Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., has been working for months to get a deal on ag labor reform. But with no deal in sight, and this Congress wrapping up soon, Bennet today is introducing his own version of the House-passed Farm Workforce Modernization Act with Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.
Sources say Bennet was unable to reach agreement with the lead GOP negotiator, Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, on changes to the FWMA. Bennet’s new bill has no Senate co-sponsors.
Meanwhile, farmers are facing another big increase in wages for H-2A workers in 2023, an average of 7% nationwide. Bennet and Newhouse have been working to reform the wage-setting process and expand the availability of H-2A workers. 
“I hate to be in the position of saying, I told you so … but here we are. It truly is a desperate situation for American agriculture,” Newhouse told Agri-Pulse.
The chances of passing ag labor reform are virtually nil in the next Congress. Newhouse noted that House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has said immigration reform will be off the table.

Survey: Brazil’s farmers close to US on conservation
Farmers around the world are optimistic about their financial situation heading into 2023, according to a survey of 5,500 producers by the consulting firm McKinsey and Co.
Some 70% of the producers surveyed say they expect their profits to remain stable or increase next year because of strong commodity prices. But across the board, farmers globally say their biggest risk heading into the new year is high input prices. 
The survey included questions about farmers’ adoption of some conservation practices – low-tillage, cover crops, controlled-release fertilizers and variable-rate fertilization. The survey asked whether farmers are using those practices now or plan to during the next two years.
The results suggest Brazilian farmers are on par with, or ahead of, U.S. growers in those categories. The EU, meanwhile, stands out when it comes to cover crops; 82% of the European farmers who were surveyed say they use them or plan to. 
The survey respondents included 1,350 farmers in the United States, about 500 each in Brazil and Argentina, and another 600 in Europe.
By the way: About 12% of the farmers in North and South America say they either participate in carbon programs or intend to, compared to 24% in Europe.
Vilsack: Climate-Smart program will benefit the world
The Biden administration’s Climate-Smart Commodities initiative won’t just be a boon for U.S. farmers – producers around the globe will benefit from the $3 billion program, says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
“We’re going to be very transparent about this,” he said during a webinar sponsored by the journal Foreign Policy on Wednesday. He noted that USDA is requiring the projects to provide regular reports on their progress to USDA.
He says one effort that’s likely to provide global benefits is work to slash methane emissions from rice production.
STB told improper rail embargoes hurting ag shippers
National Grain and Feed Association CEO Mike Seyfert says railroad embargoes can force grain processors to run at lower-than-normal capacities, and that makes it harder for livestock and poultry operations to get feed delivered in time. The delays also can trigger demurrage fees by ocean carriers on grain exports, he told the Surface Transportation Board on Wednesday.
Testifying at a second day of STB hearings, Seyfert said NGFA knows railroads like Union Pacific may need to use embargoes to deal with weather events and other disasters outside of their control. But he said railroads should not be using embargoes to solve congestion issues stemming from their own actions.

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"We strongly urge against the use of embargoes as a planned business practice when the system becomes congested because of the actions of the railroad, namely not having sufficient personnel or making necessary capital expenditures,” Seyfert said.
Keep in mind: Railroads use embargoes to restrict the movement of goods to certain points to prevent congestion. UP has imposed more than 1,000 this year, compared to just five in 2017.
Ukraine farms shutting down as war rages
Ukraine’s small family farms are becoming another casualty of the war with Russia, according to a new analysis from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. One of every four family farms has either significantly reduced production or stopped completely, significantly cutting the Ukrainian food supply.
“Ukraine’s agriculture sector is an important source of livelihoods for the roughly 13 million Ukrainians living in rural areas,” said Pierre Vauthier, head of FAO’s Ukraine Country Office. “While around two-thirds of agricultural production is made by enterprises, rural households produce around 32 percent.” 
The situation is worse in rural areas that are the closest to combat zones and it’s expected to worsen as the war drags on into the coldest winter months, says FAO.
He said it.  “It is evident that the department’s political leadership set out to achieve a predetermined outcome and purposefully ignored important steps in the process that would get in their way.” – the Senate Ag Committee’s ranking Republican, John Boozman of Arkansas.
He was reacting to a Government Accountability Office report that said USDA updated the Thrifty Food Plan, which determines benefit levels in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, without “key project management and quality assurance practices in place.”
Among the findings, GAO said USDA did a “limited internal review” of the TFP report instead of a formal peer review. USDA disagreed with some of the criteria GAO used in its review.
The update resulted in a significant increase in SNAP benefits.

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