Seven western agricultural groups are pressing the Bureau of Reclamation to quickly determine how it plans to spend $4 billion in Inflation Reduction Act funding to incentivize water conservation in drought-stricken areas.
The groups — which include the Family Farm Alliance, the Agribusiness and Water Council of Arizona, the Western Growers Association and Farm Bureaus in Arizona, California, Colorado and Oregon — sent a letter to Reclamation last Thursday asking the agency to quickly release a Notice of Funding Availability to guide water managers who are already developing drought response proposals.
"The ability of agricultural producers to participate in any voluntary, compensated water reduction program becomes much more difficult, if not impossible, if not initiated and implemented soon,” they said in the letter. "This is due to the timeframes associated with contracting, purchasing, and planting of crops for the coming year.”
The groups urged Reclamation to consider the economic impacts of funding on rural communities, the value of lost production, and the cost of developing incremental new water supplies when implementing any program. They also called for the agency to fund programs targeting urban areas, saying municipal water users need to address population growth and curb overall water use.
White House works on strategy to be announced at hunger conference
 The White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health has a date: The event will be held Sept. 28, and even if you’re not invited you can follow everything online, White House officials said on a call with stakeholders Monday.
The administration continues to develop the strategy it plans to unveil at the event, using feedback submitted by interested parties, including corporations, nonprofits, states and local governments, academia, and citizens.
Laura Carroll, a White House policy adviser for agriculture and rural policy, said organizers are looking at ways to use the conference to publicize external commitments being made to address hunger and nutrition deficits. She also said, in answer to a question about foods created to reach a “bliss point,” that conference organizers have been speaking with companies about reducing the amount of sodium and added sugars in food.
“We don't want this to be a one-and-done thing,” she said of the conference. “We want this to be a steady drumbeat — actual systemic change that lasts well beyond this administration and future administrations.”
New Ag Census launches this fall
USDA will kick off a new Ag Census with an invitation going out to farmers in November to participate in an online survey. The census is conducted every five years and provides a detailed look at American agriculture down to the county level. 
Paper questionnaires will go to farmers in December. The census will include all farm operations with sales of at least $1,000 this year. 
Take note: The 2022 Census will include updated questions about internet access and new questions about the use of precision agriculture, hemp production and hair sheep.
 Ag Census results are “widely used by federal and local governments, agribusinesses, trade associations, extension educators, and many others to inform decisions about policy and farm programs and services that aid producers and rural communities,” said Hubert Hamer, administrator of the National Agricultural Statistics Service. 
Looking back: The 2017 results, released in April 2019, showed that the largest operations accounted for fewer than 1% of all farms but 35% of all farm revenue. The average age of a farmer rose to 57.5 years in 2017, up from 56.3 years in 2012. 
Pakistan flooding hits farmers hard
The monsoon season is hitting Pakistan especially hard this year, killing hundreds of thousands of livestock animals and submerging roughly 2 million acres of fields and orchards as the flood waters threaten to spread disease and malnutrition, according to the United Nations.
“According to news reports, a third of the country could be left underwater as the monsoon weather continues, and the death toll is likely to rise as more rivers burst their banks, washing away roads and bridges, with many communities in the mountainous northern regions cut off,” the U.S. said in a statement Monday.
The agency says it is seeking millions from donor governments in order to provide emergency assistance, although floodwaters are still making distribution difficult.
Russian wheat exports still sluggish
Russian wheat exports are still lower than normal despite recent revised forecasts that show the country will produce more than expected this year, according to the Black Sea agricultural markets research firm SovEcon.
The firm recently raised its production forecast by 3.8 million metric tons to 94.7 million, but now says it’s only pushing up its export forecast by just 200,000 tons. That could change, though, and exports could rise dramatically if world prices increase and the strength of the ruble declines.
SovEcon is now predicting Russian wheat exports this year will total 43.1 million tons. The USDA raised its forecast for Russian wheat exports from 40 million tons to 42 million tons in its August supply and demand report.
Heirs property program seeks relenders
USDA is asking for more applications from lenders to participate in its heirs property relending program (HPRP).
The department’s Farm Service Agency recently announced the first intermediary lenders – Akiptan Inc., the Cherokee Nation Economic Development Trust Authority (CNEDTA), and the Shared Capital Cooperative – had been “approved or conditionally approved as intermediary lenders.”
 Today’s Federal Register notice seeks loan applications from “interested eligible entities, including cooperatives, credit unions, and nonprofit organizations certified to operate as a lender.”
The application period will last until USDA decides to end it. Once they are cleared to participate, “approved entities will serve as intermediaries who will relend HPRP funds for projects that assist heirs with undivided ownership interests to resolve ownership and succession issues on farmland that has multiple owners.”
 Loans of up to $5 million at 1% interest are available, FSA said Aug. 18.