Register today for the free webinar, “Digging into the ag export supply chain crisis and how to fix it.” This complementary Agri-Pulse webinar will identify key areas for improvement and set the stage for much-needed reforms. Founder and Editor Sara Wyant will moderate the event on Jan. 31 at 1 p.m. EST. The webinar is presented by National Milk Producers Federation and U.S. Dairy Export Council.
Vaccine mandate for foreigners could challenge US farms
The Biden administration is temporarily imposing a vaccine mandate on noncitizens entering the country, which could pose a problem for farmers. The mandate will apply to farmworkers holding H-2A visas — and also to truck drivers crossing the border.
Why it matters: Farm groups say while most workers who were here last year are likely already vaccinated, the mandate could make it harder to get new workers into the country.
“Although a significant number of H-2As return year after year, not all do,” Michael Marsh, president and CEO of the National Council of Agricultural Employers, tells Agri-Pulse. He says demand for H-2A workers is likely to grow sharply this year, on the order of the 21% increase in 2021.
Marsh says it’s harder to get vaccinated in rural areas of some countries. And some workers who got vaccines that aren’t approved in the U.S. may have trouble getting revaccinated.
Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, says the mandate “will limit agriculture’s ability to grow safe and nutritious food. Without a robust and stable workforce, crops could also be left rotting in the fields.”
Keep in mind: The Department of Homeland Security decided against exempting essential travel from the mandate, citing "the rapid increase of COVID-19 cases, and … the increasing availability of COVID-19 vaccines.”
Farm Bureau deals heavy blow to market reform bill
AFBF announced opposition Friday afternoon to a cash trading requirement for cattle that’s a key component of a Senate market reform bill, making it even more difficult for Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa., to get the legislation out of the Senate Ag Committee.
The Farm Bureau position echoes the sharp regional divide within the cattle industry over contracting practices. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is expected to debate the issue at its meeting next week in Houston.
China starts review on fate of distillers grain duties
China’s Commerce Ministry is preparing to decide whether to renew its steep anti-dumping and countervailing duties on U.S. dried distillers grains with or without solubles, and a lot of potential trade hangs in the balance.
China announced last week that it has set the review process in motion and will be accepting public feedback through Feb. 7, according to USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
China was the largest foreign market for DDGS from the U.S. before the Commerce Ministry levied the steep anti-dumping and countervailing duties. The U.S. exported 6.5 million metric tons of DDGs to China in 2015, worth $1.6 billion, according to the U.S. Grains Council.
US grain export sales gain momentum in early January
Export sales of U.S. corn, wheat and sorghum all picked up in the second week of 2022, according to the latest weekly USDA trade data. Nigeria led the way in commitments for U.S. wheat, buying 101,300 metric tons – about a third of the overall sales of 380,600 tons – while Japan and Mexico were the primary corn buyers in a week that saw total sales reach about 1.1 million tons.
And net sales of U.S. sorghum hit a 2021-22 marketing year high of 477,500 tons for the week of Jan. 7-13. Sales were primarily to China and “unknown destinations,” which could also turn out to be China. Chinese buyers even purchased 53,000 tons of sorghum for delivery in the 2022-23 marketing year.
As for physical exports, the U.S. shipped 391,400 tons of wheat during the seven-day period (a 52% increase from the first week of January), about 1.3 million tons of corn (a marketing-year high) and 163,300 tons of sorghum to foreign customers.
GOP senators press Regan on pesticide decisions
Four Republican senators have told EPA Administrator Michael Regan they’re worried about the “problematic direction” they say the agency is taking on pesticides.
After a Zoom call last with Regan week, Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall, Iowa's Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, and Indiana’s Mike Braun issued a joint statement criticizing EPA’s “overly conservative, political decision” to revoke food tolerances for chlorpyrifos as well as December’s “unrequired, not mandated report” that documented dicamba damage complaints.
They also criticized EPA’s assessments of the impacts of glyphosate, atrazine and simazine on endangered species and the agency’s stated intention to re-evaluate an aquatic plant life benchmark for triazine herbicides.
“If the EPA restricts some of the most widely used and basic weed and pest control products, then our food production will be set back decades and will all but eliminate agriculture’s ability to store carbon in our soil,” the senators said. “We don’t think that EPA is sufficiently engaged with USDA, the registrants, and growers to fully understand" the implications of their decisions.
ERS. NIFA lost much of Black workforce in move
Staff diversity took a steep hit when USDA’s Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture were moved to Kansas City, Missouri, in 2019, according to an analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
In 2020, one year the after the move, just 15% of NIFA’s workforce was black, down from 39% in 2018, UCS Managing Director Charlotte Kirk Baer says in a blog post accompanying the report. “Similarly, ERS lost over half of the agency’s Black employees between 2019 and 2020,” he writes.
The two agencies currently have 521 employees, nearly 200 fewer than they did before the move.
USDA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.
She said it. “We will continue to advance this proposal to ensure a fair and transparent cattle market for our nation’s cattle producers.” - Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., responding to the Farm Bureau opposition to a key portion of her cattle market reform bill.
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