Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow says she’s continuing to work on getting increased funding for conservation programs included in an upcoming climate infrastructure package. But the committee’s top Republican, John Boozman of Arkansas, is pushing back against including the funding in a reconciliation bill without GOP input.

Stabenow and Boozman both weighed in on the issue during an informal, joint appearance with reporters after a committee hearing on Thursday.

“I would hope we’re not going to rewrite the next farm bill through reconciliation,” Boozman said. Stabenow responded with assurances that the 2023 farm bill would be written by the committee.

But Boozman persisted, making clear that he’s still concerned that the spending provisions could shape the structure of the next farm bill. “Massive changes in farm bill policy don’t need to come about through reconciliation with no input from Republicans … and really very little input from Democrats.”

Take note: USDA issued a strategy Thursday for advancing “climate-smart” agriculture that depends heavily on using existing programs and policies to help farmers adopt new conservation practices.

Stabenow: Cattle market price problems ‘complicated’

Stabenow says cattle groups and processors need to come together on a solution to address wide profit margins between live cattle prices and boxed beef cutoffs before she’ll hold a hearing on the issue.

“The challenge is I don’t think there is a consensus around what the solution is but certainly (those are) really important issues,” she said, when asked when a hearing on cattle market price transparency as well as mandatory livestock price reporting could take place. The law authorizing livestock market reporting expires in September.

Keep in mind: During a recent closed-door meeting, producer groups agreed among themselves on some action items on cattle pricing. Those included renewal of the reporting law, as well as equal treatment for formula and cash transactions, and development of new processing capacity.
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Vilsack accuses 30x30 critics of scare tactics

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack doesn’t mince words when asked about continued claims that the administration is trying to take 30% of U.S. ag land out of production through its 30x30 initiative.

House and Senate Republicans have introduced legislation to block the “America the Beautiful” plan, which seeks to bolster voluntary farm conservation programs to reach its goal of conserving 30% of the nation’s land and water by 2030. North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer said the administration “is paving the way for another attempted land grab by the federal government.”

“We have stated repeatedly, very clearly, what this is and what it isn’t,” Vilsack told Agri-Pulse. The administration’s initial blueprint for what is also known as the 30x30 initiative says, “We honor and respect private property rights,” Vilsack said, and asked, “Does that sound like a land grab?”

GOP critics “just want to scare people. … People want us to work together. And there is nothing in that report that would concern a farmer or rancher, because it's really saying, ‘gosh, we're doing good stuff. We need to do more of it,’” he said.

US ships more than 1M tons of corn to China in second week of May

China has been buying a lot of U.S. corn for delivery in the 2021-22 marketing year recently, but physical shipments of 2020-21 corn are also moving to Chinese ports, according to the latest USDA weekly trade data. The U.S. shipped 1,009,700 metric tons of U.S. corn to China in the seven-day period of May 7-13, according to a Thursday report.

Those shipments helped push the second week of May to a marketing-year-high of more than 2.2 million tons for total U.S. corn exports to all destinations.

But China also continues to commit to new purchases of new crop corn. Just Thursday, USDA announced yet another export sale of U.S. corn to China for delivery in 2021-22. That one was for 1.224 million tons and it brings the tally for Chinese new-crop U.S. corn purchases to 10.744 million tons.

Take note: USDA made a major error on the amount for an export sale – and subsequent shipment – of U.S. beef to the Netherlands. The U.S. sold and then shipped about 34 metric tons of beef to Dutch buyers during the May 7-13 period - not 33,700 tons as was incorrectly reported.
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CP requests KC Southern drop rival proposal

Canadian Pacific Railway is asking the Kansas City Southern board of directors to reject a recent acquisition proposal by Canadian National Railway, citing Department of Justice concerns.

In a letter to KCS Thursday, CP President and CEO Keith Creel said his company believes “the KCS Board has a clear path to conclude that the level of risk surrounding a CN-KCS transaction and CN's ability to close into (a) voting trust are too high.”

Take note: On Monday, the Surface Transportation Board decided they will use stricter rules of scrutiny on CN’s merger proposal over CP’s. DOJ filed comments with the STB last Friday saying CN’s proposal raises “sufficient competition concerns.”

CP has declined to increase its $25 billion offer to KCS. CN offered $33.6 billion.

Foresters share tax increase worries with Senate

Some forest owners tell the Senate Ag Committee on Thursday that the Biden administration’s tax proposals could be devastating to their operations. The president wants to tax capital gains at death. Taxes on farms and other family-owned businesses would be deferred as long as they stay in operation, and heirs would lose their stepped-up basis.

“Either timber will not be cut in order to not have the tax applied, or it is going to be cut really quickly before the tax is raised,” said Joe Fox, president of the National Association of State Foresters, told the committee.

Stabenow told reporters after the hearing there is “a lot of support from our side” for shielding family-owned farms and businesses from the tax.

He said it. “That is their 401k, that’s their pension plan, that is all of their savings. The idea that they’re going to get taxed at a much higher rate … is simply not fair.” – Senate Ag ranking member John Boozman, R-Ark., on the impact on farms of taxing capital gains at death. The administration’s plan would defer the tax liability as long as the farm stays in operation.

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