The U.S. House should be the final stop this week for a historic funding package aimed at slashing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Vice President Kamala Harris cast the deciding vote in the Senate Sunday afternoon after a marathon, around-the-clock debate.
The final bill was amended to include more than $5 billion in farm debt relief as well as $4 billion in drought funding for the Bureau of Reclamation. The bill also provides about $18 billion for four farm bill conservation programs and additional funding for USDA-run energy and forest programs.
Farm groups had remained relatively mum in the wake of the Schumer-Manchin deal and the resulting GOP outcry. But Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, issued a statement Sunday calling the measure a "game-changer" for the dairy industry.
What’s next: House members are scheduled to return from their August recess and consider the bill on Friday.
Intra-GOP fight leaves ag credit bill stalled
Even as the Democratic climate funding package heads toward the finish line, another significant measure remains mired in the House – the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which would authorize USDA to certify credit verification services and ag advisers.
The chief Senate GOP sponsor of the bill, Indiana Sen. Mike Braun, is expressing some frustration that the House Ag Committee’s top Republican, Glenn Thompson, has yet to let the bill move to the floor.
Braun tells Agri-Pulse that he worked out Thompson’s concerns with the bill, only to have Thompson now insist on attaching a separate measure he wants passed called the SUSTAINS Act. Braun says that would make it harder to pass the GCSA. “I don’t know how serious he was about doing it in the first place,” Braun said of Thompson and the GCSA.
A House staffer familiar with Thompson’s thinking disagrees that his concerns with the GCSA have been fully addressed. The staffer says Thompson thinks attaching SUSTAINS would make it easier to win House GOP support for the GCSA, but that it’s not a non-negotiable demand. Thompson’s key concern with the bill revolves around the process for self-certifying ag services.
By the way: Thompson's SUSTAINS Act would allow corporations and other private entities to contribute to USDA conservation programs. The committee approved the bill in June.
Farmland values jump more than 12%
The average value of U.S. farmland has jumped 12.4% this year to $3,800 an acre, a $420-an-acre increase over 2021, according to USDA’s annual Land Values report.
Cropland values have increased even more – by 14.3% to an average of $5,050 an acre. Pasture values are up 11.5%.
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The biggest increases are in the western Corn Belt and central Plains. Iowa land is now worth an average of $9,400 an acre, a 21.4% increase over 2021, while Minnesota land values have jumped 17.4% to $6,150 on average.
Other increases: Kansas, 25.2% to $2,630 an acre; Nebraska, 21% to $3,750, and South Dakota, 18.7% to 2,600.
Elsewhere: California farmland values increased 10.1% to $12,000 an acre. The highest values are in the Northeast, with average values in several states topping $15,000 an acre.
Thompson offers language to senators for workforce legislation
Glenn Thompson has offered his services to two senators to “bring about a successful outcome” to negotiations on long-stalled ag labor.
In a letter to Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Thompson includes an amendment to the Farm Workforce Modernization Act backed by the American Farm Bureau Federation
The key sticking point is a provision enabling H-2A workers to sue their farmers. Thompson is essentially calling for dropping that issue.
Organic animal standards welcomed, with caveat
Organic advocates were pleased with a new proposal to implement a wide variety of animal welfare protections for poultry and other livestock.
"The proposed rule appears to fully reinstate the vital requirements recommended by the National Organic Standards Board and organic stakeholders that were part of the 2017 final rule, including the crucial updates ensuring that organic chickens have outdoor access and indoor habitat, eliminating the so-called 'porches' that allowed some producers to factory-farm their poultry,” said Center for Food Safety attorney Amy van Saun.
The Organic Trade Association objected to one of the options for layer operations, which would allow 15 years for compliance. “Organic has already waited nearly two decades for animal welfare reforms – waiting an additional 15 years to implement outdoor access for organic layers would be unnecessary and unacceptable,” OTA CEO and Executive Director Tom Chapman said.
Tribal voices left out of Colorado River discussions, letter says
Fourteen tribal leaders say that tribes have been left in the dark about 2023 cuts in the Colorado River basin that will impact at least some of their water rights.
In a letter to Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton, they pressed Touton to alert tribes to what options are being considered and how tribes will be affected.
"What is being discussed behind closed doors among the United States and the Basin States will likely have a direct impact on Basin Tribes’ water rights and other resources and we expect and demand that you protect our interests,” they wrote.
Keep in mind: All seven Colorado River basin states have until Aug. 15 to come up with a plan to use between 2 and 4 million acre-feet less water in 2023. If they don’t, Reclamation will make the cuts for them.
He said it: “The Senate has now passed the most significant bill to fight the climate crisis ever.” - Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
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