Key lawmakers continue to look at ways that farm programs could help producers cover the soaring cost of fertilizer and other inputs. Crop insurance industry consultant Alex Offerdahl told a House Ag subcommittee Wednesday that one possibility is to make margin policies more attractive.

Margin Protection policy has been available for some crops since 2016, but only about 6,000 are sold annually, largely because of the cost, said Offerdahl, who’s crop insurance division head for the consulting firm Watts and Associates.

Because the product is still considered experimental, the margin policy has a lower federal subsidy rate than conventional revenue products. Still, “there are tremendous opportunities to expand it nationwide rather than just core Midwest states and a handful of crops,” Offerdahl said.

The policy is designed to protect farmers against increases in input costs as well as declines in commodity prices and yields.

Take note: Offerdahl was asked about the product by Pennsylvania Republican Glenn Thompson, who’s in line to chair the full House Ag Committee, if Republicans win control of the House in November. Thompson regularly raises the idea of offering crop farmers some kind of margin coverage.

Feed regulation gets Hill’s attention

The feed industry is pleased with a House amendment that would provide $8 million to FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine to speed approval of new animal feed ingredients. The provision was included in a package of spending bills cleared by the House Wednesday.

“On average, studies have shown that it takes companies three to five years to get new ingredients through the FDA’s rigorous review process, which prevents innovation from making it to farmers and ranchers in a timely way,” American Feed Industry Association President Constance Cullman said.

Meanwhile: Leah Wilkinson, AFIA’s vice president of public policy and education, is applauding Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., for pressing FDA Commissioner Robert Califf on approval of feed ingredients that can reduce methane emissions from cattle.

“For years, we have been calling on Congress to boost funding for the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine as a means of alleviating the backlog of feed ingredients waiting to be reviewed,” Wilkinson said. “We know that beyond those, there are a plethora of innovative technologies to address our most pressing global challenges waiting in the wings to be reviewed as ingredients, not drugs, once some of the FDA’s regulatory procedural changes are made.”

By the way: Following the hearing, Califf told Agri-Pulse he meant what he told Moran about taking a close look at how FDA treats applications for animal feed ingredients, noting pointedly that Moran “is not the only senator” interested in the issue.

He also said the “top-to-bottom” review of the agency’s human foods program and Center for Tobacco Products would begin in a matter of days, and that 60 business days should be enough to complete it.

Food aid efforts slammed by shipping costs

The UN World Food Program expects to pay an extra $900 million in shipping costs for food aid this year, even as the agency struggles to find donors other than the United States to step up to address the global food crisis. That’s the word from David Beasley, WFP’s executive director.

In some cases, WFP has had to ration food aid because of the cost of commodities. “We’ve been having to take food form the hungry children to give to the starving children,” he said.

One of the ways to deal with commodity costs is to offer people cash vouchers. Beasley told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that WFP is providing $2 billion in aid via cash. That works in places such as Ukraine, where there is plenty of food available, but also in some poor countries as well. Cash aid “actually helps local economies,” he said.

Take note: Beasley warned the senators that food shortfalls could worsen next year because farmers can’t get access to fertilizer.

House panel tees up child nutrition reauthorization

The House Education and Labor Committee will mark up a bill next week that would significantly increase access to meals for children.

Introduced Wednesday by House Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott, D-Va., and Civil Rights and Human Services Subcommittee Chair Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act would expand a community eligibility provision, allowing more school districts to provide free meals to all students. The bill also would increase the reimbursement rate for lunch by 10 cents.

The bill also would add commodity assistance at a rate of 6 cents per meal, adjusted for inflation, to the School Breakfast Program.

But, but, but: There has been no similar move from the Senate Ag Committee to consider a CNR bill this year. That committee has jurisdiction over child nutrition programs in the Senate, but a committee aide says there have been no conversations about the issue recently.

Upper Colo. River states offer water plan to Reclamation

The four upper Colorado River Basin states have submitted a plan for protecting water in the Colorado River to the Bureau of Reclamation. But missing from it are any specific reductions in water usage. Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming suggest such cuts should come from the Lower Basin states and Mexico.

"Our water users already suffer chronic shortages under current conditions resulting in uncompensated priority administration, which includes cuts to numerous present perfected rights in each of our states,” they write.

Ag groups rally behind Beagle Brigade bill

Fifty-three agricultural groups are urging Congress to authorize the National Detector Dog Training Center, a proposed future training ground for the “Beagle Brigade.”

Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., first proposed establishing a center for detector dogs in February with the Beagle Brigade Act. The groups calling for passage of the bill include the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, American Veterinary Medical Association, National Pork Producers Council and American Transportation Association.

She said it. “This is a five alarm emergency, and I’ve never seen a food security crisis like this in my career.” - UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the global food crisis.

Correction: The item in the Wednesday, July 19, Daybreak about the proposed reduction in the pork checkoff rate should have said the vote in favor of the reduction earlier this year was by National Pork Board delegates.

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