House Democrats are moving ahead this week with debating key provisions of the $3.5 trillion tax and spending package. The House Ways and Means Committee has announced plans to take up the health care, paid leave and child care provisions Thursday and Friday. That would push its action on tax issues into next week.

House Education and Labor, which is writing the package’s child nutrition provisions, meets Thursday, and House Ag takes up its part of the bill on Friday. The House Natural Resources Committee meets Thursday to finish work on its portion, which includes funding for endangered species protection and the Civilian Climate Corps.

Meanwhile: The nation’s largest farm group, American Farm Bureau Federation, sent a letter to congressional leaders on Tuesday, saying the organization was"deeply concerned" about the cost of the package and potential tax increases as well as  "the limited ability for stakeholders to engage with lawmakers" on the bill.

The letter goes on, ”While Farm Bureau recognizes that there might be an opportunity to increase funding for voluntary, incentive-based climate and conservation programs, agricultural research and other important farm policy programs, this should be done in a transparent and bipartisan fashion.”

For more on the reconciliation package, plus our 2021 CEO compensation report, be sure and read this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter.

Survey indicates increase in cover crop use

Cover crops may be gaining in popularity among producers, according to the monthly Ag Economy Barometer survey conducted by Purdue University and the CME Group.

Nearly-two thirds of the 400 producers surveyed in August said that they currently use or have used cover crops in the past. And of the respondents currently using them, 47% began planting cover crops within the last five years. 

Take note: Ten percent of farmers who plant cover crops said they did so in part because of carbon sequestration contracts.

US beef exports had a record-high JulyCover cropping

U.S. beef exports in July were valued at $939 million, a record-level for the month and a 45% increase from the same month last year, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation. Volume was strong too. The U.S. exported 122,743 metric tons. That’s a 14% increase from July of 2020, although not a record level.

“Beef exports were really outstanding in July, especially with COVID-related challenges still impacting global foodservice as well as persistent obstacles in shipping and logistics,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “Retail demand continues to be tremendous, as evidenced by the new beef value record.” 

The U.S. exported $225 million worth of beef to Japan in July, a 21% increase from July of last year. The volume, said USMEF, was steady at 28,549 tons and noteworthy because of “ongoing restrictions in the restaurant sector.” 

House Ag chair welcomes farm worker Covid aid

Help is on the way to farm and food industry workers. USDA’s new $700 million Farm and Food Workers grant program will compensate workers for living expenses as well as personal protective gear expenses they incurred because of the pandemic.

“While many of us were staying home, these folks assumed personal risk, going to work to ensure a stable food supply for our nation,” said House Agriculture Chairman David Scott, D-Ga.

Take note: USDA is also expected to make a separate announcement regarding $700 million in grants for processors, distributors, farmers markets, producers, and the seafood industry “in the very very near term,” Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters Tuesday.

Dems to EPA, Corps: Dump Trump waters rule

Six Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee are calling on the

Biden administration to move quickly to kill the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule.

EPW Chairman Tom Carper of Delaware joined Democrats Alex Padilla of California, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Ben Cardin of Maryland, and Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont, want the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to swiftly follow up on an Aug. 30 order from a federal judge vacating the Trump rule.

“We also urge  the  agencies  to narrowly  tailor  their  removal  of  the  NWPR  in order  to restore safeguards  for  those  waters  that  have  been protected since  the  1980s,” they said in the letter to EPA and the Corps.

EPA and the Corps have said they will issue a “foundational rule” restoring regulations defining “waters of the U.S.” in the Clean Water Act “that were in place for decades until 2015, with updates to be consistent with relevant Supreme Court decisions. A separate, second rulemaking process would refine this regulatory foundation and establish an updated and durable definition of ‘waters of the United States.’ ”

Nigeria makes big purchase of HRW from U.S.

Nigeria, a steady buyer of U.S. wheat, has made an unusually large purchase of hard red winter wheat, according to a USDA export sale announcement for 327,300 metric tons in the 2021-22 marketing year.

The sale pushes total sales to Nigeria in the current marketing year to “more than 1 million metric tons which includes HRW, SRW and hard white wheat classes,” says a spokesman for the U.S. Wheat Associates.

Nigerian millers have been buying U.S. wheat early in the 2021-22 marketing year to try to get ahead of rising prices, the spokesman said. So far, purchases are up by 26% in the first three months, compared to 2020-21.

He said it. “I think that reconciliation is going to take all the oxygen out of Washington.” - Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, responding to a question about prospects for agricultural legislative priorities when the Senate returns next Monday.

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