Brazil is finishing up the harvest of a record-breaking crop this year, and USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service is now predicting the country’s farmers will plant an even bigger one for the 2023-24 marketing year.

Brazilian farmers are expected to plant about 112 million hectares – a little more than 276 million acres – later this year, up from the 107 million hectares they planted last year, according to an analysis released by the FAS Brasilia office.

Take note: Brazil’s soybean acreage has been expanding an average of 4% annually over the last five years and there’s no sign the trend will abate. Planting in Brazil’s Center West – the largest soybean region – grew by 25% over the past five years, but the largest growth was in the comparatively smaller North, where farmers’ soybean acreage grew by 40%.

FDA grants more time to comment on plant-based milk guidance

The Food and Drug Administration is giving the public an additional three months to comment on draft guidance for plant-based milk.

In a Federal Register notice today, FDA said it was acting in response to requests for an extension. Numerous groups sought more time, including The Good Food Institute, International Dairy Foods Association, and the Plant-Based Food Association.

PBFA said in a letter that although consumer research used to develop the proposed guidance had been summarized, “neither the reports nor the underlying research on which the FDA relies have been made publicly available.”

USDA details animal confinement regs

An analysis from USDA’s Economic Research Service shows 14 states have passed policies that affect pork, veal and egg production since 2002. 

According to ERS, bans on sow gestation crates will be in place in 10 states and affect 6% of the U.S. hogs by 2026. Regulations on egg production will cover at least 16% of U.S. operations by the same year. 

Eight states prohibit veal crates, but those are no longer the industry standard anyway, the report says.

The study says cage-free egg production increased from 12.9% of the industry in 2017 to 24% by the end of 2021.

Some of the state laws, including California’s Proposition 12, bar sales of products – no matter where they’re produced – that don’t meet the state’s regulations. A Supreme Court ruling on Prop 12 that’s due out soon could have a far-reaching impact on state regulations.

House approves precision agriculture measure

The House of Representatives has approved legislation that would require the Federal Communications Commission to determine what satellite rule changes could be made to promote precision agriculture.

The bill, dubbed the Precision Agriculture Satellite Connectivity Act, passed the chamber, 409-11. It now heads to the Senate.

Take note: The bill would also require the FCC to consult with a task force looking at “ways to assess and advance broadband internet on unserved agricultural land,” according to the Congressional Research Service’s bill summary.

NPPC lauds Philippines’ push for FTA with the US

The National Pork Producers Council says it was very pleased to hear Philippines Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual say the country is pushing for a free trade agreement with the U.S., even though the U.S. is unlikely to agree.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai met with Pascual during her recent trip to the Philippines. The USTR, in its briefing on the meeting, did not mention Pascual’s urging for an FTA. 

But the Manila Times reports that Pascual, speaking to local reporters after the meeting, said, “We had a discussion on this and we understand where she is coming from, but it cannot prevent us from further pushing. The important thing is we're not closing the door to formalizing trade relations between the Philippines and the United States.”

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EPA proposes that plant growth regulator be used on small grains

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to register the first food uses of chlormequat chloride on barley, oat, triticale, and wheat, after finding no dietary or ecological “risks of concern.”

The pesticide is currently registered for use as a plant growth regulator in ornamentals. It blocks hormones that stimulate growth prior to bloom. In small grains, it “decreases the height of the grain plant stem, resulting in reduced lodging and potentially increased grain yield,” EPA said.

Mitigation measures are also being proposed, such as restricted entry for 24 hours into areas that have been sprayed.

The Environmental Working Group criticized the proposal, saying animal studies have shown the chemical is a “reproductive and developmental toxicant, and exhibits neurotoxicity, which are not accounted for in the current EPA risk assessment.”

EPA’s human health assessment cited “evidence of potential neurotoxicity” in some studies, but said “there is a low degree of concern for the potential neurotoxic effects of chlormequat chloride” in part because clear levels were identified where there were no observable adverse effects.

In other EPA news: The agency today will finalize an emergency waiver that will allow the sale of E15 this summer. On Friday, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the move “will not only help increase fuel supply, but support American farmers, strengthen U.S. energy security, and provide relief to drivers across the country.” The waiver lasts 20 days and can be extended for as long as the agency deems a fuel supply emergency is in effect.

Philip Brasher, Bill Tomson and Noah Wicks contributed to this report.