President Biden is meeting with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., this week in a bid to address the key lawmaker’s concerns about the administration’s Build Back Better bill. Even before the latest inflation numbers were released on Friday, Manchin has repeatedly raised concerns that the legislation would worsen inflation. 
White House press secretary Jen Psaki says Biden will convey to Manchin that “what we need to do now is think about what we’re going to do about rising costs, what is our plan to address rising costs.”
By the way: The Congressional Budget Office on Friday released its new cost estimate for the bill’s agriculture provisions, as revised in the Senate. The Ag Committee is adding more than $2 billion in funding for conservation technical assistance to the bill, plus more money for ag research.
CBO says the provisions would authorize $94.4 billion in spending but estimates that $89.4 billion of that would likely be spent over the 10-year window allowed by the legislation.
For more on this week’s D.C. agenda, read our Washington Week Ahead
Meat industry to Biden: We’re not taking the blame
The meat and poultry industry is pushing back against White House claims that consolidation in meat processing is a major factor behind higher food prices. Supermarket prices have risen 6.4% over the past 12 months, according to the November Consumer Price Index. Overall inflation is at 6.8% — the highest rate for a 12-month period in 39 years. 
The White House, seeking to limit the political fallout from the inflation numbers, said Friday that a quarter of the increase in grocery prices was due to increased prices for meat. 
The White House National Economic Council says increases in meat prices "are not just the natural consequences of supply and demand in a free market — they are also the result of corporate decisions to take advantage of their market power in an uncompetitive market, to the detriment of consumers, farmers and ranchers, and our economy.”
But the meat industry says the price increases are due to strong consumer demand and notes that the industry has been concentrated for a long time. 
“Demand is outpacing supply. It’s Economics 101,” said Mike Brown, president of the National Chicken Council. 

Regulatory agenda includes action on poultry, livestock rules

Proposals to address poultry ranking systems and clarify what constitutes unfair conduct under the Packers and Stockyards Act are on their way in the new year, according to the latest regulatory agenda released by the Agriculture Department.

USDA said both those proposed rules can be expected in January, though it acknowledged that industry litigation could result in any new poultry ranking regulations being vacated by the courts.

On the P&S proposal, the Agricultural Marketing Service said it expects to resolve differences over potential changes in the industry “by being proactive and transparent with the industry to allow for critical discussions and decisions on the rule.”

Other anticipated actions include a proposal to revise organic poultry and livestock standards in March, and an expanded Pandemic Cover Crop Program (PCCP). The program defrays the cost of crop insurance for growers who plant cover crops.

Farmers taking action to reduce nutrient pollution, group says

A report issued ahead of this week’s meeting of the Hypoxia Task Force highlights state and federal efforts to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus that makes it way to the Gulf of Mexico from the Mississippi River.

The task force, a state-federal partnership seeking to reverse a trend of plummeting levels of dissolved oxygen in the Gulf of Mexico, is meeting to hear progress reports from states and an update from EPA on its Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The Agricultural Nutrient Policy Council, which includes numerous trade associations among its members, issued the report to draw attention to what farmers in the Mississippi River Basin are doing as part of state nutrient reduction strategies.

Examples include $23 million invested in Illinois since 2013 on farmer-led research on best management practices, and 110,000 acres enrolled in Indiana’s 4R Certification Program, which encourages farmers to employ conservation strategies when applying fertilizer.

Another recent report, from Field to Market, notes that “more than 1.5 million tons of nitrogen enter the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi River every year, with the majority of the excess nutrients coming from agricultural fields.” Data from 2015 to 2020 do not show improvement, the report says.
Lauren Lurkins, ANPC president and director of natural and environmental resources at the Illinois Farm Bureau, said the state and federal governments and land-grant universities have done “great work” on the basin, but “we also want to highlight the fact that farmers across the basin should be empowered as they continue down this path.”
US pork exports to Philippines continue to rise
The decision by the Philippines to increase its quota for pork imports and lower tariffs is resulting in big increases in U.S. exports, according to a report by the National Pork Producers Council. The U.S. exported $194 million worth of pork to the Philippines in the first 10 months of the year, a 107% increase from the same time period in 2020.
The tariff and quota changes are not permanent, but NPPC is lobbying to change that. 

“Securing better market access to the Philippines, a major pork-consuming country, has been a top, long-term trade priority for NPPC, which continues to work with the government in Manila and with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to make the tariff reductions permanent,” NPPC said in the report.

Bird flu continues to spread in South Africa

The outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza continues to spread through South Africa even after the culling of about 3 million birds, most of which have been laying hens, according to USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

The virus was initially detected in April in the Western Cape province, which makes up the southern tip of the country, and has since spread to egg-producing regions in the north.

About 6% of the country’s egg-laying hens and 1% of broiler birds were culled as of August.

He said it: “We believe if there’s a given product demanded, the market will take that into account and will supply that.” – Neil Dierks, who is retiring as CEO of the National Pork Producers Council, in an Open Mic interview with Agri-Pulses Jeff Nalley. Listen here.

Questions, comments, tips? Email Steve Davies