Work continues on Capitol Hill this week on a possible deal that could win Senate passage for the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. The lame duck session is likely the last window for passing the legislation for the foreseeable future, since Republicans will take control of the House in January.

Meanwhile, a poll commissioned by the International Dairy Foods Association shows bipartisan support among voters for passing the bill. Some 75% of Democratic voters and 53% of GOP voters support the bill, according to the Morning Consult survey. Thirty-one percent of GOP voters have no opinion.  

Keep in mind: The bill would reform the H-2A visa program while providing a path to legal status for existing farmworkers. 

Brazil nears end of soy planting but delays are complicating

Brazil’s soybean planting this year is 91% complete, but weather delays are complicating efforts by some farmers in the south and north of the country, according to the consulting firm AgRural.

“The dry and hot weather is already worrying producers in the south, especially in (the state of) Rio Grande do Sul, where planting is still ongoing and is delayed,” the Brazilian company said in its latest update.

Farmers in four states in the northwest of the country are getting too much rain and seeding in much of the region is delayed.

Ukrainian ag exports dropped off in November

The Ukrainian Ministry of Agriculture says the number of ships docking in Odesa ports to carry corn, wheat, vegetable oil and other commodities declined in November as Ukrainian exports fell below October levels.

The continuation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative was thrown into uncertainty as Russia first withdrew participation and then threatened not to allow the deal to be extended.

Ukraine exported 5.9 million metric tons of ag commodities in November, about 1 million tons less than in October.

Shipments of both wheat and corn dropped off 300,000 and 400,000 tons, respectively, but sunflower seed and sunflower oil exports increased, the ministry said.

Wholesale Christmas tree prices up this year

‘Tis the season to see families hauling Christmas trees tied on top of their vehicles to bring back home from a nearby lot, but that tradition may be a bit more expensive this year, according to a survey conducted by the Real Christmas Tree Board.

Higher input, transportation and other costs will result in higher wholesale prices that may be passed along to consumers, according to the survey.

About 11% of growers said they would be increasing their wholesale price for Christmas trees by 5% this year, but that’s small compared to most growers. About 71% of growers said they would be increasing their wholesale price by 5-15% this year and 11% of growers expected to push prices up 16-20%. Five percent of growers surveyed said prices would rise even higher.

Only 2% of growers said they did not plan to raise their wholesale prices.

China extends tariff exclusion for US whey

China has again extended an exclusion for its Section 301 tariff on U.S. whey, which was set at 25% amid the trade war begun during the Trump administration, according to a new report from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. China first exempted whey in September of 2019.

The whey exemption – which has now happened four times – was not part of the “Phase One” deal struck that eventually prompted China to begin excluding many ag commodities from the tariffs, but only if importers first applied for relief.

China is building up its dairy sector, but the country is still reliant on imports of products like whey.

Carbon-storing black soils at risk worldwide, FAO report says

Highly productive black soils are at risk from land-use changes, unsustainable management practices and overuse of pesticides, a new report from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization says.

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“Most of the black soils have lost half of their soil organic carbon stocks and suffer from moderate to severe erosion processes, as well as nutrient imbalances, acidification, compaction and soil biodiversity loss,” the report said.

The soils currently store about 8% of the world’s Soil Organic Carbon and have the potential to store more, the report says. “With their inherent fertility, they are the food basket for many countries and are considered essential to the global food supply,” FAO said.

One of the report’s main recommendations is to establish a global agreement for the sustainable management of black soils. 

Russia has the largest area of black soils, at 808 million acres, followed by Kazakhstan with about 267 million acres. The U.S. has about 76 million acres.

Port of Savannah prepares to increase container capacity

The Port of Savannah is preparing to begin renovations in January on its ocean terminal to expand its container operations.
The plan is to discontinue it breakbulk operations at the terminal and double its capacity to load and unload container-carrying vessels, the Georgia Port Authority said in a statement released Monday.

Savannah, a key port for agricultural exports like poultry, will continue loading at the Ocean Terminal during construction.

“The realignment is part of a broader effort to transform the terminal into an all-container operation, shifting most breakbulk cargo to the Port of Brunswick,” said Griff Lynch, GPA executive director. “Completion of this project will improve our flexibility and allow Georgia Ports to optimize cargo movement, supporting our customers in delivering goods to market efficiently.”

EPA to distribute $6M for Mississippi River nutrient pollution on tribal lands

The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday said it would be using $6 million in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to reduce nutrient pollution on tribal lands in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya River Basins.

The funding is a small portion of the $60 million approved by Congress to fulfill parts of the Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan, which was drafted by the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force. 

The $6 million will be allocated to 21 tribes in the basins. 

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