The House Agriculture Committee will vote next week on a bill that would extend a popular ag disaster program, WHIP+, for two years. Lawmakers have been working on revisions to the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus, which provided assistance to producers for losses in 2018 and 2019.

“Whether it’s fire or flood, heat, whatever it might be, too little water, too much water, we are working in a bipartisan manner,” said the committee’s top Republican, Glenn “GT” Thompson of Pennsylvania.

A committee spokesperson says conversations about a new, permanent disaster aid program are continuing.
USDA noms finally get hearing

President Biden’s pick to oversee farm and conservation programs at USDA, Robert Bonnie, is finally getting his confirmation hearing — more than three months after his selection was announced.

The Senate Agriculture Committee has scheduled a hearing Thursday for both Bonnie and Biden’s nominee to be undersecretary for rural development, former New Mexico Rep. Xochitl Torres Small.

Bonnie, who’s been serving as Vilsack’s chief climate adviser, will be critical to carrying out Biden’s climate policy at USDA. Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has said that Bonnie’s nomination was slowed because of the extensive volume of past writings he had to supply the committee.

By the way: The committee will vote Monday on Jennifer Moffitt’s nomination to be USDA’s undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs.

CRP deadline is here amid GOP challenge

Today’s the deadline for the latest general signup for the Conservation Reserve Program. But the top Republican on the Senate Ag Committee is questioning whether the resulting contracts will be valid. In a letter obtained by Agri-Pulse, Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., says that the increased payment rates that USDA is offering violate provisions of the 2018 farm bill.

USDA officials, however, tell Agri-Pulse they’re confident they followed the law. While the farm bill did cut soil rental rates, it still allows discretionary incentives that “encourage owners and operators of eligible land to participate in the program,” the department says.

AFBF chief defends climate measure

The president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Zippy Duvall, is defending a Senate-passed climate bill that’s running into resistance from House Republicans. The Growing Climate Solutions Act would put USDA in charge of verifying farm technical advisers and carbon credit verifiers.

Duvall told reporters Thursday that many farmers need the USDA program in order to participate in carbon markets.

“We have farmers out there right now trying to muddle through these very difficult contracts that they're looking at,” Duvall said. USDA’s involvement would bring “some refereeing to the system to make sure companies are treating farmers as partners,” he said.

Take note: Duvall questions the fairness of the Biden administration’s debt relief program for minority farmers. The program is supposed to pay off any direct or guaranteed USDA loans that the farmers hold, and that leaves out minority farmers who don’t have USDA loans, Duvall said.

He acknowledged that he hadn’t heard any complaints about the program from Black farmers. But, he added, “If I was one of them, and I know some of them, I would feel that way.”

Federal judges have blocked USDA from making any payments under the program while several legal challenges are pending.
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Tracy Stone-Manning
BLM pick moves to Senate vote

Tracy Stone-Manning’s nomination to be director of the Bureau of Land Management is headed to the Senate Thursday despite Republican accusations that she lied to the panel.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources split 10-10 along party lines on the nomination. Now, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will have to get Senate approval to discharge her nomination from committee before proceeding to a vote on the nomination itself.

Schumer expressed confidence in Stone-Manning on the Senate floor Thursday, calling her “exceedingly qualified” and saying that as head of the Department of Environmental Quality in Montana “she was respected not only by conservationists but by ranchers and fossil fuel interests as well.”

White House puts more cash into rural vaccinations

The Biden administration is providing $100 million in American Rescue Plan funding for more than 1,900 rural clinics across the country. The effort is aimed at boosting vaccine education and outreach in communities where, a White House official said, “we are generally seeing low vaccine uptake.”

All eligible rural health clinics that applied received awards of approximately $49,500 per site, HHS said. Texas led the list with 142 clinics receiving a total of about $7 million. Other states with more than 100 clinics include Kentucky, which received about $6.4 million in funding; Missouri, $6 million, and California, Illinois and Michigan, which all got more than $5 million.

USDA reports strong week for U.S. meat trade

The U.S. exported 21,400 metric tons of beef in the week of July 9-15 — a marketing year high in 2021 — according to the latest trade data from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. That was a 38% jump from the previous seven-day period and a 22% increase over the previous four-week average. South Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan and Mexico were the biggest buyers.

U.S. pork shipments around the globe were also strong in the second week of July. The U.S. exported 30,800 tons of pork to Mexico, China, Japan, South Korea and Canada, according to the FAS report.

Pandemic blamed for drop in US beef exports to EU

The closure of European restaurant, hotel and institutional businesses for much of last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic took a heavy toll on U.S. beef exports to the European Union.

A new FAS report says EU importers failed to use a large portion of the bloc’s tariff rate quota for U.S. beef, costing U.S. exporters roughly $100 million in sales for the 2020-21 quota year, which ended June 30. European importers used only about 11,783 tons of the 20,750-ton quota for U.S. beef that was available to them.

The duty-free quota will gradually rise to 35,000 tons by 2026.

He said it. “Point taken. But when I'm standing in north Florida and south Georgia and Alabama, those farmers are suffering when all those products come over at less than the cost of production in America.” - Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall, on his response to Mexican officials who defended their seasonal exports of fruits and vegetables to the United States by arguing that the U.S. sells far more commodities to Mexico than Mexico sells to the U.S.

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