Senate Agriculture Committee staff are going through requests from 98 senators detailing what they want to see in the farm bill as the committee works to get a bill ready this year.

Callie Eideberg, senior professional staff on the committee, told the annual meeting of the Conservation Drainage Network being held in Easton, Md., that staff is “trying to figure out what we can do to tackle” the requests and issues identified by the senators, and “very quickly after that, we as staff will start writing the bill.”

“We have a lot of internal deadlines that we need to meet this summer so that we are ready with a bill by September 30,” she said.

“We’ve got a little bit of a short runway” with the current bill due to expire Sept. 30, said Josh Maxwell, policy director for House Ag Committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa. “So you won't see as many hearings as we had leading up to the 2018 farm bill process.”

Court: FSA can’t exempt CAFOs from environmental review

A federal judge says USDA improperly allowed farm loans to go to medium-sized concentrated animal feeding operations without first conducting environmental reviews. The Farm Service Agency implemented the exemption in 2016, the last year of the Obama administration.

Actions by federal agencies generally must undergo environmental reviews, but departments can categorically exempt actions that pose no harm to the environment.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly says in Tuesday’s ruling FSA “provided no notice that it would categorically exempt all loan actions to medium CAFOs” from environmental review, “and provided the public no opportunity to comment on this change.”

Farmers optimistic on renewable diesel

A lot of farmers are counting on the renewable diesel market to continue to grow in coming years, according to the latest monthly survey of producers by Purdue University and the CME Group. Nearly half of the survey respondents expect the renewable diesel industry to be larger five years from now than it is today. By comparison, only about a quarter of those farmers expect the ethanol market to be larger.

Most farmers also think the renewable industry will keep soybean prices higher. Some 39% of the farmers surveyed say they expect prices to be up to 50 cents per bushel higher because of the biofuel demand. About 28% say soybean prices will be 50 cents to a dollar higher, and 21% say the increase will exceed one dollar.

Why it matters: Strong biofuel demand and soybean prices can lead to competition with other commodities for acreage, keeping the farm economy strong.

FSIS seeks salmonella pilot projects

The Food Safety and Inspection Service is inviting poultry slaughter and processing establishments to submit proposals for pilot projects to test different strategies for Salmonella control in poultry products. FSIS granted a pilot project last week to Pilgrim’s Pride in Mount Pleasant, Texas. to “examine the merits and logistics of excluding Salmonella poultry vaccine strains from the FSIS Salmonella performance categorization calculation.”

The agency added the “data collected during the pilot will be shared with and analyzed by FSIS to determine whether it supports changes to existing FSIS Salmonella control strategies.”

Key partners such as breeders, live animal producers, and allied businesses such as consultants, testing or intervention technology developers are encouraged to assist in proposed pilot projects, but the proposals must be received from poultry establishments under FSIS jurisdiction and authority.

EPA reaches deal with environment groups on CAFOs

The Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to change pollution regulations on concentrated animal feeding operations amid a long-running legal challenge by Food and Water Watch, Center for Food Safety and other plaintiffs.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has given the EPA until Aug. 15 to respond to the petition by the groups, which are demanding more permitting, better discharge monitoring, stricter effluent limitation guidelines and revising stormwater exemptions.

Lawmakers reintroduce bill to increase truck parking capacity

Four senators are proposing $755 million from the Treasury Department’s General Fund to expand truck-parking capacity over a three-year period.

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Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., and John Boozman, R-Ark., are reintroducing the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, which they say will help ease truck drivers' burden of finding a parking spot to stop and help them arrive at their destinations quicker.

The bill is sponsored by the American Trucking Associations, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, and the National Association of Small Trucking Companies (NASTC).

He said it. “It is a living program that is constantly getting better, and we welcome that continuous improvement.” – Roger Cryan, chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation, talking about the federal crop insurance program during a forum at the American Enterprise Institute. USDA is continually considering proposals for new insurance products.

Correction: Tuesday's Daybreak incorrectly characterized Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack's defense of his use of the Commodity Credit Corp. He says his CCC usage has been more modest than the Trump administration's. 

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