Freezing the wage rate paid to farmworkers in the U.S. under the H-2A program “could encourage a faster expansion” of the program and may reduce the wages of the U.S. domestic workers who account for 90% of average employment on U.S. crop farms, the Economic Research Service said in a report released Tuesday.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act that passed the House in March 2021 proposed a freeze of the Adverse Effect Wage Rate for one year. ERS estimated that would reduce “wage costs” by $140 million a year for H-2A workers and $29 million a year for the more than 50,000 U.S. domestic workers in “corresponding employment” on farms with H-2A workers who must be paid the same AEWR.

The report found that the Farm Labor Contractor share of H-2A jobs has been increasing. “FLCs accounted for 44 % of H-2A jobs certified in FY 2020 and accounted for most H-2A jobs in Florida and California,” ERS said. “Many FLCs are large. Of the top 10 H-2A employers, six were FLCs.”

To expand or not to expand? Farm groups weigh size of farm bill pie

The nation’s corn and soybean groups want more money for the next farm bill, and one grower leader says they have a key congressional ally on their side.

Executive committee members of the American Soybean Association and National Corn Growers Association told Agri-Pulse at this week’s Farm Progress Show that they’re looking to make sure the bill has an adequate level of support in the face of rising costs for both producers and consumers.

“It probably is time to update and include new money, more stable money,” ASA President Brad Doyle said. “The (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) will need additional funding as well, so we are definitely willing to support a larger investment into the farm bill.”

GT weighs in? Harold Wolle, NCGA’s first vice president, says the top Republican on the House Ag Committee, Pennsylvania’s Glenn “GT” Thompson, told the group he could be open to the idea of increased funding.

South Korea has concerns over Inflation Reduction Act

It’s not clear how upset South Korea is over a provision in the Inflation Reduction Act that would give tax credits for electric vehicles made in the U.S., but the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said Tuesday that the Asian country’s concerns are being discussed.

Deputy USTR Sarah Bianchi met Tuesday with South Korea’s deputy trade minister and the two “discussed Korea’s concerns with elements” of the IRA, the agency said in a readout of the meeting.

The European Union has warned the U.S. that it believes the tax credits would break World Trade Organization rules.

Donated Ukrainian wheat arrives in Africa

The Brave Commander, a ship carrying 23,300 metric tons of Ukrainian wheat, has arrived in Djibouti, according to a statement released Tuesday by Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The wheat, a donation paid for by the U.S. and arranged by the United Nations’ World Food Program, will be delivered to the needy throughout drought-ravaged Ethiopia and Sudan.

“As part of a more than $68 million recent contribution by the United States to the World Food Program, this grain is among the first shipments of Ukrainian agricultural products exported from the Black Sea to reach some of the world’s most food-insecure countries since the beginning of Russia’s unjustified, full-scale attack on Ukraine on February 24,” Blinken said.

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Labor Dept. aids worker rights in South America

The Labor Department is offering up to $12 million to fund a project promoting labor rights in supply chains in Brazil, Colombia and Peru.

“The project will address the systematic violation of labor rights in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru,” according to the funding announcement. “In particular, it will strengthen unions and support the full and free exercise of freedom of association and collective bargaining rights in the platform economy and in either the agriculture or manufacturing sectors in Brazil; in the cut flowers and mining sectors in Colombia; and in the agricultural sector and either the mining or light industry sectors in Peru.”

“The project will focus on underserved communities and seek to advance gender and racial equity,” the department said.

Senators urge EPA not to add RFS electrification pathway for biogas

A group of Democratic senators are cautioning the Environmental Protection Agency against providing new electrification pathways under the Renewable Fuel Standard for methane biogas from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), amid the agency’s reported interest in allowing power derived from renewable biomass to qualify for credits through the program.

Five Senators — including Cory Booker, D-N.J., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Edward Markey, D-Mass. — sent a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan last Wednesday expressing concerns that allowing CAFO-produced biogas into the program could worsen pollution.

"Decarbonizing our transportation sector requires widespread adoption of EVs paired with ambitious expansion of clean energy used to charge these EVs,” they said in the letter. "Linking EV initiatives with a new subsidy for dirty electricity from factory farming would be a massive step in the wrong direction, and we urge you not to provide any RFS electrification pathway for methane biogas from CAFOs.”

NRCS urged to fill agroforestry post

A number of conservation groups are calling on the Natural Resources Conference Service to fill the vacant position of national agroforester. 

“Within agriculture, agroforestry stands out as a largely untapped but key climate solution,” the groups say in a letter today to NRCS Chief Terry Cosby

Filling the post based in Lincoln, Nebraska, “will help meet NRCS training needs and producer demand and ensure that NRCS Conservation Practice Standards and payment scenarios are reflective of on-the-ground implementation of agroforestry,” the letter goes on. 

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