Some leading agriculture groups are urging lawmakers to reach a bipartisan agreement on infrastructure.

“We ask that you continue to work together to craft an infrastructure package to support American jobs and strengthen our economy and that this package specifically focus on the critical importance of infrastructure to U.S. agriculture and our ability to deliver products to market,” the groups say today in a letter to congressional leaders as well as a collection of lawmakers who have shown an interest in working out a deal.

“It is essential that infrastructure legislation include much-needed investments in our dams, locks, inland waterways and ports as well as rural highways and roads, bridges, rail, and broadband infrastructure,” the letter says.

The organizations that signed the letter include the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, Farm Credit Council, the Agriculture Transportation Coalition, Farmers for Free Trade and numerous commodity groups.

Why it matters: President Joe Biden this week broke off negotiations with some Senate GOP committee leaders, but has opened the door to talking to a second bipartisan group.

Farm groups appeal for ag labor reform

An even larger group of farm organizations is issuing a fresh plea to lawmakers to address their labor needs. “We must address this workforce crisis threatening farms across the United States so our producers can continue to feed, clothe, and fuel our nation,” some 288 national and state organizations say in a letter to the Senate leadership.

The letter stops short of specifically endorsing the House-passed Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which has the backing of some major farm groups as well as farmworker advocates. The bill would provide a path to legal status for farmworkers who are in the country illegally, while also expanding access to the H-2A visa program.

“Without immediate action by the Senate, the federal government’s outdated policies and broken immigration system will force many farmers to consider whether they can continue in labor-intensive agriculture,” the letter says.

But, but, but: Key Senate Republicans continue to insist that the border must be secured before they will consider legalizing people who are in the U.S. illegally.

“I’m willing to put money into Central America. I’m willing to put on the table legalization of farmworkers and DACA populations, but we’ve got to stop the policy of catch and release. If you don’t, it will never end,” South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, reporters this week.

EPA, Corps move toward replacing Trump ‘waters’ rule

The Biden administration has made its move to re-define the waters of the United States regulated under the Clean Water Act. But environmental groups aren’t happy with the way it’s being done.

The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers have asked a federal judge in Massachusetts to remand the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule without vacating it. That move would leave the current rule in place while the agencies work on a replacement.

“Every day the ‘Dirty Water Rule’ stays in effect, America’s waterways remain at risk,” said Jon Devine, the Natural Resources Defense Council’s director of federal water policy, and Heather Govern, director of the Conservation Law Foundation’s Clean Air and Water Program.

“The Biden Administration’s planned proposal to repeal the rule is a step in the right direction,” they added, “but lacks the urgency required to restore full legal protections for the lakes and rivers that supply drinking water to millions of people.”

The American Farm Bureau Federation and other ag groups, however, wanted the administration to keep the Trump-era rule, which removed federal protection for ephemeral streams and some wetlands.

Lawmakers seek racial identity on farm subsidies

USDA would be required to disclose the race and gender of farm subsidy recipients under bills that a pair of Black Democrats have introduced in the House and Senate.

“It is critically important that we bring any remaining discriminatory lending behavior at USDA to a screeching halt,” said Rep. Bobby Rush, who is sponsoring the House version of the Farm Subsidy Transparency Act. “In order to do so, we need to shine a bright light on USDA’s lending practices so that we can clearly see, understand, and address existing inequities.” 

The disclosure requirement would also extend to farm loans and crop insurance as well as disaster assistance programs.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., is sponsoring the Senate bill.

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US beef exports set another record in April

 The U.S. set a new monthly record high for the value of beef exports in March – and then it happened again in April, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation. The U.S. shipped $808.3 million worth of beef to countries around the world, topping the March total of $801.9 million – the first time monthly exports topped $800 million.

U.S. export volume wasn’t a new record, but it still finished the month strong at 121,050 metric tons, says USMEF. That’s not quite as much as in March – 124,808 metric tons – but the April amount was the fifth-largest ever and 23% higher than the same month last year.

Strong sales to countries like South Korea and China helped keep U.S. beef exports so high in April, according to the report. The U.S. shipped 23,482 tons of beef – valued at $182.7 million – to South Korea in April, just short of a new record, said USMEF.

Tyson announces net-zero GHG emissions target

Tyson Foods plans to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 by increasing its use of renewable energy and expanding the company’s current 5-million-acre grazing lands target for sustainable beef production practices by 2025.

Tyson said Wednesday it will “establish a pathway” to using renewable energy at half of its domestic operations by 2030. The company said it is the first U.S.-based protein company to have an emissions reduction target approved by the Science Based Target initiative.

Pork producers: We need answers on Prop 12

Pork producers still have a lot of questions regarding California’s Prop 12 rule ahead of a January implementation deadline. The rule would require pork products sold in California to come from sows raised with a minimum amount of square footage.

The state has proposed regulations for Prop 12 with the comment period closing July 12. But Michael Formica, assistant vice president and general counsel for the National Pork Producers Council, doesn’t think the rule will be finalized anytime soon.

“The big question here is what is their certification system going to look like? How extensive are these on-farm inspections going to be? What kind of paperwork systems are producers going to have to develop to document all this,” he asked.

They said it: “American agriculture depends on access to new foreign and domestic markets, and that access depends on reliable infrastructure in the middle of the country and along the coastlines.” – farm group letter appealing for a bipartisan infrastructure deal.

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