USDA officials are looking to educate crop insurance agents and farmers about the Whole Farm Revenue Protection and Micro Farm policies, products aimed at diversified operations and small-scale farms.

The Risk Management Agency is hosting a series of online workshops for farmers, starting today and running through Dec. 13. RMA also recently held workshops for agents. 

RMA Administrator Marcia Bunger says the agency has made some improvements to both policies that should make them more “grower friendly.” She tells Agri-Pulse the agency is trying to make sure both agents and farmers understand how the policies can work. 

“As a former crop insurance agent, myself, the traditional policies are less complicated, so they’re easier to understand and turn around and explain,” she said. 

Keep in mind: USDA is doubling the maximum insurable revenue under WFRP and is more than tripling to $350,000 the amount of revenue that's eligible for coverage under Micro policies. 

RMA also is reducing some paperwork requirements. 

By the way: Bunger was pleased with the turnout for agent-focused training sessions last week. More than 400 participated in two one-hour sessions.

USTR gives speech against traditional market access deals

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai made one of her most forceful speeches yet on Friday in defense of the Biden administration’s turn away from traditional free trade agreements that focus improving market access for U.S. goods through deals to cut tariffs.

“We’ve been doing FTAs for almost forty years now,” she said at the Roosevelt Institute’s Progressive Industrial Policy Conference. “And while some sectors of the economy have benefited, many in this room know that the traditional approach to trade – marked by aggressive liberalization and tariff elimination – also had significant costs: concentration of wealth, fragile supply chains, de-industrialization, offshoring, and the decimation of manufacturing communities.”

This traditional approach, she stressed, is not enough to counter China’s “non-transparent, state-directed industrial dominance policies conducted on a massive scale,” Tai said.

Critical atrazine comments come at EPA from all sides

Comments poured into the Environmental Protection Agency Friday at the deadline to provide input on the agency’s latest atrazine proposal.

The comments offered widely divergent recommendations. Environmental groups are urging EPA to cancel the registration for the widely used herbicide, arguing that EPA’s proposed mitigation cannot adequately address atrazine’s widespread use.

Numerous farm groups, manufacturers and weed scientists, however, say that EPA has not used sound science to support its proposal, which provides growers with mitigation choices such as cover crops and vegetated buffer strips.

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“The proposed changes to the usage levels of atrazine ignore proven scientific data and jeopardize Kansas farmers’ ability to continue to be a worldwide leader in producing safe, bountiful crops and the livestock those crops feed,” Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said in comments.

Colombia tries out WTO appeals court alternative on frozen fries dispute

The World Trade Organization’s appellate court is still not functioning because the U.S. refuses to allow any judges to be appointed, so Colombia is trying out the new alternative arbitration system to argue against its loss in a case by the European Union.

A WTO dispute panel ruled in favor of the EU, which had challenged Colombia’s anti-dumping duties on frozen fry imports from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. With no option for appeal, Colombia has requested the formation of a multi-party interim appeal arbitration arrangement, or MPIA, according to Geneva officials. It will be the first country to test-run the MPIA. Three arbitrators will be chosen randomly out of a pool of ten, according to the WTO.

Labor Secretary meets with immigrant farmworkers

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh held a closed-door roundtable with immigrant workers Friday about, among other things, their experiences with the current H-2A visa program.

One of the farmworkers in the discussion said they worked "long hours in intense heat with limited access to water and rest,” according to a release from the United Farm Worker Foundation. They said their employer threatened them with deportation if they did not do as told.

The parties in the conversation also discussed agency efforts to protect immigrant workers from workplace retaliation and educate workers on their rights in the workplace, according to a Labor Department release

Ralph Lauren signs on with sustainable cotton effort

The U.S. Cotton Protocol, an industry program working to increase the supply of cotton that can meet key sustainability standards, has signed up Ralph Lauren Corp. as a member. Ralph Lauren, which uses cotton for more than three-quarters of its material, joins some 40 brands and retailers that are protocol members, including Levi Strauss and Gap. About 800 mills and manufacturers also participate. 

About 1.1 million acres have enrolled so far in the program, which was recently awarded USDA funding to produce 4 million bales of climate-smart cotton over five years. 

Comment periods extended on two organic regulatory efforts

The Agricultural Marketing Service is allowing more time for comment on two proposals affecting organic agriculture – one that would alter regulations governing the treatment of livestock, the other related to the use of inert ingredients in pesticides that are used in organic production.

The comment period on the livestock proposal now will end Nov. 10; the inert ingredients comment period will end Dec. 31.
The latter proposal is an advance notice of proposed rulemaking, which means AMS is gathering comments on how to craft a future proposed rule.

He said it: “Lifting this ban will enhance domestic production in Kenya and allow Kenya to participate in the global corn trade market where 90 percent of the corn and soybeans are GM, making it easier for imports to backfill their needs in times of crop shortfalls, such as increasingly recurring droughts.” - Kurt Shultz, senior director of global strategies for the U.S. Grains Council, in response to Kenya President William Ruto’s decision to end the country’s ban on growing and importing genetically modified crops.


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