Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow tells Agri-Pulse she expects a new bipartisan version of the Growing Climate Solutions Act to be released within a few days. The funding issues have now been apparently worked out with the bill, which is aimed at laying the groundwork for ag carbon markets.

Republican Sen. Mike Braun talked up the bill at a Senate Budget Committee hearing Thursday on climate change. He said there’s more “buy-in” for climate change action out in farm country than people think.

As for the bill itself, he said, “You’ve got to get something across the finish line. … I think that’s got a good chance of making headway this year.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., accused “corporate America,” including “Big Ag,” of not putting enough pressure on Congress to act on climate change.

Glimmers of bipartisanship on infrastructure

Some Senate Republicans are talking about working out a deal with Democrats on a more limited infrastructure bill in the range of $800 billion. That’s far less than the $2.7 trillion President Joe Biden wants.

But Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat who’s close to the president, told reporters Thursday that it’s possible to have a more limited bipartisan bill addressing needs such as transportation and partly funded with user fees. Democrats could then pass the rest of what Biden wants through the budget reconciliation process with no GOP support, Coons suggested.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, notes that it would be a lot easier to pay for an $800 billion infrastructure bill than one that’s over $2 trillion.

By the way: The Association of Equipment Manufacturers has released a report calling on Washington to move forward with a sweeping infrastructure plan. Policymakers must “respond to the transformative challenges of our time,” AEM says.

Federal help is needed in many areas, including assistance to budget-strapped states and localities, worker training, broadband expansion, electric grid modernization and incentives to decarbonize the manufacturing sector, according to AEM. The group is silent on how to pay for the plan.

Jason Andringa, CEO of Iowa-based Vermeer Corp., chaired the AEM task force that developed the report. He said the country has "a generational opportunity to renew our commitment to cutting-edge transportation, water, energy, and telecommunications infrastructure and boost our national competitiveness. The time to rebuild is now.”

United Fresh blasts cancellation of Food Box program

The trade group representing the fruit and vegetable industry said it was “deeply disappointed” in Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack’s decision to end the Farmers to Families Food Box program.

“This decision is shortsighted, and comments disparaging the program are a slap in the face to the thousands of volunteers, non-profits, regional food distributors and farmers who worked together in communities across the country to deliver healthy foods to people in their time of greatest need,” United Fresh said in a statement Thursday. Vilsack announced the decision at a House Ag Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Wednesday.

United Fresh says USDA did not consider numerous recommendations to improve the program or take into account “the wide range of support for the program in its recent public listening session. This sudden decision seems more a political statement repudiating a program begun in a former administration than an objective evaluation of the program’s ability to improve Americans’ health.”

Farm lending slow in early 2021

Financial aid producers received through the Paycheck Protection Program has helped keep farm lending low in the first quarter of this year, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City

The total volume of non-real estate farm loans is roughly 10% lower than last year, with operating loan volume dropping $12 billion from last year.

Lending has been coming in below the historical average on a rolling four-quarter basis since last year and dropped some 4% over that time frame, the report said.

China goes in big for US sorghum

April 2-8 was another big week of U.S. sorghum trade with China, according to the latest weekly data from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

FAS reported net sales of 601,732 metric tons of U.S. sorghum to China for the seven-week period. Also reported was 55,000 tons to “unknown buyers,” which trade sources say was likely to Chinese buyers. Added together, the total was a marketing-year high.

FAS also reported significant shipments of 860,387 tons of sorghum to China for the week.

“U.S. sorghum exports continue to signal very strong demand for our crop, and new purchases at this level only reaffirm that,” said National Sorghum Producers CEO Tim Lust. “The size of shipments reported this last week is equivalent to the size of approximately 10 to 12 Panamax vessels.”

 NPPC watching China for signs of worsening ASF spread

 Pork prices are declining in China, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the country has the kind of control over the spread of African swine fever that its leaders are claiming, according to the National Pork Producers Council.

“We’re watching it closely,” says NPPC CEO Neil Dierks, who stressed there are plenty of anecdotal reports suggesting “there’s a long way to go” before China can assure that the swine disease is under control.

About a year and a half ago pork prices were declining in China, but that was because farmers were rushing to get their animals to the market before they could die from the disease. That’s not necessarily the case now, he said, but also stressed that the “jury is still out.”

She said it. “Our farmers and ranchers can lead the world with innovative carbon conservation practices.” – U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, who says environmental concerns are going to play a bigger role in U.S. trade policy going forward.

Read our report on her remarks here.

Questions? Tips? Contact Philip Brasher at