The nation’s largest farm organization is now on record calling for an increase in funding for the farm bill. Delegates to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico, adopted that position after a spirited debate on Tuesday.
Why it matters: Republicans on both sides of Capitol Hill want to use the upcoming debt-ceiling debate to force Democrats to agree to spending cuts. In 2011, a similar debate led to $23 billion in cuts to farm bill spending.
AFBF will make the case that farm programs should be left alone. If lawmakers are “really interested in keeping the food security of our country secure like it is and available to our people, then they're going to have to go and find other places to cut,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall told Agri-Pulse after the policy debate.
By the way: AFBF’s top leadership is feeling pretty good after the latest college football championships. Duvall’s Georgia Bulldogs thoroughly embarrassed TCU, and Vice President Scott VanderWal was glowing after South Dakota State decisively won its first FCS title on Sunday.
For more about AFBF’s day-long policy debate, read our weekly Agri-Pulse newsletter, available today. We also preview a range of regulatory issues facing agriculture this year.
House forming panel to counter China
The House voted 365-65 Tuesday to create a special committee to guard against Chinese influence in the U.S., with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy making an impassioned speech in support of forming the committee.
"Worried about Chinese propaganda in our schools and lobbying efforts in Washington? The (Select Committee on China) will shine a bright light on it,” McCarthy said. "Outraged that the (Chinese Communist Party) is buying American farmland? The committee will work to stop it.”
McCarthy promised that the committee will be a bipartisan effort. The vote shows there is plenty of support on both sides of the aisle. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., was named to chair the committee.
Federal advisers urged to provide recommendations on heat standard
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is in the process of developing heat regulations for workers and is pushing an advisory panel to provide recommendations.
Speaking at a meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, OSHA’s Andrew Levinson said the panel should “keep working with all deliberate speed on this, because OSHA is not sitting still and waiting.”
OSHA’s latest regulatory agenda says the agency is currently analyzing the impact of a heat standard on small businesses.
A committee work group is evaluating stakeholder comments submitted to OSHA on a possible standard, as well as current workplace practices, and hopes to have something to present at the next committee meeting in the spring, said Rebecca Reindel, health and safety director at the AFL-CIO.
By the way: The advisory committee adopted recommendations that OSHA correct and clarify misinformation in online materials on heat illness and injury, continue to partner with community groups and expand use of social media and messaging apps to educate people about working in the heat.
Soybean harvest under way in Brazil
Brazil’s soybean harvest this year has started in the country’s largest producing state of Mato Grosso in the Central-West region, but farmers in southern states like Paraná are delayed, according to the consulting firm AgRural.
Rio Grande do Sul – Brazil’s southernmost state that borders Argentina and Uruguay – is exceptionally delayed. Some farmers there have not even completed planting due to abnormally hot and dry weather. There are still no signs of widespread crop failure there, says AgRural, but the company warned that production estimates will be reduced if “conditions remain adverse throughout January.”
The firm estimated in December that Brazilian 2023 soybean production would reach 153.6 million metric tons. AgRural will release its next forecast later this month.
School meal programs near tipping point
According to a School Nutrition Association report released today, the vast majority of school districts are concerned about the adequacy of federal meal reimbursement rates when a temporary increase expires in July.
Congress raised the rates by 40 cents per lunch and 15 cents per breakfast in the Keep Kids Fed Act Congress passed for the 2022-23 school year. Nearly all districts surveyed by SNA are concerned about the rates dropping.
“School meal programs are at a tipping point as rising costs, persistent supply chain issues and labor shortages jeopardize their long-term sustainability," said School Nutrition Association President Lori Adkins. ‘
By the way: For a time during the pandemic, Congress allowed kids to get free school lunches nationwide. In those school districts that now charge for meals, participation in breakfast meals dropped by 23% and 13% for lunch.
He said it. “We don't live in a bubble, and that's why we need to stay involved.” – Illinois Farm Bureau delegate Brian Duncan, successfully arguing during the AFBF annual meeting against a proposal by the Texas delegation that called for pulling the United States out of the United Nations.
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