This afternoon, Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and GOP Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana will release a new version of their Growing Climate Solutions Act, a bill intended to speed the development of ag carbon markets. The measure would put USDA in charge of certifying credit verification services and technical advisers.

Changes that have been made to the bill originally introduced last June would provide funding for the USDA program, detail the program’s intent, add some protections for farmers, and revise the membership of an advisory committee.

Take note: Stabenow and Braun worked closely with the committee’s top Republican, John Boozman of Arkansas, to bring on more GOP co-sponsors.
USDA's Whitten Building is lit green this week to highlight the importance of protecting crops and other plants. (USDA)
Poultry sector sets sustainability framework

The U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Poultry & Eggs has released details of a reporting framework for chicken, turkey and egg production. The US-RSPE will provide individual reports to participants and report on the performance of the chicken, turkey and egg supply chains.

The framework will have sustainability measures across 13 priority areas. They include animal health and well-being; biosecurity, productivity and efficiency; energy and greenhouse gas conservation; air and water quality; food safety and quality, food security, and employee well-being.

Bayer expands carbon program

Bayer is expanding its carbon payment program to more farmers, including “early adopters” who have been using carbon sequestration practices for many years. Farmers who adopted reduced tillage practices or cover crops on their land starting in 2012 will be eligible for payments under Bayer’s carbon program starting this year, the company announced Tuesday.

Bayer also is expanding its program to include more regions, adding nine states to those where farmers were eligible last year. The new states are Wisconsin, South Dakota, Nebraska, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Maryland and Delaware.

Meanwhile: Cargill, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and food service giant Sysco have announced a partnership to speed the implementation of sustainable grazing practices over the next five years on a million acres of the southern Great Plains, a region responsible for 30% of U.S. beef production.

NFWF grants awarded through the southern Plains project will scale up implementation of sustainable grazing practices, such as rotational grazing and control of invasive vegetation. The money will go to non-profit conservation groups, government agencies and rancher-led collaboratives that offer the best options for improving grasslands at the landscape scale.

Rural electric co-ops eye debt relief

Leaders of rural electric cooperatives around the nation are meeting virtually with lawmakers and their staffs this week, and top priorities include getting Congress to allow co-ops to refinance their USDA loans without pre-payment penalties.

Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, says co-ops could save $10 billion in interest if they could affordably refinance their loans at today’s lower rates. He says prepayment penalties are an outdated banking practice. Co-ops currently hold about $44 billion in loans.

By the way: NRECA is joining some other rural broadband providers in raising concerns about how well the Federal Communications Commission is evaluating applications for broadband funding. Those groups specifically question whether SpaceX can carry out its plans for satellite-based service.

The House Agriculture Committee is holding a hearing on rural broadband needs today, and an electric co-op leader is among the witnesses.

Read our report last month about the SpaceX plan here.

Biofuels advocates ask EPA to replace E15 labels

Biofuel industry groups are urging the Environmental Protection Agency to replace what one trade organization calls “outdated and confusing” labels for E15 gasoline.

“The wordiness of the current label is difficult for consumers to digest and leads to confusion about the fuel and whether it is allowed for use in the vast majority of vehicles on the road, for which it is legal,” Growth Energy says in comments submitted to EPA.

Growth Energy pointed to a recent Quadrant Strategies survey that found nearly half of consumers said the current label makes them feel “uncomfortable” and “unlikely” to use the fuel. Some 40% expressed engine concerns.

In separate comments, the National Corn Growers Association noted only a small percentage of vehicles now on the road aren’t approved for running on E15. “With nearly all drivers now able to use E15, labeling should inform consumers this product is safe for use in their vehicles,” NCGA says.
EPA allowed for three months of public comment on its proposed rulemaking released in January.

Brazil’s corn crop suffers from dryness

Brazil’s second corn crop – the one many farmers plant after soybeans are harvested – is suffering in big ag states like Mato Grosso do Sul, Paraná and São Paulo where the weather has been hot and dry since the end of March, according to the consulting firm AgRural.

AgRural reduced its forecast for the “safrinha” down to 80.1 million metric tons, and the firm says it may do so again later this month.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s soybean harvest is 91% complete – about the same level as it was at this time last year.

Australia to seek WTO resolution on Chinese barley tariff

Australia’s barley farmers continue to suffer under China’s antidumping and countervailing duties, and now the Australians are scheduled to take the next step in the dispute. Australia will ask the World Trade Organization to set up a dispute panel on Apr. 28, according to a Geneva official.

The 80.5% Chinese duties have effectively cut off Australian barley exports to the Asian country, and importers there have turned elsewhere. Argentine farmers, who harvest on the same schedule (in December) as the Australians, are benefiting most from the trade spat, according to USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

Argentina exported almost no barley to China in 2019, but shipments totaled roughly 250,000 metric tons in 2020 and could reach as high as 400,000 in 2021, if the duties remain in place, FAS says.

He said it. “It's real money that would go to lower the cost of capital in those communities. … It's a big deal.” – Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, on the $10 billion that co-ops could save if they could refinance their USDA loans without prepayment penalties.

Questions? Tips? Contact Philip Brasher at