A former chair of the House Agriculture Committee is warning the committee about the potential downside of creating a permanent disaster assistance program for producers. Speaking on a panel at Minnesota’s Farmfest Wednesday, Collin Peterson said it’s important that the program not undermine crop insurance.
“I’m afraid it is going to come back and haunt us,” Peterson said, about extending disaster aid programs like WHIP Plus. He says he’s concerned about four years of disaster payments that aren’t paid for by farmers.
Disaster aid payments are funded out of deficit spending and — unlike crop insurance — don't require farmers to pay premiums or fees. 
In the next farm bill, Peterson says crop insurance needs to be improved to cover more crops and allow producers to buy the protection they need to get through years such as this one, with drought afflicting large portions of the country and flooding in the South.
Wilkes gets hearing today before Senate Ag Committee
The Senate Agriculture Committee will have an opportunity to hear from and ask questions of Homer Wilkes, the Biden administration’s nominee for undersecretary of natural resources and environment, at a hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. Eastern Time.
Wilkes currently serves as the director of the Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem Restoration Division, “where he has been integral to restoring the health of the Gulf Coast ecosystem after the BP Oil Spill of 2010,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in June.
If confirmed, Wilkes would oversee operations of the Forest Service.
FSIS cracks down on masking in inspected facilities
The Food Safety and Inspection Service has made it mandatory for all employees to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, according to a notice issued by the agency Wednesday.
The FSIS is also expecting official meat and poultry establishments, egg products plants and other inspected facilities in counties with “substantial” or “high” community transmission of COVID-19 to require their employees to wear masks when inspection program personnel are present.
Late last month, the CDC updated its guidance to recommend that fully vaccinated people wear a mask in public indoor settings due to the presence of the Delta variant in the U.S.
USMEF: Study shows how beef and pork benefit corn, soybean farmers
The U.S. Meat Export Federation unveiled the results of a new study Wednesday, showing just how much corn and soybean farmers benefit from U.S. beef and pork exports. U.S. livestock producers feed a lot of corn and soybeans to their cattle and swine, and a robust foreign demand for meat drives that feeding even higher.
A study conducted by World Perspectives Inc. shows that “U.S. beef and pork exports added 41 cents per bushel to the value of corn and $1.06 per bushel to soybeans in 2020,” USMEF said in a statement.
About 2.45 million tons of soymeal – equivalent to 103.2 million bushels of soybeans – was needed to produce the pork that was exported last year, according to the analysis. Likewise, 530.5 million bushels of corn went into producing beef and pork exports in 2020.
“USMEF’s efforts to promote U.S. red meat in international markets have paid off for producers, whether they raise livestock or grow corn and soybeans or, like me, they do both,” Mark Legan, an Indiana hog farmer, said in the USMEF release.

Meatpackers seek delay in enforcement of Massachusetts animal confinement law

The North American Meat Institute is urging Massachusetts to delay enforcing its proposed animal welfare law, which prohibits confining pigs, calves and egg-laying hens without enough room to move around.

In comments submitted to the Commonwealth Tuesday, NAMI CEO Mark Dopp said “simple equity demands that the agency delay enforcement … so veal calf producers, hog farmers, packer/processors and the rest of the supply chain have time to understand and comply with yet to be published final regulations.”

Massachusetts is already 19 months behind its original schedule for publishing final regulations, NAMI said. NAMI wants to see a two-year delay past the current Jan, 1, 2022, deadline.

“Regulatory compliance will require the veal and pork industry to divert resources from maintaining a critical food supply and reallocate personnel to prepare for the compliance deadline.”
The group is the largest trade association for packers and processors of beef, pork, lamb, veal and turkey.

Pork sector struggles with labor shortage
The need for labor in the pork industry is expanding while the work force is declining, putting the sector in a major bind, according to a new Iowa State University study unveiled and commissioned by the National Pork Producers Council.
The U.S. pork industry grew by 1.5% annually over the past 20 years – four times faster than the overall growth in U.S. industries – but the labor force willing to take those jobs is shrinking, and the U.S. visa system needs to be reformed to bring in more foreign help, NPPC says.
“The U.S. pork industry has a critical labor shortage that needs to be urgently addressed,” said NPPC President Jen Sorenson. “Pork production is year-round, and visa reform should reflect that reality."
He said it: “We’ve got to figure out what the hell we’re doing.” That was Collin Peterson, referring to developing carbon markets for farmers. He argued more money needs to be put into research to understand how this actually improves the climate while also helping producers.
Questions? Tips? Contact Bill Tomson at bill@agri-pulse.com