A rare moment of unity occurred in Washington Tuesday as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle heaped praise on President Joe Biden for allowing summertime sales of E15.
From Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., to House Ag Committee Chair David Scott, D-Ga., Republicans and Democrats issued statements cheering the decision.
Thune, who has been critical of Biden on biofuels, said “the president is right to take this step,” and Scott said the “announcement from President Biden will have a great impact.”
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., said she’s “glad President Biden heeded our call to help lower prices at the pump,” and that she hopes it remains permanent.
Others, like Iowa senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, were more measured in their praise – framing the announcement as Biden reacting to months of criticism.
In a joint statement, Grassley said he’s “glad President Biden is finally listening,” and Ernst said “at long last, the president has relented.”
But be warned: The Biden administration insists that the reprieve is temporary and that electric vehicles remain central to its climate change efforts.
And American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers CEO Chet Thompson said the group supports relief at the pump, “but an unlawful executive order is not how to solve the problem. Emergency fuel waivers are short term and reserved for very specific unforeseen events and regionally acute supply disruptions, such as those resulting from a hurricane.
“An additional three months of E15 sales won’t do anything to address high crude oil prices, and 98% of retail stations can’t even sell the fuel. This is politics, not a real solution for drivers,” Thompson said.
Read more in the Agri-Pulse weekly newsletter on the E15 decision, Cuba’s burning desire to import U.S. agricultural products, and EPA’s plans to work through its pesticide registration backlog while minimizing harm to endangered species.
Mayne defends FDA food and nutrition work, offers water testing update
Susan Mayne, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said Tuesday the agency is still combing through public comments surrounding a proposed change that would drop some water testing requirements for covered produce.
Speaking at a webinar sponsored by the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, Mayne said she could not comment on timelines, but that the agency is trying to ensure it considers all the public comments as it moves forward with the proposal.
The proposed rule, which replaces previously proposed microbial testing requirements, still would require farmers to conduct pre-harvest agricultural water assessments once a year or whenever they suspect hazards have been introduced to produce.
“Agricultural water is a tough one,” Mayne said. “We have to look at all the different ways that agricultural water is used across the entire food system.”
Mayne defended CFSAN in light of a recent POLITICO story that concluded FDA “is failing to meet American consumers' expectations on food safety and nutrition.”
“I see a program that has gotten more done in the past seven years than probably any time in its history without having any significant increase in size and despite being under a deregulatory administration for four of those years and an ongoing global pandemic,” Mayne said.
FAO: Drought worsens hunger crisis in Somalia
The number of people suffering catastrophic hunger in Somalia will surpass 6 million – about 38% of the population – by June, according to a new report from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.
The crisis is a direct impact of worsening drought in the Horn of Africa region, according to the agency, which is calling for more international food aid.
“The only way to prevent a catastrophic food crisis from breaking and driving rural displacement is to act now at scale to enable farmers and pastoralists to feed their families, keep life-sustaining animals watered, healthy and productive, and avoid selling-off other key productive assets to pay for their next meal,” said FAO Director of Emergencies Rein Paulsen.
Edge co-op presses for new market access in Biden’s Indo-Pacific plan
The Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative is the latest voice demanding that the Biden administration include deals for new market access as it negotiates its Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).
“Greater market access for U.S. dairy exports means more to the industry now than ever,” Edge said in comments submitted to the Office of the USTR. “Exports are essential for balance of the U.S. milk supply and demand, growth of the industry and, at the end of the day, the dairy farmers’ milk checks. With growing global demand for dairy products, notably across the Indo-Pacific Region, it is only reasonable that the U.S. seek to tackle the lowest barrier to entry, market access.”
Lawmakers used hearings in the House and Senate last month to demand that U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai negotiate new tariff-slashing market access terms in the IPEF, but she said that was not part of the plan.
Tai explained in a Senate hearing last month that while the IPEF will not have the kind of market access provisions found in free trade agreements, it will “enhance our access to foreign markets.”
Weeds bedeviling Midwest soybean growers
New research from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the University of Illinois shows that as the climate continues to change, soybean farmers in the Midwest may need new strategies to keep weeds at bay.
Lead author Christopher Landau, a postdoctoral research assistant at ARS, found variable weather conditions can have big impacts. For example, he says even with herbicides offering decent weed control, drought conditions during the plants’ reproductive stage can be devastating.
“Having really high temperatures during that same time led to relatively high yield losses as well, like 25%, 26% yield losses,” he said.
Over the long-term, Landau says herbicides alone likely won’t be enough to control weeds. He says new technologies like electric robots that manually pick weeds and harvest systems that grind weed seeds to reduce their prevalence in the soil may help.
Farmers also can adjust their planting date or choose different seeds. He said in central Illinois, choosing a maturity group slightly higher than the generally recommended one helped the soybean plants out-compete the weeds.
The paper, “Deteriorating weed control and variable weather portends greater soybean yield losses in the future,” appears in the journal Science of the Total Environment. Landau says the next step is to expand the study across the Midwest and into corn as well as soybeans.
He said it: “This is an industry with a tremendous future. You simply can’t get to net-zero by 2050 without biofuels.” – President Joe Biden in Menlo, Iowa, Tuesday.
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