Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will announce a new round of projects today that will test approaches to developing and marketing low-carbon commodities. The latest round of the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities initiative will involve grants of under $5 million, which will be focused on historically underserved producers.

In September, the department announced plans to provide up to $2.8 billion for 70 larger projects.

A USDA advisory says the latest projects “will emphasize the enrollment of small farming and ranching operations,” including underserved producers and minority-serving institutions.

The projects “will expand markets for climate-smart commodities, leverage the greenhouse gas benefits of climate-smart commodity production and provide direct, meaningful benefits to production agriculture,” USDA says.  

For more on this week’s D.C. agenda, read our 
Washington Week Ahead.

Lawmakers press USTR to act on Mexico’s anti-biotech stance

More than half the lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Committee 
wrote to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Friday to demand she take action to counter Mexico’s secretive rejections of genetically modified seed traits and the country’s plan to ban GM corn imports in January 2024.

“Ignoring Mexico’s disregard for its (U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement) commitments sends a signal to our other trading partners that they may take similar actions without repercussions,” the 24 Democrats and Republicans said in the letter. “Improved dispute settlement provisions were a major reason for the overwhelming congressional support for the USMCA. For the reasons stated above we ask you to take enforcement action without delay.”

The National Corn Growers Association 
is lobbying the U.S. to take action, and the group lauded the letter to Tai.

FTC forces sale of farm stores

Tractor Supply Co. will be required to sell some stores as part of its acquisition of rival chain Orscheln Farm and Home. The divestiture, which is intended to keep the merger from harming competition in the Midwest and South, is included in a 
consent order issued by the Federal Trade Commission.

Tractor Supply will sell some Orscheln stores, as well as Orscheln’s corporate offices and Missouri distribution center, to Bomgaars, an Iowa-based chain. Some other Orschein stores will be sold to Buchheit, a chain in Missouri and Illinois.

For three years, Bomgaars and Buchheit will have to get prior approval from the FTC before selling any of the Orscheln stores.

The commission approved the consent order, 4-0.

Food manufacturing Producer Price Index up 11.8% over last year

Wholesale prices in Friday’s Bureau of Labor Statistics readout showed continued production cost pressures for consumer packaged goods manufacturers.

The November Producer Price Index rose 7.4% over the last year and 0.3% since October. The Consumer Brands Association said that while there has been some respite after a spike in prices this summer, the food manufacturing PPI is up 11.8% over November 2021.

Year-over-year, eggs spiked 244%, grains increased 19%, and edible oils rose 14%, CBA reported. Diesel fuel is up 60% year-over-year, making a significant impact on the CPG industry, which accounts for one-fifth of all freight transportation.

In a new Consumer Brands-Ipsos poll released last week of 1,027 American adults, 66% said grocery inflation has had a very significant or somewhat significant impact on their household budget – a 5% dip from August when the level was at 71%. When asked to rank the top three categories they place blame on for grocery inflation, Americans said President Joe Biden’s policies were most responsible, followed by the cost to make and ship products and supply chain constraints.

CBA is calling for supply chain relief from Congress and the administration, including empowering the federal government to strengthen supply chains as well as building up the supply chain workforce and talent pipeline and rethinking current infrastructure funding.

Bioenergy sorghum’s water use to be studied
A new research project led by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center will examine the use of water in sorghum grown as a biofuel feedstock
Principal Investigator Ivan Baxter of the center will head up the five-year, $16 million effort.
“Yields of bioenergy crops, such as Sorghum bicolor, have increased through breeding and improved agronomy,” the center said. “However, the amount of biomass produced for a given amount of water use has remained constant.”
Research at Texas A&M has found that millions of acres of abandoned and marginal cropland are available for planting of bioenergy sorghum, which can store large amounts of carbon.

Smuggler fails to hide methamphetamine in carrot shipment

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in San Diego weren’t fooled when a man pulled up to the border with a truck full of carrots last week. A rabbit might have been thrown, but the detector dog on site was quick to tell his handlers that there was more to the payload than just carrots. Officers took a closer look and found about 1,400 pounds of methamphetamine.

CBP said the street value of the meth is about $3 million. They didn’t disclose the value of the carrots, but confiscated the veggies along with the drugs and truck.

“These types of narcotic interceptions play a critical role in our border security mission,” said Rosa Hernandez, Otay Mesa Port Director.
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