There are new signs of division on the Senate Agriculture Committee when it comes to climate change. The committee’s top Republican, John Boozman, told members of the National Cotton Council Thursday that funding to address climate change could come out of existing farm bill programs. 

"You'll hear that it's paid for, that it doesn't cost anything,” he said of the Democratic climate plan. “The reason it doesn't cost anything is that ... the monies that they need to make it work will come out of the farm bill. And so something else will be displaced.”

But, but, but: Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow told reporters recently that she wants to put more money into conservation programs to promote climate-friendly practices but that she wants the funding to come out of separate climate legislation that Democrats plan to move later.

Responding to Boozman, a spokesperson for Stabenow says she “remains laser-focused on flexible, producer-led policies to help farmers and foresters create new revenue streams as they cut down on emissions and sequester more carbon in their soil and trees.”

AGree report eyes subsidies, carbon bank 

A new paper released by AGree’s Climate, Food, and Agriculture Dialogue does suggest making some key changes in farm bill programs. 

The report says, for example, that Congress could incentivize farmers to adopt conservation practices by offering them better coverage under commodity programs. “With a higher reference price … producers that have implemented conservation practices in their fields would have additional market price protection over producers that do not,” the report says.

The report also says USDA research agencies need to coordinate better with the Farm Service Agency and NRCS.

The report was written by Chris Adamo, vice president for federal and industry affairs at Danone North America, and Bruce Knight, a consultant who was chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service during the George W. Bush administration. 

Growers switching crops on market boom

Despite a sharp increase in cotton prices in recent months, some southern farmers are going to be reducing their plantings of cotton this spring. The reason is simple: Markets for corn, soybeans and some other crops look even better. 

According to the National Cotton Council’s annual planting intentions survey, farmers plan to plant 11.5 million acres of cotton this year, which would be a reduction of 5.2% from last year. Farmers in Texas, by far the largest producer, are expected to trim their acreage by 5.7% to 6.4 million acres.

KC Fed: Farm income stronger than expected

The Kansas City Fed said Thursday in its latest quarterly survey that increases in crop prices are helping the farm economy rebound across much of the Great Plains,

“About 80% of bankers expected farm incomes for the entire year would be higher than initially projected in early 2020 when factoring in government payments, and nearly 20% expected the increase to be significant,” KC Fed economists said in their summary.

Taxpayers to save on farm subsidies

One of the benefits of rising commodity prices is that they reduce the cost of federal commodity programs. The Congressional Budget Office’s new estimates of farm program spending project that USDA will pay out $3.95 billion through the Price Loss Coverage program in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. That’s down from the previous estimate of $6.8 billion.

Take note: CBO projects the federal budget deficit will hit $2.3 trillion this year, and that’s not counting the impact of the $1.9 trillion stimulus package now making its way through the House. Annual deficits are projected to average $1.2 trillion a year over the next 10 years. 

It remains to be seen whether and how that affects President Biden’s plans for new spending on infrastructure and climate. 

February starts with big corn, soy exports to China

China made big commitments to buy U.S. corn in the last full week of January, and the following week saw significant physical shipments of the grain to Chinese buyers, according to the latest USDA trade data.

The U.S. shipped 357,600 metric tons of corn to China from Jan. 29 through Feb. 4, helping to push total U.S. exports for the week to a marketing-year high of about 1.6 million tons. That was a 57% increase from the previous week.

U.S. soybean shipments to China were also strong for the latest seven-day reporting period. The Chinese imported about 1.2 million tons of U.S. soy during the week, more than half of the total 2.2 million tons that the U.S. exported.

Sen. Booker

New Ag committee members take on Tyson

Two new members of the House and Senate Agriculture committees who are outspoken critics of the livestock industry are calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate one of the nation’s largest meat processors, Tyson Foods. 

The lawmakers claim Tyson has been making “false and misleading claims” about its poultry products regarding labor, sustainability, and animal welfare practices.

“The alleged misinformation employed by Tyson to sell its products may provide the company with an unfair advantage over its competitors,” Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., say in a letter to the FTC. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., also signed the letter. 

The lawmakers introduced legislation in the last Congress to impose a moratorium on new concentrated animal feeding operations and to phase out the largest existing CAFOs. 

Tyson’s take: The company declined to comment on the lawmakers’ allegations. But a spokesman said the company is “transparent about our business operations and practices through our annual sustainability reports, third-party animal welfare audits, and other public reporting.”

Customs finds noodle surprise

Customs officials in Cincinnati inspected a shipment of “herbal pasta” from Turkey last week and found it also held more than $1 million worth of Viagra. According to a statement released Thursday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, inspectors found 17,400 pills, plus 43 boxes of suspicious honey.

CBP and FDA determined that the sweet substance  – called “miracle honey” – turned out to be laced with sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra.

She said it. One of the top trade questions farmers have is how the Biden administration will deal with China, but the White House provided no new clues after a conversation between presidents of the two countries on Wednesday. 

When White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked Thursday if the two presidents discussed trade, she didn’t respond directly. She said President Joe Biden “talked about the fundamental concerns he has … about Beijing's coercive and unfair economic practices,” including “the crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses across the country, increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan.” 

Questions? Tips? Contact Philip Brasher at