A landmark use of USDA farming data shows that cover crops and no-till practices can make a significant difference in whether growers can get their crops planted in wet years. The study, which is the first of its kind to make use of USDA’s extensive records on farm production, also identified key gaps in USDA data.

University of Illinois researchers used data collected during 2019 to determine whether the conservation practices reduced prevent-plant insurance claims.

Key findings: The use of cover crops and no-till significantly reduced the odds of prevent-plant claims. The conservation practices tend to be used more frequently on lower productivity fields, the same areas that are normally more likely to have insurance claims because the soil is less resilient.

Among the data gaps: The researchers say data on annual cover crop acreage is collected systematically in some counties, but only occasionally or not at all in others. The study recommends USDA find an efficient way to compile annual cover crop and no-till usage data on a field-by-field basis.

The study required marrying records from USDA’s Risk Management Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency.

NRCS looks to increase conservation advisers

NRCS is looking to make it a bit easier for farm advisers to get certified as technical service providers with the agency. NRCS Chief Terry Cosby told the Senate Ag Committee the agency was trying to increase the number of available TSPs by revising the qualifications.

After the hearing, Cosby told Agri-Pulse the agency was looking at allowing some technical experience to substitute for the existing educational requirements. “We're going to be working through that,” he said.
TSPs can get reimbursed for advising farmers on conservation practices.

Why it matters: USDA is ramping up conservation spending to get farmers to adopt climate-smart farming practices.

EPA’s E15 decision may force states to seek emergency waivers
Iowa plans to seek an emergency waiver from EPA to use E15 fuel this summer, following the agency’s proposal Wednesday to grant a petition from Midwestern states for a waiver from volatility requirements, but delay implementation until 2024.
“I look forward to requesting another emergency waiver for this year while at the same time asking the courts to require the administration to grant our request immediately,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said.
EPA says the governors of the eight states had adequately demonstrated that air pollution would be improved if E15 use were allowed in the summer months, but that domestic gasoline supply is currently too low to allow implementation of the waiver this year.
Renewable Fuels Association CEO Geoff Cooper told reporters at the National Ethanol Conference Wednesday that RFA disagreed with that assessment. “We're sort of shifting focus to emergency waivers at this stage for this summer,” he said.
Mexico’s GM corn ban justification prompts USTR response
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative last month received Mexico’s written justifications for its efforts to block imports of genetically modified corn. The agency immediately began translating and analyzing the document, but still has not published its contents.
Whatever those contents are, a senior USTR trade official says they have spurred USTR Katherine Tai to reach out to Mexico’s economy secretary.
The National Corn Growers Association and some lawmakers have continued to call on the Biden administration to start the long dispute resolution process under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, but it’s still unclear if that will happen.
Senators told Chinese land investment bill would burden CFIUS
A former chair of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. says a bill that would require CFIUS to block the governments of China, Russia, Iran and North Korea from purchasing agricultural land would constitute a “fairly significant” expansion to the panel’s responsibilities.
Clay Lowery, now an executive vice president at the Institute of International Finance, told Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., at a Senate Banking Committee hearing that CFIUS is already dealing with about 400 transactions a year, when it used to deal with 100.
BASF exits hybrid wheat development in North America
BASF is getting out of the business of developing hybrid wheat seeds in North America, deciding to focus on Europe, where the company says it sees “the greatest opportunity to successfully bring this innovation to farmers.”

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BASF says that “despite the tremendous efforts of our expert teams, the results of our North American trials have not achieved the development goals we set to meet the needs of growers in Canada and the United States.” In 2021, BASF announced a new variety, Ideltis, saying it would be available to growers around the middle of the decade
Consumers can help bridge drop in SNAP benefits
Instacart, the online food delivery service, is enabling its customers to donate groceries to food banks in areas where SNAP benefits have been cut with the end of a pandemic-related increase.
Instacart is waiving all service and delivery fees on donations made through its Community Carts service.
SNAP benefits returned to pre-pandemic levels in over 30 states on Wednesday, resulting in 30 million families seeing their monthly grocery budgets tighten by $95 or more.
He said it. “What happens to them after that, who knows?” – NRCS Chief Terry Cosby, after telling the Senate Ag Committee how the agency provides assistance for trapping feral hogs.
Next up: Senate Ag will have a hearing next week on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack is expected to appear before the panel March 16.

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