Vilsack makes case to NFU

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack meets virtually today with the National Farmers Union as he makes his first appearance before a farm group since taking office last week. 

NFU, which broke from other ag groups to support the Obama-era cap-and-trade plan and has continued to push Congress to act on climate change, will be a ready ally in Vilsack’s effort to enlist farmers in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. NFU also has endorsed the assistance to minority farmers contained in the $1.9 trillion stimulus package that passed the House early Saturday.

NFU also will be hearing today from leaders of the House and Senate Ag committees. 

On Friday, Vilsack will talk to online participants in Commodity Classic, the annual combined convention of groups representing corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum producers as well as the Association of Equipment Manufacturers.

For more, read our Washington Week Ahead.

Meat Institute seeks review of California’s animal confinement law

The North American Meat Institute is asking the Supreme Court to review a 9th Circuit decision that let California’s Proposition 12 stay in place.

The state’s law bans the sale of pork, veal and eggs from animals raised below minimum square-feet requirements, which NAMI says would disadvantage out-of-state producers. Prop 12 “unfairly punishes livestock producers outside of California by forcing them to spend millions just to access California markets,” Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts said. “If this unconstitutional law is allowed to stand, California will dictate farming practices across the nation.”

The Supreme Court petition can be accessed here.

UK commits to E10 ethanol blend
The UK is committing to increase its ethanol blend standard to 10% nationwide by September, prompting praise from the U.S. groups representing corn and ethanol producers.
Gasoline – or petrol, as the British commonly call it – now contains no more than a 5% ethanol blend in the UK. The U.S. exported 27 million gallons of corn-based ethanol to the UK in 2020, according to data from the U.S. Grains Council.
The Grains Council, Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association said in a joint statement that the British move to E10 “comes amid a global push to decarbonize the transportation sector and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is a welcome announcement that will benefit the health of U.K. residents, create more jobs, and accelerate the country’s goal of a zero-emissions future.”
Earmarks are back
House Democrats are bringing back spending earmarks for the first time in a decade. However, there will be some new transparency requirements, including a requirement that all requests for funding local projects be posted online, according to rules posted by the House Appropriations Committee. 
House members will be allowed to request designated funding for up to 10 projects a year and there will be a cap on the annual amount of earmarked spending. 
Advocates say that earmarks also will be critical to getting bipartisan support for infrastructure legislation. 
US ag exports to Ecuador, Dominican Republic reached record highs in 2020
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was severe on much of the U.S. ag sector and transportation, but U.S. ag exports to Ecuador and the Dominican Republic still reached record highs in 2020, according to reports released by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
The U.S. shipped $527 million worth of farm commodities – mostly wheat, soymeal and distillers grains – to Ecuador last year, a 9% increase from 2019, according to FAS. Ecuador also imports U.S. cotton, but that trade dropped sharply. The U.S. exported a record $94.8 million worth of wheat to Ecuador in 2020.
The U.S. shipped $1.3 billion worth of corn, pulses, rice and other ag goods to the Dominican Republic last year, a new record level and 6% increase from 2019, according to a separate FAS report.
Trump administration stripped agency websites of critical info, report finds

The Trump administration made it difficult to find information about key environmental regulations while it was replacing them, a new report from the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative has found.

Among the examples: The Environmental Protection Agency took down background on the Obama administration’s 2015 “waters of the U.S.” rule throughout the process of repealing and replacing the rule. “There was no information on the website that pointed to a scientific reasoning for the review or its revision or repeal,” the report said.

Resources should be archived and easily accessed, the report said, noting that “EPA hosts a large online archive, but many other agencies do not, and EPA’s archive is not easily discovered or searched.”

ARS project to engage high school students in science

USDA’s Agricultural Research Service has launched a program to help urban high school students explore careers in agricultural science and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

The Three Sisters Project “will engage its scientists and national program staff in fostering opportunities for urban high school students across the country to explore careers in agricultural science and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields overall.

ARS said it will begin a pilot phase of the project with the Chicago High School for Agricultural Science, whose students will work with scientists from laboratories in the agency's Midwest Area and with Office of National Program leaders headquartered in Beltsville, Md.

He said it: “Nobody has earned the right to be able to have this discrimination removed as (much as) Black farmers. We were the pioneer farmers, and not only that, we did it for free under the whip of the slavemaster." House Ag Chairman David Scott to the Rules Committee Friday, discussing the minority debt relief provision in the COVID relief bill.