House Republican leaders have been struggling to shore up support for their debt-ceiling plan.

A number of Midwest Republicans, who met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy Tuesday evening, have raised concerns about provisions that would repeal a series of biofuel incentives, including the biodiesel tax credit, that were included in last year’s Inflation Reduction Act.

McCarthy told reporters after the meeting that the bill wouldn’t be changed.

“This bill is to get us to the negotiating table. This is not the final provisions,” McCarthy said. 

He noted a number of Republicans would say they had concerns with the legislation. Rep. Derrick Van Orden, R-Wis., proposed an amendment to the bill that would have stripped the biofuel repeal provisions from the measure.

Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., insisted that the bill “unites Republicans rather than divides us.” 

By the way: The conservative advocacy group Heritage Action urged Republicans to support the bill, noting among other things that it would repeal “Green New Deal-style tax credits,” a reference to the IRA provisions. 

Russia threatens to block Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports

Moscow, claiming again that Ukraine launched drone attacks from its ports in Odesa against the Russian naval fleet, is threatening to shut down Ukrainian ag exports through the Black Sea after May 18.

“The analysis of the route of movement of Ukrainian unmanned boats showed that they were all launched from the water area of the port of Odesa, designated for the implementation of the (Black Sea Grain Initiative),” Russia’s Defense Ministry said on its Telegram channel. “Their deployment was carried out in the area of the humanitarian corridor, also involved in the export of agricultural products from the ports of Ukraine.”

Russia previously accused Ukraine of similar actions in October last year and suspended its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative for several days. Ukrainian exports of corn, wheat and other commodities continued during the suspension, but the episode raised fears that Russia would shut down the Odesa ports that export millions of tons of grain despite the ongoing war.

FCC needs consistency in broadband speed benchmarks, GAO says

A new Government Accountability Office report says the annual assessment used by the Federal Communications Commission to determine its broadband speed benchmark seems “arbitrary.”

GAO said FCC only reported on whether the current 25/3 megabits per second benchmark was sufficient for video conferencing in five of the six reports it published between 2015 and 2021. It also said the agency offered more thorough information in 2015 — when it last changed the benchmark — than in subsequent years.

Take note: FCC officials told GAO that inconsistencies often stem from commissioners’ own views on how the benchmark should be determined and their interpretations of public comments. 

FNS seeking info on SNAP agencies’ COVID experience

The Food and Nutrition Service wants to find out how state Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program agencies have adjusted after COVID-19, according to an information collection request published in today’s Federal Register.

FNS said it plans to commission the SNAP study to learn how states dealt with the pandemic and what they have done following it.

“The purpose of the SNAP COVID study is to help FNS develop a comprehensive understanding of how SNAP agencies have adapted their operations and norms during the COVID-19 pandemic and increased their preparedness for another major disruption,” FNS said.

The public has been asked to comment on the information collection request.

Don’t miss a beat! It’s easy to sign up for a FREE month of Agri-Pulse news! For the latest on what’s happening in Washington, D.C. and around the country in agriculture, just click here.

Canadian official urges caution on USDA’s proposed Product of USA label

Canada’s Deputy Head of Mission Arun Alexander does not believe USDA’s proposed Product of USA label for meat, poultry and egg products is a trade barrier, and he said Canadian officials are working with USDA to find the most efficient solution that “effectively preserves those integrated supply chains while still achieving the objective of truth in advertising.”

Canada has its own voluntary labeling rule, and Alexander explained, “It’s not the fact that we have the laws. It’s maintaining the integrated nature of the relationship, and I think we have to look at the specific products and make sure we don’t disrupt those effective supply chains.” 

He said the integrated supply chain reduces the need to truck live animals long distances and also contributes to the administration’s goals around competitiveness for small and medium-sized facilities that may incur additional costs to segregate products.

Alexander made the comments while speaking at a luncheon reception Tuesday with the North American Agricultural Journalists and other USDA and Canadian officials.  

Canada embassy becomes first foreign affiliate of USDA’s People’s Garden initiative 

What started as a handful of employees growing fruits and vegetables on the rooftop of the Embassy of Canada is now officially the first foreign embassy affiliate to join USDA’s People’s Garden initiative. Brian Guse, director of USDA’s Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production, joined Canada’s Deputy Head of Mission Arun Alexander for a ribbon-breaking ceremony on Tuesday afternoon. 

Alexander said participation in the initiative allows the embassy’s 400 staff to give back to the communities they live in. The embassy has also established an affiliation with an NGO, Food Rescue US - DC to donate excess produce from the garden to those who need it. 

The People’s Garden initiative is eligible to gardens nationwide, including school gardens, community gardens, urban farms and small-scale agricultural projects. Guse said his office has spoken with other foreign embassies in the District of Columbia and he hopes others will get on board. 

Phil Brasher, Steve Davies, Jacqui Fatka and Noah Wicks contributed to this report. 

Questions, comments, tips? Email