President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan is vague about a lot of details, including how $17 billion for waterways would be spent. But Tracy Zea of the Waterways Council tells Agri-Pulse that he expects at least $3 billion to be available for inland waterway projects. That could pay for replacing two sets of aging locks and dams on the upper Mississippi River system, he said.
There is about $6.8 billion total in authorized inland waterway projects ready for funding.
By the way: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, one of five Cabinet members assigned to sell Biden’s plan to Congress and the public, will be meeting this week with House members of the moderate New Democrat caucus.
He told a Texas farm radio program this week that he’s been calling Republican and Democratic lawmakers daily, and his message is that the plan is critical for U.S. competitiveness. “China is not waiting, they are moving forward and investing in infrastructure in a big way,” Buttigieg said, speaking to All Ag All Day.
For more on the infrastructure package and its implications for ag and rural policy, be sure and read this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter. We also have a report on how moderate Democrats believe their influence has grown.
Survey: Carbon prices stay on modest side
Up to 40% of farmers say they are aware of opportunities to earn carbon credits, according to the latest monthly survey sponsored by Purdue University and the CME Group.
Among the relatively small number of farmers who are getting payments, about 80% said payment rates were $20 per acre or less. About half said they were getting paid $10 an acre or less.
Why that matters: Many farmers say it costs well over $20 an acre just to cover the cost of practices such as cover crops. Some experts say carbon prices need to average at least $40 a ton to make it worthwhile for farmers to participate. Midwest farms can typically sequester half a ton to a ton of carbon.
By the way: U.S. farmers are increasingly downbeat about prospects for an end to the trade war with China, according to the survey. In March, just 31% of producers were optimistic about trade with China. That’s down from 81% in early 2020 after the “phase one” trade deal was announced.
EPA pressured to go after CAFO methane
Environmental justice and rural community groups have petitioned EPA to regulate methane emitted from dairy and hog operations under the Clean Air Act.
More than two dozen groups, including Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Public Justice and Center for Food Safety, filed the petition Tuesday seeking regulation of facilities that confine at least 500 cows or 1,000 hogs without access to pasture.
They also want EPA to reject methane capture as a "dirty energy and a false solution” to climate change.
Keep in mind: Capturing methane from livestock operations to sell as renewable natural gas is likely to be a key part of the effort to reach President Biden’s goal of making U.S. ag carbon neutral. California dairies and hog production giant Smithfield Foods are among the leaders in methane capture.
Commerce hits some phosphate imports with duties
The U.S. Commerce Department is following through with new countervailing duties on Moroccan and Russian phosphate fertilizers after the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled last month that the imports “materially injured” U.S. producers.
Commerce said Tuesday the U.S. will levy duties of 19.97% on imports from Moroccan producer OCP, 47.05% on Russian producer Eurochem, 9.19% on Russia’s PhosAgro and 17.2% on all other Russian producers.
U.S. ag groups have warned the duties will increase the cost of a key farm input.
Lawmakers push for answers in container delays
Democratic and Republican lawmakers met Tuesday with the Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Dan Maffei and Commissioner Rebecca Dye to get an update on their investigation into why some container ship operators at Western ports are refusing to ship agricultural commodities.
Democratic Reps. Jim Costa and Salud Carbajal, both Californians, and GOP Reps. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota and Bob Gibbs of Ohio issued a joint statement after the meeting to say: “As chairs and ranking members of subcommittees closely following the direct impacts of this situation, we are committed to resolving this issue in a timely manner and making sure that America’s farmers and ranchers can compete on the global stage.”
Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., released an earlier statement saying denials by vessel-operating common carriers – cargo shippers that are open to public contract – are hurting the ag sector that needs access to their overseas customers.
Plant-based food sales up 27% in 2020, groups report
Sales of plant-based foods continue to soar, according to new data released by the Plant Based Foods Association and The Good Food Institute.
Retail sales grew 27% in 2020, which brought the total market to $7 billion, the groups say. That was well above the 15% increase for the total U.S. retail food market during the pandemic.
Two more stats: Fifty-seven percent of households now buy plant-based foods, up from 53% in 2019. And the value of plant-based meat alternatives reached $1.4 billion in 2020, with sales growing 45% from 2019.
Expect higher gas and diesel prices this summer
New data from the Energy Information Administration suggest there will be a 15% increase in highway travel this summer as Americans hit the road – and sharply higher fuel prices to go with it.
Retail gasoline prices are expected to average $2.78 a gallon this summer, compared to $2.07 last year. Retail diesel fuel prices are expected to average $2.91 compared to $2.43 last summer.
The agency is forecasting the Brent crude oil price will average $64 per barrel this summer. That would be a 78% increase from last summer’s average of $36 per barrel, according to EIA’s Summer Fuels Outlook.
He said it. “Some days I would walk the dog to a corn field not far from our house.” – Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to All Ag All Day, a Texas farm radio program, recalling his time serving as mayor in South Bend, Ind.
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