Many of the nation’s top farm groups have endorsed Janie Simms Hipp to become USDA’s general counsel ahead of her Senate confirmation hearing today. Hipp “is eminently qualified and has a fundamental understanding of the legal complexities surrounding agricultural law,” the groups say in a letter to the Senate Ag Committee.

The groups that signed the letter include the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and Farm Credit Council.

Dems beat back attacks on EVs

Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee have advanced their clean energy tax package by beating back a long series of GOP amendments targeting incentives for electric vehicles. New subsidies for EVs are a top priority for President Joe Biden.

Republicans argued the industry doesn’t need more federal help, including an expanded tax credit that could be worth as much as $12,500 per vehicle. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat on the Finance Committee who also chairs the Ag Committee, led the defense of the EV incentives. “This is about the climate. This is about stopping emissions,” she said.

There was little discussion in the committee of a separate new credit the bill would create for biofuels and other low-carbon fuels.

What’s next: Democrats will likely have to pass their tax policies through the budget reconciliation process.

Senate Ag Rs seek details behind tax estimate

Republicans on the Senate Ag Committee are demanding Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack explain the department’s analysis of Biden’s proposal to tax farm estates.

The senators are specifically asking USDA to explain its statement that the proposal would only affect 2% of farms that stay in operation. Biden is calling for taxing capital gains at death while allowing family-owned farms and businesses to defer the tax as they remain in operation. Biden also has proposed to restrict the use of like-kind exchanges to defer taxes on real estate sales.

“We have reviewed USDA’s analysis of estate tax provisions in farms and farm families, but we are not aware of any publicly released USDA study on the impact of changes in the capital gains tax rate, the step-up in basis and like-kind changes as proposed in the American Families Plan,” the senators write.

Back to drawing board on Roundup settlement?

Bayer and attorneys for a potential class of people exposed to Roundup appear to have a job ahead of them in crafting a settlement that will satisfy a federal judge in California.

U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria denied preliminary approval of a $2 billion settlement to address farm workers and others who were exposed to the weedkiller but who do not have claims against the company. The judge’s order found almost nothing to like in the proposed settlement, which he said does more for Bayer than it would for potential claimants.

Echoing statements he made at a hearing a week ago, Chhabria also said Roundup does not have a “real warning label” and that Bayer has not tried to devise one that has more information about the dangers of using the product.

Bayer, which usually issues statements after important Roundup rulings, had not done so by the close of business on the East Coast. A lawyer for the class, Elizabeth Cabraser, said the deal, which includes access to legal services and research into treatment of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, “would provide tremendous financial, health and safety benefits for class members."

USDA projects record exports

The surging corn shipments to China will help push U.S. ag exports to a record $164 billion for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, according to USDA.

Corn exports are forecast $3.2 billion higher than they were in February in the new trade forecast. The estimate for livestock, poultry and dairy exports was raised by $1.6 billion, while soybean exports were raised by $1.5 billion.

Take note: Exports to China were raised $3.5 billion to a record $35 billion.

WTO countries take firm stance on cutting ag subsidies

The Cairns Group – an alliance of ag exporting countries that doesn’t include the U.S. – and the Africa Group showed a united front Wednesday at the World Trade Organization in support of cutting domestic agricultural subsidies that distort international trade.

"This ministerial decision must be of sufficient ambition and specificity to enable meaningful reform of trade and production domestic support, with a view to enabling fairer trade in agriculture,¨ the nations said in a statement as negotiations ramp up five months ahead of the WTO's 12th Ministerial Conference.

Domestic support for farmers is traditionally one of the most contentious issues debated at the WTO. The U.S. has been spending big in recent years to help the ag sector contend with the COVID-19 pandemic and the trade war with China.

CN to drop rail segment to ease merger

Kansas City Southern and Canadian National Railway are proposing to divest some track overlap between Baton Rouge and New Orleans in a bid to get the merger approved. The two companies jointly filed a renewed voting trust for approval with the Surface Transportation Board Wednesday.

CN President and CEO JJ Ruest said, “eliminating the minimal rail overlap and laying out the case for a CN-KCS combination should allow the STB to approve our voting trust.”

The CN deal has come under fire because of the overlap in rail routes with KCS. STB denied the company’s original voting trust May 17.

Argentina’s beef export ban may help boost U.S. sales

 Rising inflation pushed Argentine leaders to recently erect a 30-day ban on exporting beef, and the temporary halt could boost U.S. sales to China according to a new analysis from the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The Chinese are by far the largest foreign buyers of beef from Argentina, says the Farm Bureau. The South American country exported about 700,000 metric tons of beef in 2020 and China (together with Hong Kong) bought more than two-thirds of it.

The U.S., meanwhile, continues to expand its access into the Chinese market after the country lifted its zero-tolerance for growth hormones and approved many new U.S. beef-producing and storage operations to export to Chinese buyers under the “Phase One” trade deal.

He said it. “Eventually we'll end up in a conference and hopefully make sausage that'll taste pretty good.” – Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom Carper, D-Del., on the path forward for an infrastructure package.

Republicans are scheduled to release a new $1 trillion proposal today.

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