It’s a big week around the nation’s capital with hearings scheduled examining several issues important to agriculture, including rail service delays and a proposal to require companies to track the greenhouse gas emissions in their supply chains. Lawmakers also are trying to agree on a stopgap spending bill to keep the government funded after Sept. 30.
Members of the National Farmers Union are holding their annual fly-in this week and they’re expected to hear today from Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack. Other anticipated speakers include Deputy Secretary Jewel Bronaugh and Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. Bronaugh is also set to address Growth Energy members on Tuesday, as is EPA Administrator Michael Regan.
Meanwhile, a committee that’s advising the Biden administration on antibiotic resistance will hold a public meeting today and Tuesday that will focus in part on agriculture’s role in the problem.
The panel will hear from experts on a range of ag-related issues, including diagnostic methods in farm animals; prospects for new animal drugs; farmer decision-making; and the role of ag workers in spreading resistant bacteria.
Take note: The committee is specifically charged with addressing how “existing pandemic preparedness policies may be augmented” to address drug-resistant bacteria and other new policies may be needed.
For more details on this week’s agenda, read our Washington Week Ahead.
Wicker calls for end to rail dispute, threatens congressional action if agreement is not reached
The top Republican on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation wants negotiations between railroad carriers and unions to end quickly, but is supporting congressional action if it doesn’t.
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said in a statement Friday that he supports the recommendations proposed by an emergency board tasked with arbitrating the dispute, warning the parties involved in negotiations of the pressure a strike would place on the already snarled supply chain.
“The Presidential Emergency Board has put forward a comprehensive and fair set of recommendations that, if adopted, could end this standoff today,” Wicker said. “I will be calling on my colleagues in Congress to join the administration in endorsing these recommendations as written and advance legislation to resolve this dispute if it is clear that a shutdown in rail service is imminent.”
Group: India’s rice export barriers to upset global market
India’s decision to ban imports of broken rice and slap 20% tariffs on exports of all other rice except Basmati will push food costs up in Africa, Asia and Europe, according to the USA Rice Federation. The ban is another example of the country’s trade abuses that should spur a U.S. complaint at the World Trade Organization, the group said.
“We are hopeful that the USTR will continue to take actions toward correcting India’s rice policies, including a full dispute settlement case,” said Bobby Hanks, head of USA Rice Federation’s International Trade Policy Committee. “Every protectionist act like we saw this week is just further manipulating and distorting the global rice market and they control more than 40 percent of it.”
India is most well-known by the U.S. rice industry for its heavy subsidization of Indian farmers, a practice that allows exporters there to sell at very low prices. That, says USA Rice, distorts the value of all rice on the international market.
Ag can take part in hunger conference virtually, Vilsack says
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is reassuring farm groups that the industry will have a role at the Sept. 28 White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, both because he has been heavily involved in the process and because the conference will be available on the internet.
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“The reality is everyone's going to have access to virtual,” he told Agri-Pulse after an event at a Washington, D.C., elementary school Friday to discuss school meals. “So in that sense, they'll be able to participate.” But he also emphasized that the conference is just “the beginning of a process and beginning of a conversation” in which agriculture will of course be involved.
Vilsack also talked up fruits and vegetables and the importance of USDA working collaboratively with the food industry to reduce sodium and added sugars.
“If we want to make these things more nutritious …, then we've got to figure out how we use spices and herbs and things of that nature, to make sure the kids are anxious to have these meals and excited about these things,” he said.
A dozen groups, mostly representing commodities, sent a letter to the White House last week urging President Joe Biden to extend an invitation to the “agriculture production sector … to share our experience with the attendees.”
Arkansas honey farm’s dicamba complaint moves forward
A federal judge in Missouri has declined to dismiss product liability and punitive damages claims brought by a major Arkansas honey producer against Bayer and BASF, allowing the case to proceed.
Coy’s Honey Farms alleges that applications of the herbicide that moved off-target through drift or volatilization from 2018 through 2021 damaged non-dicamba-tolerant vegetation, resulting in loss of bees and honey production.
Senior U.S. District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh Jr. found Coy’s had successfully repleaded claims he rejected in the first complaint by alleging separate torts and damages occurred in each of the four years.
He had dismissed the claims on statute-of-limitations grounds in January but allowed the honey operation to amend its complaint.
Fla. lawmakers petition for new investigation into Mexican produce
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic Rep. Al Lawson are petitioning the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to conduct new investigations into claims that subsidized fruit and vegetable imports from Mexico are hurting U.S. farmers.
“This is an unfortunate, but necessary, step toward correcting the unfair trade practices which are driving our farm families out of business,” Florida Farm Bureau President Jeb S. Smith said in a statement Friday.
Florida Farm Bureau, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, and Florida Strawberry Growers Association said Rubio and Lawson filed the Section 301 petition on their behalf.
He said it: “When you get into the issue of hunger and nutrition, you get into an area that is pretty complex, a lot more complex than people realize. And there are a lot of voices, and there's a lot of interests.” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, discussing the Sept. 28 White House hunger conference at an event at John Burroughs Elementary School in Washington, D.C., Sept. 9.
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