The Biden administration is finally putting some detail today on its 30-by-30 plan. The president’s call for conserving 30% of U.S. land by 2030 has been raising a lot of concern across the countryside that administration officials have been pushing back on for several weeks now.

According to a media advisory, the 10-year “America the Beautiful” plan will be a “locally led and voluntary nationwide effort.” Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack will be joining White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in discussing the details of the plan.

Bill Hohenstein, director of USDA's Office of Energy and Environmental Policy, says the plan should help the U.S. in international climate negotiations.

Keep in mind: USDA is due out soon with a separate strategy for increasing the use of “climate-smart” farming practices.

Vilsack: Farmers engaged in climate effort

During a White House briefing on Wednesday, Vilsack told reporters that farmers are showing increased interest in addressing climate change, citing a meeting in Iowa Tuesday with EPA Administrator Michael Regan that included 25 producers.

“I was very pleased with the level of support and interest that the farm community has for ways in which they can be engaged in this effort to reduce emissions,” he said.

By the way: Vilsack was pressed by a reporter on whether he had the statutory authority to operate a carbon bank, something many Republicans say he doesn’t.

He didn’t quite answer directly but said: “We have a lot of flexibility already at USDA, and we're going to be utilizing that flexibility in a way that creates more new and better markets, and I think farmers are going … to be very agreeable with that.”

DOE: Corn ethanol improves its carbon footprint

The biofuel industry is urging policymakers to consider new Energy Department research on corn ethanol as they look at ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the DOE study, greenhouse gas emissions from corn ethanol are now 44% to 52% lower than they are for gasoline because of efficiency increases in both corn and ethanol production.

Why it may (or may not) matter: Advanced biofuels, which must reduce GHG emissions by at least 50%, qualify for their special usage requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard. However, corn ethanol is currently excluded from qualifying as an advanced biofuel – no matter what the GHG reduction is – unless the law is changed.

By the way: The National Biodiesel Board is asking to meet with EPA Administrator Regan to discuss a new study showing the public health benefits and economic savings of using 100% biodiesel in the home heating oil and transportation sectors.

Labor withdraws Trump’s independent contractor rule

The Labor Department is killing a Trump administration plan that farmworker advocates said would have made it easier for employers to classify workers as independent contractors, making them ineligible for some wage protections.

The Trump rule was designed to clarify provisions in the Fair Labor Standards Act, but the Labor Department said it was inconsistent with the purpose and text of the bill, which guarantees workers minimum wage and overtime past 40 hours of work in a week.

The National Council of Agricultural Employers said the rule created “a commonsense approach” for deciding whether someone is an independent contractor or an employee. Farmworker Justice said the rule would have unfairly led to more workers being excluded “from vital labor protections.”

United Nations’ FAO wants plant protection advice

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization is putting the call out for new ideas on how better to protect farmers crops from pest and disease while also improving conditions for international trade.

The International Plant Protection Convention – a component of the FAO – says “priority will be given to proposals that have the largest potential global impact, contribute to the purpose of the IPPC, can be implemented at the global level, clearly identify problems that need to be resolved through the development or implementation of standards, and for which there is adequate technical information available to support the proposed initiative.”
  Palmer amaranth (University of California photo)

State finds some success in combatting pesky weed

A new study finds that Minnesota has been successful in preventing Palmer amaranth from gaining a toehold in the state in part due to early detection and rapid response to observed infestations.  In 2020, the weed showed up in only one county. The weed is often resistant to herbicides. 

The study, published in the journal Weed Technology, said prescribed burns and killing the plants with propane torches turned out to be effective methods of control. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture and University of Minnesota Extension also put effort into educating landowners and the public about the weed.

Malaysia’s cotton imports on the rise

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the Malaysian apparel industry hard, but the country is expected to be 80% vaccinated by the end of the year and that’s good news for cotton producers. USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service is expecting a rebound for the country’s cotton imports and clothing production.

Two major apparel companies permanently closed operations in Malaysia during the pandemic, but the country is now forecast to import 800,000 bales of cotton in the 2021-22 marketing year, up about 14% from 2020-21, according to a new FAS report out of Kuala Lumpur.

The U.S. is by far the largest supplier of cotton to Malaysia.

He said it. “I understand that litigation is going to be what it is, and we will obviously have the Department of Justice and others do what they do, but in the meantime, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is going to move forward with that effort.” – Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, asked about litigation challenging the constitutionality of a $4 billion debt relief plan for minority farmers.

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