Some results from Tuesday’s primaries hold implications for ag policy. The top Republican on the Senate Ag Committee, John Boozman, beat back a challenge from his right in Arkansas. The Associated Press called the race about 10 p.m. EDT with Boozman well over the 50% threshold he needed to avoid a runoff.
Boozman, who is favored to win in November, would be in line to chair the Ag Committee should Republicans win control of the Senate.
In Georgia, football great Herschel Walker won the GOP nomination to face Senate Ag member Raphael Warnock in November. Walker’s GOP challengers included Georgia Ag Commissioner Gary Black.
Formula crisis takes center stage on Hill
FDA Commissioner Robert Califf and two deputies responsible for food safety face a grilling from lawmakers today over the ongoing infant formula shortage. They will be followed at the House Energy and Commerce committee hearing by executives of formula manufacturers.
Joining Califf will be Frank Yiannas, the deputy commissioner for food policy and response, and Susan Mayne, director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee also has a hearing on the crisis today.
Ukrainian household farmers fight off food shortages
More than half of Ukraine’s 14.7 million households produce dairy, beef, pork, fruits or vegetables and take what they don’t consume to local markets. It’s a factor that makes the country far less susceptible to food shortages even during war, according to USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has become an ultimate test of the resilience of Ukrainian agriculture,” according to the report from the FAS office in Kyiv.
“Rural families have long viewed their vegetable gardens and agricultural animals as a safety net meant to provide families with stable food … or income in the case of extraordinary events such as major economic crises, temporary unemployment, epidemics, or a war.”
Take note: Organizations like the United Nations and U.S. Agency for International Development are still delivering food as well as farming assistance, such as seed potatoes, farm equipment and inputs.
Senator: Double-cropping incentives unlikely to help
Sen. Chuck Grassley, one of the Senate’s few members with a farming background, doubts the Biden administration’s effort to increase double cropping will have much impact. USDA is looking at expanding the number of counties where double cropping is an insurable practice.
But Grassley, R-Iowa, thinks most farmers who can double crop will do so without additional incentives.
“If the administration can spend X number of dollars to encourage more double cropping, I'm not going to fight that,” Grassley told reporters Tuesday. “But I'm kind of at a loss to think that every farmer that could do that isn't already doing it.”
For more on the challenges the administration’s plan faces, read this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter. We also check in on the status of the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which is stalled in the House, and look at how food inflation is figuring into the mid-term campaigns.
Industry to EPA: Keep RFS critics off review panel
A major ethanol industry group is trying to block critics of the Renewable Fuel Standard from getting on a panel providing peer review of EPA’s triennial report on the environmental impacts of the RFS.
“Some of these candidates have long-standing histories of ideologically biased statements and positions, dubious scientific work, and conflicts in sources of funding that may lead to sponsorship bias,” said the Renewable Fuels Association, announcing it had submitted comments to EPA.
The agency's in the process of choosing up to nine peer reviewers among 20 candidates. The three candidates RFA wants EPA to reject are Tyler Lark, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin; Jason D. Hill, a professor in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering at the University of Minnesota; and Tim Searchinger, a senior research scholar at Princeton University's Center for Policy Research on Energy and the Environment.
Enviros plan suit over APHIS grasshopper spraying
Two environmental groups have announced their plans to file a lawsuit against USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service over the insecticides used in its grasshopper spraying program.
The Xerces Society and the Center for Biological Diversity claim APHIS violated the Endangered Species Act by not consulting with the Fish and Wildlife Service when the rangeland pesticides program was reauthorized in 2019 and when APHIS began using two new pesticides, diflubenzuron and chlorantraniliprole.
The groups state in their letter that many species potentially sensitive to these pesticides have been ESA-listed since the program was approved by FWS in 1995.
APHIS uses authority under the Plant Protection Act to treat grasshopper outbreaks, like one that devastated parts of the west last year, through its Grasshopper and Mormon Crickets Program. The program treated approximately 805,000 acres of land last year and will likely spray more this year, as the west grapples with another massive outbreak.
That’s not all: The center also has submitted a petition to EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs seeking changes to pesticide labels. The group wants EPA to require all pesticide labels to be provided in both Spanish and English, “since many Spanish-speaking farmworkers do not read English.”
It also wants to see universal warning labels for endangered species for all pesticides used outdoors.
He said it. “There's never been a more important time than right now for farmers to have a successful crop, because we're facing a world threatened by food shortages and food insecurity.” - Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, criticizing the Justice Department’s position in a pesticide case.