The administrator of USDA’s Farm Service Agency, Zach Ducheneaux, says USDA is rethinking the way it structures farm loans to lower the risk of default. 

In this week’s edition of Agri-Pulse Newsmakers, Ducheneaux says the department wants to start offering borrowers better loan terms up front to ensure they have a better chance of becoming financially resilient.   

“We're looking to really find the maximum flexibility” in the authorizing law, Ducheneaux said.

 “By virtue of the way we've interpreted our authorizing statute, I think a case could be made that all of our borrowers are in distress, because they are those who cannot find credit elsewhere at reasonable rates and terms,” he said. 

Newsmakers will be available for viewing today on

Ag emissions flat in latest EPA report

Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture were virtually unchanged in 2021 from the year before, even as overall U.S. emissions rose 6% year over year, according to EPA’s latest analysis, released Thursday.

U.S. ag emissions totaled 598.1 million metric tons in 2021, compared to 597.3 million the year before. Ag emissions hit 629.5 million metric tons in 2018 before declining.  

Take note: Agriculture accounted for 9.4% of total U.S. emissions in 2021. 

FDA to biotech plant breeders: Be aware of allergens

FDA is warning developers of crop varieties to consider to consider the risk of introducing allergens into new bioengineered plant varieties. In a letter to stakeholders, FDA said it is aware that some companies are “exploring the transfer of genes for proteins that are food allergens into new plant varieties used for foods.” 

FDA said it is not aware of any foods currently in the U.S. market that could cause concern. FDA operates a voluntary premarket consultation program to assist market participants. 

“The FDA is asking developers to consider the food safety risks posed by such allergens and plan early in development to manage the risks,” FDA said in a constituent update. “In addition to the food safety risks, if unexpected and unlabeled allergens enter the food supply, this could have other consequences for food producers, such as needing to recall the affected products.”

By the way: Chipotle Mexican Grill has appointed former FDA food safety chief Frank Yiannas to the company’s food safety advisory council. The advisory group is supposed to help Chipotle improve its food safety standards. Yiannas was FDA’s deputy commissioner for food policy and response

Schools use 'Buy American’ exemptions on fruit

The Government Accountability Office has been looking into the way that schools are using exemptions from “Buy American” requirements for food. About 94% of school food authorities that used the exemption in the 2017-2018 school year were purchasing fruit, including bananas, GAO found. 

The school lunch program’s Buy American requirement currently has exemptions allowing schools to purchase commodities that are either “significantly more costly” in the U.S. or not widely produced in the nation.

Take note: The GAO says USDA doesn’t provide a standard form for school food authorities to document Buy American exceptions, leading to a lack of clarity about lunch providers’ responsibilities under the provision. USDA, in response to the report, said it would create one.

USTR Tai heads to Philippines and Japan next week

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai will meet with leaders in the Philippines and Japan during a four-day trip to Manila and Tokyo next week, with the aim of strengthening ties to key trading nations. Both countries are part of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework and major customers of U.S. farm goods.

U.S. pork producers were pleased in January when Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. agreed to extend the country’s reduced tariff rates on the meat for another year – through the end of 2023. The Philippines originally increased its tariff-rate quota for pork imports in 2021 to 254,000 metric tons and cut its in-quota tariff to 15%. 

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Take note: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and ranking member Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, expect Tai to press Japanese officials next week on ending the country’s ban on fresh table stock potatoes. Tai promised during a recent hearing to “raise the potato issue” with the Japanese.

Japan allows in U.S. chipping potatoes – spuds that go into potato chip production – and the country is actually the largest foreign market for processed potato products like frozen fries. Kam Quarles, CEO of the National Potato Council, tells Agri-Pulse that the group believes it could sell $150 million worth of table stock potatoes annually to Japan if the ban was lifted.

Dicamba litigation moves forward in Arizona

The latest legal salvo in the battle over dicamba has been fired in federal court in Arizona, where environmental groups and the NationalFamily Farm Coalition filed a raft of documents showing EPA pesticide officials scrambling to make a decision on dicamba before the presidential election in 2020.

The groups, which filed a motion for summary judgment late Tuesday, want the court to vacate EPA’s approval of the herbicide, which has been blamed for millions of acres of crop damage since it was approved for use on cotton and soybeans in 2016. EPA has set cutoff dates and required mitigation to address spray drift and volatilization, but the plaintiffs in the court case say that’s not enough.

EPA and dicamba registrants Bayer, BASF and Syngenta have until May 30 to respond to the motion for summary judgment filed by NFFC, the Center for Food Safety, Center for Biological Diversity, and Pesticide Action Network North America.

He said it. “The federal government has decided to take a different path than it did in the 1980s with the foreign financial crisis, and use its resources to ensure that distressed borrowers have an opportunity to reposition themselves, in light of the pandemic and rising costs,” – FSA Administrator Zach Ducheneaux in the Agri-Pulse Newsmakers interview.