The White House is making the case that the bipartisan infrastructure agreement offers broad benefits to rural Americans and not just by expanding broadband, fixing roads and bridges and renovating locks and dams.

In an infrastructure fact sheet, the White House calls the deal “a generational investment in rural America.”

The document provided to Agri-Pulse says the deal includes $52 billion that would help communities become more resilient to fires and floods through investments in forest management and measures such as elevating buildings, roads, and bridges. Funding also would go toward “ecosystem restoration, such as the restoration of wetlands that can reduce flood risk for communities,” the fact sheet says.

There’s also this: Funding for electric vehicle charging stations will be targeted toward “rural, disadvantaged, and hard-to-reach communities,” the fact sheet says.

Keep in mind: No legislative text for the infrastructure package is available yet. The Congressional Budget Office also must analyze the proposals to pay for the deal to make sure they add up.

Lawmakers seek US security for rice shipments to Haiti

 A Louisiana congressman is asking the State Department to work with the United Nations to provide security for U.S. shipments to Haiti of rice and other food. Violence and theft have been putting the shipments at risk, and the chaos is only worsening after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, says Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La.,

Haiti is the top U.S. market for long grain milled rice, according to the USA Rice Federation.

“While the continued theft of U.S. rice shipments causes export market and safety concerns, I am worried that this will further increase food insecurity in Haiti,” Higgins says in a letter to the State Department.

Grassley to meet with USTR next week on trade with UK

 U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai will meet next week with Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, a key Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. The lawmaker says he expects to thoroughly discuss a potential trade agreement with the United Kingdom.

“I’m very much hoping that we’re going to get a (trade) agreement,” Grassley told reporters Wednesday. “It’s very important.”

The U.S. poultry sector is hoping to sell a lot of chicken to the U.K. if the U.S. can get a deal that lifts the British ban on products treated with antimicrobial rinses to prevent salmonella contamination.

School food directors worry over supply, funding

Food service directors are worried about supply disruptions and staff shortages as they prepare for the new school year. According to a survey being released today by the School Nutrition Association, 97% of school food service directors are concerned about supply chain disruptions, with 65% saying it’s a serious problem.

Some 90% of school food directors say they’re worried about staffing shortages. Some 82% are concerned low meal participation will be a problem.

Nutrition standards also continue to be a concern. Only 26% of the school officials say they are prepared to meet tighter limits on sodium content. SNA is asking Congress to delay those new rules until July 2024. USDA is allowing states to waive the new limits during the upcoming school year.

Herrick moves back to IDFA, Soubra promoted

Matt Herrick, who served as USDA’s communications director during the first five months of the Biden administration, is moving back to the International Dairy Foods Association.  He will be senior vice president of public affairs and communications and will launch the IDFA Foundation as executive director.

Heather Soubra has moved from chief of staff at IDFA to become senior vice president for strategic initiatives.

USDA asked to reimburse dairy producers

Lawmakers are asking USDA to reimburse dairy producers who lost money in part because of a change the 2018 farm bill made in the pricing formula for fluid milk.

The revision was the result of a landmark agreement between IDFA  and the National Milk Producers Federation. However, the formula created problems for some producers when the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic created volatility in dairy markets.

Cheese prices skyrocketed when USDA started buying up cheese for the Food Box program. But many farmers failed to benefit from the higher prices due to the rules for the federal milk marketing order system and the farm bill revision.

Producers should be “reimbursed for as much of the roughly $725 million in foregone Class I skim milk revenue as possible,” the lawmakers led by Antonio Delgado, D-N.Y., say in a letter to President Joe Biden. “Farmers in various regions of the country have suffered from these losses, so your help will be critical.”

USDA appeals to judge on debt relief program

Government lawyers are asking a Texas judge to allow USDA to continue preparatory work on the minority debt relief program.

In USDA's response to white farmers’ request to shut down any such work, the government says the plaintiffs can’t show how mailing notices to eligible borrowers causes the white farmers a “concrete personal injury.”

Under two previously issued court orders, the department is already barred from sending payments to minority farmers. But those orders, issued by federal judges in Wisconsin and Florida, allowed USDA to continue doing prep work.

FSIS coming out with new pathogen guidelines

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is issuing new guidelines for control of salmonella and campylobacter in raw poultry based on an Obama administration proposal.

In a Federal Register notice published today, FSIS says the guidelines have been updated to include information on the use of neutralizing agents to prevent the carryover of antimicrobial substances.

The agency also is addressing pre-harvest practices by revising the litter and bedding section. “With the updated information, establishments of various sizes and configurations have practical options for reducing and inhibiting the growth of pathogens commonly found in raw poultry,” the agency says.

A spokesman for the National Chicken Council said it had not yet seen the guidelines.

He said it. “The packers are one week making $1,200, another week $800, profit on a carcass, and then you don’t see the price of beef go down at all.” – Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley, talking to reporters about an upcoming Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on agribusiness competition issues.

He went on to say that he recently saw a restaurant menu with a $2 surcharge for beef items.

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