Today is officially the last day for farmers to submit their responses for the 2022 Census of Agriculture.

USDA spokeswoman Teresa White says the response to the census so far has been “strong.”

“As far as what will happen to responses received after Monday, we want producers to know that their efforts will count, and to please complete the Census of Agriculture as soon as possible,” she says in an email to Agri-Pulse. “We don’t want any producer to be unrepresented in these influential and widely used data.”

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

Budget chair: Lax work rules discouraging workforce

President Biden got some great news on Friday with a report that the economy added 517,000 jobs in January. But House Budget Committee Chairman Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, says that isn’t good enough, noting that the workforce is still smaller than it was before the pandemic. And he’s notably blaming that in part on federal welfare programs.

“We should end Democrats’ welfare-without-work policies that have sidelined labor, rein in this unbridled spending, and reduce the tax and regulatory burden that are forcing our economy into a recession.”

Why it matters: Arrington may want to make a case for tightening work requirements in programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. If so, that could set up a partisan battle over the next farm bill, since SNAP makes up about 80% of the spending.

Lawmakers say bird flu funds needs to be expeditiously utilized

In the wake of the unprecedented outbreak of avian influenza, a bipartisan group of lawmakers called on USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to quickly disseminate funds Congress recently allocated to limit the impact of the outbreak.

Through the appropriations bill passed at the end of the year, Congress allocated over $64 million for improving avian health and included guidance directing APHIS to coordinate proactively with state animal health officials to mitigate the spread of the highly pathogenic avian influenza. Additionally, Congress directed APHIS to increase outreach and engagement with poultry producers to educate them on how to proactively halt further spread. 

letter led by Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman, Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., says, “It is imperative the agency quickly deploy additional resources and work with the states in improving biosecurity measures within the avian supply chain, including the disinfection of sites and the testing and quarantining of affected flocks.”

Also signing the letter was Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member John Boozman of Arkansas and fellow Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton, Tom Carper and Chris Coons, both Democrats from Delaware, Mark Warner, D-Va., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

The outbreak, which began one year ago, has impacted 745 flocks in 47 states and affected over 58 million birds.

New NCBA leader implores industry to get behind traceability

South Dakota rancher Todd Wilkinson took the helm of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Friday and has a fiery message for his fellow producers: Get on board with traceability.

Wilkinson and other NCBA leaders argue producer involvement in the drafting process will improve a system they see as a downright inevitability. USDA rolled out a proposal in January to require the electronic identification of cattle bound for interstate movement, and NCBA has been working internally to come up with language it could support.

Current regulations would require the halting of all cattle movement in the United States for 72 hours after the detection of certain foreign animal diseases, something NCBA argues would not allow the system to move “at the speed of commerce.”

NCBA’s timeline: The group has three goals for its traceability work; gain commitment across industry organizations to participate in the program by 2024; establish electronic identification as an industry standard by 2026; and make all traceability systems compatible industry-wide by 2026.

Senators propose merging ReConnect program with other USDA broadband efforts

Four senators from both sides of the political aisle want to merge the Agriculture Department’s ReConnect program with its other broadband loan and grant programs.

New Mexico Democrat Ben Ray Luján, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband, and South Dakota Republican John Thune, the subcommittee’s ranking member, have proposed legislation aimed at “streamlining” the USDA’s broadband programs. The bill is also sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Deb Fischer, R-Neb.

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Take note: The bill has support from the Internet and Television Association, the Rural Broadband Association, the Broadband Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Seed Trade Association and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Efforts to advance grizzly delisting advance

The Fish and Wildlife Service is moving ahead with a delisting proposal for two populations of the grizzly bear, a move that was swiftly criticized by environmentalists but applauded by Republican lawmakers.

“The science is clear – it’s time to delist the grizzly bear,” said Montana Sen. Steve Daines of Montana.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte submitted the petition to delist the Northern Continental Divide population, which occurs only in Montana, while Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon filed the petition to delist the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem population, which occurs in parts of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

While critical of the decision to start a formal status review, which likely would result in a proposal to lift endangered species protections, environmental groups also noted that the service had denied a request from Idaho to delist all bears in the lower 48 states.

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