Democrats are pushing toward a final vote on President Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package, although the legislation will have to go back to the House after Democratic leaders made a series of revisions to shore up support for the measure. Those changes include new language allowing state and local funding to be used for broadband improvements.
The package would provide $220 billion for states and territories and $120 billion for local governments. Under the new Senate version that money could be used for water, sewer and broadband as well as to cover pandemic-related needs and revenue shortfalls.
The bill would provide another $22.7 billion for agriculture and nutrition, including aid for the food supply chain and debt relief for minority farmers.
Vice President Kamala Harris cast the deciding vote Thursday afternoon to allow the Senate to take up the legislation and set up a vote-a-rama on a number of Republican amendments.
By the way: Speaking at Commodity Classic, ag equipment manufacturers made the case that broadband is a fundamental piece of infrastructure that producers will need to use new emerging technologies on their farms.
“The future of agriculture … is going to be more dependent on ensuring that (broadband) is in place almost (more) than any other industry that’s out there,” said AGCO Vice President Bill Hurley.
Stabenow: Don’t worry about farm program cuts
Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., says she’s confident Congress will waive PAYGO rules that would trigger massive cuts in farm programs as a result of the deficit increase the stimulus package would create.
That waiver would require GOP support, but she notes Congress agreed to waive the rules after passage of the GOP tax bill in 2017.
Climate policy challenges wheat growers
The National Association of Wheat Growers is debating what its climate policy should be given that cover crops don’t work well in some dry regions. “It’s something that’s weighing very heavily on the wheat grower’s mind right now,” NAWG CEO Chandler Goule told reporters Thursday during Commodity Classic.
Why it matters: Cover crops are a key way farmers are expected to qualify for ag carbon credits. For wheat growers, the challenge is to “find other ways to sequester that carbon that will help us retain that moisture” needed for the next crop, Goule said.
By the way: The Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2051, climate change will lower GDP by 1%; GDP is estimated to be $66 trillion in 2051. Agriculture is one of many sectors likely to be affected.
“Longer growing seasons in northern states are expected to increase agricultural output, but increased instances of extreme heat in other regions are expected to reduce agricultural output,” CBO notes.
Americans support tough approach to China
There’s fresh evidence that Americans increasingly favor taking a hard-line approach with China. According to Pew Research, 89% of Americans consider China a competitor or enemy, and 70% want the U.S. to promote human rights in China, even if it harms U.S. economic ties.
Some 67% of those polled indicated they have “cold” feelings toward China. That’s way up from just 46% in 2018, and the increased concern crosses party lines.
Why it matters: Based on this poll, President Joe Biden is on solid political ground in maintaining the Trump administration’s tariffs and restrictions on Chinese exports.
China bolsters US grain, soy sales
U.S. export sales of corn, wheat and soybeans got a substantial boost from Chinese purchase commitments towards the end of February, according to the latest trade data released by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
China purchased 1.05 million metric tons of corn and 65,900 tons of wheat for delivery in the 2020-21 marketing year during the week of Feb. 19-25. China also bought 198,000 tons of U.S. soy for delivery in 2021-22.
Nearly all of the corn and wheat purchases by China for the week had been listed by USDA as “unknown destinations” up until the latest data was released Thursday.
USDA did not list any physical exports of wheat to China for the seven-day period, but the U.S. did export 346,700 tons of corn and 326,000 tons of soybeans to Chinese buyers.
Rejoining TPP won’t be easy
The U.S. is seriously considering an effort to get back into the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but it won’t be easy or quick because the Biden administration wants to add new labor, environment and possibly other provisions to the pact, say U.S. trade experts and economists.
The existing TPP countries won’t likely rush to accept renegotiation after years of work to get it up and running, experts said at a virtual event hosted by the American Agricultural Law Association.
“I think it makes sense to get into the TPP,” said Joe Glauber, a senior fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, “but it’s not going to be an easy lift if we come in with a lot of new provisions that we’re hoping to get all of the members to agree to.”
Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, former assistant U.S. Trade Representative for agricultural affairs and commodity policy, said there is “a big question as to whether the TPP countries trust the United States to negotiate with us in light of the fact that we dropped out in 2017.”