A ban on former drug offenders qualifying for federal nutrition assistance is surfacing as a possible issue in the debate over the next farm bill.
The Senate Agriculture Committee’s two Black members both raised concerns about the ban during a hearing Thursday on SNAP and other nutrition assistance programs.
The ban hasn’t been particularly controversial in previous farm bill debates, but Cory Booker of New Jersey and Raphael Warnock of Georgia didn’t join the committee until 2021. Booker called the ban “penny wise and pound foolish.”
Stacy Dean, USDA’s deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, says the Biden administration “enthusiastically supports” repealing the ban.
By the way: Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., is brushing off GOP concerns that the farm bill is going to be harder to pass because of the sharp increase in the cost of SNAP benefits. SNAP is “always a target” in farm bill debates, so this year is no different, she told reporters.
The committee’s top Republican, John Boozman of Arkansas, argues SNAP is crowding out other farm bill programs.
Read our coverage of the hearing here.

Crop insurance surfaces in climate adaptation options
The Government Accountability Office is out with a pair of reports that suggest possible changes to crop insurance that will raise concerns with farm groups. One report offers 13 options for helping farmers adapt to climate change. The options include requiring farmers to adopt climate-resilient practices to be eligible for crop insurance subsidies.
The second report highlights GAO recommendations to impose an income limit on producers who get premium subsidies.  However, GAO notes in the climate report that means-testing crop insurance conflicts with using the program as an incentive to get farmers to adopt climate-related practices.
GAO is the investigative arm of Congress.
Report our coverage of the reports here.
HHS secretary pressed on FDA reforms 
Consumer groups are joining Western Growers Association and some food industry groups in pushing Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra for stronger reforms to FDA’s human food programs.
In a letter to Becerra, the groups say “many experts agree that the reform proposal the (FDA) Commissioner announced on Jan. 31 falls far short of what is required for FDA to succeed in its food safety mission, because the proposed Deputy Commissioner role appears to lack the authority needed to implement and sustain the needed changes.”
The groups, which include Consumer Reports, Stop Foodborne Illness, the American Frozen Food Institute and the Consumer Brands Association, asked Becerra to meet with them to hear their concerns.
The groups say they met with FDA Commissioner Robert Califf on Tuesday and “left with the sense that the commissioner did not feel that direct line authority was needed.”
CDC: Kids skipping fruits, veggies – but not the sugary drink
As if more proof were needed that not enough Americans are eating healthy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that kids aren’t getting enough fruits and vegetables.
Based on survey data, CDC says that in 2021, about one-third of children aged 1-5 years did not eat a daily fruit, and nearly half did not have a daily vegetable in the preceding week. In addition, about 57% drank a sugar-sweetened beverage at least once during the preceding week.
“The percentage of children who did not eat a daily fruit or vegetable was higher among those who were aged 2-5 years, Black, or lived in households with limited food sufficiency,” CDC said.
CDC says only one in 10 adults get the proper amount of fruits and vegetables.
Another big week for US soy exports to China
The U.S. shipped about 1.9 million metric tons of soybeans to foreign buyers in the week of Feb. 3-9 and most of those buyers are in China, according to the latest trade data out of USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. The U.S. shipped more than 1.1 million tons of that total to China.
Mexico was the largest destination for U.S. corn exports in the same week. Buyers there loaded up during trade tensions between the two countries over Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s opposition to imports of genetically modified corn from the U.S.
The U.S. shipped 386,000 tons of corn to Mexico during the seven-day period, more than half of the U.S. exports for the week, which totaled 670,500 tons.

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By the way: The North American Millers' Association issued a statement Thursday slamming Mexico’s new decree banning biotech corn. “Mexico’s latest decree continues to wrongly call into question the safety of U.S. corn,” NAMA President Jane DeMarchi said.
Brazil’s soy crop seen lower again on southern drought
Drought in Brazil’s southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul continues to take a toll on soybean farmers, and the Brazilian consulting firm AgRural says it is again cutting its production forecast for the country.
The firm lowered its forecast for Brazil’s soybean harvest to 150.9 million metric tons, 2 million tons less than its January prediction of 152.9 million tons. AgRural’s December forecast was even higher at 153.6 million tons.
USDA’s forecast for Brazilian soybean production was unchanged this month at 153 million tons.
EPA approves new cut-off dates for dicamba use in four states.
Revised EPA labeling prohibits the use of over-the-top dicamba applications on crops tolerant to the herbicide after June 12 in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana and after June 20 in South Dakota.
Last year, EPA approved two different dates for Minnesota, prohibiting dicamba use south of I-94 after June 12, while keeping the cut-off date north of the highway at June 30.
The federal cut-off is June 30.
He said it. “By leaning on the scales, they chose to disrupt the delicate balance of the farm bill coalition and severely eroded the trust that is crucial to legislate and to govern.” – Senate Ag’s top Republican, John Boozman, arguing that the increase in SNAP costs that resulted from USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan update is complicating passage of a new farm bill.

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