A top member of the House Ag Committee and one of the more moderate Democrats in the chamber says she doesn’t expect $3.5 trillion to be the final figure for a reconciliation bill currently under consideration.

Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., tells Agri-Pulse the “political reality” of the tight margins of control for Democrats in both the House and Senate could lead to some movement on the final price tag.

“I don’t think $3.5 trillion is going to be the end number, but whatever that number is, I’m confident we’re going to be able to pass that,” she said in an interview on the sidelines of the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Ill. “We’re not going to be able to be too extreme to the left, we’re not going to be able to be too extreme to the right. That requires coming together and coming up with compromises in order to get that passed.”

A GOP view: Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., says he’s “looking for a fight” over the package and will “fight like hell” to keep it from being passed.

“I think there’s enough concern from Midwestern legislators that it may make sure that this $3.5 trillion bill doesn’t pass,” he said. “And frankly, I don’t see a path right now for it to get through the Senate and become law.”

Restaurants fear Delta variant could erase early 2021 sales

Restaurants and food service companies across the country fear the emerging threat of the Delta variant will send 2021 sales gains backwards. The National Restaurant Association is projecting industry sales at $789 billion this year, which would be well below 2019 sales of $864.3 billion but a 19.7% bump over last year.

However, a mid-August survey shows the COVID variant threatens to reverse profits made in the first half of 2021.

About 19% of respondents said they completely stopped going to restaurants, 37% will only do takeout or delivery, and 32% said proof of vaccination or mask wearing would make them less likely to dine out. The survey was conducted Aug.13-15 and included in the association’s mid-year state-of-the-industry report.

Rural electric co-ops head south to help restore power

Crews from rural electric co-ops are making their way south to help restore power to thousands of customers hit by Hurricane Ida.

“Crews from co-ops in states west and north of Louisiana already are heading to the state to join power restoration efforts, which can begin once crews are able to make damage assessments,” a National Rural Electric Cooperative Association spokesperson told Agri-Pulse.

In Louisiana as of Tuesday morning, NRECA said DEMCO had roughly 85% out of 111,000 meters without power, Washington St. Tammany had 42,000 outages out of 52,000 meters, and South Louisiana Electric Cooperative Association is 100% down.

Pilot insurance programs for livestock, bees get new deadline

USDA’s Risk Management Agency is giving producers another two weeks to make coverage decisions and complete reporting activities for the Pasture, Rangeland, and Forage Pilot Insurance Program and Apiculture Pilot Insurance Program.

RMA said producers had asked USDA to extend the deadline, which is now Dec. 1 instead of Nov. 15.

PRF and API are both Rainfall Index crop insurance policies designed to help producers when lack of precipitation affects available forage for livestock and honeybees. PRF is designed to help protect a producer’s livestock operation from the risks of forage loss. Last year, producers insured almost 160 million acres and nearly 32,000 policies to protect $2.9 billion in liabilities.

Under API, beekeepers covered about 1.8 million colonies under 3,300 policies to protect $250 million in liabilities. 

Brazil’s beef exports seen rising on China trade

Brazilian beef exports are expected to increase again next year after a substantial increase this year, and robust trade with China is the primary factor, according to a new analysis by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

The FAS office in Brasilia says it now expects beef exports to increase to about 2.6 million metric tons in 2021, a 3.5 % increase over 2020. That total is expected to increase further by another 2% to 2.65 million tons in 2022.

Brazilian beef exports to China – Brazil’s largest shipping destination – hit a setback last year after the Chinese said they discovered traces of the coronavirus on packaging. China temporarily banned beef from some Brazilian packers, but that did not last long.

Snail darter proposed for removal from endangered species list

The snail darter, a tiny fish that was the subject of a seminal decision from the Supreme Court that called the Endangered Species Act “the most comprehensive legislation for the preservation of endangered species ever enacted by any nation,” may be coming off the endangered species list.

Although effects to the fish’s habitat in the Tennessee River from urbanization and agriculture “are certain to persist into the foreseeable future, efforts are being made to reduce the impact to many of the tributaries inhabited by snail darters,” the Fish and Wildlife Service said in a proposed rule published today.

“Additionally, snail darters appear to be resilient to urbanization and agriculture, including practices such as channelization, in certain tributaries such as South Chickamauga Creek and Sequatchie River,” FWS said.

She said it: “I think we’re going to be fine on stepped-up basis.” - Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., who says the exemptions currently under consideration should provide enough protection for family farms. Republicans argue the exemptions are insufficient and could only increase the burden on future landowners.

Questions? Tips? Contact Bill Tomson at bill@agri-pulse.com