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President Joe Biden meets with congressional leaders today amid the looming crisis over the federal debt ceiling. The president is sticking to his position that the debt ceiling and federal spending are separate issues that can’t be linked.

“He will tell congressional leaders that they must act quickly to avoid default without conditions and discuss a separate process on budget and appropriations,” White House economist Joelle Gamble told Agri-Pulse.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has the backing of Senate Republicans in arguing that there can’t be an increase in the debt ceiling unless Democrats agree to cuts in spending. The House-passed Limit, Save, Grow Act would slash domestic spending programs and eliminate many of the climate-related incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act in exchange for increasing the debt limit.

“MAGA House Republicans are threatening to default, essentially, which would wreak havoc on working people, seniors and the middle class and could also cost millions of jobs while increasing the cost of borrowing,” said Gamble.

GOP view: House Budget Committee Chairman Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, says the GOP strategy of pairing a debt limit increase with spending disciplines isn’t unprecedented. “The two are not mutually exclusive,” he told CNBC on Monday.

Tough times in meat sector: Tyson reports loss

Meatpacking giant Tyson Foods reported Monday that it lost $46 million in its most recent quarter, compared to a profit of more than $1.1 billion in the same timeframe a year ago. Tyson reported an adjusted operating income of just $8 million in beef (compared to $638 million a year earlier) and losses of $31 million in pork and $166 million in chicken.

"While the current protein market is challenging, we have a strong growth strategy in place and are bullish on our long-term outlook,” said Tyson President and CEO Donnie King. “We saw strong performance in our branded foods business and continue to be laser-focused on meeting customer needs and planning the future with them.”

USDA doubles funding for global methane research ‘sprint’

USDA announced a doubling of its funding commitment in support of a global effort to reduce methane emissions from livestock.

The money will go to the Global Methane Hub, which is launching an Enteric Methane Research and Development Accelerator to coordinate and consolidate research. The effort is one of 51 “innovation sprints” announced by the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM4C), which is holding its summit in Washington, D.C.

The number of those sprints has grown from 30 last fall, and the funding has grown from about $1.3 billion to $3.1 billion. The sprints are financed by non-governmental entities.

Also in methane news: The International Fund for Agricultural Development said it is starting an initiative to help developing countries lower methane emissions from agricultural and small-scale farming. The IFAD program will receive $3 million in support from the Global Methane Hub and $ 1 million in support from the U.S. State Department.

Flooding subsides in some parts of Mississippi River 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is beginning to reopen several upper Mississippi River locks previously closed due to flooding in the river.

Water levels in the river have declined over the past week, though levels in Rock Island, Illinois, remain at a "major flood stage", according to gauge readings from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, said he expects to see declines continue at Rock Island and other high-water areas in the upper river as the week wears on.

Take note: Approximately 395,000 metric tons of soybeans were exported during the week of May 4, according to USDA. Steenhoek said volumes at this time of year are “modest” compared to the fall harvest season, pointing to the 2.75 million metric tons exported last year during the week of Oct. 8.

Monthly US pork exports reach two-year-high

The U.S. exported 260,195 metric tons of pork in March, a 17% increase over the same month last year and the highest monthly volume since May 2021, the U.S. Meat Export Federation said. March exports were the ninth largest on record. As to value, the total for March was $724 million, an 18% increase over March 2022.

Mexico was the biggest destination for U.S. pork exports in March, but shipments to the Dominican Republic, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, China, the Philippines, Australia and Taiwan were also very strong, says USMEF.

“It’s great to see U.S. pork exports continue to expand in many of our Western Hemisphere markets, but there is also notable momentum in the Asia Pacific,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom.  

Ukraine: Russia again stops inspection of Black Sea grain ships

Russian officials have again blocked inspections of vessels trying to enter and leave the Black Sea to ship Ukrainian grain around the globe, according to Ukraine’s Infrastructure Ministry.

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There are currently 90 vessels waiting for inspection. A team of Ukrainian, Russian and Turkish officials in the Bosporus Strait is charged with the inspections under the United Nations Black Sea Grain Initiative.

“Russia's destructive policy makes it impossible to draw up an inspection plan … which requires daily approval by all parties of the inspection plan for both exit and entry,” the ministry said.

Dean says proposed SNAP work requirements would ‘increase hardship’

Addressing an anti-hunger conference Monday, USDA Food and Nutrition Service Deputy Undersecretary Stacy Dean said changes to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program work requirements proposed by House Republicans are not justified by the data.

“When I look at the evidence around some of the things that we’ve heard discussed in the nutrition space, there’s not a whole lot of evidence to support that some of the changes they’ve discussed would advance us towards our goals of increased economic security, and in fact, would only increase hardship,” she said.

In their debt-ceiling proposal, House Republicans have proposed increasing the age that able-bodied adults without dependents would have to work, from 49 to 55.

He said it: “If we get a degree of reliability and confidence that we can actually measure how much soil carbon is being built up by farmers, we can pay them for that.” Former Vice President Al Gore, addressing the AIM for Climate summit Monday in Washington, D.C.