We now have the details on the $28 billion plan that Democrats have developed for funding climate-smart agriculture. According to a summary circulating on Capitol Hill and obtained by Agri-Pulse, the plan features a new $5 billion program to provide direct payments to farmers who plant cover crops.

Farm bill conservation programs would also get historically large increases in funding. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program would be funded at $9 billion to promote the implementation of climate-friendly practices, including cover crops. EQIP was funded at $8 billon over the five years of the 2018 farm bill.

Keep in mind: The $28 billion package is to be included in Democrats’ massive Build Back Better budget reconciliation bill. The conservation funding “will make a huge impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and is the equivalent of taking over 142 million cars off the road,” said Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.

Stabenow preps debt relief provision

Stabenow says a debt relief provision that will be in the Build Back Better bill will include elements of a bill introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y, in June.

Gillibrand’s legislation would pay off up to $250,000 in debt on direct USDA loans for farms with incomes below $300,000. The aid wouldn’t be limited to minority farmers, as was an earlier program that has stalled in the courts.  

“Certainly Senator Gillibrand has done a lot of great work on this, and so we have something that incorporates her ideas,” Stabenow told reporters.

Richard Neal

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass.

Stepped-up basis stays off Dems’ target list

Senate and House Democrats say they’ve agreed on a list of options for funding the reconciliation bill, and there’s no plan to touch stepped-up basis, according to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass.

Neal fielded questions from reporters about what was or wasn’t on the list. Stepped-up basis? “Not at the moment, no,” he replied.

There’s no agreement to include a carbon tariff on imported goods, either. “Did it come up as a talking point? Yes. Did it come up as a solution point? No,” Neal said.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., declined to provide any details on the menu of tax options, but said they added up to more than Democrats needed to pay for the bill.

USDA nominees blocked by Senate holds

Stabenow says the nominations of Robert Bonnie to be USDA’s undersecretary for farm production and conservation and Xochitl Torres Small to be undersecretary for rural development are stalled because of holds put on by other senators.

“I am confident we will see all of them move, but this is just a slow process,” Stabenow said after the committee advanced the nomination of Homer Wilkes to be undersecretary of agriculture for natural resources and environment.

Take note: The committee’s top Republican, Arkansas Sen. John Boozman, says he’ll be working with the colleagues who have placed the holds to see if their problems can be resolved. Senators use their holds as negotiating leverage on issues they’re concerned about.holding soybeans

UN food summit draws numerous ag pledges

Many commitments — some vague, some specific — were made at the virtual United Nations Food System Summit Thursday. But a common theme for many speakers, who ranged from heads of state to Indigenous farmers, was that crises of hunger and climate change demand immediate, and sustained, action from governments, private industry, foundations and private citizens.

The Biden administration, through Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack and USAID Administrator Samantha Power, pledged $10 billion over five years to fight hunger and climate change in the U.S. and abroad, and more groups stepped up to support the U.S. ag productivity coalition announced by Vilsack.

The U.S. announced that 12 new nations, as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Food and Agriculture Organization, had joined the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate created by the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates. The now 30-nation effort seeks significantly increased investments in climate-smart agriculture and food systems innovation through 2025.

Industry speaks up: Wiebe Draijer, chairman of the managing board at Rabobank, appeared briefly in a video during the virtual summit to say, “To help make the shift in the food systems happen, we need to find ways to incentivize farmers small and large … and to help them to store carbon in their crops, their soils and their fields.”

Hanneke Faber, president of foods and refreshments at Unilever, said the company was committing to “doubling the number of products we sell that provide positive nutrition” and

Syngenta CEO Erik Fyrwald, appeared briefly on video to “commit to investing in innovation and collaborating with others across the food system for healthy plants, people and environment.”

Mexico ups its imports of US pork in mid-September

Net export sales of U.S. pork jumped by 29% in the week of Sept. 10-16, and big purchases from Mexico were the driving factor, according to USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

Mexican importers purchased 16,300 metric tons of U.S. pork for the seven-day period. That was half of the overall export sales of 32,300 tons.

Japan, Canada, South Korea and Colombia were also big purchasers, according to the weekly FAS report.

Mexico also was the top destination for actual shipments of pork during the seven-day period, at 9,000 tons. The U.S. also shipped 4,800 tons to Japan, 4,700 tons to China, 1,900 tons to Canada and 1,800 tons to South Korea.

They said it. "The Build Back Better Budget finally puts funding and strategies in place to address the root causes of the climate crisis rather than what we do now, which is devote resources to react and repair the damage from climate-related extreme weather.” - The summary of Democrats’ $28 billion conservation funding package.

Questions, tips, comments? Email Philip Brasher at philip@agri-pulse.com.