Senate Democrats have set up a new fight with Republicans by releasing a tranche of fiscal 2022 spending bills that don’t have GOP support. The bills include funding for the EPA and the departments of Interior and Labor.

By contrast, the Senate Appropriations Committee in August approved a FY22 spending bill for USDA and FDA that does have bipartisan support.

The partisan Interior-EPA bill released Monday would increase the budget for the Environmental Protection Agency by $1.3 billion to more than $10.5 billion. The House version would provide about $11.3 billion for EPA.EPA builiding with flag

The higher funding for EPA’s clean air and climate program as well as its compliance and enforcement efforts “will enable the agency to tackle climate change and support clean air and clean water for communities across the country,” according to the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Democratic majority.

By the way: The committee report for the Labor Department’s funding bill urges OSHA to issue a rule by the end of FY22 for protecting workers from high temperatures. OSHA said last month that it was beginning the rule-making process for a heat standard.

Public service ads to push COVID vaccines

A new series of public service announcements launching today aims to educate rural residents, especially those in the South and Midwest, about COVID-19 vaccinations.

The new PSAs from the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative were developed with support from the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Association of Farm Broadcasters and the Cooperative Extension System, and others.

The ads “showcase the firsthand impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines for seven individuals and families,” the council said. They include “family pharmacists in Texas, a football coach in North Carolina, newlyweds in Mississippi, family farmers in Kansas and Georgia, a lifelong cowboy in Texas and a self-proclaimed ‘sports mom’ in Georgia.”

AFBF President Zippy Duvall, who shared his experience with COVID last year (and has been vaccinated), said, “I appreciate the many other farmers, ranchers and rural neighbors who are sharing their journeys, too, including those in these new PSAs.”

Why it matters: In September, COVID-19 case rates were roughly 54% higher in rural America than elsewhere, the council says.

EPA probing risk of PFAS in fertilizer source

 EPA plans to study the risk of PFAS contamination from biosolids, also known as sewage sludge, as part of a plan to address the toxic legacy of the so-called “forever chemicals.”

Farmers often use the materials as a cheap way to add nutrients to their soil, but studies have detected the presence of PFAS in a high percentage of biosolids tested. EPA’s Inspector General found in 2018 that “EPA’s most recent list of pollutants found in biosolids with incomplete risk assessments included 352 pollutants.”

In its plan, EPA said it would complete a risk assessment for PFOA and PFOS, two of the more than 9,000 PFAS chemicals, in biosolids by winter 2024 that “will serve as the basis for determining whether regulation of PFOA and PFOS in biosolids is appropriate,” EPA said.

In its “roadmap” announced Monday, the agency also said it plans to propose a national drinking water standard for the two key chemicals by next fall, with a final standard to follow in fall 2023. 

Pandemic slows march to end worldwide hunger

An anti-hunger advocate says the pandemic has slowed meeting a major goal to end global hunger by 2030. “We can’t go at the pace that we are going now. We have to accelerate that pace at all fronts and every continent,” World Food Prize Foundation President Barbara Stinson told Agri-Pulse.

This week, the foundation is holding its annual Borlaug Dialogue, a series of panel discussions, presentations and other events that focus on global food security. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack along with Mexican and Canadian officials are scheduled to speak.

Stinson says nearly 800 million people worldwide are expected to go hungry this year.

FAO tackles growing salt-affected farmland

Roughly 2.5 million acres of land across the globe isn’t fertile enough to grow crops because of high salt levels, and the situation is worsening, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.

FAO says that improper use of fertilizer as well as deforestation and rising sea levels all contribute to the growing salinity and loss of land that could otherwise be used to grow crops, often in places that need them the most.

To combat the problem, FAO is bringing together more than 3,000 specialists this week “with the aim of sharing knowledge on salinity prevention, management, and adaptation in the context of food security, climate change and ecosystem restoration and establishing critical connections among policy makers, food producers, scientists, and practitioners.” 

FAO’s “Global Symposium on Salt-Affected Soils” runs from Wednesday through Friday.  

Brazil planting soybeans at a rapid pace

Brazilian farmers have already planted 22% of this year’s soybean crop, the second fastest planting pace ever at this point, according to a new analysis from the consulting firm AgRural.

The Brazilian states of Mato Grosso and Paraná are driving the rapid pace so far, but other states are gaining ground quickly.

“With soil moisture at more favorable levels in much of the country and producers taking advantage of the open time intervals to put the machines in the field, planting of the 2021-22 soybean crop advanced quickly last week,” AgRural said.Gas Pump

Republicans ask Vilsack to deliver biofuel assistance

Eight Republican senators from Midwest states are pressing USDA to release $700 million in pandemic relief to biofuel producers.

A letter led by Iowa Republicans Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley asserts that biofuel producers are still suffering negative consequences of the pandemic. “As feedstocks have experienced historic highs, margins to produce biofuel have risen, and many plants remain offline or are operating at reduced rates,” the letter says.

A USDA press release from June 15 said the department planned to implement the assistance within 60 days of the announcement.

He said it. “I wish I could say it will conclude in the near future, but I could easily see this extending throughout 2021 and well into 2022.” - Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, on the disruptions being seen in the shipping, rail, trucking, and barge industries.

Questions? Tips? Comments? Email Philip Brasher at