The Agriculture Department has been scrubbing its website and social media to remove any photos or text that could identify Afghans who contributed to agricultural research or other projects funded by the USDA, government officials tell Agri-Pulse. There’s concern the Taliban may harm Afghans who cooperated with the U.S. – even if it was just to help on an ag research project.

There’s still plenty of trade and other data on agriculture in Afghanistan. But if you’re looking for any information on the USDA site about people or groups involved in development projects, you’re likely to get messages like this: “Oops! Looks like the page you're looking for has been archived” or “Access denied. You are not authorized to access this page.”

Farm bankruptcies fall to lowest level since 2015

Farm bankruptcies are down significantly nationwide, although not every region has showed a decrease.

According to an analysis of federal court data by the American Farm Bureau Federation, there were 438 Chapter 12 bankruptcy filings from June 2020 through June 2021, a drop of 24% from the year before. That’s the lowest number of bankruptcies for a 12-month period since there were 357 in 2015.

Keep in mind: AFBF economist Veronica Nigh said in the analysis that the “ongoing impact of the severe drought in the West and Upper Plains” is evident when looking at where bankruptcies were filed. The region with the largest increase was the Southwest, with 45 filings, 13 more than the previous year.

California, one of two states in the West district court region, had 18 Chapter 12 filings, an increase of 13% from the 12-month period ending June 2020. Filings also increased overall in the Northeast, but they were up in some states and down in others.

“It is heartening to finally be able to write that farm bankruptcies have not risen from the year previous,” Nigh wrote. “However, one data point does not make a trend and we must caution against becoming too confident that the worst is behind us.”

drought map
The government’s weekly Drought Monitor: Drought conditions worsened in eastern and central Iowa, and areas of severe and extreme drought expanded in Nebraska and South Dakota.

Dairy producers pushing Congress for more aid

USDA is providing payments to dairy producers to cover less than half the money that the National Milk Producers Federation says they lost because of skewed markets in 2020. But the group is working with lawmakers to get additional funds in one of the spending bills that Congress needs to move later this year, a source says.

USDA announced Wednesday that it’s providing payments worth about $350 million to partially make up for the revenue that many dairy producers lost because of a change in the 2018 farm bill to the federal milk pricing formula.

The farm bill provision backfired on some producers when dairy markets were skewed by a rush of cheese buying fueled by the Trump administration’s Food Box program. The National Milk Producers Federation estimates those producers lost as much as $750 million due to the market turmoil.

The new USDA assistance will be capped at the first 5 million pounds of production, so its impact on larger producers will be limited.

USDA announces soybean sale of 263,000 tons to China

The U.S. continues to rack up more sales of new crop soybeans to China, with USDA on Thursday announcing yet another export sale of soybeans for 2021-22 delivery to China – this one for 263,000 metric tons.

Separately, new USDA weekly data shows that there were net sales of 1.03 million tons of new crop sales to China in the week of Aug. 6-12. That was nearly half of the weekly 2,142,100-ton total to all destinations.

Ag Republicans question EPA decision

The top Republicans on the House and Senate Ag committees say EPA is improperly banning the use of the insecticide chlorpyrifos on food crops.

EPA made the decision as the result of an appeals court ruling, but the Senate Ag Committee’s ranking member, John Boozman of Arkansas, says the agency action “undermines the scientifically rigorous work of the agency” and “inserts a great deal of uncertainty for growers.”

Pennsylvania Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, ranking member on House Ag, says that allowing “the court system to overrule EPA’s rigorous, scientific pesticide registration process sets a dangerous precedent, threatens scientific integrity, and is of the utmost concern to U.S. farmers and ranchers” who have been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Feds, contractors who aren’t vaccinated must get tested

The Biden administration will require COVID testing for federal employees and contractors who aren’t vaccinated or who won’t reveal their vaccination status.

The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force updated its guidance this week, telling federal agencies they must set up programs so individuals can receive tests once a week. The guidance doesn’t have a deadline.

“Refusals to take a test may result in disciplinary measures,” according to a task force Q&A. “In addition to pursuing any disciplinary action, an agency may separately elect to bar the employee from the agency workplace for the safety of others pending resolution of any disciplinary or other action the agency may pursue.”

House Democrat looks to reconciliation bill for E15

Democratic Rep. Angie Craig of Minnesota is pushing to attach E15 summertime sales provisions to the budget reconciliation bill that Democrats are putting together.

Craig is co-sponsoring a bill with Republican Adrian Smith of Nebraska that would get around a court case that blocked EPA’s approval of year-round E15. Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Democrat Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Republican Deb Fischer of Nebraska.

“If it doesn’t make it into reconciliation, then I’ll be pressing to have it in a year-end spending package,” Craig told the American Coalition for Ethanol.

Keep in mind: House members next week are scheduled to consider a FY22 budget resolution that’s needed to move the reconciliation measure later.

She said it: “Ethanol drives growth across rural America, period. And that’s my message as I head back to Washington,” - Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn.

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