USDA’s popular annual Ag Outlook Forum is back in person this year, as well as online.
USDA Chief Economist Seth Meyer gives the department’s latest forecast for the farm economy, and Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack delivers the keynote address for the conference, which will have a heavy focus on trade and climate issues. Follow Agri-Pulse.comfor conference developments. 
EU ag chief: US, Europe need to produce more to make up for Ukraine
Ukraine had record-breaking grain and oilseed harvests before the Russian invasion, but the war that still rages a year later is taking a toll on production, so the U.S. and EU need to step up production, European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski said during a visit to the Atlantic Council in Washington Wednesday.
Ukrainian farmers – the ones who haven’t lost their lands to the Russians or died from bombs and land mines – will only produce about 60 million tons of grain this year, down from 107 million before the war, Wojciechowski said.
The European Commission last year began allowing farmers to put millions of fallowed acres into production, while USDA is allowing double-cropping to be insured in more counties.
Take note: Wojciechowski said the main reason he’s in the U.S. this week is to have a heart-to-heart with Vilsack over problems facing agriculture on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, including the rising average age of farmers. The average age of a farmer in the EU and U.S. is 57.
Vilsack and Wojciechowski will open up Friday’s session of USDA’s Ag Outlook with a conversation about key issues. They will later visit a “climate-smart” farm in Maryland.
Have your say: Senate Ag seeking farm bill comments
Leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee have opened an online portal to compile public comments on what should –and shouldn’t – be in the next farm bill.
“Every farm bill impacts a vast array of industries and stakeholders at the center of our country’s agricultural economy, rural communities, and efforts to support vulnerable Americans,” committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and ranking Republican John Boozman of Arkansas say in a joint statement.
Looking ahead: The House Agriculture Committee has scheduled its first farm bill hearing for this year on Tuesday. It’s titled, Uncertainty, Inflation, Regulations: Challenges for American Agriculture.”
Senate Ag has set a hearing for next Wednesday on conservation programs.
Ag, conservation groups look for more success on Hill
A coalition of ag and conservation groups that’s had some notable success in getting new funding and legal authority for expanding climate-related farming practices is out with 109 policy recommendations for the next farm bill.
At a Capitol Hill launch event on Wednesday, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance was successful in getting ideas included in the Growing Climate Solutions and SUSTAINS bills passed late last year as well as in USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities initiative.  
Why it matters: While each of the groups have their own farm bill priorities, Duvall said the FACA recommendations show broad support for policy measures in six broad areas: conservation, risk management and credit; energy; food waste; forestry; livestock and dairy; and research, extension and innovation. 

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Elizabeth Gore, senior vice president for political affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund, said the unusual collaboration provides real power and leverage. “I think that when we have a coalition like this that brings the environmental community and the ag community together, it really creates a foundation for the committees to build a bill that can be both bipartisan and durable,” she said.
By the way: The alliance hasn’t put a cost estimate on its recommendations, but lobbyist Randy Russell says many of them don’t require new legislation.
Another day, another WOTUS lawsuit: Chambers challenge Biden rule
The Biden administration’s “waters of the U.S. rule” continues to attract lawsuits. The latest was filed Wednesday by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, joined by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other plaintiffs.
Filed in federal court in Kentucky, the lawsuit says the rule “far exceeds” the legal bounds of the Clean Water Act and “undermines the basic role of the states in our federal system of government.”
The American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and 15 other groups sued in Texas in January. That case was consolidated with another lawsuit filed by the state of Texas, and 24 states also have challenged the rule in a case filed in North Dakota. 
Keep in mind: Legal action is likely to be delayed while EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers examine the yet-to-be-released opinion from the Supreme Court in the Sackett case, which was argued in October. The court released three opinions Wednesday, but Sackett wasn’t among them. The court hasn’t indicated when it will next issue opinions.
EPA seeks comments on renewed sulfoxaflor application
EPA is asking for comments on a new application to use sulfoxaflor, in compliance with a court order that also required the agency to assess the chemical’s effect on endangered species.
In December, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the Center for Food Safety and Center for Biological Diversity that EPA should have sought public comment on requests to expand the number of crops where sulfoxaflor could be applied. The court, however, also declined to vacate the chemical’s registration.
Today’s Federal Register notice opens a 60-day comment period on an application from Corteva Agriscience to use the chemical on citrus, cotton, cucurbits, soybean, and strawberries, and remove restrictions for a variety of other crops.
He said it. “This is the first time that I’ve seen a farm bill where this kind of diversity has come together with policy recommendations. So, despite our size and diversity, our charge in many ways is pretty narrow: Climate-smart agriculture.” Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. Conner served as deputy ag secretary in the George W. Bush administration.

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