There are new warnings today about the potential impact of China’s involvement in U.S. agriculture.
A report being released by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission says China could gain further leverage over U.S. supply chains if it continues to purchase agribusinesses in the United States.
The report by the congressionally created commission also says Chinese attempts to steal trade secrets surrounding crops and agricultural technology could hinder U.S. competitiveness. And by acquiring genetic data, China could even initiate disease outbreaks targeting biotech U.S. crops, the report says.
By the way: The report questions the accuracy of the foreign land ownership data currently collected by the USDA, saying Chinese companies “may easily circumvent current reporting requirements under the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure act and could repurpose the purchased land with little concern of repercussions from USDA.”
For more on the report, go to Agri-Pulse.com.
FDA chief: We need food company data
FDA Commissioner Robert Califf says his agency needs legal authority to get food company data that’s critical to investigating and preventing disease outbreaks.
“What we really need is access to the information that the manufacturers have about each of their individual supply chains,” he told lawmakers Thursday. He believes FDA should be able to obtain information from companies through “remote regulatory assessments,” a tool the agency has for drug inspections.
Voluntary cooperation isn’t enough, Califf said. “We are seeking to expand the explicit statutory authority in … the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to require firms to provide records or other information pertaining to all FDA-regulated products,” he said in written testimony.
Califf assured lawmakers he would accelerate efforts to conduct a wholesale review of FDA’s food side, which has never received the attention or funding from Congress afforded to the drugs and medical products side of FDA.
CBO lowers farm program cost estimates
The Congressional Budget Office is lowering its cost estimates for farm bill commodity programs due to the sharp increases in commodity prices. At the same time, CBO says the government is going to spend a lot more on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program than previously thought.
CBO estimates farmers will receive just $480 million in Price Loss Coverage payments in fiscal 2023 and $422 million in FY24. That’s down from the $838 million and $2.3 billion CBO had previously estimated for those years. PLC payments trigger when market prices fall below the program's reference prices.
By the way: CBO expects farmers to get $6 a bushel for their 2022 corn crop but just $4.45 in 2023 and $4.10 in 2024.
SNAP is projected to cost $159 billion this year and $140 billion in 2023. CBO previously expected the program’s cost to fall to $105 billion this year and $79 billion in 2023.
Bottom line: Nutrition spending was originally expected to account for 76% of the cost of the 2018 farm bill. That share is going to be much higher heading into the next farm bill debate.
More bleak news on food inflation
USDA has sharply raised its forecast for supermarket prices, now projecting they will jump by 7% to 8% this year. That’s up from the 5% to 6% annual increase forecast in April.
Avian flu is one of the factors. Egg prices are now projected to be 19.5% to 20.5% higher this year, up from the 6% to 7% increase forecast just last month. Poultry prices are expected to increase 8.5% to 9.5% this year.
But consumers are paying a lot more for other foods, too. Dairy prices are forecast up 7% to 8% in 2022, and prices for fats and oils are expected to increase by 10% to 11%. Beef prices are expected to be 6% to 7% higher, while fruits and vegetables are forecast to cost 6.5% to 7.5% more.
Argonne Lab posts challenge to ethanol study
Another salvo has been fired in the academic fight over the Renewable Fuel Standard’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions. A group of scientists and economists is challenging a highly publicized study published earlier this year that claims corn ethanol is likely more carbon intense than gasoline because of land use changes driven by the RFS.
“Our detailed review of the original paper and the responses by those authors reveals various major deficiencies, problematic assessments, and misinterpretation of the existing literature,” according to the latest comments, posted online by the Argonne National Laboratory.
The Renewable Fuels Association has opposed appointment of the lead author of the paper in question, Tyler Lark, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment, to a panel reviewing EPA’s triennial report on the environmental impact of the RFS.
USAID seeks farmer aid for Afghanistan
The U.S. Agency for International Development is asking Congress for $71 million to help Afghanistan’s farmers survive by providing seeds, fertilizer and other inputs, USAID Administrator Samantha Power told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee Wednesday. It’s just a small fraction of USAID’s $29.4 billion budget proposal for fiscal 2023.
The assistance is needed to lessen Afghanistan’s future need for food aid in an economy that is in a free-fall under Taliban leadership, Power said. Providing any help to the country is tricky because USAID is prohibited from benefitting the Taliban.
He said it. “I was enjoying a nice life in the private sector living under the Golden Gate bridge.” - FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, referring to his stint overseeing health strategy and policy at Google before returning to the agency.