Climate and infrastructure continue to be front and center on Capitol Hill. The Senate Finance Committee will debate a package of clean energy tax incentives today, while Republicans prepare a new counter-proposal on infrastructure spending ahead of the upcoming Memorial Day break.

The tax package includes a new clean fuel tax credit that would be tied to tighter and tighter greenhouse gas emissions requirements, much like California’s low carbon fuel standard.

Keep in mind: Jarrett Whistance, a biofuel economist at the University of Missouri, said the tax credit may not promote that much industry growth since the incentive would phase out once transportation emissions are significantly reduced.  But he says the credit “could give a financial boost to existing producers.”

Meanwhile: Republicans say they will have a new proposal on infrastructure spending ready by Thursday. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., told reporters the proposal would be worth close to $1 trillion.

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., told reporters he believes both sides are moving closer. “We need to keep seeing movement” on the scope and cost of the package, “and I think you’ll see that this week,” he said.

Enviros, NFU seek $200B in ag climate funding

Several major environmental groups as well as several farm groups, including the National Farmers Union and National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, are calling on congressional leaders to include at least $200 billion for agriculture in an upcoming climate and infrastructure package.

The appeal comes as Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., is seeking $50 billion in new conservation funding to address climate change.

Keep in mind: Most major farm groups are staying out of the funding issue for now.

For more on why, read our Agri-Pulse newsletter. We also have reports on the energy tax bill and the latest on USDA’s debt relief plan for minority farmers.

USDA wants to measure climate benefit of CRP practices

USDA is trying to find out how much of an impact Conservation Reserve Program practices can have on greenhouse gas emissions. The department is providing $10 million for measurement projects that “will allow USDA to better target climate outcomes through CRP while gaining critical data to calibrate, validate and further improve quantification methods within existing models and tools,” USDA's Farm Service Agency says.

Take note: Measuring the impact of conservation practices is a key priority of the climate-smart agriculture strategy USDA released last week.

Business, ag groups appeal for stepped-up basis

A coalition of business groups and leading farm organizations is urging congressional tax writers to leave stepped-up basis alone.

President Joe Biden has proposed to tax capital gains at death, essentially eliminating stepped-up basis. Under current law, heirs are taxed only when they sell the assets and only on the gains that occurred after death.

“Repealing stepped-up basis by imposing capital gains taxes when assets transfer ownership at death would force many family-owned businesses to liquidate assets or lay off employees to cover the tax burden,” the groups say in a letter to leaders of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees.

Keep in mind: Under Biden’s proposal, taxes on family farms would be deferred for as long as the farms stay in operation.

Dairy groups welcome USTR action

Dairy industry groups are praising U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai for requesting a dispute panel to challenge Canada’s operation of dairy tariff-rate quotas.

“Canada has failed to take the necessary action to comply with its obligations under USMCA (U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement) by inappropriately restricting access to its market. This needs to stop and we are thankful that USTR intends to make that happen,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern.

COOL concerns in Senate innovation bill

The supermarket industry is worried about a country-of-origin labeling amendment in a Senate bill that’s aimed at countering China’s economic power, the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act.

FMI, The Food Industry Association said in a letter to the Senate Agriculture Committee that the amendment, which was added in another committee, would impose “time-consuming and costly new obligations” for food retailers.

The amendment would require online retail products to provide country-of-origin information as part of the “internet website description of a product.”
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Mexican glyphosate, GMO corn ban upheld by judge

A Mexican judge has upheld the government’s plan to ban glyphosate and GMO corn in the country by 2024, according to the country’s National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT).

Assuming the judicial branch is done with the issue, the latest ruling in the protracted litigation over the presidential decree means that the bans will go into effect, the council says.

Bayer, the chemical and seed giant, says phasing out the use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, “would be inconsistent with the science and would unfortunately cause major disruptions to the many Mexican farmers who rely on glyphosate to safely, sustainably, and effectively grow healthy crops.” 

Chilean grape export forecast slashed

USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service is slashing its table grape export forecast for Chile by more than 20% after “intense rainfall” damaged much of the country’s harvest. The U.S. is the largest foreign market for Chile’s table grapes. About 46% of the country’s exports are shipped to the U.S.

Chile has exported 84,476 metric tons of fresh table grapes to the U.S. from November through February, a 22% decline from the 108,603 tons it shipped during the same period a year earlier.

He said it. "I don't remember Henry Ford when he built the Model T that we went out and built filling stations for him," – Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to reporters, referring to President Biden’s signature infrastructure proposal to fund 500,000 EV charging stations.

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