With the war in Ukraine dragging on, farmers in the European Union are going to be allowed to plant crops on conservation acreage this spring, and there is new pressure on the Biden administration to do the same.

On Wednesday, the European Commission announced a series of measures to aid the ag sector, including about $550 million in direct payments “to directly support farmers most affected by higher input costs and the closure of export markets.” The commission also will allow farmers to plant crops on fallow conservation acreage without taking a cut in what are called “greening payments.”

In the U.S., the American Farm Bureau Federation has joined grain and oilseed processors in urging USDA to allow cropping of Conservation Reserve Program acreage that is classified as prime farmland or is less environmentally sensitive. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has so far resisted that idea.

EU justification: “Russia’s war against Ukraine has created a multitude of problems including in relation to global food security,” European Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said. “When it comes to food, now is the time for Europe to show its solidarity: to help Ukraine, its people and farmers, as well as vulnerable food-importing countries around the world that face surging prices and potential shortages.”

The commission said it has proposed an EU Emergency Support Program of about $360 million Ukraine “to help alleviate the suffering of Ukrainians caused by the Russian invasion.”

By the way: The University of Missouri’s Food and Agricultural Research Institute has released its new 10-year forecast for the farm economy, but the estimates come with a big asterisk: The analysis is based on market conditions in January, well before the war in Ukraine pushed commodity prices much higher.

According to FAPRI, the war could have a number of impacts, including increasing grain and oilseed exports and boosting production expenses for both livestock and crop producers. The economists say it “seems likely that the net impact on crop producers will be positive and the net impact on livestock producers negative.”

US-Japan beef deal awaits Japanese government OK

An agreement reached by U.S. and Japanese negotiators is expected to make it much less likely that strong U.S. beef exports to the country will set off higher tariffs on U.S. shipments as it did last year. But Japanese lawmakers still need to approve the deal, and U.S. trade officials say they don’t know how long that will take.

The agreement stipulates that three triggers – not just one – will have to be set off before Japan raises its tariff on U.S. beef. Under the new formula, the higher tariffs would be contingent on both U.S. beef exports and the combined exports of all Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership nations reaching their volume triggers, and on US beef shipments exceeding the previous year’s total.

“The way that we look at this agreement is that it adds a lot of certainty to the market, and it allows the U.S. to meet the demands of Japanese importers,” one official told reporters Wednesday night.

North Dakota growers asked to rejoin NAWG

The National Association of Wheat Growers is formally inviting the North Dakota Grain Growers Association to rejoin the national group.

Depending on the year, North Dakota ranks either No. 1 or No. 2 in U.S. wheat production, but NDGGA withdrew from NAWG in 2019, saying the state group was not getting enough for the dues it was paying.

In a letter to the North Dakotans, NAWG President Nicole Berg says “wheat growers in North Dakota and across the United States would benefit from working together on our industries’ priorities and having a united voice going into the 2023 Farm Bill reauthorization process.”

Berg says NAWG has made a number of improvements in operations and budgeting to address NDGGA’s concerns.

CFTC nominees advance

The Senate Ag Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved four nominees to be members of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

If confirmed by the full Senate, Kristin Johnson, Christy Goldsmith Romero, Summer Mersinger and Caroline Pham would return the CFTC’s five-member board to full capacity. CFTC is currently operating with two commissioners and could be down to one when Dawn Stump leaves in April.

The committee’s top Republican, John Boozman of Arkansas, said after the vote he’s “anxious to get the CFTC up and running.”

Senate resolution would designate 'Women in Agriculture Day'

A majority of the Senate is supporting a bipartisan resolution to designate today, March 24, as “National Women in Agriculture Day,” which would honor “the countless women who help agriculture prosper both at home and abroad.”

The resolution introduced this week by Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst and Minnesota Democrat Tina Smith is backed by 55 other senators.

The 1.2 million women farmers make up more than a third of all ag producers in the U.S., and accounted for $148 billion in sales in 2017, or 38% of the total, the resolution says.

FDA webinar focuses on response to outbreaks of foodborne disease

FDA is holding a webinar next month to discuss the agency’s Foodborne Outbreak Response Improvement Plan released in December.

The plan “focuses on tech-enabled product traceback, root cause investigations, analysis and dissemination of outbreak data, and operational improvements,” FDA said.

The meeting will take place April 13 at 2 p.m. Deputy FDA Commissioner Frank Yiannas and other FDA officials will answer questions.

He said it. “Well north of 80%.” - Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., on the odds of Congress passing the Ocean Shipping Reform Act.

Johnson said the Defense and Coast Guard authorization bills are both possible vehicles for OSRA as well as a U.S. competitiveness bill that the House and Senate will be negotiating. The Senate version of OSRA was approved by the Commerce Committee on Tuesday. OSRA is aimed at reducing port bottlenecks and shipping rates.

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