Mexico is standing firm on its biotech corn decree, despite the Biden administration’s decision to seek a dispute panel under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.

In an interview with Reuters, the Mexican economy minister, Raquel Buenrostro, said her country won’t make any further changes to the decree.

She noted the decree allows the use of biotech corn for animal feed, just not human food. "It's already written ... it's already in the decree," she said. 

Raimondo heading to China

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will be leaving for China soon for a four-day visit Aug. 27-30 to continue the efforts of the Biden administration to repair U.S. ties with the country. China is the largest foreign market for U.S. agricultural exports, but tariffs that began during the Trump administration continue to weigh down trade.

In a letter to presidential candidates this week, major U.S. farm groups stressed the need for new free trade agreements and a reduction of U.S. dependency on the Chinese market.

“In 2022, the U.S. exported $38.11 billion in food and agricultural products to China – an astounding 22-fold increase,” the groups said. “China is now the largest buyer of U.S. food and agricultural products, purchasing 19% of our exports. These exports are critical to America’s farmers and rural communities.”

During her visit to China, Raimondo “looks forward to constructive discussions on issues relating to the U.S.-China commercial relationship, challenges faced by U.S. businesses, and areas for potential cooperation,” Commerce said in a statement.

OMB completes review of new ‘waters’ rule

The White House Office of Management and Budget has completed its review of a new rule defining “waters of the U.S.” in the Clean Water Act, making it look as if the Environmental Protection Agency will fulfill its promise to issue new regulations by Sept. 1.

The ag industry is worried EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, which coordinate on CWA implementation, will make only minor changes to the rule despite a Supreme Court ruling in May that appeared to have significantly tightened the legal foundation for the rule.

The agencies have not asked for public comment on the revisions. The rule itself is not in effect in 26 states because of court rulings.

A wide variety of industry and environmental groups have met with OMB and EPA officials to discuss the rule.

Ethanol industry group supports EPA’s decision on refinery exemptions

Growth Energy is backing the Environmental Protection Agency’s July 14 decision to reject 26 small refinery exemption requests.

The nation’s biggest biofuels trade group moved to intervene on EPA’s side in a lawsuit challenging the decision filed by one small refinery, Hunt Refining Company.

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“EPA made the right call by following the data, which show there is no economic justification for exempting another oil company from its obligations under the [Renewable Fuel Standard],” Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said. 

“Past abuse of SREs destroyed demand for billions of gallons of biofuels, undermining our ability to hold down prices at the pump with clean, American renewable fuel. It’s important that the courts and EPA continue to reject efforts to roll back the clock,” Skor said.

Cargill using wind power on ship for the first time

Cargill is testing a new form of wind power on a ship as the maritime industry pushes to decarbonize.

BAR Tech WindWings by Yara Marine are expected to save 30% on fuel costs for newly built vessels, Cargill said. 

“The performance of the WindWings will be closely monitored over the coming months to further improve their design, operation, and performance, with the aim that the Pyxis Ocean will be used to inform the scale-up and adoption across not only Cargill’s fleet but the industry,” Cargill said.

The Pyxis Ocean is the name of the ship. 

Proposed USDA rule meant to curb horse soring 

The Agriculture Department is proposing a slate of regulatory changes under the Horse Protection Act meant to crack down on the use of horse “soring,” or training horses to use exaggerated gaits in competition.

The changes include giving USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service the responsibility of handling inspections and other regulatory responsibilities, prohibiting all devices or substances that could mask evidence of soring, and changing recordkeeping and reporting requirements for management at horse shows.

Under the Horse Protection Act, Congress tasked the agency with eliminating soring, a practice USDA Undersecretary Jenny Lester Moffitt says “harms horses and makes it harder for those who properly care for their horses to compete” in walking shows. 

A 2010 USDA Inspector General audit found the agency’s previous system of oversight was ineffective and suggested it should be overhauled. 

$150M made available for small, underserved forest landowners

The Forest Service is investing $150 million “to help underserved and small acreage forest landowners connect to emerging voluntary climate markets.”

USDA's Notice of Funding Opportunity rolled out Tuesday announced Tuesday the money will also support participation of forest landowners “who own less than 2,500 acres of forest land in emerging private markets for climate mitigation or forest resilience.”

Questions, comments, tips? Email Associate Editor Steve Davies.