It’s up to the Supreme Court justices now to decide whether California’s Proposition 12 will stay on the books.

Supporters of the law seemed to be pleased with how oral arguments in the case went Tuesday. “As Justice Clarence Thomas noted, Proposition 12 is not about reaching out and regulating something across state lines because it regulates only sales of pork within California,” said Brian Frazelle, senior appellate counsel at the Constitutional Accountability Center.

He noted that Justice Neil Gorsuch described National Pork Producers Council’s arguments as “enshrining non-textual economic liberties into the Constitution” in an effort to protect the way much of the industry raises pork.

But, but, but: Justices also had sharp questions for the law’s defenders, and NPPC said it “presented a strong case and is confident in its arguments.” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall says Prop 12 “has the potential to put small hog farmers out of business.”

Read our account of the oral arguments in this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter.

Low Mississippi River water levels raise barge rates

Shipping rates are continuing to increase as low water levels on the Mississippi River force barge companies to place limits on how much they can transport.

Shipping a ton of soybeans loaded between Saint Paul and St. Louis cost $51.02 per ton in the week leading up to Sept. 20, a 33% increase from the same week the year prior, according to Soy Transportation Coalition Executive Director Mike Steenhoek.

“Precipitation over the next month is expected to be limited‚ further exacerbating the shipping challenges,” Steenhoek said. “When combined with an overall supply chain under stress, agricultural shippers are expecting some difficulties in getting soybeans and grain to market.”

Rail service shows improvement 

Railroads are making some progress in moving grain this fall over where things stood last year. An analysis by the American Farm Bureau Federation shows that 351,000 grain cars were loaded and billed in the third quarter of 2022, up from 295,000 in the third quarter of 2021. Still, the latest third quarter number was a decline from the second quarter of the year, when 398,000 grain cars were loaded.

Based on the number of unfilled grain car orders, the decline from the second to third quarters isn’t due to reduced demand, AFBF says.

But, but, but: There has been some improvement in rail speeds. Last quarter, the average speed for all goods was 22 miles per hour and 21 miles per hour for ethanol and grains. This quarter speeds have increased by 5% to 24 miles per hour for all goods and 22.5 mph for ethanol and grain. By comparison, rail speeds reached 25 mph for grains and ethanol in early 2020, when there was less pressure on railroads due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CAFOs, Enlist herbicides targeted in separate actions

A coalition of public interest groups is trying to compel EPA to respond to a petition filed more than five years ago seeking stronger clean water rules for concentrated animal feeding operations.

The Center for Food Safety, Food & Water Watch and others have filed suit in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to force EPA to respond to the 2017 petition.

Also from CFS: The organization and Pesticide Action Network North America have filed a notice of intent to sue EPA for not consulting with the Fish and Wildlife Service before approving Enlist One and Enlist Duo, Corteva herbicides used on corn, cotton and soybeans.

UK making first lamb exports to US in 20 years

 A shipment of $34 million in British lamb is on its way to the U.S. for the first time in about 20 years. The U.S. banned British lamb in 1996 amid an outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy. 

“We hope this order will be the first of many, allowing millions of US consumers to enjoy our world-renowned lamb, while bringing a major boost to UK sheep producers and exporters, who have another valuable market in which to sell their products,” said Phil Hadley, a director at the UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

Soy groups invest in expansion of Washington port terminal

 Seven U.S. soy groups are helping Omaha-based AG Processing fund the expansion of a terminal at Port of Grays Harbor in Washington to help boost U.S. soymeal exports.

The United Soybean Board, Soy Transportation Coalition, Iowa Soybean Association, Kansas Soybean Commission, Nebraska Soybean Board, North Dakota Soybean Council and South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council are together investing $1.3 million in the project that’s expected to be completed in 2025, according to USB. AG Processing is a cooperative that owns 10 soybean processing facilities in the Midwest

“I’m proud of our farmers’ commitment to enhance and maintain U.S. infrastructure,” says USB Director Tony Johanson. “Doing so helps sustain our competitive advantage over global competitors.”

Law takes effect lifting tariffs on infant formula ingredient

President Biden has signed into law a bill that temporarily lifts tariffs on imports of base powder used for infant formula. The National Milk Producers Federation didn’t oppose the measure, citing its limited volume and time frame. Some 2,600 metric tons of powder could be imported duty-free through the end of the year.

NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern has said the organization “emphatically opposes efforts that would create long-term dependence on foreign suppliers for a critical nutritional food.”

He said it: “I think people in some states, the ones that produce a lot of pork, in Iowa or North Carolina or Indiana, may think there's a moral value in providing a low-cost source of
protein to people, maybe particularly at times of rising food prices.” - Chief Justice John Roberts on Proposition 12. Defenders of the law argue that the law protects California’s moral values.

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