Congressional Democrats have slashed in half their original $3.5 trillion spending plan, but many of the key climate-related ag provisions escaped unscathed.

The latest version of the Build Back Better Act could still be modified somewhat before the House and Senate vote on it. But it includes about $28 billion in conservation spending, including $25-per-acre annual payments to farmers for cover crops and sizable increases to most of the major farm bill conservation programs.

There is a significant change in the bill when it comes to subsidizing biofuels. Under the $3.5 trillion bill the House put together in September, the $1-a-gallon tax credit for biodiesel would have been extended for 10 years.

The compromise legislation would continue that credit only through 2026. It would then be replaced by a new clean fuel credit that could extend to other products, including sustainable aviation fuel and lower carbon versions of ethanol.

Keep in mind: Making this compromise bill public should help President Joe Biden as he tries to convince world leaders at the upcoming climate summit that the U.S. is committed to doing more to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

By the way: The House had to approve another short-term extension of federal highway programs Thursday evening when House progressives again refused to approve a Senate-passed infrastructure bill until the Build Back Better measure is ready for a vote as well.

The chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, told reporters Thursday evening that her colleagues were pleased with the overall compromise on the spending package but needed time to study the text. 

Growers to EPA: Don’t restrict dicamba, 2,-4-D

Citing widespread problems in the global supply chain, four major farm groups are urging EPA not to impose new restrictions on herbicides.

“We strongly urge EPA to avoid greater registration or label restrictions at this time, which are likely to exacerbate product shortages or lead to potentially catastrophic market disruptions,” the American Soybean Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Corn Growers Association and National Cotton Council said in a letter Thursday to Michal Freedhoff, assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.

ASA spokesperson Wendy Brannen said the groups are concerned about new conditions on the use of herbicides containing dicamba and 2,4-D. The agency is currently reviewing documents on dicamba crop damage submitted by registrants, and the registration of Enlist Duo, a herbicide containing glyphosate and 2,4-D, expires early next year.

Depending on what the agency does, “it could lead to the transition of potentially millions of acres to alternative seed varieties/traits and pesticide products,” the groups said. “There is no possible way already-stressed supply chains could accommodate a late transition of this type.”

USTR: A lot of work needed to strengthen trade pact

 A major trade pact that the Trump administration pulled America out of needs a lot of work to create a durable agreement that doesn’t threaten any segments of the American economy, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said Thursday.

In a talk to chicken industry officials, Tai said she recognized that the Trans-Pacific Partnership would have been a major boost for many U.S. ag sectors that want to expand trade in countries like Vietnam and other members of the pact that China and the UK are now attempting to join. However, she also stressed that, for some segments of America, TPP “threatened their livelihoods.”

Tai did not go into detail about who would lose out because of TPP, but it’s well known that there was strong opposition to the pact by powerful union leaders such as the late AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. 

Grassley, Stabenow try again to counter foreign ag investmentKatherine Tai

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., are taking another shot at legislation to bring greater scrutiny to foreign acquisition of U.S. agribusinesses, and this time they’re being joined by Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Jon Tester, D-Mont.

Grassley and Stabenow first introduced the Food Security is National Security Act in 2017. The bill would add the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, and require CFIUS to take into account U.S. food security before signing off on “transactions that could result in control of a U.S. business by a foreign company.”

“Foreign acquisitions of Iowa and U.S.-based food and agriculture companies, especially by Communist China, threaten the integrity of our food supply and the security of our nation,” Ernst said.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., introduced similar legislation – the Foreign Adversary Risk Management bill – earlier this month. In the House, Reps. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, and Filemon Vela, D-Texas, introduced companion legislation, and former House Ag Committee Chair Frank Lucas, R-Okla., has dropped a similar bill as well.

Dems seek emergency protections for wolf

Several Democratic senators are asking Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to reinstate protections for the gray wolf in the western U.S. because of state-sanctioned hunts.

Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Gary Peters of Michigan and 19 other senators say in a letter that an emergency listing under the Endangered Species Act is needed.

But Chase Adams, senior director for the American Sheep Industry Association, tells Agri-Pulse that states have the wildlife management expertise to ensure the species continues to prosper within local and regional ecosystems.

The wolf was removed from the federal endangered species list in 2019. FWS is re-evaluating its status in response to a listing petition, but a proposed rule won’t be issued until next year.

Questions? Tips? Comments? Email Philip Brasher at