The Biden administration is taking a major step today in its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack is announcing $2.8 billion in funding for an initial set of 70 projects that will test ways to develop markets for climate-smart commodities.
Vilsack also is increasing the total funding for the initiative to $3.5 billion from the $1 billion that was originally planned, which leaves another $700 million for smaller projects.
The projects closely align with the recommendations of a coalition of ag and conservation groups, the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance. “We basically followed the prescription that they outlined to a T,” Vilsack says.
How it’s being received: FACA notes in a statement that the projects will include underserved producers as well as farmers who are already using climate-smart practices, so-called early adopters. “The Alliance is pleased that the projects selected recognize differences between regions, farm size and forest type, and diversity of production in the United States,” FACA says.
For more details on the initiative and individual projects, go to Agri-Pulse.com.
Possible rail strike worries ag, ethanol sectors
The Biden administration is working to avoid a railroad strike that has raised alarms in the agriculture and ethanol industry. A federal cooling-off period is set to end Friday.
“The prospect of any stoppage or any further slowdown could really be calamitous” for the ethanol industry, said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association.
But Cooper applauded the administration for “actively engaging” in trying to avert a strike. “We are encouraged to hear that talks are progressing,” Cooper said.
By the way: Two key Senate Republicans introduced a joint resolution this week to impose the Presidential Emergency Board’s recommended contract on the railroads. The resolution is sponsored by North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Mississippi’s Roger Wicker, who’s ranking on Senate Commerce.
We have more on rail service in this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter. We also look at concerns some in the food and ag sector have about development of the next dietary guidelines.
Optimism on new jet fuel credits
The ethanol industry is hoping the nation’s airlines will provide a big new market for the biofuel. To that end, Cooper told reporters Tuesday he believes that jet fuel made from ethanol could qualify for a new temporary tax credit for sustainable aviation fuel as well as a clean fuels credit that will replace it in 2025.
To qualify for the credits, ethanol’s carbon footprint will have to be at least 50% lower than conventional fuel. Cooper believes the ethanol industry can get well under that with improved farming practices and use of renewable power and carbon sequestration.
“We are quite confident a large share of our industry, certainly by 2025, will be eligible for” the clean fuels credit, he said.
By the way: The ethanol industry got some good news Tuesday when EPA Administrator Michael Regan said at the Growth Energy Biofuels Summit that the administration is seeking to use the next series of annual blending targets to “grow” biofuel consumption.
Soil health, Taiwan, right to repair hearings on tap
In a busy day on Capitol Hill, the head of the Rodale Institute will be among the witnesses at a House Agriculture Committee hearing examining soil health practices and regenerative agriculture.
A House Small Business subcommittee will have a hearing on the “right-to-repair” issue. The witnesses will include a representative of a farm in Maine.
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A House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the future of U.S.-Taiwan trade will feature testimony from Russell Boening, president of the Texas Farm Bureau.
Uncertainty seen around Ukraine export deal
The deal struck by Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations to allow grain exports to flow out of three ports in Odesa is on shaky ground but still holding, says Joe Glauber, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute and former USDA chief economist.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty and you have an active war going on – a war that is escalating right now,” said Glauber about the deal that allowed Ukraine to substantially boost its wheat and corn exports through the ports.
Keep in mind: Reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently criticized the deal for primarily boosting exports to Europe are troubling, said Glauber. Putin will likely to bring up the subject in an expected bilateral meeting with Turkey’s president next week, Glauber said.
USTR stresses trade prospects with new Kenya president
The Biden administration announced in July plans to improve trade ties with Kenya, potentially improving the prospects for U.S. ag exports, and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai also brought up the subject Tuesday with the country’s new president.
A USTR statement said Tai, who led a U.S. presidential delegation to Kenya this week for the inauguration of Kenyan President William Ruto, stressed the prospect of “enhancing two-way trade.”
Take note: U.S. rice exports face a 35% tariff – about $200 per metric ton – in Kenya, according to the USA Rice Federation.
Latest poultry workers’ settlements total $85 million
Wayne Farms, Sanderson Farms and Cargill Meat Solutions have agreed to collectively pay about $85 million to poultry workers allegedly harmed by depressed wages that resulted from the companies’ sharing of worker compensation data.
The proposed settlement was filed in federal court in Maryland. None of the companies admitted to wrongdoing, but Cargill has agreed to pay $15 million, Sanderson $38.3 million, and Wayne $31.5 million.
The latest settlement would bring to $146 million the amount of money recovered in the class-action lawsuit brought by poultry workers.
He said it. “By helping farmers reduce emissions and sequester carbon, we are taking steps to lower the carbon intensity of biofuels.” - EPA Administrator Michael Regan on the benefits to the biofuel industry of the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides nearly $20 billion for farm bill conservation programs.
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