Democrats are set today to send their historic climate bill to President Joe Biden for his signature. The House is taking a one-day break from its August recess to debate and vote on the legislation known as the Inflation Reduction Act. The bill includes nearly $20 billion in funding for climate-smart farming practices, plus additional funding for USDA energy and forestry programs.

A senior Republican on the House Ag committee, Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis, warns in an Agri-Pulse Newsmaker interview that there could be less pressure on the next Congress to pass a new farm bill. “There are many colleagues of mine that will say, ‘Well, we just addressed conservation. Why do we need to do more?’”

But farm policy consultant Laura Wood Peterson, who’s part of this week’s Newsmakers panel, says IRA will spur the use of climate-smart practices by taking advantage of “existing program authorities and partners on the ground.”

This week’s Newsmakers will be available today at Agri-Pulse.com.

The Rural Coalition, which has been pushing for aid to minority farmers, is cautiously optimistic the IRA’s ag debt relief provisions will offer needed help to underserved producers who’ve traditionally been left out of USDA programs. “This urgently needed assistance would break the logjam that has left so many farmers and ranchers with now unsustainable debt and an uncertain path forward,” said Rural Coalition Chairperson John Zippert.

Take note: The final House votes on IRA are expected this afternoon.

By the way: Brad Finstad will be sworn in today to fill Minnesota’s 1st District seat, which was left vacant by the death of House Ag Committee member Jim Hagedorn. Finstad is a former state director for USDA Rural Development.

Also today: USDA will release its first survey-based estimates of the season for production of corn and soybeans.

EU warns EV incentives break WTO rules

The European Union claims IRA’s tax credits for domestically made electric vehicles would break World Trade Organization rules. European Commission spokesperson Miriam García Ferrer said the EU supports tax credits in general for green technology like EVs, but stressed that “we need to ensure that the measures are fair.”

Keep in mind: Environmentalists say the EU warning points to the need for a “climate peace clause” – a commitment by nations not to challenge other countries’ climate policies.

Nebraska governor pledges regional push for year-round E15

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts told ethanol industry representatives Thursday that he and other Midwestern governors will continue to push the EPA to allow year-round sales of E15 permanently.

Ricketts, one of seven governors that wrote a letter to the EPA earlier this year requesting the change, told Agri-Pulse on the sidelines of the event that he hasn’t heard back from the agency. But he said he’d continue to apply “persistent, consistent pressure” to EPA.

Dr. Oz blasted for taking ag tax break

Pennsylvania farmers took turns Thursday criticizing Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz’s use of a program meant to help preserve farm and forest land to save $50,000 in taxes.

Oz bought a 34-acre property in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, last year that had long qualified under the so-called “ Clean and Green” program, which former Pennsylvania Ag Secretary Dennis Wolff said on a press call is a valuable program for farmers. It “bases property taxes on use values rather than fair market value,” the state’s Ag Department says.

“The Clean and Green program has helped a lot of farmers hang on to their properties,” said Bradford County farmer Janet Lewis.

Oz told the Philadelphia Inquirer, which broke the story, that he intends “to preserve that land and not do anything that would hurt it.”

The press call was organized by the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. Democrat Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is running against Oz for a U.S. Senate seat; Oz has been running poorly in the polls.

RECs welcome FCC pulling SpaceX broadband funding

The Federal Communications Commission is rescinding $885 million in funding that was awarded to SpaceX to provide rural broadband through its Starlink satellite system in 2020.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel says the Starlink technology has “real promise” but she noted that it requires customers to buy a $600 dish to get the service.

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Republican commission member Brendan Carr is criticizing the decision, which he learned of while on a work trip in Alaska. “I will have more to say, because we should be making it easier for unserved communities to get service, not rejecting a proven satellite technology that is delivering robust, high-speed service today.”

Rural electric co-ops and other land-based competitors had been critical of the Starlink funding. The FCC program “exists to fund broadband deployment for rural Americans, not finance science experiments or underwrite risky bets,” said Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association.

USAID thanks OCP for fertilizer donation

The U.S. has effectively blocked imports from Moroccan phosphate fertilizer producer OCP. But U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power met this week with the company’s CEO to thank him for donating 550,000 metric tons of fertilizer to desperate farmers in Africa.

CEP also is cutting prices to make more of the input affordable in 20 countries on the continent.

OCP is currently fighting a legal battle in the Court of International Trade to appeal a decision by the U.S. International Trade Commission that resulted in a roughly 20% duty on Moroccan phosphorous fertilizer.

He said it. "Even if you're gonna go down the path of electric cars, you aren't going to plug in an airplane. I mean, I'm not getting in that airplane.” – Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, talking about the potential market for sustainable aviation fuel. 

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