Growth Energy is challenging an alternative compliance approach for refineries to meet their obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard that the group says excuses refiners from having to comply with their blending obligations under the law.

In April, EPA denied small refinery exemptions for 31 facilities “but declined to hold affected refiners accountable for meeting any blending obligations for that year,” Growth said in a news release. “Instead, EPA crafted a novel ‘alternative compliance’ approach that excused these refiners from ever having to comply with their 2018 blending obligations.”

“In June, EPA reaffirmed this approach when it excused [three] additional refiners whose petitions for 2016 and 2017 SREs it denied for the first time,” the group said.

“EPA’s ‘alternative’ approach to RFS compliance provides no actual alternatives for refineries to meet their biofuel blending obligations,” Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said.

Growth filed its petition concerning the 2016-18 compliance years in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

FDA gives okay to biotech wheat, but other hoops remain

The Food and Drug Administration has given its green light to a genetically modified wheat from Argentine-based Bioceres Crop Solutions to be drought resistant, but the controversial biotech grain still needs to go through lengthy approvals by USDA and EPA before it can be commercialized, says a spokesman for U.S. Wheat Associates.

“The finding by the FDA is not an approval for this or any other transgenic wheat to be planted for commercial sale in the United States,” USW and the National Association of Wheat Growers said in a statement. “Bioceres recently announced it will seek approval to plant HB4 wheat in Australia, but it has not announced plans to commercialize the trait in the United States.”

Brazil last year approved imports of flour made from HB4 wheat that is being grown and harvested in Argentina.

The U.S. wheat sector is heavily dependent on the ability to export and remains concerned that the commercialization of biotech wheat could result in the loss of foreign markets in countries like Japan and South Korea.

Edge co-op suggests new dairy reforms

Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative is offering new proposals for sweeping industry reforms.

Wisconsin-based Edge, which isn’t a member of the National Milk Producers Federation, wants to overhaul federal milk marketing orders to account for regional differences. The proposal would require action by Congress either in the farm bill or other legislation. 

Edge also laid out a set of 10 contracting principles. Among them: Farmers should be paid for their milk every two weeks, with no more than a three-week lag. Edge also lays out requirements for improving price transparency.  

NMPF is seeking a change in the way milk is priced under the current marketing order system.

US, Taiwan hold first trade pact talks

High level U.S. and Taiwanese officials on Tuesday held their first round of negotiations for a trade pact to bolster the two countries’ relationship despite Chinese opposition.

“The United States and Taiwan have a long-standing trade and investment relationship rooted in shared values,” said Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Sarah Bianchi. “This initiative will unlock market opportunities, promote innovation and create inclusive economic growth for our workers and businesses.”

Take note: Taiwan became the sixth largest foreign market for U.S. agriculture commodities after importing $3.94 billion worth of beef, dairy, soybeans, fruit, tree nuts, vegetables and other products in 2021.

Taiwan’s imports of U.S. ag commodities rose by 18% in 2021 despite high tariffs, but the new pact will not include any deals to lower trade taxes, according to U.S. government officials.

Report confirms animal antibiotic use down sharply globally

The World Organization for Animal Health reports that the use of antimicrobials in animals dropped by 27% form 2016 and 2018. That tracks with a similar decrease in farm antibiotic usage in the United States. 

WOAH, which was founded as OIE, also says that 69% of 157 reporting countries no longer allow the use of antibiotics for growth promotion as of 2020. The most widely used antimicrobial for growth promotion – flavomycin – isn’t used in human medicine. Colistin, a drug of last resort in humans, is still allowed in six countries for growth promotion.

In the U.S., where FDA has significantly tightened restrictions on agricultural usage of antibiotics, sales of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals peaked in 2015 and had dropped by 38% as of 2020, the latest year for which data is available. Sales declined 3% from 2019 to 2020. 

Farm bill needs to prioritize water quality, enviro groups say

The farm bill needs to prioritize water quality, a group of mostly environmental organizations are saying in a letter sent to all members of Congress.

The groups urge Congress to double conservation spending in the farm bill and create a Clean Water Outcomes Matching Program in the Regional Conservation Partnership Program to provide incentives to states to adopt outcomes-based water quality funds.

They also want the crop insurance program “modernized to protect water quality and promote more diverse and sustainable cropping systems,” and want to eliminate the current designation of half of all Environmental Quality Incentives Program funding for livestock, “as much of these funds currently go to industrial animal operations and subsidize environmentally harmful practices.”

Among the more than 50 groups signing the letter are the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, National Latin Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association, and Natural Resources Defense Council.

Phil Brasher and Steve Davies contributed to this report.
Questions, comments, tips? Email