Executives with oilseed giant Bunge say the growing global demand for biofuels will continue to support the soybean sector for some time.

Chief Financial Officer John Neppi told analysts Wednesday that demand for soybean oil is strong on both the food and energy side. Bunge is seeing an unusual amount of interest from buyers for locking in prices beyond the next quarter or two.

“Obviously, we're being very deliberate about what we're willing to price … but the demand is out there, and it does continue to grow steadily,” Neppi said. “And we haven't seen any decline or lack of interest from either the energy or the food industry at this point.”

Poll: Rural battleground voters worry over economy, favor GOP

A new poll suggests Democrats face some strong headwinds in rural areas of the states that will determine control of the U.S. Senate for the next two years. Three-quarters of battleground rural voters say the economy isn’t working for them and half don’t expect their finances to improve in the next year, according to the survey sponsored, and published this week, by the online journal Daily Yonder.

Forty-five percent of those surveyed cite the rising cost of living as the biggest issue for their family. No other issue comes close. Two-thirds of those polled view President Biden unfavorably.

Bottom line: Poll director Celinda Lake, a leading Democratic strategist, told Daily Yonder, “Rural America’s in a pretty Republican mood. There’s no doubt about it.”

The states polled include Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

USDA announces new slate of broadband grants

USDA is announcing plans today to spend $759 million in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding in the third round of the department’s ReConnect program. The money will go to 24 U.S. states and territories.

A USDA official described three of the grants: $36.5 million of the funding will go to Public Service Telephone Co. in Georgia, $62.5 million to Shelby Electrical Cooperative in Illinois and $7.1 million to the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority in the Navajo Nation.

Take note: The USDA official said the funds are supposed to be used “as expeditiously as possible,” but the program does have a five-year buildout timeframe.

Ukraine accuses Russia of slowing Odesa grain exports

Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is accusing Russia of delaying grain exports from Odesa ports amid concerns Moscow will refuse to allow the Black Sea Grain Initiative to be renewed in November.

“We have reason to believe that the delays in Russia’s inspections of the grain initiative’s vessels are politically motivated,” said ministry said. “Recently, the Russian leadership tried to question the grain corridor without any legitimate grounds, demanding new benefits for Moscow’s consent to renew the deal.”

The Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul is responsible for overseeing ships that arrive and exit the three Odesa ports that were opened under the initiative. The center is manned by Ukrainian, Russian, Turkish and United Nations officials.

Russian inspectors are slow-walking their inspection roles, causing more than 165 vessels to be stuck in a queue near the Bosporus Strait, “and this number continues to grow daily,” the Ukrainian ministry said.

NY lawmakers fight lower overtime threshold for ag workers

Five Republican lawmakers from New York are trying to stop their state from reducing the overtime threshold for farmworkers.

The New York Labor Department is considering lowering the threshold for overtime pay from 60 to 40 hours per week. The five U.S. House members say in comments to the agency that the lower threshold would boost farm labor costs by 42% and devastate producers.

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The hourly requirement for time-and-a-half wages would be phased in, starting at 56 hours in 2024. Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon accepted the recommendation of the Farm Laborers Wage Board Sept. 30 and opened a comment period that runs until Dec. 11.  

Cornell College of Agriculture report cited by the Republicans found a 40-hour threshold would force dairy farmers and fruit and vegetable growers to reconsider their investments in the state or get out of the business entirely.

Republicans seek GAO report on WIC, infant formula shortages

Infant formula shortages remain in the news as some shelves continue to be empty. But some retailers and wholesalers are being left with “hundreds, thousands, and even millions of dollars in formula stocks that no longer, for no good reason, qualify” for the WIC nutrition assistance program as state contracts turn over. That’s according to Ansley Fellers, executive director of the Nebraska Grocery Industry Association.

Nine Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, want the Government Accountability Office to look into the role state WIC contracts play in formula supply issues. Over 50% of the baby formula consumed in the United States is used by mothers on WIC benefits.

After concerns were raised about the high cost of infant formula under WIC, all states pursued sole-source contracts with infant formula manufacturers, who then send rebates to the WIC state agency.

“These rebates have saved the WIC program between $1 to $2 billion annually. While these savings have allowed the WIC program to stretch funding farther, some stakeholders have expressed concerns with unintended consequences these contracts have on the market,” the senators say in their letter requesting the GAO study.

Researchers track HPAI in wild bird

Wild birds across more than 40 states have tested positive in the highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak that began in December 2021. Now, some research led by the U.S. Geological Survey has tracked the movement of a wild bird infected with HPAI in North America and could prove beneficial in plotting future mitigation efforts.

The scientists found the movement patterns of the infected lesser scaup were noticeably different from non-infected birds, moving shorter distances in similar timeframes. The bird was not originally captured for avian influenza research, but was later found to be infected.

Officials can use these findings as they develop surveillance programs and strategies.

He said it. “An actual rail strike will clearly halt economic activity, but the threat of a rail strike can achieve this as well.” - Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition.

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