The top Democrat on the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee is not opposed to moving President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure bill through the reconciliation budget process if Republicans don’t come to the table.
Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., says he understands Republicans may have some good ideas, but notes Congress cannot be paralyzed by a stalemate.
“If we can do that working together, fine. If not, we need to move forward by whatever means we can utilize. If that (would) be (through) reconciliation, so be it – to accomplish benefits that are so deserved and so needed by the American people,” Bishop told Agri-Pulse.
Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., also expressed a similar view when speaking to Agri-Pulse earlier this week.
Boozman skeptical of infrastructure spending
The top Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, John Boozman, R-Ark., told a local Arkansas TV station he is concerned about wasteful spending in Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan.
“I don’t think you’ll get a single Republican vote on this because it spends too much and I don’t think it spends the money that it is going to spend wisely,” Boozman told 4029news.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has made a request to the chamber’s parliamentarian to move the bill through a budget reconciliation process. This means Democrats would be able to pass the bill with only 50 Democratic votes and none from the GOP.
Renewable fuels groups push for biofuel blending infrastructure
As an infrastructure bill moves through Congress, biofuels groups are pointing to increasing E15 sales as proof more funding is needed for programs like USDA’s Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program.
Gasoline blending with 15% ethanol set a new record in Iowa last year despite overall fuel consumption dropping due to the pandemic, according to the Renewable Fuels Association.
“These trends prove that consumers are actively seeking out lower-carbon, lower-cost fuels at the pump and that the expansion of retail infrastructure facilitated by USDA’s Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP) is working,” said RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper.
Consumer use in the Hawkeye state last year increased 24%, according to Iowa Department of Revenue data released last week. Data suggests Iowa retailers sold 60.59 million gallons of E15 in 2020, which is up from 48.96 million in 2019 and twice the volume of 2017 sales.
The goal of the HBIIP program is to increase significantly the sales and use of higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel by expanding the infrastructure for renewable fuels derived from U.S. agricultural products, according to USDA.
USTR Katherine Tai
USTR’s renewed Vietnam investigation is a concern for US pork
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative decided not to punish Vietnam for currency manipulation, but the Biden administration has revived the “Section 301” investigation and the National Pork Producers Council is warning again that new trade frictions could hurt rising pork trade between the countries.
USTR Katherine Tai “highlighted the Biden Administration’s concerns about currency practices covered in the ongoing Section 301 investigation” when she spoke last week with Vietnam’s top trade official, according to USTR’s readout of the meeting. If the U.S. were to hit Vietnam with tariffs, there is a good chance the country would respond by retaliating on U.S. pork, NPPC argued.
Pork is the primary meat consumed in Vietnam, but recent bouts with African swine fever have pushed the country to import a lot more. U.S. pork exports to the country rose by 370% from 2015 to 2019, according to USDA data.
Uruguay to boost soybean production and exports
Poor growing conditions in February and March will mean Uruguay’s soybean harvest and exports will be weaker than expected, but that’s expected to turn around sharply for the 2021-22 marketing year, according to a new analysis from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
Uruguayan farmers are expected to plant a lot more acres with soybeans, and production will rise to 3.125 million metric tons, say FAS analysts. That would be about a 47% increase from the 2.125 million tons for 2020-21.
FAS is now predicting that Uruguay will export 2.93 million tons in 2021-22, up from 1.965 million tons. Uruguay’s share of the Chinese market is falling, and that trend is expected to continue, but the Middle Eastern market is expected to continue to increase its imports from the South American country.
Federal aid boosts supermarket spending
Low-income Americans spent $8.4 billion a month on food using SNAP and Pandemic-EBT benefits during the pandemic last year, according to a new study by USDA’s Economic Research Service. That was an 86% increase over a comparable six-month period in 2019.
Pandemic-EBT benefits go to families whose children normally would be getting free or reduced-price meals at school.
Together with SNAP, those benefits accounted for nearly 12% of what Americans spent on food at home from April through September 2020.
Take note: The study also showed how spending online has grown sharply, although it’s still relatively small compared to what recipients spend in stores. SNAP and P-EBT recipients used $196.3 million in benefits online in September, up from $2.9 million in February 2020.
Organic standards board seeks members
The National Organic Standards Board is looking for new members.
The 15-member volunteer advisory board, appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, “considers public comments and makes recommendations on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances; and other topics involved in organic agriculture.”
USDA is seeking nominations of qualified individuals for four open seats on the NOSB, each of which carries a five-year term. Current openings for positions beginning January 2022 include: One individual who owns or operates an organic farming operation or an employee of such an individual; one with expertise in areas of environmental protection and resource conservation; one who represents public interest or consumer interest groups; and one with expertise in the fields of toxicology, ecology, or biochemistry.
She said it: “My heart is with the family and friends of the Capitol police officer who died protecting our Capitol today. I am monitoring this serious situation and thinking of all the brave officers who work to keep us safe. God bless you.” — Michigan Democrat and Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, reacting April 2 to the death of Capitol Police officer William "Billy" Evans.
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