U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai met Monday with a diverse list of agricultural groups that all have a strong stake in the success of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. She met virtually with officials from the National Milk Producers Federation, Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, National Potato Council and the Northwest Horticultural Council to “to discuss the Biden-Harris Administration’s trade agenda and to hear from the organizations on specific trade priorities for their members.”
One of the top priorities for dairy farmers is getting Canada to live up to its quota commitments under USMCA, NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern stressed to Tai during the meeting. The U.S. has accused Canada of misusing those quotas.
“Our industry is an agricultural leader in improving sustainability, promoting high animal care standards, and providing high quality products,” Mulhern said in a statement. “Together with the U.S. Dairy Export Council we’re eager to work closely with (Tai) and her team to meet growing global dairy demand with sustainably produced American dairy products.”
FACA follows Vilsack lead on carbon bank
The Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance is out with its recommendations for a USDA-run carbon bank, but they are limited to setting goals for a series of pilot projects. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack has suggested that the carbon bank would be used initially for pilot projects, so FACA followed his lead and suggested issues that such pilots should address.
“We wanted to figure out how to encourage USDA to produce information that benefits the range of agriculture,” said Jenny Hopkinson, senior government relations representative for the National Farmers Union.
Keep in mind: FACA now has more than 70 members, including numerous commodity groups. So, it’s probably not surprising that its recommendations are rather general in nature.
And it’s noteworthy that FACA has stuck to the carbon bank idea when many congressional Republicans remain resistant to the concept.
Take note: FACA’s support for a carbon bank is still contingent on Congress increasing the borrowing authority of the Commodity Credit Corp.
What’s next? FACA is developing recommendations for tax credits and other tax incentives that could reward farmers for practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One idea being explored is along the lines of the existing Section 45Q tax credit for carbon sequestration.
Read our report on the recommendations here.
Ag groups demand U.S. action on port problems
The U.S. ag sector is growing increasingly upset with the situation at California ports. Chinese exporters continue to pay shippers premiums to bring back empty containers instead of loading up with U.S. commodities for export, and the delays are piling up for U.S. companies desperate to get their pork, beef, fruit and vegetables to Asian buyers.
The Federal Maritime Commission says it’s investigating the situation, but frustrated farm groups and food and ag companies are turning to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“We need action now, not additional studies,” more than 200 farm groups and food and ag companies tell Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a letter.
The groups and companies, including organizations such as the National Pork Producers Council, USA Rice, USA Poultry & Egg Export Council, Western Growers Association, National Cotton Council, International Dairy Foods Association and the American Farm Bureau Federation, estimate that the situation has resulted in the loss of nearly $1.5 billion.
Democrats work to shore up Civilian Climate Corps support
Democratic lawmakers are competing to get their bill outlining goals of the Civilian Climate Corps included in President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill.
Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., and Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., have proposed a bill, but so have Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.
Neguse hopes his bill, which is largely tied to forests and watersheds in the western U.S., will be included, but noted no bill is “mutually exclusive” to Biden’s proposal.
Other bills like Ocasio-Cortez’s would support more urban projects, which he stated is “fantastic,” but added that “all of these efforts are largely complementary of each other.” Neguse spoke on a National Wildlife Federation teleconference.
The White House has proposed to spend $10 billion on a new CCC program, which is modeled off the 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps.
DEA hemp rule will have to be reviewed by appeals court, district court says
The legality of a Drug Enforcement Administration rule opposed by some in the hemp industry will have to be decided by a federal appeals court after a federal district court ruled that it could not decide the matter.
The issue involves hemp extracts that temporarily exceed the 0.3% THC limit for industrial hemp in the 2018 farm bill. Many in the industry are concerned they could get caught up in DEA enforcement proceedings simply because THC levels can be elevated during processing to create legal products.
Under the Controlled Substances Act, plaintiffs can only seek review of the DEA’s Interim Final Rule in the court of appeals, the federal court ruled Monday.
Report: Anxiety and depression rise due to pandemic
A new report from the Government Accountability Office states the number of people showing signs of anxiety or depression rose from 11% in 2019 to 38% in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over two-thirds of mental health care providers say demand for services has increased and have had to cancel or reschedule patient appointments or even turn them away.
Access to treatment is limited because there are not enough behavioral health professionals, especially in rural areas, the report stated.
“The pandemic has made access to mental health care more urgent than ever while worsening long-standing shortcomings in the system,” Senate Finance Committee Chair, Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said.
Wyden requested GAO look into mental health access in May of last year.
By the way: The American Farm Bureau Federation has launched an online directory of resources for producers who are experiencing stress and mental health challenges, recognizing May as Mental Health Month.
Customs makes a berry big bust on the border
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials were inspecting a truckload of fresh strawberries on the Texas border when they discovered something extra that wasn’t nearly as sweet. Hidden among the boxes of strawberries were 177 packages containing 411 pounds of methamphetamine, worth roughly $8.2 million.
“As daunting a task as this may seem, our officers are able to effectively balance processing lawful trade while maintaining a robust enforcement posture to advance our border security mission,” CBP said in a statement.
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