Members of the International Dairy Foods Association have been on Capitol Hill this week making their case for the Senate to reach agreement on ag labor reform.
IDFA President and CEO Michael Dykes says he’s “very optimistic” a compromise version of the House-passed Farm Workforce Modernization Act will pass during the lame duck session, thanks to “positive movement in the Senate.” On Wednesday, IDFA met with Republican Sens. John Hoeven of North Dakota, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Roy Blunt of Missouri as well as Susan Collins of Maine. 
Rep. Dan Newhouse told Agri-Pulse Wednesday he’s in close contact with some Senate offices to get a deal on the legislation. “There’s hope that they will; it’s not a guarantee. We stand ready. We’re over here trying to provide as much help as we can to make it a reality,” Newhouse said.
Water resources bill preserves higher Treasury cost share
Congressional negotiators have agreed to a water resources authorization bill that would maintain a higher Treasury cost share for waterways projects.
The Senate version of the bill would have increased the Treasury cost share for inland waterways projects from 65% to 75%. However, the final bill would do the next best thing by removing a provision that would have lowered the cost-share to 50% in 2031.
The water resources bill is wrapped together with the fiscal 2023 defense authorization measure.
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USDA’s Clay Hamilton (second from left) and consultant Sara Garcia Figuera (left) talk at The Almond Conference about EU Farm to Fork challenges. 
USDA: European industry worries Brussels isn’t listening
A senior USDA official says a recent trade mission to Spain left him both encouraged and discouraged when it comes to the European Union’s Farm to Fork Strategy, which is aimed in part at slashing pesticide usage in foods Europeans eat.
Clay Hamilton, associate administrator for USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, told representatives of the almond industry in Sacramento, California, Wednesday that the Spanish food industry is eager to keep importing U.S. almonds, which are widely used as a food ingredient.
But he says the industry doesn’t feel the European Commission is heeding concerns about the impact the F2F strategy will have. Industry officials “pretty much to a person felt like they weren't being listened to in Brussels at the European Commission,” Hamilton said.
“The way they seem to do things in Brussels is that they come up with aspirational regulations, put it into place, lock it in, and then figure out how it's going to work,” Hamilton said.
By the way: Almond industry consultant Sara Garcia Figuera emphasized the importance of data collection and recordkeeping to document production practices and pesticide usage. That data gathering will help in other markets as well as the EU, she says.
Ag trade to get key focus in IPEF negotiating round
Ag trade issues will be on the negotiating table when the U.S. and 13 other Indo-Pacific Economic Framework nations meet in Brisbane, Australia, on Dec. 10, according to senior administration officials.
The U.S. will be laying down text to deal with import licensing and sanitary and phytosanitary barriers that restrict U.S. ag trade, one official told reporters Tuesday evening.
There are “a whole range of topics we think will really help knock down barriers and make (U.S.) ag more accessible in these markets,” the official said.
The 13 countries that have signed up for the U.S.-led effort to counter Chinese expansion in the region include: Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Fiji.

Odessa ports still very active
The three Odessa ports in the Black Sea Grain Initiative are working full steam, according to a report by the consulting firm APK Inform.
Four ships carrying 149,000 tons of grain and other ag commodities left the ports Tuesday and are on their way to Asia and Europe. One of those ships is hauling 38,000 tons of vegetable oil to India.
Funding shortfall at land-grants highlighted 
Many U.S. farmers are struggling under drought conditions that are equal to or worse than any they’ve ever seen. But ag researchers at land-grant universities are sounding the alarm about another type of drought – a drought of funding.
On the sidelines of the American Seed Trade Association’s annual meeting in Chicago, Purdue University Soybean Center Director Katy Martin Rainey 

underscored her testimony before the Senate Agriculture Committee Tuesday, where she spoke on behalf of ASTA.
“How are we going to attract the best students to study topics in agriculture and food security when they come into our facilities, and the rooms are leaking, and they're overcrowded?” she asked rhetorically, in an interview with Agri-Pulse.

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Bottom line: The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities estimated last year that the backlog of deferred infrastructure needs at land-grants totals $11.5 billion. 
Consent decree settles child labor case
A company accused of using children to clean food processing facilities has agreed not to, and will engage an outside firm to ensure compliance, the Labor Department said.

In a consent decree approved by a federal judge in Nebraska

, where Packers Sanitation Services Inc. is headquartered, the company agreed to hire a third-party consultant or compliance specialist to provide quarterly child labor compliance training to all management personnel for three years and annually after that.
The Labor Department found that children “were cleaning dangerous powered equipment to fulfill sanitation contracts” in JBS plants in Nebraska and Minnesota and at Turkey Valley Farms in Minnesota. The department verified that at least 50 children were employed by PSSI.
He said it: "I believe this rule is going to have a ripple effect as food producers in other countries that export products to the United States have to comply with these requirements.” –FDA’s deputy commissioner for food policy and response, Frank Yiannas, on FDA’s food traceability rule.
Yiannas, speaking at an FDA webinar on Wednesday, said the rule is “more important today than ever before in human history,” since food has become a global commodity.
Steve Davies, Bill Tomson, Noah Wicks and Jacqui Fatka contributed to this report.
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