The Government Accountability Office is out with a blog post explaining the reasons for food price inflation.

The post, which is based on a new GAO report, also notes the regional differences in food price increases. From 2021 to 2022, Detroit had the largest increase among cities at 14.5%, followed by Dallas-Fort Worth at 14%. The average for cities nationwide was 11.4%.

GAO agriculture analyst Steve Morris said that this year’s increase is expected to be lower, but still higher than the historical average of 2%.

“When you look at the forecast for this year's prices, they're predicted to increase anywhere from 5 to 10%, and probably settle around 8%. So, they're still going to be really high,” he says.

Groups make appeal for conservation technical assistance

Farm and conservation groups are asking Congress for a significant increase in conservation technical assistance at USDA. The funding helps farmers plan and implement conservation practices.

In a letter to the House and Senate Ag Appropriations subcommittees, the ag and conservation groups are asking for $1.2 billion in funding for USDA conservation operations in fiscal 2024, up from the $941 million provided for the current fiscal year. The White House has asked for $1.03 billion in FY24. About 90% of funding for conservation operations goes to technical assistance.

“This funding is critical to the effective administration of USDA conservation programs and provides essential tools to help farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners across the country voluntarily implement effective conservation practices on their lands,” the letter says.

Appeals court asked to vacate sulfoxaflor registration

Environmental groups and beekeepers have asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate the registration of sulfoxaflor, arguing that the court’s December decision leaving the registration in place conflicts with the court’s own precedent.

In December, the appeals court found that EPA violated the Endangered Species Act by not completing consultation with federal wildlife agencies on the effects of the product on endangered species. But the court kept the registration in place, concluding that alternative pesticides would be worse for the environment.

The Center for Food Safety, Center for Biological Diversity, Pollinator Stewardship Council and American Beekeeping Federation all pointed to the court’s previous decision in 2015 that came to the opposite conclusion and vacated the registration.

EPA did not ask for a rehearing. The agency previously asked the court to clarify that its decision means EPA simply had to begin the consultation process, but so far, the court has let its decision stand for itself.

Plant-based, cultivated meat investments on the rise

Plant-based meat, egg, and dairy companies raised $1.19 billion in 2022, bringing all-time investment to $7.78 billion since 1997, according to the Good Food Institute’s latest 2022 State of the Industry Reports. The number of unique investors grew by 17% in 2022, while the industry saw 15 liquidity events during the year.

In the U.S. market, plant-based foods are an $8 billion market, and last year 619 new plant-based SKUs hit U.S. retail shelves. GFI reported that support for alternative protein R&D was secured at both the federal and state levels, with Congress allocating nearly $6 million to USDA and California dedicating $5 million to three universities.

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Cultivated meat, or that grown in a lab setting, is not on the U.S. market today, but the industry has invested $2.8 billion in investments with last year’s latest installment of $896 million, according to GFI’s report on the cultivated meat productsFDA gave UPSIDE Foods a regulatory “green light” for its cultivated chicken, but it’s not the only player in the market, with a total of 156 companies in 26 different countries in the space.

Regan to detail new vehicle emissions standards

EPA Administrator Michael Regan will deliver a speech at the agency’s Washington headquarters today that will describe EPA’s plans to slash vehicle emissions largely through the adoption of electric vehicles.

The EPA says the new emissions targets for light-, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles beginning with the 2027 model year would avoid nearly 10 billion tons of carbon-dioxide through 2055. Under the proposed standards, sales of electric vehicles could climb to 67% of light-duty and 46% of medium-duty vehicle sales by model year 2032, leading to a projected 56% fleet-average emissions reduction.

But administration officials are also being careful to label the plan as technology-neutral and designed to garner public feedback.

“I think that this proposal solicits a number of combinations of ways to achieve these goals,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan told reporters ahead of the announcement Tuesday. He said the agency plans to “strategically engage all of our stakeholders while pursuing this final product.”

He said it: “This is a very ambitious proposal, but it's also a proposal, and it's designed to solicit a number of questions.” – EPA Administrator Michael Regan discussing the agency’s new proposed standards for vehicle emissions. Questions, comments, tips? Email