Happy Earth Day. The White House is using today to tout the administration’s efforts to address climate change. President Biden, who pledged one year ago to halve U.S. carbon emissions by 2030, “launched the most ambitious environmental and climate agenda in history,” the White House says in its Earth Day proclamation.

That’s inarguable. But when it comes to agriculture, that agenda is decidedly incomplete. The proclamation notes the president’s “America the Beautiful” pledge to conserve 30% of U.S. land by 2030. But USDA has been struggling just to maintain enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program, much less expand it.

Meanwhile, Biden’s Build Back Better bill is dead in the Senate, leaving in limbo billions in new funding for climate-related ag practices.

Biden bright spot: Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack will be using his Commodity Credit Corp. to fund a series of climate-smart commodity projects.

Deb Fischer

Sen. Deb Fischer

Economists: Modified cattle bill retains major flaws

Seven economists from major land grant universities say the latest version of the Senate cattle market reform bill continues to pose major problems for the industry. The economists’ two-page commentary, provided to Senate Agriculture Committee minority staff, says the bill “is attempting to solve a problem that does not exist.”

They go on to say the bill “offers zero benefits for fed cattle markets and imposes many millions of dollars of additional cost, added risk, and lost value. The exact cost will depend on details of implementation, but the cost is minimally hundreds of millions of dollars resulting in lower feeder cattle prices and higher consumer beef prices.”

The economists say that because of the way the bill is written, USDA will likely “use ‘political’ objectives, not ‘economic efficiency’ as a guiding principle” in determining mandated levels of cash trades required by the bill.

Take note: A spokesperson for one of the bill’s lead sponsors, Deb Fischer, R-Neb., said the economists misstated some facts about the bill. And the spokesperson said several of the economists “who state price discovery is not an issue, have provided suggestions on improving price discovery.”

Grassley: I’ve got the votes

A co-sponsor of the cattle bill believes it has the necessary support to pass the Senate.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has assured him Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is willing to put the bill on the floor.

At least 10 Republicans would be needed to get the 60 votes necessary to pass the Senate. A Senate Ag Committee hearingon the bill is scheduled for Tuesday.

Glickman: Food security needs government focus

Former Ag Secretary Dan Glickman says the federal government needs to put a more coordinated focus on addressing food security, an issue that’s getting renewed attention because of the war in Ukraine.

“We have a special envoy on climate change, we have special envoys that will try to bring the government together through all the agencies of government. We don't really have that here … I'd like to see USDA take a higher profile role. I think it is the agency most equipped to handle this issue,” Glickman said during an interview for this week’s Agri-Pulse Newsmakers.

While the war has made food security “a higher priority issue among the countries of the world,” there are many moving pieces to consider, and that’s where having a special envoy would help, he said.

Newsmakers will be posted at Agri-Pulse.com today. 

USTR Katherine Tai with European Commission leader Valdis Dombrovskis..jpg

USTR Katherine Tai with European Commission leader Valdis Dombrovskis.

US, EU prep for WTO ministerial

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and European Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis used a Thursday meeting in Washington to discuss plans for the upcoming World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in June, the two leaders told reporters Thursday.

One primary U.S. goal shared by the U.S., EU, Canada and Japan for WTO reform is the creation of more transparency when it comes to export restrictions, market access, price supports and other subsidies.

The 12th Ministerial Conference, or MC12, will provide a key opportunity for nations to “ensure the relevance and importance” of the WTO, Dombrovskis said.

China leads the way in imports for US corn, soy and sorghum

China was the top purchaser and importer of U.S. corn, soybeans and sorghum in the second week of April, according to the latest data from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

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China purchased 675,000 metric tons of corn, 496,400 tons of soybeans and 11,400 tons of sorghum in the week of April 8-14 for delivery in the 2021-22 marketing year, according to the FAS report. The USDA agency also reported sales to China of 340,000 tons of corn and 669,000 tons of soybeans for 2022-23.

As to physical exports, the U.S. shipped 402,400 tons of corn, 204,000 of soybeans and 280,800 of sorghum to China during the seven-day period.

US customs denies pot shipments to Brits

The U.S. prizes its ability to export agricultural commodities – but not marijuana. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Thursday it blocked shipments of 150 pounds of U.S. grown marijuana that was en route to the UK.

“There were likely a lot of upset Brits who were unable to properly partake in the 420 Day observance after (CBP) officers intercepted a crazy amount of London-bound wacky weed this weekend at Washington Dulles International Airport,” the agency said. 

“CBP officers intercepted 80 parcels of Golden State ganja, 15 parcels of Las Vegas reefer, and five parcels of sinsemilla from Seattle.”

Take note: 420 Day is an unofficial holiday to celebrate marijuana.

He said it: “I’d be more worried about the Republican chairman of the committee not wanting to move it out of committee.” - Sen. Chuck Grassley, when asked what would happen to his cattle bill on the Senate floor in 2023, if it doesn’t make it out of the Senate this year and Republicans win the Senate majority.

Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., is in line to take the Ag Committee gavel, if the chamber changes hands. 

Questions, comments, tips? Email philip@agri-pulse.com.