Congressional Democrats are struggling to save a number of their colleagues from defeat in Tuesday’s mid-term elections, and former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson knows why.
In an interview with Agri-Pulse Newsmakers, Peterson says Republicans have managed to paint Democratic lawmakers as too far left because of issues like abortion, gender identity and critical race theory. He also doesn’t see his party shifting on key social issues, either.
The few Democrats with significant agriculture in their districts that have been able to survive happen to represent districts with large numbers of suburban or urban voters, he notes. Those lawmakers include Angie Craig in Minnesota and Cindy Axne in Iowa, both of whom are vulnerable this year.
Why it matters: Farm bills require bipartisan support, and the vanishing number of House Democrats could make it harder to do that, he says. “You can’t do a farm bill with one party … and I don’t know what to do about it,” Peterson says.
Another problem for farm groups and agribusiness companies is that they have fewer allies in Congress when it comes to appealing to a Democratic administration on regulatory issues.
Newsmakers will be available today at Agri-Pulse.com.
Ag groups press congressional leadership to address labor dispute
More than 190 agriculture groups are urging congressional leaders to resolve a continuing rail dispute before it results in a Nov. 19 strike.
The organizations — all members of the Agricultural Transportation Working Group — note in a letter that two unions voted against ratifying proposal backed by President Biden to resolve the ongoing contract dispute between 12 unions and the National Railway Labor Conference. Four other unions are still reviewing the agreement.
Keep in mind: A rail strike would deal another blow to agricultural shippers, who are already struggling to transport crops down the drought-stricken Mississippi River. USDA reports shippers already waiting until January or later next spring to move grain. That’s one of the reasons that the St. Louis barge spot rate has fallen 9% from last week. It currently sits at $80.12 per ton.
Universities told to work together on ag research
A report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine calls on Congress to ensure land-grant colleges and universities work more closely with each other on ag research. That could include providing dedicated funding for research collaboration.
The report says ongoing funding disparities have prevented minority-serving institutions “from being full partners in multi-institutional collaborations.”
The report also calls for improving incentives for academic partnerships. “Like many, if not most, academic entities, land-grant colleges and universities have traditions emphasizing and rewarding competitive, rather than collaborative, research projects,” the report says.
Take note: There are 247 active multi-state projects funded by congressional appropriations to traditional land-grant institutions.
Ethanol firm sees bright future, citing IRA
Ethanol producer Green Plains is coming out of a tough quarter due to the high prices it had to pay for corn. But President and CEO Todd Becker sees a bright future ahead, thanks in part to the clean energy incentives provided by the Inflation Reduction Act.
Becker told analysts Thursday that Green Plains can dramatically drive down the carbon score of its ethanol with the use of carbon pipelines. The IRA increases a tax credit for carbon capture and sequestration and creates a new incentive for low-carbon biofuels.
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Green Plains’ carbon intensity score is almost 50% below gasoline with existing technology, and can get as low as 15% to 20%, or even zero, with carbon sequestration, Becker said. The IRA “is a real game changer to our industry and our company,” he said.
By the way: Green Plains, which operates 11 plants in the Midwest, blames high corn basis levels for a $73.5 million loss in the third quarter.
Take note: The Government Accountability Office issued a report Thursday criticizing the EPA’s handling of small refinery exemptions from the Renewable Fuel Standard.
Judge blocks Albertsons payout to shareholders
A state court judge in Washington has temporarily blocked a $4 billion payout by Albertsons to its shareholders ahead of the supermarket chain’s proposed merger with Kroger.
The office of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who filed suit Tuesday, said the temporary restraining order “will block Albertsons from making the dividend payment” while the lawsuit is ongoing.
The latest lawsuit challenging the dividend payment was filed in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday by the District of Columbia, California and Illinois.
“The Special Dividend risks seriously hindering Albertsons’ ability to compete with Kroger and other supermarkets in these and other states during the merger review and interfering with the merger review process,” the latest complaint says, seeking a temporary restraining order until the proposed merger can undergo antitrust review.
The Federal Trade Commission has not yet announced its plans.
Lawmakers introduce marker bill to double ag export funding
A bipartisan group of House members has introduced a bill to double funding for two ag export promotion programs run by the USDA that help farmers expand their access in foreign markets. A similar measure, intended for inclusion in the next farm bill, was introduced in the Senate in September.
The legislation would increase mandatory annual funding of the Foreign Market Development Program, or FMD, to $69 million, and Market Access Program, or MAP, to $400 million. The Supporting Market Access to Reinvigorate Trade Act of 2022 was introduced by Reps. Jim Costa, D-Calif., Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., Tracey Mann, R-Kan., Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, and Kim Schrier, D-Wash.
Why it matters: Groups such as U.S. Wheat Associates depend on FMD to help pay for a permanent presence in foreign countries. MAP allows groups to run campaigns or hold events to promote U.S. products and educate importers.
He said it. “Food is a global security issue, and we must do all we can to reverse disruptions in trade and grow new partnerships that help deliver American products around the world.” – Rep. Jim Costa on the need to double MAP and FMD funding.
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