President Biden’s $1.7 billion Build Back Better bill is going nowhere on Capitol Hill. But Democrats are looking at pulling out the climate-smart ag provisions and clean energy incentives and moving them as a separate package, according to Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.

As soon as Democrats finish dealing with a voting rights bill, “we'll be talking again about (BBB) provisions that have the support of all of our caucus, and certainly one area is agriculture and forestry,” Stabenow told Agri-Pulse.

She acknowledged that Democrats will have to rework a tax incentive for electric vehicles that is targeted to U.S.-manufactured cars and trucks. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, whose opposition to the larger BBB bill has kept it bottled up in the Senate, has specifically raised concerns about the EV provision.

The separate climate package would likely include a series of biofuel tax incentives that are in the BBB bill, Stabenow said.

Why it matters: The climate provisions account for less than one-third of the overall BBB bill but are critical to Biden’s pledge to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.

By the way: The Ag Committee on Wednesday advanced the nominations of Chavonda Jacobs-Young to be USDA’s undersecretary for research, education and economics and Margo Schlanger to be assistant secretary for civil rights. Gas Pump

Ethanol groups sound the alarm over possible cut

Ethanol trade groups are raising concerns over a report that the Biden administration might trim the 15-billion-gallon conventional biofuel mandate proposed for this year.

According to Reuters, the administration is facing pressure to cut the 2022 renewable volume obligation after already proposing to trim the targets for 2020 and 2021. One ethanol industry source called the report “the same old playbook from the oil industry” — a bid to lower the price of compliance credits “and nothing more.”

During a House Ag Committee hearing Tuesday, Renewable Fuels Association President Geoff Cooper said his group would be “greatly concerned if EPA is backtracking on its very recent proposal.”

Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said the Biden administration “has indicated blending requirements will remain strong … and we have every expectation they will deliver on that promise.”

Keep in mind: The Biden administration’s multi-year RVO proposal drew the ire of many in the biofuels industry for its cuts to previous years; the 2022 volumes were among the only bright spots for ethanol producers.

USTR sidesteps questions on trade pacts

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai was asked pointedly Wednesday about the prospect of the U.S. negotiating new trade deals with the UK and European Union, but she effectively sidestepped the questions during a webinar hosted by the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin.

“We are approaching our conversations with the UK consistent with the overall approach we are taking as an administration – a focus on building back better,” Tai said.

As for the EU, “I never say never,” Tai said. Still, she stressed that the agenda for the recently established U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council “is very, very full.” 

Asked about steps the U.S. has taken to enforce the U.S.-China Phase One trade deal, Tai said she wanted to “respect the forum” and offered to talk about China only “through the lens of U.S.-EU cooperation” and the TTC.

China ramps up rice imports, but won’t meet WTO quota

All the trade data is not in yet, but USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service is now forecasting that Chinese rice imports will total 4.75 million tons in 2021 — the highest level in years, but still well short of the 5.32-million-ton quota China agreed to when it joined the World Trade Organization.

Vietnam, Burma, Pakistan and Thailand have historically been China’s primary suppliers, but trade with India has skyrocketed. FAS says it expects India’s rice exports to China will reach 1 million tons in 2021, far more than the usual 50,000 tons.

All of the Indian exports are broken rice and can be shipped “outside of the TRQ, avoiding a bureaucratic process,” FAS said in the analysistractor

Tractor, combine sales up sharply in 2021

Sales of tractors and combines in 2021 far outpaced 2020.

Tractor sales were up only slightly in December from a year ago, but sales for the year increased 10.3% over 2020, according to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. Sales of self-propelled combines rose about 25% for the month, about the same as the increase for all of 2021.

Sales of two-wheel-drive tractors were up 24.1% last year, while sales of 4WD tractors rose 18.3%.

In all, “a total of 317,897 tractors and 6,272 combine harvesters found new homes in the U.S. in 2021,” AEM says.

Mon dieu! FDA responds to 1998 petition, revokes French dressing standard

Manufacturers will have more flexibility to meet consumer demand as a result of the Food and Drug Administration’s revocation of an outdated standard of identity for French dressing, FDA said Wednesday.

Adopted in 1950, the SOI for French dressing specified use of certain ingredients. It was amended over the decades, in part to allow use of color additives. But the Association of Dressings and Sauces submitted a petition in 1998 asking FDA to revoke the SOI.

The 1950 SOI “characterized it as containing oil, acidifying and seasoning ingredients, and allowed additional safe and suitable ingredients,” FDA said in a constituent update. The agency said consumers now “appear to expect French dressing to have certain characteristics not required by the standard, such as containing tomatoes or tomato-derived ingredients.”

“In the absence of a standard of identity, manufacturers will have the flexibility to use different ingredients to produce products that meet consumer expectations for French dressing,” FDA says in its final rule, being published today.

He said it. “I like Mitch McConnell. He’s a friend.”  - President Biden, when reporters asked about the Senate Republican leader calling a speech "profoundly unpresidential."

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