Valadao is back on the House Appropriations Committee, and he’ll be joined by first-term Iowa Rep. Ashley Hinson. Valadao was on the committee before he lost his 2018 re-election race. Hinson defeated Democrat Abby Finkenauer in November.

Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., will return as the ranking member on the Ag Appropriations Subcommittee.

US corn exports surge in first week of 2021

The first week of the year was a big one for U.S. corn exports, according to the latest USDA trade numbers. The U.S. shipped about 1.46 million metric tons of corn in the first seven days of January, with more than a third of that total going to China.

The three largest destinations for the shipments are China (555,500 tons), Mexico (300,300 tons) and Japan (168,400 tons).

U.S. export sales commitments of about 1.44 million tons for the first week of the new year were also strong. That’s a 92% increase over the previous week and a 34% increase over the average of the prior four weeks.

Don’t forget the butter, USDA told

California’s milk cooperative wants USDA to require that butter gets included in the next round of Food Box deliveries. Butter has been eligible in past rounds but it’s been left out because of its cost, according to a report by California Dairies Inc.

We reported this week on how economists say heavy cheese demand for the program has skewed dairy markets to the detriment of producers in some regions.

“What the Food Box Program has done to-date is divide the U.S. dairy farming community into two sectors: (1) one sector that has experienced higher milk prices than ever before in their career; and (2) another sector that has continued to face monthly on-farm losses,” the analysis says.

The report says “a depressed butter market due to oversupply impacts VIRTUALLY ALL dairy farmers.”

Enviros go to court to get gray wolf back on endangered species list 

A new lawsuit challenges the Fish and Wildlife Service’s delisting of the gray wolf throughout the lower 48 states, alleging FWS violated the Endangered Species Act by not looking at the status of wolves throughout its range.

The lawsuit says the species was taken off the endangered species list even though it has not recovered in California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Nevada, Utah and Arizona. The case was filed in federal court in San Francisco by eight western environmental groups including WildEarth Guardians andthe Western Watersheds Project.

USTR won’t punish UK, Spain, Austria for digital tax

 The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has finished its Section 301 investigation into digital taxes the UK, Spain and Austria levy on U.S. companies, but the U.S. won’t be levying any punitive tariffs on the countries – essentially leaving the decisions to the incoming Biden administration.

It was a Section 301 investigation that led the U.S. to hit $234 billion worth of Chinese goods with tariffs in 2018, spurring China to retaliate and initiate a complaint with the World Trade Organization.

The U.S. and UK have been in negotiations for months to form a free trade agreement that U.S. farmers hope will open up new trade opportunities. Those talks are on hold and expected to resume under the new Biden administration and his choice for USTR, Katherine Tai.

He said it. “Today more than ever we have a huge win-win opportunity in front of us: cities and states around the country can work with the federal government to keep restaurants working and communities fed.” – José Andrés, chef and founder of World Central Kitchen on the FEED Act provision included in Biden’s stimulus plan.

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