The House Agriculture Committee is set to debate legislation today that would provide major increases in spending for agricultural research, clean energy and conservation programs.

The committee released its draft measure Thursday without the conservation title, providing nearly $8 billion for research and $18 billion for rural development, much of which is earmarked for renewable energy.

The biofuels industry welcomed the inclusion of $960 million for upgrading pumps and tanks and addressing other infrastructure needs.

Keep in mind: The Ag provisions will be folded into a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill. But a key Senate Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has reportedly said he won’t support a measure anywhere near that size.airplane

Airline industry ups ante on biofuel demand

The airline industry is raising the stakes in the battle for future biofuels. In concert with the White House, the airlines announced Thursday that they are setting a new goal of using 3 billion gallons of renewable jet fuel by 2030. That’s a 50% increase from the 2-billion-gallon target the industry announced in March.

United Airlines separately announced a commitment to buy 1.5 billion gallons of renewable fuel over 20 years under an agreement with Alder Fuels, a cleantech firm. 

Airlines for America, which represents the industry, is appealing to Congress to enact a tax credit of up to $2 a gallon for sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF.

Keep in mind: With the Glasgow climate summit looming in November, the Biden administration is working to show progress on meeting its pledge to halve U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

By the way: The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to reconsider its ruling striking down the Trump administration’s approval of year-round E15 sales.

The Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, and the National Corn Growers Association said the decision “threatens our nation’s rural economy and progress on moving toward a clean energy future.”

Biden cites Tyson in announcing new vax mandates

Tyson Foods’ vaccination requirement got a shout-out from President Biden Thursday when he announced new vax requirements for federal employees, federal contractors, and businesses with 100 or more employees.

Tyson is requiring all employees to be vaccinated by Nov. 1 and recently offered paid sick leave to those who do so. Biden mentioned Tyson and other private employers in his announcement, and the White House noted that the vaccination rate at the company has increased from less than 50% to nearly three-quarters since the requirement was announced in August.

The failure of 80 million Americans, a “distinct minority” of about 25% of Americans, to get vaccinated is wreaking havoc on hospitals, Biden said, where beds are occupied with the unvaccinated, leaving “no room” for patients with other life-threatening ailments.

drought monitor

This week's US Drought Monitor

Rain improves drought conditions in some Midwest states

Recent rainfall in the central and northern Plains states has brought relief to some drought-stricken areas.

Areas of Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska have seen one to four inches of rainfall, and eastern Kansas has seen as much as seven inches. But some western portions of these states are still short on water.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, states in the West are still predominantly dry, although heavy rains have brought some relief to parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

Government sued over H-2A enforcement

A New Jersey orchard owner is challenging the authority of administrative law judges to impose fines on employers for H-2A violations.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court, Sun Valley Orchards is fighting a $550,000 penalty, asserting that Congress didn’t authorize the Labor Department’s administrative law judge “to adjudicate cases involving alleged violations of H-2A regulations.”

The Institute for Justice, a libertarian group representing the company, says “the majority of the amount was because their paperwork did not use the right language to describe the otherwise legal meal plan the farm offered workers.”

The lawsuit also claims the fine is excessive.

Slaughterhouse discharge limits may tighten

The Environmental Protection Agency is considering revising wastewater discharge limits for meat slaughter facilities, citing high levels of nutrients and other chemicals.

The meat poultry sector discharges the “highest phosphorus levels and second highest nitrogen levels of all industrial categories,” EPA said in a plan released Thursday.

The existing effluent guidelines apply to only about 300 of the estimated 7,000 meat and poultry facilities nationwide, the plan said. In addition, the current guidelines “only apply to facilities that directly discharge wastewater to surface waters,” EPA said. They “do not include pretreatment standards for facilities that indirectly discharge via publicly owned treatment works.”

Vilsack counsels patience on biofuel COVID relief

USDA is finalizing plans for $700 million that will be distributed to biofuel producers as compensation for pandemic-related losses. This week, USDA has released similar amounts for farm and food industry workers and for food processors.

“We’re doing the best we can to try to move these things forward,” Vilsack told reporters Thursday about the biofuel industry funding.

She said it. “Mr. Vilsack should get out of Washington, DC, and talk to regular everyday people. I invite him to come to NE and meet with farmers, ranchers, and small business owners to hear how a ‘second death tax’ like this would affect them.” - Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., in a tweet criticizing Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s defense of a proposal to tax capital gains at death.

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Vilsack said it’s unfair that under current law his children won’t have to pay tax on farmland he owns that’s worth $2 million. When he acquired the acreage, it was valued at $191,000.

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