We still don’t have details of the provisions that Democrats have agreed on as part of their Build Back Better spending plan. But Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow says there is still significant for funding child nutrition and conservation provisions.

“We’ve had to take a little haircut in everything but certainly are in a very, very good spot,” the Michigan Democrat told reporters Wednesday.

Keep in mind: Stabenow didn’t provide any details about the cuts. Democrats on the House and Senate Ag committees proposed more than $90 billion in agriculture provisions, including $28 billion in conservation funding. The House bill also included $35 billion for child nutrition.

Frustrated lawmakers: Democrats continued to struggle Wednesday to reach agreement on other parts of the Build Back Better plan, including the tax revenue needed to pay for it. Ideas continued to be tossed around during the day.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., quipped about a proposed minimum tax on corporate income: "It's much more complicated than easily expressed on a campaign slogan.”

At another point, an angry Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., told reporters that "every sensible revenue option seems to be destroyed.”

By the way: Republicans continue to criticize Stabenow for not having hearings on the agriculture provisions.

“When the Senate Agriculture Committee decides to forgo the expertise and opinion of those we are entrusted to represent, we are not living up to what should be our commitment to our farmers, ranchers, and rural communities,” the committee’s ranking member, John Boozman of Arkansas, said during a hearing Thursday on a nominee to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Democrats say they left Republicans out of the negotiations on the bill because they made clear they would never support it anyway. Ship

House Ag looking into supply chain woes

The U.S. food and ag sectors have been some of the hardest hit by wide-ranging supply disruptions, and the House Agriculture Committee has scheduled a hearing next week to shine a light on the situation.

No witnesses have been announced yet, but the title of the hearing is “The Immediate Challenges to our Nation’s Food Supply Chain,” according to a new post on the committee’s web site.

Behnam presses for CFTC reauthorization, budget boost

Ross Behnam, President Biden’s pick to chair the CFTC, used his Senate confirmation hearing to call on Congress to reauthorize the agency.

Behnam, who is currently serving as the CFTC’s acting chairman, has been on the commission since 2017. CFTC’s authorization law expired in 2013. Since then, Congress has continued to appropriate funding each year, but lawmakers have never agreed on a new authorization measure that might make changes in the agency’s role and powers.

“It’s important for morale at the agency, it’s important for a mandate from the authorizing committee and the Congress to do our job,” he said. He went on, “I think certainty and a recognition of the importance of the agency and an increasing and consistent budget will help us do the job that we need to do.”

Behnam also explored the role CFTC could play in carbon markets and climate change mitigation. Read more in our story on Agri-Pulse.com.

Emissions commitments lack clarity, UN says

Nations need to make clear how they intend to achieve net-zero emissions targets by 2050, a United Nations official said Wednesday on a webinar sponsored by the Society of Environmental Journalists ahead of the COP26 climate conference that begins Sunday in Glasgow.

Selwin Hart, special adviser to UN Secretary-General António Guterres on climate action, echoed the Emissions Gap report issued Tuesday by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which said commitments to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 nations are “vague” and not consistent with 2030 goals already outlined by those countries.

Some recent net-zero commitments rely on technologies that haven’t been developed yet. Hart said that was “reckless and irresponsible.”

The UNEP report said that while carbon markets have potential to reduce emissions, “Experience shows that international carbon markets can have pitfalls. Large numbers of credit-generating projects in the Clean Development Mechanism – the market operated under the Kyoto Protocol – were found not to fully represent additional carbon benefits.”

Much work to be done: The report said updated national pledges would only reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by an additional 7.5% by 2030, far short of the 55% reduction to keep the global temperature increase below 1.5°C.

USDA targeting $75M to beginning producers, farmer stress

USDA’s main research-funding arm - the National Institute of Food and Agriculture - is putting $50 million into 140 programs to train beginning farmers and ranchers, and another $25 million into efforts to combat farmer stress.

NIFA is giving $500,000 each to 50 stress assistance projects administered by state or territorial departments of agriculture.

One example is Minnesota’s “Bend, Don’t Break” project. It “will help farmers and others in agriculture cope with adversity, addressing suicide, farm transition/succession, legal problems, family relationships and youth stress,” NIFA said.

EPA urged to act on nitrates in Washington state

Animal feeding operations in Washington’s Lower Yakima Valley are under pressure from local and national environmental groups over the nitrate levels in local drinking water sources.

The groups have petitioned EPA to use its emergency powers under the Safe Drinking Water Act to order “responsible contaminators” in the area to provide clean drinking water to residents at risk from high nitrate levels.

The petition filed by the Center for Food Safety, Food and Water Watch, and Friends of Toppenish Creek also asks EPA to prohibit concentrated animal feeding operations from expanding or building new operations until nitrate concentrations are at safe levels.

He said it. “Probably the worst thing we can do is to tell you to do something right now.” - Ag accounting specialist Paul Neiffer on a Farm Foundation forum webinar, referring to the uncertainty about how Congress might change tax law as part of the Build Back Better Act.

Questions? Tips? Comments? Email Philip Brasher at philip@agri-pulse.com