Inflation remains at center stage during this election year, and congressional Democrats are preparing to move a series of bills they say will help target the issue.

The House votes next week on the Senate-passed Ocean Shipping Reform Act as well as a package of seven bills aimed at addressing high fertilizer prices and issues in the meat and biofuels industries.

The Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act will include a measure creating a special investigator’s office in USDA’s Packers and Stockyards Division. The package also includes a bill intended to allow year-round sales of E15 and a measure to increase payments under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program for nutrient management practices.

The measures included in the package have some GOP sponsors. But the House Ag Committee’s top Republican, Glenn “GT” Thompson, calls the legislation a “charade that does nothing to lower the food and fuel costs currently hammering American families, consumers, and producers.”

OSRA is aimed at easing port bottlenecks and lowering shipping rates. Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Daniel Maffei has said he’ll  he move quickly to implement the bill’s provisions. The Senate passed the measure by unanimous consent on March 31.

Mark it down: The Senate Ag Committee is preparing to vote the week after next, possibly June 22, on the Senate version of the Packers and Stockyards measure as well as a bill intended to mandate minimum levels of cash trading in the cattle industry.

While we’re at it: Speaking of fertilizer costs, fertilizer giant Nutrien says it will increase its potash production capacity to 18 million tons by 2025, a 40% increase over its 2020 production. But a major Iowa beef processor, Iowa Premium, a unit of National Beef Packing, has put off expansion plans, citing construction costs, according to the Des Moines Register.

By the way: The Consumer Price Index for May is being released today. Watch for our look at food prices. 

Buttigieg optimistic on dockworker talks

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says the administration is closely watching negotiations with West Coast dockworkers, and so far, “everything is proceeding smoothly on that front.”

But Buttigieg, this week’s guest for Agri-Pulse Newsmakers, stopped short of providing assurances that supply chains will be back to normal by this fall’s harvest.

"You know, the truth is from day to day, week to week, there seems to be always a new factor or surprise that could play a role in our supply chains,” Buttigieg said. “It's exactly why we’re working on both the immediate term and the longer term investments to make sure our supply chains are resilient, no matter what the curveball, no matter what the shock.”

By the way: Buttigieg expects states to start building out electric vehicle charging stations soon after they submit their state plans, due in August. The new stations will ensure it’s as easy to “find a charge as it is to know there'll be a gas station when you go on a road trip,” he said.

Newsmakers will post today at

State Department: Lack of Ukraine grain all Russias fault

State Department officials addressed reporters from Africa and around the world Thursday to stress that Russia is entirely to blame for the difficulty in getting grain and other food out of Ukraine.

The Russian navy is blocking three key Ukrainian ports, preventing Ukraine from shipping out millions of tons of wheat and corn that are trapped in storage, the officials said.

The officials denied U.S. sanctions on Russian banks are preventing Russia from exporting wheat or fertilizer. “There’s really nothing that is stopping Russia itself from exporting its grain to Africa, but stopping Ukraine from exporting its grain to Africa is, in fact, Russia,” said Special Envoy for Global Food Security Cary Fowler.

Central Plains sees some drought relief

Drought conditions continue to ease a bit in Kansas and Colorado, thanks to heavy rainfall over the past week. But there’s been little change in California, Texas and New Mexico, according to the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor. Both states are critical for winter wheat production.

Some 27% of Kansas is now rated in severe to exceptional drought condition, down from 34% a week ago.

Lawmakers counter Snake River dam breaching efforts

A group of Republican lawmakers wants to tighten Congress’s grip on the operations of four dams on the lower Snake River.

The bill introduced by 10 members of the Congressional Western Caucus is the latest development in a long-running debate over whether the four eastern Washington dams should be breached to increase salmon numbers. The bill would prevent federal agencies from making modifications to dam operations that would restrict electrical generation or limit navigation on the Snake River.

Keep in mind: Northwest lawmakers are divided over the best way to revive the Snake River salmon populations.

Shoppers mixing it up on food purchases

Grocery shoppers are fast-embracing a hybrid approach, using both online and in-store purchasing to keep costs down, among other reasons, a new industry report says.

FMI-The Food Industry Association says only 7% of shoppers reported ordering groceries online in 2015. Today, half of online food shoppers use the internet to get groceries every two weeks or more.

Heather Garlich, a senior vice president at FMI, says grocers “continue to do everything possible to avoid passing increased costs onto customers.”

He said it: "We're excited about the prospect of this potentially becoming a USDA program, something that could be in the farm bill next time around.” -  Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig, speaking at World Pork Expo about the state’s cover crop insurance discount program, which awards farmers a $5-per-acre discount on crop insurance premiums.

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