House Speaker Kevin McCarthy continues to publicly press the issue of work requirements during the debt limit talks. And no Democrat has been more outspoken in opposition to expanding SNAP work requirements than David Scott, the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee. 

But Tuesday, Scott sounded significantly less concerned about the issue. “I think we’re going to work it out,” he told Agri-Pulse. He didn’t elaborate.

USDA reviewing prevent-plant coverage

USDA is seeking input on a number of issues related to prevented planting insurance coverage. The Risk Management Agency will be holding a series of in-person and virtual listening sessions this summer and also will be accepting written comments. 

Among the issues up for review is whether prevent plant payments should be calculated based on the higher of the projected price or harvest price. RMA also is reviewing the “one in four rule,” which limits prevent-plant coverage to acreage that was planted to a crop, insured and harvested in at least one out of the previous four years. 

In addition, RMA wants to know whether it should reinstate a 10% buy-up option for prevent-plant coverage and how prevent-plant payments should be calculated for contract crops. 

NRCS chief: TSP proposal would help

The chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Terry Cosby, says a bipartisan bill recently introduced in the Senate and House would help the department deliver conservation programs to farmers. The bill is aimed at increasing the number of technical service advisers certified by NRCS. 

Cosby was asked about the bill by Rep. Jim Baird, R-Ind., at a House Ag subcommittee hearing Tuesday on conservation programs. Baird chairs the subcommittee, while a co-sponsor of the bill, Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., is the subcommittee’s ranking member. 

Cosby said NRCS has already taken several steps to increase the number of TSPs available to farmers. For one thing, NRCS now has full-time staff dedicated to helping prospective TSPs get certified. TSP certification was traditionally a side duty for field staff, Cosby said.

Why it matters: Lack of technical assistance has long been a challenge for farmers wanting to use USDA conservation programs, and it could be an even bigger issue as USDA ramps up funding provided by the Inflation Reduction Act.

For more on the House Ag hearing, as well as a look at economic challenges facing the meat and poultry industry, read our weekly Agri-Pulse newsletter. We also look at the issue of permitting reform and why that could be critical to renewable energy projects. 

BLM lands proposal to be subject of House hearing

The House Natural Resources Committee will hear criticism today of a Bureau of Land Management proposal designed to increase the role of conservation in the agency’s mission.

The committee plans to discuss BLM’s proposed rule from March that is “intended to raise conservation up to be on par with other uses under the principles of multiple use and sustained yield,” according to the proposal.

“Numerous stakeholders have expressed concern that the Biden Administration will use this rulemaking to determine currently permitted activities on BLM lands, such as grazing, energy production, and recreation are incompatible with a conservation lease or areas identified as ‘intact landscapes,’” a committee memo prepared for the hearing says.

Take note: Witnesses invited by the Republican majority include county commissioners from Montana and Arizona and the director of the Nevada Department of Agriculture. The Democrats’ sole witness is the New Mexico commissioner of public lands.

Black Sea grain activity resumes, but problems remain

The Joint Coordination Center – the inspectors who clear inbound and outbound ships through the Bosporus Strait to haul Ukrainian grain – is active again after a recent deal to resume trade, but one Ukrainian port is still inactive, according to a United Nations spokesman.

Nine inbound vessels have been cleared to enter the Black Sea over the past six days and are loading at two of the three active Ukrainian ports. The problem that has the UN concerned, the spokesman said, is that there has been no activity at the third port – Pivdennyi.

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Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov has directly blamed Moscow for blocking activity at the Port of Pivdennyi.

We are concerned by this restriction, and we call again for the full resumption of operations,” the UN spokesman said.

UN works to stop food aid theft in Ethiopia

The UN World Food Program has come up with a plan to stop the theft of food aid in Ethiopia.

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power told lawmakers recently that former warring factions in Ethiopia colluded to steal food aid donated by USAID. The thefts took place after a truce was signed in November between Ethiopia’s government and leaders of the breakaway northern region of Tigray.

The UN is beefing up security around shipments, making more timely deliveries and better scrutinizing recipients, the agency says.

“WFP has zero tolerance for theft or diversion that prevents critical food from reaching the hungry families who need it to survive. Those found responsible must be held accountable,” said WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain. 

She said it. “They (farmers) are much more concerned about their ability to pass on family farms to the next generation and feeding America than they are about equity and climate change.” – Rep. Mary Miller, R-Ill., to USDA officials at a House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on Tuesday.

Bill Tomson, Steve Davies and Noah Wicks contributed to this report.