The Biden administration is testing an idea for promoting cover crop adoption that has proven popular in some states - offering farmers a subsidy on their crop insurance premiums.

USDA is using coronavirus relief funding to give farmers a one-time premium subsidy of up to $5 an acre. The subsidies will complement popular programs that now exist in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. Farmers are expected to claim the benefits on as many as 4 million acres.

What’s next: Advocates of the program hope the subsidies can get long-term funding through the climate and infrastructure legislation that’s now being negotiated.

Ferd Hoefner, an ag policy consultant, cautions that a temporary program could limit the effectiveness of the subsidies. He hopes such subsidies can eventually be expanded to other soil health practices.

Ransomware attack hits JBS

First it was a major gasoline pipeline, now it’s the food system that has been hit by a ransomware attack.

Meatpacking giant JBS USA shut down some of its U.S. operations as a result of the latest attack, but the company says it expects to have the “vast majority” of the plants operational today.

In a statement Tuesday evening, USDA said it was monitoring the shutdown’s impact and had encouraged major meat processors “to accommodate additional capacity where possible.”

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Take note: The disruption once again highlights the corporate concentration in the meat industry. The incident also comes as meat processors say they already are struggling with a labor shortage.

Biden tax proposals worry farmers

Producers continue to be very concerned about federal tax policy and higher taxes on inherited assets. According to the latest monthly Purdue University/CME Group survey, 78% of farmers are concerned that changes in tax policy will make it harder for them to pass on their farms to the next generation and 83% expect capital gains taxes to increase within the next five years.

Some 71% of producers say they are very concerned about the loss of stepped-up basis. President Biden has proposed to tax all capital gains at death, eliminating the stepped-up basis from which heirs now benefit. Taxes would be deferred on family farms as long as they stay in operation.

The survey sponsors say that concern about tax policy “could be one factor leading some producers toward a less optimistic view of the future as reflected in this month’s Future Expectations Index.”

EU talks fail to reach deal on farm support

Efforts in the European Union to finalize changes to EU’s Common Agricultural Policy have failed, leaving farm groups frustrated. EU producers say they need solid support from the government to invest in greener production mandates and contend with increasing pressure from imports as a result of recent trade pacts. CAP is the EU version of the U.S. farm bill.

“Nobody talks about it in Brussels these days, but this CAP has major environmental requirements for farmers and their cooperatives,” says the farm and co-op organization COPA-COGECA. “Let’s be clear, with incomes continuously being lowered, less money for the CAP and tougher international competition, it will be a struggle for farmers to implement them.”

A strong CAP agreement will also be necessary to help farmers invest in greener production methods and make changes called for in the EU’s Farm to Fork strategy, says COPA-COGECA Secretary General Pekka Pesonen.

For a deeper look at the prospects for the U.S. farm economy, and the EU fight over Farm to Fork, be sure and read our Agri-Pulse newsletter this week. We also look at the potential impact of new SEC regulations on agriculture.

Brazil corn harvest forecast cut after lack of rain

The rain came too late this season for many of Brazil’s corn farmers in the country’s center-south, which has led the Brazilian consulting firm AgRural to cut its production forecast.

Production in Brazil’s second corn crop – known there as the safrinha – will only reach 64.6 million metric tons, down from the firm’s May forecast of 69.6 million tons and last year’s total of 75.1 million tons.

Grassley zaps USDA over electric vehicle budget request

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa is ripping USDA for earmarking $25 million in its budget request for transitioning its vehicle fleet away from conventional fuels.

According to USDA’s fiscal 2022 budget summary, the funding will go for “hybrid, alternative, and/or electric vehicle charging infrastructure as an interim critical step to meet strategic clean energy goals.”

Grassley told reporters that it’s “sad to see even USDA is trying to eliminate a market which farmers rely on.” He called President Biden’s attempt to electrify the government vehicle fleet “wishful thinking.”

There were over 657,500 vehicles in the government’s inventory in FY 2020, according to the General Services Administration. About 37,000 of those were USDA’s.

FDA supports vaccines for migrant, seasonal food, ag workers

The Food and Drug Administration is encouraging the food industry to support vaccinations of migrant and seasonal food and agricultural workers, pointing  companies to a host of resources including a communications toolkit.

The Department of Health and Human Services, through the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and FDA, is coordinating efforts to support COVID-19 vaccination of migratory and seasonal agricultural workers including workers in the food sector.

“Sustained close contact among workers, multi-generational and congregate housing, shared transportation, and existing health disparities place these workers at higher risk of being exposed to COVID-19, as well as disproportionate illness and mortality,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
Stats: Cases of COVID-19 have been falling steadily over the past 30 days, according to CDC, which says 62.8% of Americans have received at least one shot.

They said it. “Protecting these essential workers is important to promoting health equity and avoiding a disruption in our food system.” - the CDC.

Questions? Tips? Contact Philip Brasher at