The U.S. ag sector depends on the ability to ship products between Mexico and Texas, and Governor Greg Abbott’s increased border inspection demands are drawing sharp concerns from American farm groups.
Jaime Castaneda, executive vice president of the National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council, says the “totally unnecessary” increased inspections aren’t impacting U.S. dairy exports, but they could provoke retaliation from the Mexican government. And that, he stressed, “would hurt us.”
Meanwhile, the added inspections that are causing hours of delays for northbound traffic are hurting U.S. poultry exports, according to the U.S. Poultry & Egg Export Council. That’s because American poultry exporters count on Mexican trucks to come across the border to pick up shipments from U.S. trucks, USAPEEC says.
Produce groups also have complained about the backups, noting their products are subject to spoilage because of long waits.
Abbott announced a border security agreement with one Mexican governor on Wednesday to help ease backups, but it does not apply to all bridges and border crossings.
Grassley supports immigration reform, laments complications
Sen. Chuck Grassley on Thursday said he would support reforms to grant temporary ag workers permanent status, but he lamented the uphill battle the legislation would face.
Grassley, R-Iowa, is the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, which handles immigration legislation.
He said a “little non-controversial bill,” like extending permanent status to H-2A and H-2B workers, would invite other, more controversial immigration amendments and sink the bill.
Grassley faces resistance in his own party. A spokesman for Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., the top Republican on the Senate Ag Committee, said he could not support any immigration legislation until “our borders are secure.”
Take note: Sens. Michael Crapo, R-Idaho, and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., have been engaged in negotiations for an immigration bill in the Senate.
The House last year passed its own bill, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, but the Senate has yet to take it up.
Grassley said while he is not part of those negotiations, he would be “glad to help that process along.”
Feenstra sees potential for congressional rewrite of Clean Water Act
Iowa Republican Rep. Randy Feenstra said on this week’s edition of Agri-Pulse Newsmakers that the best way to solve thorny issues around the definition of “waters of the U.S.” is to have Congress get involved.
“You have EPA dictating back and forth, depends on who's in the administration. You know, it's Congress's role to act and set policy and I think that's what has to happen,” said Feenstra. “To me, Congress needs to legislate and keep agencies like the EPA out of it.”
You can listen to Feenstra’s full interview on Agri-Pulse Newsmakers, which will be live on our website today.
China dominates US corn trade in first week of April
China, looking to lock down supplies of corn as the Russian invasion continues to stymie Ukrainian exports, purchased more than 1.7 million metric tons in the first week of April, according to the latest trade data out of USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
Of the total purchases, about 1.3 million tons are for delivery in the current 2021-22 marketing year and 408,000 tons are for delivery in the 2022-23 marketing year, which begins Sept. 1.
China was also the top destination for physical exports of U.S. corn from April 1-7. The U.S. shipped 471,500 tons of corn to China during the week. Mexico, Japan and Canada were also major destinations.
Livestock methane emissions down slightly in 2020, EPA says
Methane emissions from beef cattle dropped slightly in 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency says in its latest greenhouse gas emissions report, which found that total U.S. GHGs were down 9% in 2020, “largely due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on travel and economic activity.”
From 2019 to 2020, methane emissions from enteric fermentation (which come mostly from belching) decreased by half of a percent, “largely driven by a decrease in cattle populations,” EPA said. Beef cattle went from 126.5 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent to 125.3 million metric tons. Dairy cattle emissions went up, from 43.3 MMT to 43.6 MMT.
Mary-Thomas Hart, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association environmental counsel, said that based on the inventory, “direct emissions from beef cattle continue to be only 2% of overall U.S. GHG emissions” and that per pound, “emissions from cattle production have decreased 40% since 1960.”
American Farm Bureau Federation economist Shelby Myers said the data show that overall, “emissions from U.S. livestock continue to be less than 3% of overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.” In addition, she noted that methane emissions in 2020 represent less than 11% of all GHGs in the U.S., “whereas carbon dioxide emissions are 79% of U.S. greenhouse gases.”
Fertilizer manufacturer CF Industries warns of delays in nitrogen shipments
CF Industries is warning that shipments of nitrogen fertilizer will be delayed because of “railroad-mandated shipping reductions” imposed by Union Pacific.
Union Pacific told the fertilizer manufacturer April 8 it would have to reduce its shipments by nearly 20%, and that “noncompliance will result in the embargo of its facilities by the railroad,” CF said in a news release Thursday. As a result, the company said it “may not have available shipping capacity to take new rail orders involving Union Pacific rail lines to meet late season demand for fertilizer.”
The railroad said it was taking a series of actions to address congestion, including “partnering with customers to begin a metered approach in the coming days,” spokesperson Kristen South told Agri-Pulse.
“The approach allows us to continue serving all customers while simultaneously working through a backlog of cars, restoring our ability to process volume – an approach we successfully applied last year with West Coast intermodal traffic,” South said.
The Surface Transportation Board has scheduled a hearing for April 26-27 on rail service issues that have prompted complaints from the National Grain and Feed Association and Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack.
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