USDA is providing a fresh update on its plans for issuing some widely anticipated new regulations.

Proposed rules addressing fairness for poultry and other livestock operations are planned for November, USDA says in a semiannual regulatory agenda published in today’s Federal Register.

The Agricultural Marketing Service will propose a rule addressing the use of poultry grower ranking systems “as a method of payment and settlement grouping for poultry growers” who are under contract with live poultry dealers, the agenda says.

Other proposals in the works for November include one to “to provide greater clarity to strengthen enforcement of unfair and deceptive practices, undue preferences, and unjust prejudices” under the Packers and Stockyards Act, USDA said last month when it announced the proposals were on the way but did not specify a timeframe.

USDA also “will re-propose a rule to clarify that parties do not need to demonstrate harm to competition in order to bring an action” under the Packers and Stockyards Act.

Robert Bonnie with Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow

Robert Bonnie with Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow

Bonnie open to expanding disaster aid

Robert Bonnie, President Biden’s nominee to be undersecretary for farm and conservation, says Congress needs to consider expanding the types of disaster assistance available to producers.

During his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday, he cited as one unmet need the problems facing farmers in Oregon’s Klamath Basin this year. Many have had to fallow their land because of the lack of irrigation water.

“We need a longer conversation with this committee about a range of programs around drought,” Bonnie told the Senate Ag Committee.

By the way: Bonnie also used the hearing to try to dispel concerns about the Biden administration’s plans for climate policy at USDA. He repeatedly stressed that any new ag climate programs would be farmer friendly. He also defended the department’s legal authority to use the Commodity Credit Corp. to make payments to farmers for climate friendly practices.

Senate appropriators work to include WHIP funding

The top Republican on the Senate Ag Appropriations Subcommittee, John Hoeven of North Dakota, says he wants to include a WHIP Plus disaster program for 2020 and 2021 in the upcoming fiscal 2022 spending bill for USDA.

He didn’t say how much money the bill might include. The House on Thursday passed its version of the USDA funding bill power linesas part of a seven-measure FY22 minibus. It doesn’t include new WHIP Plus funding

The House Ag Committee earlier this week approved a separate bill that would authorize $8.5 billion for WHIP Plus.

“As you know we have a horrible drought in our part of the country and throughout the West, and like down in Sen. (John) Boozman’s area, they’ve got flooding and so forth,” Hoeven told Agri-Pulse,referring to the Senate Ag Committee’s senior Republican. Boozman is from Arkansas.

Take note: Hoeven, R-N.D., says he’s also working on a program that would work like WHIP Plus, but for cattle producers.

Details, details: Senators await infrastructure text

Even as senators await the text of the bipartisan infrastructure deal, they’re also preparing possible amendments to it. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told reporters that the broadband title in particular could be the target of several floor amendments even though Republican negotiators worked out a number of issues in recent days.

Meanwhile, in the House, the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Oregon Democrat Peter DeFazio, said the agreement wasn’t green enough. He wants more money for public transit, for example.

Speaking of broadband: The House Ag Committee’s chairman and top Republican are jointly urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to swiftly schedule a floor vote for a bipartisan authorization bill for USDA rural broadband programs. The bill would authorize $43 billion in funding; the Senate infrastructure deal would only provide USDA with $2 billion.

“No agency is better equipped to bring rural broadband internet connections to rural America than the USDA,” Chairman David Scott, D-Ga., and Ranking Member Glenn “GT” Thompson, R- Pa., wrote in a letter.

WTO ministerial to tackle broad range of ag topics

There will be a broad range of controversial agriculture issues to address when the World Trade Organization convenes its 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) later this year, but officials in Geneva say countries shouldn’t expect concrete agreements.

On Thursday, the chair of the WTO’s ag negotiations released a 27-page report to member countries that lays out goals to address subsidy reform, tariffs, export restrictions, export competition, cotton, public stockholding, special safeguard mechanisms and transparency.

The report gave special attention to improving transparency, which means holding countries to accurately report measures to support farmers. The issue is especially important to the U.S. government and farming sector.

US books first rice sales to Iraq in two years

U.S. suppliers have booked the first rice sales to Iraq in two years, according to the USA Rice Federation. Iraq purchased 80,000 metric tons from ADM and 40,000 tons from Supreme Rice.

Complications from Iraq’s move to a new system for rice procurement spurred seven U.S. senators and 12 House members to reach out to the U.S ambassador in Iraq for help. Subsequently, Iraq’s new purchasing agency and USA Rice signed a memorandum of understanding earlier this month that offered new assurances that trade would resume.

AquaBounty plans large-scale Ohio farm

AquaBounty Technologies has settled on Pioneer, Ohio, as the location for a large-scale farm to raise its genetically engineered Atlantic salmon.  The 479,000-square-foot operation will be able to produce 10,000 metric tons of fish a year. It’s eight times the size of Aquabounty’s farm in Albany, Ind.

The company plans to spend over $200 million on the project and begin building later this year. Commercial stocking of salmon is slated to begin in 2023. 

The salmon are one of only two genetically engineered animals approved for commercialization by the Food and Drug Administration. GalSafe pigs were approved last year for food and human therapeutics.

He said it. “The principle here is that whatever we do on climate has to work for producers. It has to work for working lands.”  - USDA nominee Robert Bonnie to the Senate Ag Committee.

Questions? Tips? Contact Philip Brasher at