Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, are proposing a bill requiring the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. to review foreign entities’ land purchases or leases exceeding $4 million or 320 acres of land over the past three years and adding the Agriculture Secretary as a member of the panel.

The bill, dubbed the Foreign Agricultural Restrictions to Maintain Local Agriculture and National Defense (FARMLAND) Act, would also require the Agriculture Department to conduct investigations into “malign efforts to steal agricultural knowledge and technology” and to “disrupt the United States agricultural base.” The bill would require the USDA to appoint a “Chief of Operations of Investigative Actions,” who would be tasked with taking on these duties.

Take note: The bill would also require the USDA and the Department of Homeland Security to jointly create a database of foreign land owners using data from the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act and other public data sources. The USDA’s Chief of Operations for Investigative Actions would then be required to conduct an audit of the database that evaluates its accuracy and provides recommendations for “improving compliance” with AFIDA reporting. 

House Ag focuses on rural broadband

The House Agriculture Committee today is looking into ways to bridge the gaps in rural broadband service.

Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, will tell the committee that the farm bill should make USDA’s ReConnect program permanent. He also will say the farm bill should prioritize symmetrical speeds and scalable networks while also investing in middle-mile infrastructure.

“For many cooperatives, the story of rural broadband deployment today mirrors the story of rural electrification nearly 100 years ago. The cost of building and maintaining networks in sparsely populated areas with difficult terrain is prohibitive for many providers,” he says in his prepared testimony.

Other types of providers also will be represented at the hearing.

Ag veterans join to create new farm policy group

A bipartisan roster of major players in the ag sector are announcing today the formation of the U.S. Agriculture Partnership Foundation, a new organization “to amplify the values shared by both farmers and the public to elevate the importance of agricultural policy in a bipartisan manner.”

Kip Tom, former ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and Nicole Montna Van Vleck, president and CEO of Montna Farms, are heading up the new group that includes Collin Peterson, former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, The Russell Group President Randy Russell and Lisa Van Doren, vice president of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.  

“Americans enjoy an affordable and safe food supply, but the growing trust gap between farmers and farm practices threatens to undermine this surplus of good fortune,” Tom said. “Our agriculture system has helped avoid humanitarian disasters at home and abroad. USAPF is dedicated to keeping that stability in place.”

BBB board recommends JBS halt ’net zero’ claims

The National Advertising Review Board, an appellate advertising body of BBB National Programs, is calling on meatpacking giant JBS to “discontinue certain claims relating to its goal of achieving ’net zero’ emissions by 2040.”

In a press release, the board said some of JBS’s claims “communicate that JBS is already in the process of implementing a documented plan that has been evaluated and found to have a reasonable expectation of achieving ’net zero’ by the year 2040.” The company, however, is currently in the “exploratory” stage of its efforts and does not have a “formulated or vetted plan,” the release said.

Take note: JBS says it disagrees with the board’s interpretation of how consumers perceive the claims and conclusion about record evidence. But the company says it plans to comply with the recommendations in future published statements and advertising claims. 

OSHA should look at workplace standard for meat and poultry workers

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration should consider adopting an industry workplace standard for meat and poultry workers, citing the dangers they faced during COVID-19, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released Tuesday.

“Officials told GAO their ability to protect workers was limited because existing standards did not target COVID-related hazards, such as jobs requiring workers to stand in close proximity,” GAO said.

 The report also recommended that OSHA and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service collaborate closely on worker protection.

“Information from five of the largest meat and poultry companies shows that at least 59,000 meat and poultry workers were infected with the coronavirus and at least 269 workers died between March 1, 2020, and February 1, 2021,” the report said.

USDA prepares for trade mission to Chile

USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service says it is now taking applications to join the agency’s trade mission to Chile in September. As a bonus for those going, the mission will coincide with a USDA-endorsed trade show taking place in Santiago.

“This year we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of U.S.-Chile diplomatic relations, and today Chile and the neighboring Peru are some of our key trading partners, representing the second and third largest agricultural markets in South America,” said FAS Administrator Daniel Whitley.

Some of the biggest opportunities in Chile and Peru are for U.S. exporters of cheese, meat, pet food, tree nuts, wheat and alcoholic beverages, according to FAS. 

He said it: “Yes, we will have the Uber-ization of farming.” - Frank Terhorst, Head of Strategy & Sustainability for the Bayer Crop Science division, speaking at their Innovation Summit in New York City on Tuesday. He was discussing new opportunities for farmers in India to have access to drones, tractors and drills to grow direct-seeded rice, while reducing use of water and labor.

Noah Wicks, Philip Brasher, Jacqui Fatka, Steve Davies and Sara Wyant contributed to this report. Questions, comments, tips? Email