The two top U.S. ag trade officials met Monday in Mexico City with high-ranking Mexican government officials over U.S. opposition to a planned Mexican ban on genetically modified corn.
The talks with Alexis Taylor, USDA’s new undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, and Doug McKalip, chief ag negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, were “productive” and the two sides will “continue working to maintain and increase the important agricultural trade,” Roberto Velasco Álvarez said in a tweet Monday.

Álvarez is acting undersecretary for North America in the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Taylor and McKalip issued a joint statement Monday noting their appreciation of Mexico’s willingness to modify the ban but said the changes – which would still bar U.S. white corn for food products – “are not enough.
“We made it clear today that if this issue is not resolved, we will consider all options, including taking formal steps to enforce our rights under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement,” they said.

Crop insurance critic gets Rules seat

A GOP lawmaker who has proposed cuts to crop insurance is getting a seat on the House Rules Committee, which determines what amendments get debated on the House floor.
In 2018, Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., proposed a farm bill amendment that would have slashed premium subsidies by 15% for producers with adjusted gross incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Another amendment, co-sponsored by Norman, would have effectively eliminated the harvest price option.
Keep in mind:Neither amendment got a vote on the House floor because the GOP leadership strictly limited the types of amendments that were debated. But Republicans are pushing for a more open amendment process in this Congress.
Other hard-line conservatives getting a Rules seat include Chip Roy, R-Texas.
USDA announces new pandemic payments for dairy industry
The Agriculture Department on Monday announced another $100 million in payments through its Pandemic Market Volatility Assistance Program, as well as up to $100 million in a new Organic Dairy Marketing Assistance Program.
Both programs seek to alleviate dairy production losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic and drought conditions across the U.S. The pandemic funding is for dairy farmers who had between 5 million and 9 million pounds of fluid milk sales from July to December 2020, while the Organic Dairy Marketing Assistance program will help organic dairy producers with up to 75% of their future projected marketing costs in 2023.
Take note:National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern praised the department for the second round of the Pandemic Market Volatility Assistance Program, saying it would “aid thousands of dairy producers who otherwise would have absorbed losses created by policies that didn’t work for them."
Antibiotic use on citrus argued at appeals court
A Justice Department attorney conceded Monday that EPA would prefer the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals vacate its approval of streptomycin for use on citrus, rather than impose an unrealistic deadline for the agency to complete further studies and comply with the Endangered Species Act.
“It doesn't make sense from EPA’s perspective to accede to a court order to do something that EPA is telling the court it cannot do,” DOJ attorney Daniel Dertke told a three-judge panel of the 9thCircuit Court of Appeals Monday.
EPA argued in court papers that it could not collect and analyze data on the potential environmental and human harms of the antibiotic until fall 2026 and would prefer the court simply remand the 2021 decision to the agency without any deadline.
The Natural Resources Defense Council and other groups have challenged the agency’s 2021 decision to expand the antibiotic’s registration. NRDC attorney Margaret Hsieh argued EPA failed to scientifically justify the decision, which she said would result in more streptomycin being sprayed over the next four years than were used in the last 65.
“EPA ignored the serious risk that antibiotic resistance would spread off-field to human pathogens through environmental pathways,” Hsieh said. “They also assumed, contrary to both law and the record, that label instructions requiring use of personal protective equipment, or PPE, would adequately protect farmworkers from antibiotic-resistant infections.”
Brazil soy crop seen lower
The Brazilian consulting firm AgRural has lowered its forecast for the country’s soybean harvest this year by 700,000 metric tons due to very dry weather in the south of the country. The firm, which is based in the southern state of Paraná, said the prolonged dry weather there and in Rio Grande do Sul prompted it to reduce its overall forecast to 152.9 million tons.
The firm’s new prediction is now virtually the same as USDA’s forecast of 153 million tons, which was raised earlier this month from 152 million.
Meanwhile, the pace of the Brazilian harvest in the state of Mato Grosso – the largest soybean state in the country – has quickened over the past week. Brazil’s soybean harvest this year was 1.8% complete as of Thursday, up from 0.6% a week earlier.
Take note:Brazilian farmers are also rushing to plant their second-crop corn after they harvest soybeans in Mato Grosso. The size of the “safrinha,” Brazil’s largest of three corn crops in the year, is expected to set a new record, and Mato Grosso is already 1% planted, according to AgRural.
NAS honors UC-Davis poultry scientist
A scientist at the University of California, Davis, working on breeding poultry that are more resistant to heat and disease stress has won a $100,000 prize from the National Academy of Sciences. Huaijun Zhou runs the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Genomics to Improve Poultry.
His UC-Davis lab works on understanding the genetic mechanisms behind disease development and resistance, and immune response. His focus pathogens include avian influenza, Newcastle disease, salmonella and campylobacter.
They said it: “Mexico’s proposed approach, which is not grounded in science, still threatens to disrupt billions of dollars in bilateral agricultural trade, cause serious economic harm to U.S. farmers and Mexican livestock producers, and stifle important innovations needed to help producers respond to pressing climate and food security challenges,” – That’s USDA Trade Undersecretary Alexis Taylor and USTR Chief Ag Negotiator Doug McKalip in a joint Monday statement on the state of U.S.-Mexico negotiations on the country’s proposed GMO corn ban.
Questions, comments, tips? Send an email to Steve Davies.