The U.S. Agency for International Development and State Department are dispatching $54 million in food, water, hygiene supplies, blankets and other emergency goods to Ukrainians trying to survive the invasion of Russian troops.
“The United States is the single largest donor of humanitarian assistance in Ukraine,” said USAID. “Since the conflict began in 2014, the United States has provided nearly $405 million to vulnerable communities across Ukraine, including nearly $169 million from USAID and nearly $236 million from the Department of State.”
Keep in mind: The U.S. also is providing military assistance to Ukraine. Just last week Secretary of State Antony Blinken authorized another $350 million worth of military assistance for the beleaguered country. That comes on top of $260 million in military assistance that Blinken authorized last year.
Equity Commission starts work
The Biden Administration’s new USDA Equity Commission will hold its first meeting today. The panel is charged with analyzing how the department’s programs and policies perpetuate or worsen racial, economic, health and social disparities.
The commission is led by Deputy Agriculture Secretary Jewel Bronaugh and Arturo Rodriguez, former president of the United Farm Workers.
Keep in mind: Top USDA nominees say they’re already working to address disparities in USDA’s programs.
“On the equity side, I think we've made great progress in thinking about how do we make sure that pandemic assistance is available to all producers,” Robert Bonnie, USDA’s undersecretary for farm production and conservation, said during last week’s annual Ag Outlook Forum.
He noted the department had finalized a program to help heirs property holders, Blacks whose titles may be cloudy because the land was passed between generations without wills. He said the department is “looking at everything we can do across conservation, crop insurance and farm programs to make sure our programs are available to everyone.”
Biofuel critic retiring from Senate
Oklahoma GOP Sen. Jim Inhofe, a long-time, staunch critic of U.S. biofuel policy, has announced that he will retire next January.
Inhofe, 87, was the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which oversees the EPA, when the 2007 energy bill passed, enacting the existing Renewable Fuel Standard. Inhofe called the RFS “remarkably flawed” and has repeated pressed the agency about refiners’ concerns.
A special election for Inhofe’s seat will be held in November. He had planned to retire at the end of his term in 2026.
USTR plays down importance of FTAs
A common criticism of the Biden administration is that it has not focused on entering into tariff-cutting new free trade agreements, but U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai pushed back Friday, playing down the importance of the pacts that U.S. lawmakers and ag groups continue to advocate.
“Trade agreements can be … an important part of our trade program, but it is not our only tool,” Tai said in a conversation with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at USDA’s annual Ag Outlook Forum. “It isn’t necessarily even our most effective tool, either.”
Instead, Tai highlighted the value of the dozens of trade and investment framework agreements, or TIFAs.
TIFAs are essentially structured forums that allow the U.S. to meet with representatives of foreign governments to discuss ways to increase cooperation and trade.
It was at one such TIFA meeting that India agreed recently to open its market to U.S. pork.
Tariff-free U.S. wheat arrives in Vietnam
The U.S. Wheat Associates is celebrating the arrival in Vietnam earlier this month of 68,350 metric tons of soft white and hard red spring wheat from the Pacific Northwest and Northern Plains. The group says it’s the first shipment to arrive there since Vietnam agreed in December to eliminate its 3% tariff on U.S. wheat.
“Eliminating the U.S. wheat import tariff came at the right time for Vietnam given the run-up in U.S. and global wheat prices,” said USW President Vince Peterson. “We will keep helping Vietnamese customers gain more value with the U.S. wheat supplies needed to meet the growing demand there for better quality wheat foods.”
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U.S. wheat exports to Vietnam rose substantially over the past seven years even with the tariff in place. USW says that “Vietnamese millers doubled U.S. import volume to more than 520,000 metric tons between 2015 and 2021.”
SCOTUS to take up EPA’s authority to regulate power plant emissions
The Supreme Court will hear arguments today in a case that raises the issue of EPA’s authority to require greenhouse gas emission reductions from power plants.
The posture of the case is unusual, in that no actual regulations are being challenged. The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan was stayed by the Supreme Court, and then a federal appellate court overturned the Trump’s administration’s replacement.
Instead, West Virginia, more than a dozen other states and coal companies — worried about the scope of potential rules — argue that the court needs to determine now that only Congress can make decisions with such significant economic and political implications. They are supported by more than 100 rural electric cooperatives that are members of the Basin Electric Power Cooperative.
Senate expected to vote on Supreme Court nomination soon
Most Democrats and progressive groups lined up behind President Joe Biden’s choice of Ketanji Brown Jackson to be the next associate justice of the Supreme Court almost as soon as the nomination was announced Friday.
The 51-year-old judge, who now sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and is slated to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, is assured of confirmation so long as the 50 Democrats in the Senate stick together. New Mexico Sen. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, who suffered a stroke last month, is now recovering in Washington, D.C., and has promised to be back on the floor soon.
What to look for: Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Jackson “will be considered and confirmed by the full United States Senate with all deliberate speed.”
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