Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, believes lawmakers will consider some curbs on the agriculture secretary’s authority to spend from USDA’s Commodity Credit Corp. account.

Grassley noted to reporters Monday that he raised the CCC issue with Vilsack during a recent hearing. And the GOP chairman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, Andy Harris of Maryland, last week challenged Vilsack on his use of the CCC to fund the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities initiative.

“The point is to make sure that there are certain guardrails put in place,” Grassley said. “I don’t have any in mind right now, but I think that’s going to be an issue when we bring up the farm bill.”

Vilsack argues that his use of the CCC has been much more modest than the Trump administration’s, and that farm groups support CCC funding of the climate projects.

By the way: Grassley outlined some of the farm bill priorities he has provided to the Senate Ag Committee: crop insurance, funding for foreign promotion programs and agricultural research, and restrictions on Conservation Reserve Program payments to keep the program from competing with farmers for land. 

WOTUS opponents one for two on injunctions

Opponents of the Biden administration’s “waters of the U.S.” rule are garnering mixed results in their legal attempts to block implementation of the regulations from going into effect.

A federal judge in Kentucky has rejected an injunction request by the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. The opinion joins one issued last month by a federal judge in Texas to enjoin the rule in Texas and Idaho. In both cases, the plaintiffs sought a nationwide injunction.

Another challenge is pending in federal court in North Dakota, where 24 states and a raft of trade groups including the American Farm Bureau Federation are trying to stop the rule. The federal government has yet to respond to the request for an injunction in that case.

McKalip heads to Brazil Friday to talk ethanol

Doug McKalip, the U.S. Trade Representative's chief agriculture negotiator, is leaving for Brazil Friday in an effort that the U.S. ethanol industry hopes will lead to the lifting of its 16% tariff on the U.S. corn-based fuel.

McKalip’s trip – as first reported by Agri-Pulse last week – comes after Brazil suspended an 18% tariff in March of last year and then reinstated it at 16% in February. It is scheduled to go back to 18% at the end of this year.

U.S. ethanol exports to Brazil have dropped drastically in recent years after the country allowed its tariff rate quota to expire in 2020, but U.S. industry officials are hopeful that the U.S. could again begin shipping hundreds of millions of gallons per year.

Pesticide company teams with NGO to rid mines from Ukraine farms

The Philadelphia-based FMC Corporation, a maker of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides, and The HALO Trust, a humanitarian NGO, have announced a new partnership to find and dispose of the Russian mines left behind in Ukrainian farm fields.

"This project not only ensures Ukrainian farmers can safely return to their fields for planting and harvest, but it also contributes to improving food security around the globe,” says FMC President and CEO Mark Douglas. “Through this collaboration, we aspire to contribute to a future where farmers can cultivate their lands without fear of explosive remnants from the war and pave the way for robust reconstruction efforts that benefit farming communities and the entire country."

Western Senators kick off Colorado River Basin tour

Three Western senators are beginning a tour of the Colorado River Basin as they look for ways to support state negotiators who are gridlocked over how to cut between 2 and 4 million acre-feet of water use by 2030. 

Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., kicked off the tour in Grand Junction, Colorado with Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton. They also plan to travel to Arizona and California in the days ahead, where they will be joined by other lawmakers, including Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.

They said they’re using the tour to find ways to “encourage” negotiators to find an agreement, though they recognize that it is ultimately up to states to come to a resolution.

"I think what we’re trying to do in a bipartisan way with Upper and Lower Basin folks to see if we can get to a place where fewer sticks are required and we can come to an agreement that can make sense in the medium term,” Bennet said. "We’ll just have to see whether that works or not."

Bipartisan, bicameral bill cracks down on illicit xylazine use

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has joined with House and Senate lawmakers in introducing the Combatting Illicit Xylazine Act to address the growing use of the drug in combination with fentanyl.

Last year, nearly 23% of fentanyl powder seized contained the low-cost cutting agent, which is an easily accessible veterinary tranquilizer.

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The bill would classify its illicit use under Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act and enable the Drug Enforcement Administration to track its manufacturing to prevent it from being diverted to the illegal market.

Grassley says lawmakers are “working very closely with the veterinarians to make sure that we don't legislate anything that would keep them from their legal use of xylazine.”

House co-sponsor Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., raised the issue in a hearing last week with Food and Drug Administration director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine, Tracey Forfa.

Correction: A previous version of this report noted Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack's insistence that USDA's use of the Commodity Credit Corporation has been "much less modest" than what took place during the Trump administration. The report has been updated to note Vilsack's insistence that USDA's use of the fund has actually been "much more modest" during that timeframe. 

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