The likely next chair of the House Ag Committee says the next farm bill needs to bolster the existing programs used by farmers to manage risk and lessen the need on ad hoc assistance.

Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., told a Farm Foundation forum Tuesday that “inefficient, costly disaster programs” have fueled a high cost of farmer support occurring outside the farm bill baseline, something he wants to change.

“These ad hoc programs have provided necessary assistance, but farmers can’t plan for them, and lenders can’t depend on them,” he said. “That’s why we need to enhance the farm safety net provisions in the farm bill to provide more long-term certainty and reduce the need for ad hoc assistance.”

Thompson didn’t elaborate on the kinds of enhancements he would pursue should he assume the chairmanship.

Keep in mind: Many farm groups are calling for increases to farm program reference prices, but former Senate Ag staffer Jonathan Coppess, now with the University of Illinois, says crops with big acreage totals like corn and soybeans will have a harder time securing higher price supports.

“What we see now are some crops with much more beneficial reference prices than others that trigger payments every year, and those crops tend to have smaller acres,” he said.

Senators say they want fairer conservation spending

A group of 15 Western senators sent a letter today to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, requesting that recently approved conservation program funding be “equally” distributed to different parts of the country, including their drought-stricken states.

The letter, led by Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Mitt Romney, R-Utah, calls for the USDA to consider the “contribution of every region” when spending $20 billion for USDA agriculture conservation programs.

Take note: The senators said that the current lack of USDA engineers and experts knowledgeable in water conservation has “delayed many projects for Western growers.” They urged Vilsack to “address the understaffing of USDA field offices” and prioritize hiring Natural Resources Conservation Service staff with expertise in Western production agriculture.

Ministry: Ukraine power outages will impact ag, but domestic food supply is secure

Recent barrages of Russian missiles aimed at Ukraine’s electrical grid and power supplies are causing widespread outages and impacting the ag sector, but Agriculture Deputy Secretary Taras Vysotskyi assured the public Tuesday that there will be no shortages of food and prices will not spike.

Farmers are planting less, but that only means Ukraine will have less to export, he said.

“The reduction of sowing will reduce exports, but even with the available planted areas, Ukraine will have twice as much agricultural produce as it needs for consumption,” he said.

“This may affect the volume of exports, but not the domestic market.”

Report gives FDA a lot to chew on

The expert panel tasked with evaluating the Food and Drug Administration’s human foods program produced a report that was fairly comprehensive given that the review was announced in July.

But along with the well-reported recommendations on the agency’s culture, structure, resources and authorities, the reviewers tacked on a list of other areas for the agency's consideration.

Among more than a dozen bullet points about agency authorities, the review recommended that FDA “seek … pre-market label approval authority” and “clarify FDA’s jurisdiction to access, investigate, and collect samples on property where food-producing animals are raised or graze (e.g., grazing lands and commercial animal operations) that are adjacent to or nearby produce farms or water sources to facilitate FDA’s investigation of foodborne illness outbreaks.”

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The report itself received widespread praise, and FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said he would use it, along with input from senior agency officials and stakeholders, to decide how to revamp the human foods program.

EPA targets PFAS in latest ‘roadmap’

The Environmental Protection Agency plans this winter to propose monitoring requirements at industrial facilities where PFAS are “expected or suspected to be present,” as part of its efforts to address contamination by the so-called “forever chemicals.”

A “strategic roadmap” issued Tuesday also says the agency will propose, “as appropriate,” that discharge permits require pretreatment programs “to include source control and best management practices to protect wastewater treatment plant discharges and biosolid applications.”

A risk assessment on two common PFAS in biosolids, however, is not expected until winter 2024. “Biosolids, or sewage sludge, from wastewater treatment facilities can sometimes contain PFAS. When spread on agricultural fields, the PFAS can contaminate crops and livestock,” the guidance document says.

China becomes net exporter of frozen french fries

China’s frozen French fry production has been on the rise and the country will become a net exporter for the first time ever in the 2022-23 marketing year, according to a new analysis by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

China is expected to export a record 84,000 metric tons, a 12% increase from the previous year. Imports are expected to drop 50,000 tons.

The frozen French fry trade surplus may be challenged by a drop off in domestic spud production. FAS says it is expecting China’s potato production to fall by 2% this year to just 93 million tons.

He said it: “The deluded dreams of billionaires aside, there is no Planet B. We must fix the world we have” — United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, speaking Tuesday at the UN Biodiversity Conference in Canada.

Spencer Chase, Noah Wicks and Steve Davies contributed to this report. Questions? Comments? Tips? Email