USDA is announcing a final rule today for strengthening enforcement of organic standards. The Trump administration released a proposal in 2020 to better deter and detect fraud and to improve traceability from farm to market.
Among other things, the proposal called for reducing the types of uncertified entities that operate without USDA oversight, including importers, brokers and traders.
Dairy processors gear up for policy debate
Things are beginning to heat up in the dairy sector ahead of the debate over the farm bill and the possibility that USDA will get involved in reforming milk pricing regulations.
The International Dairy Foods Association has hired a chief economist, Mike Brown, who was director of the dairy supply chain at The Kroger Co., and a trio of consultants that includes former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn.
The other two consultants, Chip English and Steven Rosenbaum, have expertise with the federal milk marketing order system.
Why it matters: The industry remains divided over what to do about the pricing rules, but milk producers are pushing to undo a key reform that was part of the 2018 farm bill. Processors may seek to increase the “make allowance” that helps determine their share of dairy revenue. The changes could be carried out through a USDA hearing process, or through the farm bill, if lawmakers want to get involved. 
“With discussions underway related to farm bill safety net programs and federal order reform, we felt it necessary to expand our expertise should we need deeper experience in these areas,” said IDFA spokesman Matt Herrick.
The National Milk Producers Federation hasn’t finalized its reform proposal but is targeting the USDA hearing process rather than the farm bill.
Don’t miss this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter for a look at the makeup of key House committees in the new Congress. Several new chairs have ag backgrounds or represent farm districts. 
US, EU finalize post-Brexit ag TRQs
The U.S. and European Union have finalized the levels of agricultural tariff-rate quotas that needed to be altered after the UK exited the political and economic union that now includes 27 nations. The EU has been operating from a provisional estimate of what those tariff levels should be since the UK departed in 2020.
The TRQs were originally agreed to after the founding of the World Trade Organization in 1995, but they had to be reduced to reflect the fact that the UK is no longer importing goods under the bloc.
For example, the U.S. and EU agreed that the European quota for U.S. wheat should be lowered by 57 metric tons to account for the UK’s absence.
U.S. rice farmers got a small boost from the new deal. While the EU quota was reduced because of Brexit, the new agreement raises the European quota by 8,000 tons over the provisional level set in 2020.
Keep in mind: The new quota adjustment for U.S. beef is separate from an unrelated European deal to settle the WTO trade dispute over non-hormone beef trade. That agreement, reached during the Trump administration, gave U.S. exporters 35,000 tons of Europe’s 45,000-ton tariff rate quota for beef from animals that were never treated with growth hormones.
This latest adjustment of the EU’s original TRQ for U.S. and Canadian beef was set at 10,500 tons.
Georgia ports see record year in 2022
Georgia ports had a record-breaking year in 2022 after moving 5.9 million twenty-foot containers – a 5% increase over activity in 2021.

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Expansions at the Port of Savannah, a major hub for U.S. ag exports like poultry and nuts, will continue through 2023. Capacity is expected to rise to 7.5 million containers by the end of the year and then to as much as 9 million by 2025, according to the Georgia Port Authority.
USDA mulls alternatives for killing infected flocks
The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is planning an environmental impact statement to assess the effects of its avian flu response activities on commercial and backyard poultry operations. APHIS wants to take what it calls an “adaptive management” approach to future outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza. The latest has resulted in the deaths of 58 million birds.
APHIS is looking at allowing “nonstandard” methods for depopulating birds. The current methods include shutting down ventilation and increasing the temperature of barns.
WOTUS news: The next “waters of the U.S.” rule is being published in today’s Federal Register and will go into effect March 20. Still to come in the coming weeks, or months, is the Supreme Court’s decision in the Sackett case, which could contain language that would force EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to respond with regulatory guidance.
Food scientist salaries up 16% since 2019
It’s a good time to be a food technologist. The median salary is now $110,000, an increase of 16% since 2019 and the biggest such increase in more than 20 years, says Mary Ellen Kuhn, managing editor of Food Technology magazine, a publication of the Institute of Food Technologists.
Take note: A food flavorist makes on average nearly double that of a food scientist or chemist.
A significant gender gap exists. Women make on average 21% less than men, but the gap has narrowed from the 26.5% differential found in a 2019 survey. 
Starting salaries have increased 33% to $77,000 a year, Kuhn says.
The figures are based on a survey of 3,000 workers, both members and non-members of IFT.
He said it. “America pays its debts. Period. There should be no political brinkmanship with the debt limit.” – Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., in the latest round of the war of words between Democrats and House Republicans over spending and the debt limit.
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