President Joe Biden is releasing his fiscal 2023 budget proposal today, kicking off the annual appropriations process in Congress. 

A key area to watch is what the administration wants to do on agricultural research. Biden’s FY22 budget proposed a 16% increase in spending for USDA, including a $647 million boost for agricultural research programs. The FY22 omnibus that Biden signed into law earlier this month increased ag research spending by $217 million, to $3.5 billion.

The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee launches its work on its FY23 spending bill with a hearing Tuesday with USDA’s inspector general. 

For more on this week’s packed D.C. agenda, read our Washington Week Ahead

Fortenberry leaving Congress after conviction

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry will resign from his seat Thursday, March 31, he said in a statement Saturday, days after he was convicted of lying to investigators who were looking into illegal campaign contributions.

“Due to the difficulties of my current circumstances, I can no longer effectively serve,” Fortenberry, R-Neb., said in a statement. In October, he resigned from the House ag appropriations subcommittee and his other committee assignments after being indicted.

Following the conviction by a federal jury, House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy had called for Fortenberry to resign.

What’s next: Under state law, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts must call a special election within 90 days of Fortenberry’s seat being vacated.

Poultry, dairy among food price leaders in 2022

Grocery shoppers should buckle up. USDA has raised its forecast for supermarket prices, estimating that they will rise 3% to 4%. That’s a full percentage point higher than the February forecast and well above the 20-year average of 2% a year. 

USDA raised its inflation estimate for nearly every food group. Prices for poultry and for fats and oils are both expected to be 6% to 7% higher in 2022. Prices for fresh fruits are estimated to rise by 5% to 6%, and prices in the dairy case are expected to jump by 4-5%. 

Prices for beef, which helped pace food inflation over 2020 and 2021, are expected to be 3% to 4% higher this year. 

Take note: USDA economists say it isn’t clear yet what the impact of avian flu outbreaks will be on poultry prices. Wholesale poultry prices already have been on the rise, increasing 4.1%. They’re up 26.5% since February 2021. 

“Highly pathogenic avian influenza could either place upward pressure on poultry prices through decreased production or downward pressure through decreased access to international markets,” according to the Food Price Outlook.

And on that subject: The Nebraska Department of Agriculture on Saturday canceled all poultry events across the state due to highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). The order prohibits birds of any type at events including but not limited to fairs, expositions, swap meets, exotic sales and live bird auctions. The order will be in effect until at least May 1. Iowa’s ag department issued a similar order last week.

Ukraine appoints new ag minister amid war’s impact on farming

Mykola Solskyi will step up to be Ukraine’s acting minister of agriculture after Roman Leshchenko resigned last week, according to officials with the Ukraine Agriculture Ministry.

Low supplies of fuel, fertilizer and manpower to operate farm machinery are the main problems facing Ukraine’s farmers, officials say.

US seen exporting more ethanol to Brazil after tariff falls

U.S. exports of ethanol to Brazil have dropped sharply since Brazil allowed its tariff rate quota for the U.S. to expire in late 2020, but those shipments are expected to pick up again now that Brazil is completely suspending its 18% tariff on the fuel through December, according to a new analysis by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

Brazil’s suspension of its tariff is only a temporary move by the Ministry of Economy to try to cut retail prices gasoline prices for consumers, but U.S. farm and ethanol groups are hoping it will be made permanent. Brazil currently mandates a 25% ethanol blend for gasoline, according to FAS.

“We look forward to continuing to work closely with USDA and USTR to return to a fair and reciprocal trading relationship with Brazil regarding ethanol,” U.S. Grains Council President and CEO Ryan LeGrand, Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor and Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper said in a joint statement.

Potato growers protest trade resumption of Prince Edward Island trade 

The National Potato Council expressed disappointment Friday with USDA’s announcement that Canada would resume exporting spuds of Prince Edward Island spuds to the U.S. despite the presence of potato wart on the island.

“Potato wart has been found in Prince Edward Island in eight of the past 10 years, and in a total of 33 potato fields since 2000,” NPC said. “The frequency of finds — plus the dramatic drop in the number of disease tests via soil samples — should make U.S. regulators question the prevalence of the disease on the island.”

But Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said USDA is “confident that table stock potatoes can enter the United States with appropriate safeguards in place to ensure the U.S. potato industry remains protected.”

In a news release, USDA said its requirements and measures instituted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency require potatoes from PEI and the seed potatoes used to produce them “must originate from fields not known to be infested with potato wart or associated with known infestations.”

The table stock potatoes also must be washed in PEI to remove soil, treated with a sprout inhibitor, and graded to meet the U.S. No 1 standard, USDA said. 

He said it: “Our ‘tractor troops’ … take Russian equipment in the fields and give it to our Armed Forces of Ukraine. In particular, the latest models that Russia has tried to keep secret.” Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, referencing Ukrainian farmers in a March 26 address. 

CORRECTION: Agri-Pulse incorrectly reported that Taras Vysotsky was chosen as Ukraine’s new agriculture minister. Mykola Solskyi was given the position.