The farm bill commodity title is the focus of discussions in Orlando this week at Commodity Classic, the annual meeting of grain and soybean producers. Both the American Soybean Association and National Association of Wheat Growers are on record asking for an increase in reference prices.
The challenge: Texas A&M University economist Bart Fischer on Wednesday outlined the stiff fiscal challenge of raising reference prices to better ensure farmers can cover higher input costs: A 10% increase would cost about $20 billion over 10 years. A 20% increase would pencil out at more than $50 billion.
“The message is it’s going to be a challenge for the (House and Senate Ag) committees,” Fischer acknowledged in an interview with Agri-Pulse. “The flip side, though, is if we aren’t talking about significant improvements, what’s the point of doing it?”
The 2018 farm bill includes an escalator provision to raise reference prices based on increases in market prices. NAWG CEO Chandler Goule told Agri-Pulse there are some discussions around possible adjustments to that escalator. That would potentially cost less than an across-the-board increase in base reference prices and “maybe have a better probability” of success in Congress, Goule said.
USDA: Disaster funding far short of need

Farm Service Agency Administrator Zach Ducheneaux said at Commodity Classic that the $3.4 billion Congress provided for ag disaster relief in 2022 will only cover one-third of the need identified by USDA.
Ducheneaux said the department’s estimate was based on coverage USDA has been providing for earlier years under the Emergency Relief Program. To date, USDA has disbursed $7.4 billion in ERP payments for 2020 and 2021 losses.
The 2022 aid was included in the FY23 omnibus spending bill passed in December.
Brown talks to Ohio farmers on train cleanup
Farmers are concerned about soil and animal health following the tragic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. While speaking at the Ohio Farm Bureau’s legislative conference breakfast in D.C., on Wednesday, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said he knows farmers are seeking answers on the impact to their farms.
“Planting season is around the corner, and not too far after that farmers will be harvesting alfalfa for dairy feed. No one is sure whether or not their soil or crops are safe, and even if their products are safe, they worry that Ohioans will be scared to buy it,” Brown said.
Brown’s working with USDA and EPA to find resources to pay for soil tests.
Brazil gets another record wheat crop
Although corn farmers in Brazil’s southern states are now struggling under dry weather, the region produced a second consecutive record-breaking wheat crop for the 2022-23 marketing year.
USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service raised its estimate for Brazilian wheat production Wednesday to 10.4 million metric tons. That’s 5% more than the FAS estimated last month and 2.7% above last year’s record-setting harvest.
Farmers planted more acreage for this year, but good weather and very strong yields were also a major factor, says FAS. In the southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul – a major wheat-growing state – yields were 32% higher than last year.
FNS rolls out mobile SNAP payments in five states

Five states are partnering with USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service to give SNAP participants the option to use their cell phones to pay.

People who take part in SNAP in Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri and Oklahoma can tap or scan their personal mobile device as an alternative to using a SNAP card.

FNS says it will work with state agencies, EBT processors, mobile wallet providers and retailers “to support a successful rollout in the pilot states.”

Tribes, producers urge expansion of food program

Tribes are calling on Congress to protect, and even expand, a purchasing provision in USDA’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.
A 2018 farm bill provision that allows USDA to enter into multiyear food procurement contracts with tribal governments helps support Native American producers and economies, Intertribal Agriculture Council Director Kari Jo Lawrence told the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on Wednesday. 
Funding for the purchasing authority is currently capped at $5 million.

Western farmers: Farm bill program needs to fund irrigation

Western farmers say the next farm bill should provide more flexible funding for irrigation needs through USDA’s Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funding allocated $500 million for the program, but much of the money went towards dam construction projects in the eastern U.S. rather than Western irrigation modernization projects, Family Farm Alliance Director Dan Keppen told a House Natural Resources subcommittee on Wednesday.
He said many of the program’s awards went to feasibility studies for small dam projects.
Purdue survey gauges religious consumers’ diet views

Consumers who are Protestant, Catholic or Jewish tend to be happier with their diets, according to Purdue University’s monthly survey of consumers on food and nutrition issues.

Respondents were asked to score their diets on a scale of 0-10, with 7-10 counting as “thriving.” Some 82% of Jewish consumers rated their diets in that category, compared to 76% of Catholics and 73% of Protestants. Some 64% of consumers of other faiths and 63% of unaffiliated consumers rated their diets as 7-10.

Jewish consumers also are the most likely to say that climate change will affect food prices; 75% of the survey’s Jewish respondents agreed that was the case, followed by unaffiliated consumers at 71%.
He said it. "At this point, if you have a pulse, I will hire you." -  Terry Cosby, chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, joking with National Sorghum Producers board members about the need to hire several thousand new employees in order to deliver historic federal investments in conservation.
NRCS, which now has about 11,000 employees, plans to hire 3,000 new workers over the next three years.

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