Hopes are building in farm country for an increase in the reference prices that trigger government payments through the Price Loss Coverage program. 

According to the latest monthly survey of farmers by Purdue University and the CME Group, half of farmers polled say they expect increases in corn and soybean reference prices. Raising reference prices is a priority for the Republican leaders of the House and Senate Ag committees, although they have yet to identify how they are going to pay for it or how individual commodities would be addressed. 

By the way: Farmer sentiment as measured by the Purdue-CME Ag Economy Barometer rose sharply in June, increasing 17 points to a reading of 121. But the increase is driven by a more optimistic look for 2024 than by farmers’ current circumstances. 

The Index of Current Conditions was unchanged from May. However, 20% of farmers surveyed expect their financial conditions to improve over the next year. Just 13% thought that in May. The share of farmers who expect their situation to worsen over the coming year fell from 44% in May to 32% in June. 

Don’t miss our title-by-title farm bill preview that compiles the key issues and proposals in play as the House and Senate Ag committees prepare to write the legislation.

Biden pressed to align fed food service guidelines with values

A new coalition of consumer advocates, social justice groups and other organizations are calling on President Biden to use the government’s food purchasing power to help mitigate climate change, advance racial equity and increase protection for workers.

At last fall’s White House hunger conference, the administration committed to update and implement the Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities to encourage healthy and safe food while also addressing environmental concerns. The newly formed Federal Good Food Purchasing Coalition says in a recent letter to Biden that he should issue an executive order requiring the guidelines be updated and then implemented. 

Some 25 cities and counties have embraced a values-aligned approach to food procurement that looks to “promote robust local economies, environmental sustainability, a valued workforce, animal welfare and community health and nutrition,” the coalition says.

“The federal government’s billions in food purchases can be a powerful tool to combat the climate crisis,” says Lisa Gonzalez, senior food and climate policy analyst at Friends of the Earth. “This proposed executive order would be an important next step toward fulfilling President Biden’s commitments to climate justice, racial equity, public health and worker rights.”

Why it matters: The federal government purchases about $8.8 billion of food each year, according to the Congressional Research Service.

US, Canada and Mexico trade leaders meet in Cancún

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, Mexican Economy Secretary Raquel Buenrostro and Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng today are starting two days of meetings to mark the third year of USMCA in Cancún, Mexico.

Tai will also hold bilateral meetings with her North American counterparts, but don’t count on much discussion of U.S. trade disputes with Mexico over GMO corn and with Canada over access to its dairy market, says a U.S. trade official.

While those disputes are “topics of priority,” the leaders may leave those matters to the teams conducting the dispute consultation.

Take note: While USMCA disputes may get a lot of headlines, trade between the three countries remains strong for many commodities. The National Pork Producers Council notes that U.S. pork exports to Mexico jumped from $1.2 billion in 2020 to $2 billion in 2022, and shipments for the first four months of this year have put the industry on track for a record in 2023.

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Brazilian egg exports skyrocket

Brazil has exported more eggs in the first five month of this year than it did in all of 2022, according to the Brazilian Animal Protein Association, a group that represents the country’s poultry and pork industries.

Brazil shipped about $29.7 million worth of fresh and processed eggs from January through May, according to the group that goes by the acronym ABPA. That’s about 166% more than in the same five months last year, well eclipsing the $22.4 million worth of eggs exported in all of 2022.

Take note: Japan and Taiwan are the largest foreign markets for Brazilian eggs, but the U.S. is also a customer, says ABPA. Brazil shipped just 458 metric tons of eggs to buyers in the U.S. in the first five month of this year, but that was an 83% increase from the same time frame last year.

Corps asks for comments on Mississippi project

The Army Corps of Engineers is seeking comments on a plan to reduce flooding in the Yazoo Basin that would rely on pumping to protect farmers who have suffered frequent crop damage in the nearly 1 million-acre Yazoo Backwater Area.

The 30-day public comment period on the Corps’ plan to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement ends Aug. 8, according to today’s Federal Register notice.

Environmental groups that have fought various permutations of the Yazoo Backwater Area project for decades continue to voice opposition. But the Corps says that unlike previous plans, the latest proposal “is not anticipated to convert any wetlands to non-wetlands.”

They said it. “In the same way that federal energy procurement has accelerated the transition to clean energy across the U.S. economy, federal food procurement and service can catalyze the just, healthy, and sustainable food system transformation we desperately need.” – the Federal Good Food Purchasing Coalition in a letter to President Biden.