A dozen farmworkers as well as leaders of United Farm Workers met at the White House Friday with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Labor Department solicitor Seema Nanda, and White House adviser Julie Chavez Rodriguez. Friday was the birthday of Cesar Chavez, who co-founded the forerunner of the UFW.

The workers pressed the administration to protect foreign workers from deportation and to provide disaster aid for farmworker communities and additional funding for the Farm and Food Workers Relief Program, a temporary USDA program created during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a press release, Georgia farmworker Bryan Pantoja said the officials “heard about our struggles and what the administration can do to support us. This means not cutting farm worker wages but rather increasing our pay, enacting workplace protections, providing disaster relief, and ensuring that farmworkers are treated with dignity and respect.”

Ukraine pleads for seeds
Without the help of international charity, Ukrainian farmers are expected to plant a lot less spring wheat, soybeans, sunflower and even corn this year, says the country’s agriculture ministry.
Seeds are a significant expense, and foreign donations would help convince farmers to plant land that otherwise may lie fallow, the ministry says, citing a survey of Ukrainian farmers showing they plan to reduce their overall planting this year by 21%. Wheat acreage is expected to drop the most by a whopping 51%.
“According to calculations, seed, depending on the sowing culture, accounts for 10% to 15% of the total cost structure,” the ministry said in an analysis that places seeds as the second highest donation priority for the country’s ag sector; power generators are the first. Cost and availability of seeds “are rather sensitive factors that impact the farmer's production plan setup,” according to the ministry.
Seventy-one percent of farmers surveyed said they would be willing to plant more if they received donated seeds.
CFTC advisers consider biofuels, shipping
Congress is out for the next two weeks, and the D.C. policy agenda is relatively light. However, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission will be meeting with its agricultural advisory committee on Wednesday. There will be sessions on biofuels and ag data as well as a presentation on maritime issues affecting the farm economy.
The three-hour meeting also will include remarks by CFTC Chairman Rostin Behnam and the other four commissioners and include a discussion of “geopolitical and sustainability issues,” the CFTC said Friday.
Members represent a cross-section of the ag industry as well as USDA’s Office of Chief Economist.
Ag trade barriers again highlighted in annual USTR report
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has released its lengthy annual report summarizing international trade barriers blocking U.S. goods and services, and impediments to U.S. ag exports are again a major focus.
From onerous approval processes for genetically modified crops in India and Turkey to burdensome and non-transparent import licensing schemes that Ecuador, Egypt, and Indonesia use to block American farm goods, the new 466-page National Trade Estimates report documents barriers in dozens of countries.
One highlight in this year’s NTE is Mexico and its new ban on genetically modified white corn. The U.S. recently began technical consultations with Mexico, the beginning of a process that could lead to a new dispute resolution panel under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
EV tax credit guidance elicits sharply different reactions
New guidance from the Treasury Department designed to encourage the production of electric vehicles in the U.S. – and the sourcing of critical minerals used to make them – received praise and criticism Friday.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said the guidance – issued to comply with provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act – ignores the purpose of the law, “which is to bring manufacturing back to America and ensure we have reliable and secure supply chains. American tax dollars should not be used to support manufacturing jobs overseas,” specifically China.
But Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom Carper, D-Del., said Treasury’s action “will encourage greater investment from American companies to make these vehicles here at home.”

Starting April 18, to get the full $7,500 credit, at least 50% of a vehicle’s battery components must be produced or assembled in North America and 40% of the battery’s critical minerals will have to be extracted or processed in the U.S. or in a country that is a U.S. free-trade agreement partner, or have been recycled in North America.
Senators want USDA to protect against misleading food labels 
Food labeling of animal-raising claims such as “humanely raised” and “sustainably raised” may not be accurate, and four senators are pressing USDA to take action to prevent consumers from being misled.

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In a letter to Sandra Eskin, deputy undersecretary for food safety at USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., expressed concern about the agency’s evaluation process and asked whether FSIS plans to strengthen its documentation requirements to “ensure standard guidelines across the industry.”               
Under the Federal Meat Inspection Act and Poultry Products Inspection Act, USDA can deny companies the use of labels believed to be false or misleading.

An Animal Welfare Institute report cited in the letter found 85% of analyzed animal welfare claims on meat and poultry products lacked adequate substantiation. AWI also said that according to multiple national surveys they’ve commissioned, most consumers disagree with USDA’s practice of allowing conventional producers to define these claims themselves without requiring on-farm evaluation by either the government or an independent third party.
He said it: “If you are able-bodied, you need to work.” – Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., on Agri-Pulse Open Mic.
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