The White House is no doubt glad to see the Consumer Price Index stay unchanged for July. But there is little good news in the latest data for supermarket prices. And while there are reasons to think that retail food prices could be peaking, it may take a while for consumers to see the effects.

The cost of eating at home is up 13.1% over the past year, a rate not seen since early 1979. And grocery prices rose 1.3% in July, the highest monthly increase since March.

Take note: Cal Poly economist Ricky Volpe, speaking on a press briefing organized by FMI-The Food Industry Association, says retailers are slow to change prices in either direction, just because of the cost and complexity entailed in adjusting prices for thousands of products.

“To reduce prices even a little bit … is going to be an expensive proposition, especially given that inflationary costs continue to trend upward over time,” he said.

Consumer Price Index.jpg

Black line shows the trend in supermarket prices versus overall inflation (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Prices for poultry and eggs continue to be a significant factor in inflation due to the avian flu outbreak that forced farms to destroy birds. But Volpe, a former economist for USDA, says the poultry industry is especially resilient and able to respond to shocks relatively quickly.

The beef industry is another matter. “We are still today feeling the supply-side impacts of beef cattle left over from the Great Recession, because that is such a slow-moving and rigid supply chain,” Volpe said.

Minnesota farm district gets new lawmaker

Farmer and former USDA Rural Development state director Brad Finstad has won a special election in Minnesota to fill the remaining term of the late House Ag Committee member Jim Hagedorn.

The Republican Finstad defeated former Hormel Foods CEO Jeff Ettinger, who was running as a Democrat for the 1st District seat. The two men will face each other again in November. Finstad led 51% to 47% with more than 95% of the vote counted.

Big races in Wisconsin: Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes won the primary for the right to face incumbent (and Donald Trump-endorsed) Sen. Ron Johnson. If primary turnout is any indication, Barnes faces an uphill battle in November: With more than 95% of the vote counted, about 500,000 Democrats had voted for Barnes and two challengers. More than 670,000 Republicans voted in their party’s primary.

Former Wisconsin Agriculture Secretary Brad Pfaff won the Democratic primary for the 3rd District House seat now held by Ron Kind. Pfaff, a former aide to Kind, will face Trump-endorsed Republican Derrick Van Orden, who ran unopposed.

USTR: Cutting tariffs in IPEF ‘not on the table’

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai has made it clear to the United Steel Workers that the proposed Indo-Pacific Economic Framework agreement won’t open the U.S. to cheaper imports through reduced tariffs.

Tai, in her most blunt assessment yet on the prospect for reducing trade tariffs, told union members Wednesday: “We are learning lessons from (Trans-Pacific Partnership), and we are putting our worker-centered trade policy into action. Because of that, tariff elimination is not on the table.” 

Why it matters: Farm state lawmakers and U.S. ag groups continue to criticize the Biden administration for its refusal to consider trade deals that would slash foreign tariffs on U.S. ag exports.

Don’t miss a beat! It’s easy to sign up for a FREE month of Agri-Pulse news! For the latest on what’s happening in Washington, D.C. and around the country in agriculture, just click here.

“There are a number of non-tariff provisions in TPP that would help facilitate trade, but it seems to be a lost opportunity to not address tariff levels, as much of the gains to U.S. producers (and consumers) will come through tariff reductions,” Joe Glauber, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute and a former USDA chief economist, told Agri-Pulse after Tai’s speech.

Biden announces $1.1 billion in rural infrastructure funding

The Biden administration says half the $2.2 billion in funds allocated this year under the bipartisan infrastructure law will be going to construction projects in rural areas.

Much of the funding will go toward improving roads and bridges, but there will also be money to help strengthen infrastructure that will benefit farmers and ag exports, such as the construction of a new $12.6 million berth at a section of Port Tampa Bay in Florida that ships ag goods, said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

New guidance out on hens, salmonella prevention

FDA has issued recommendations for how to prevent salmonella in shell eggs produced by laying hens that have access to the outside.

Why it matters: USDA has proposed regulations that will require significant outdoor access for poultry. Screened-in porches won’t meet the requirement.

The FDA guidance issued Wednesday covers a variety of ways to prevent rats, flies, stray poultry and cats from entering outdoor areas.

“FDA believes that egg producers can provide laying hens with access to areas outside the poultry house, which includes porches, outdoor runs and pastures, and still comply with the egg rule,” the agency said. A draft version of the guidance had defined a “porch” as part of the poultry house.

Syngenta, Atticus settle fungicide patent dispute

Syngenta Crop Protection and Atticus LLC say they have settled “all claims and counterclaims” in litigation launched by Syngenta in 2019 alleging Atticus had infringed on Syngenta patents for fungicide products.

Atticus will continue to sell its azoxystrobin products, the companies said. Syngenta’s complaint alleged that five of Atticus’ products infringed certain Syngenta patents.

She said it: “When you want to change the way things are done in trade, some will accuse you of being against trade … But it’s not about what you’re against. It’s about what you’re for. We are for doing trade the right way.” - U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, defending the Biden administration’s trade agenda.

Questions, comments, tips? Email