Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is in Germany through this weekend for meetings with his G7 counterparts.
President Biden, who was with Vilsack at an Illinois farm on Thursday, said the ag ministers will talk about actions “we can take to increase fertilizer suppliers globally” while also making the case against food export restrictions.
Vilsack heads to Poland on Sunday for further talks on the impact of the war in Ukraine.
Biden said the war still threatens food security in Africa and the Middle East, citing 20 million tons of grain stuck in silos in Ukraine because of the war.
USDA prioritizing precision ag
Biden announced three new steps to help farmers boost crop production and deal with soaring input costs, including increased technical assistance to promote precision agriculture methods.
Few details on that plan are available, but a USDA spokesperson says the department will be prioritizing precision ag within the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Stewardship Program.
The top Republican on the Senate Ag Committee, John Boozman of Arkansas, called the president's latest measures a "positive step.” But Boozman said "it will take years for the benefits” to be realized.
Keep in mind: Supermarket prices jumped another 1% in April,and are up 10.8% over the past year, according to the latest Consumer Price Index.
Consumers concerned about bird flu
Some 60% of consumers are concerned about the impact of the avian influenza outbreak on food prices, according to Purdue University’s monthly Consumer Food Insights Report. That concern appears to be well-grounded: Egg prices increased more than 10% in April, and poultry prices were up 3%.
The survey also found that 23% of all rural households are facing food insecurity, compared to 14% of all households.
“Rural Americans struggle more often than urban Americans to buy the food they want,” said Purdue economist Jayson Lusk. “As one might expect, current economic conditions appear to have further disadvantaged this group.
Kaptur joins House Ag
Ohio Democrat Marcy Kaptur, a long-time senior member of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, is joining the House Ag Committee.
Kaptur said she looks forward “to ensuring America’s industrial and agricultural heartland receives the attention and investment it deserves.”
East coast braces for shortage of diesel, a farm necessity during planting
Several eastern states are currently seeing high demand for diesel fuel, and retailers are bracing for potential shortages.
"We are aware of concerns over diesel supply in specific markets across the United States,” said Brad Jenkins, the senior vice president of supply and distribution for Pilot Co., a major retailer. "Most markets in the eastern U.S. remain extremely low on diesel inventory levels and refinery issues are creating tightness in the St. Louis and Indianapolis markets.”
The situation stems in part from the conflict in Ukraine and the loss of fuel exports from Russia, which has already caused shortages in Europe.
American Petroleum Institute Chief Economist Dean Foreman says the Midwest and West likely won’t struggle with supply in the same way the East Coast might. "It's the Atlantic coast that's most exposed or dependent upon trading with Europe and that's where we've seen a big break.”
Republicans demand EIS on 30x30
Some 21 Senate Republicans are calling on the Biden administration to stop work on its 30x30 initiative until it does an environmental impact statement and discloses the legal authority behind the effort.
Biden has committed the administration to trying to conserve 30% of U.S. land by 2030 as a way to address climate change.
“Despite the lack of transparency and promised consultation, 30x30 is moving forward outside the scope of public review,” the senators say in a letter to the White House.
Administration sets permitting plan for infrastructure projects
A Biden administration “action plan” to expedite environmental permitting for infrastructure projects while ensuring protection of natural resources and vulnerable communities is being panned by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
NRECA said the plan, unveiled Wednesday, “fails to deliver the necessary reforms to streamline environmental reviews and permitting of electric transmission and other projects to modernize America’s electric infrastructure.”
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The plan intends to accelerate permitting through early cross-agency coordination and establish clear timelines for projects funded under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Farmers should be wary of food companies, author says
The author of ”Resetting the Table: Straight Talk About the Food We Grow and Eat,” offered some blunt advice for farm groups on a Farm Foundation webinar Wednesday.
Robert Paarlberg, an associate in the Sustainability Science Program at the Harvard Kennedy School, told farm groups and agribusinesses to “frankly, stop bragging about the fact that America's food system is the safest, the most abundant and the most affordable in the world.”
While true, he said that same system “is producing too many unhealthy results,” citing the high U.S. obesity rate. This “dietary health crisis is increasingly blamed … on what American farms grow,” he said.
Farmers should “do things that will separate your reputation from the unhealthy foods” produced by food manufacturers and form partnerships with the public health community.
But, but, but: Eve Turow-Paul, founder and executive director of Food for Climate League, pushed back. “Instead of creating a divide between farmers and food companies, we actually need more relationships, more innovation, more co-creation” between farmers and food manufacturers, she said.
CFTC looking into carbon markets.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is holding its first-ever meeting on carbon markets next month to discuss the supply and demand for carbon offsets. With the emergence of derivatives that are tied to carbon credits, the June 2 meeting will focus on such issues as standardization and the data needed to back up claims about the offsets’ impact on emissions.
“As companies increasingly turn to the derivatives markets to manage risk and keep pace with global efforts to decarbonize, I look forward to the CFTC’s facilitating these discussions,” said CFTC Chairman Rostin Behnam. “Our goal is to foster innovation in crafting solutions to the climate crisis while ensuring integrity and customer protection.”
He said it. “I stand here today to thank American farmers, who are the breadbasket of democracy. You really are.” President Biden, talking about the importance of U.S. ag production in light of the war in Ukraine.
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