The Senate is back in session after the August recess, and there’s a full slate of committee activity today.

The biggest item on lawmakers’ to-do list is to keep the government from shutting down on Oct. 1 when the new fiscal year starts. That means passing a continuing resolution by Sept. 30. There are reports Democrats may try to include a bill that would guarantee the legality of same-sex marriage nationwide, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. gave no indication of that plan Tuesday.

The CR “needs to be bipartisan,” he said. “Democrats are going to work in good faith to avoid even a hint of a shutdown, and it is my expectation that our Republican colleagues will do the same.”

By the way: That CR is likely to include a provision extending the authority for mandatory livestock price reporting.

Senators advocating for reforms in cattle marketing also have been pushing Schumer to put a pair of bills on the floor this month that came out of the Ag Committee in June. It’s unclear whether the bills have the necessary 60 votes to pass the Senate.

Meanwhile today: The Senate Finance Committee should easily approve Doug McKalip’s nomination to be chief agricultural trade negotiator. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has a hearing on whether the EPA should be permanently banned from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from last livestock operations. A House committee has an online hearing on child farmworkers.

USDA cautions local offices on loan goals

USDA is warning its state executives against grading down county offices for falling behind on their loan business. In a memo to state offices, USDA’s Farm Service Agency says loan making and loan servicing may have been delayed because of the pandemic and the work required in implementing provisions of the 2021 American Rescue Plan.

“Service offices that met goals should be recognized for showing initiative and an ability to perform above and beyond despite these conditions. Conversely, service offices that did not meet goals should not be held strictly accountable for performance related to that FY 2022 goal,” the memo says.

Will Truss-led UK be even more keen on trade deal?

The UK has been eager to negotiate a free trade agreement with the U.S. ever since it exited the European Union, but the British may be even more inclined to reach a pact now that Liz Truss has been promoted to Prime Minister.

Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley told reporters Tuesday that Truss – formerly the UK’s top trade official – visited his office twice in support of a trade agreement. “So, I expect that she ought to be pushing for that very much …,” Grassley said.

The U.S. began trade talks with the UK in the last year of the Trump administration, and the two sides eventually completed five rounds of negotiations. The talks were idled after the election and have not resumed.

Take note: Truss talked with President Joe Biden on Tuesday, but the White House readout of the conversation didn’t mention trade.

More farmers reporting carbon payment offers

About 9% of farmers now say they have talked to companies about carbon payments, according to the latest Purdue University-CME Group Ag Economy Barometer. That is “by far and away the highest percentage” of farmers surveyed by Purdue that report being involved in carbon discussions, the surveyors say.

The monthly survey has included questions about carbon markets for the past two years. In previous surveys, 2% to 6% of producers reported talking to companies about carbon payments.

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The payments farmers are being offered remain relatively small. Three-fourths of the farmers who have talked to companies say they were offered less than $20 per metric ton of carbon.

Keep in mind: Only 1% of farmers say they have signed a carbon contract, “suggesting that payment rates offered to (other farmers) remain too low,” surveyors say.

By the way: The Purdue-CME barometer indicates farmer sentiment rose in August amid a rally in corn and soybean prices.

Effects of HPAI may linger, economist warns

Highly pathogenic avian influenza may have subsided in U.S. poultry flocks this summer, but a CoBank report warns it could strike again this fall — with devastating consequences for the industry.

The report, written by CoBank economist Brian Earnest, said last year’s outbreak led to the depopulation of at least 7.5% of the turkeys and 10% of the egg-laying chickens in U.S. commercial flocks.

High labor and feed costs will slow producers down as they try to build their flocks back up to previous sizes, which will mean a smaller national inventory and higher prices for the near term, Earnest said.

Keep in mind: Poultry producers’ earnings are higher this year as a result of the sharp price increases for eggs and chicken due to the outbreak. Revenue from broilers is forecast up 48% this year, adjusted for inflation, while egg receipts are expected to be 67% higher.

Ukraine farmers are being killed clearing explosives

With the help of Italy, the UK and other countries, Ukraine is trying to remove deadly mines and other unexploded Russian devices, but for now the focus is on clearing densely populated areas. That means that farmers are often being killed as they plant their crops, according to Ukraine Deputy Agriculture Minister Markiyan Dmytrasevich.

The ministry says there are roughly 25,000 square meters of farmland contaminated with explosives.

“The news that agrarians died while cultivating their land is very painful,” said Dmytrasevich.

Western lawmakers urge Vilsack, Haaland to mobilize additional firefighters

Twenty-seven members of Congress from Western states have sent a letter to Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland asking them to begin activating additional employees in preparation for worsening fire conditions.

The U.S. Forest Service and the Department of the Interior have the capacity to call on 13,000 “surge employees,” who can help the department’s 15,000 federal firefighters during intense fire periods.

He said it.  “Listen, the problem isn't the nominee. The problem is the White House, not even wanting to use the words ‘free trade.'” – Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, stressing that he objects to the administration’s trade policy, not to ag trade nominee Doug McKalip, whom Grassley says is well qualified.

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