The Senate has kicked off its fall work period staring at a possible government shutdown – and continued uncertainty as to when a farm bill can get to the floor. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer made no mention of the farm bill in a letter to colleagues last Friday outlining the Senate’s fall priorities. But he did include a passing mention of it in an opening speech on the Senate floor Tuesday evening. Schumer ticked off a long list of issues the Senate could address this fall, ranging from children’s online privacy to FAA reauthorization and a farm bill.

The House isn’t back in session until next Tuesday. Congress will have to pass a stopgap spending bill by Oct. 1 to keep the government funded when the new fiscal year begins. In the meantime, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he expects the Senate to start debating the first of its FY24 appropriations bills next week. 

Ethanol-to-jet-fuel developer inks USDA deal

Gevo Inc., a Colorado-based company that aims to scale up the production of sustainable aviation fuel from corn ethanol, is announcing today that it has signed an agreement with USDA for a $30 million grant under the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program. 

The funding is intended to quantify the impact of climate-smart practices on the carbon score of ethanol-based jet fuel. 

The program “aims to count all the carbon at the field level and reward farmers on a performance basis” for production of corn with a relatively low carbon-intensity score, says Paul Bloom, chief carbon officer and chief innovation officer for Gevo, and head of its Verity Tracking platform. 

FAPRI lowers corn, soybean price forecast

Economists with the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri have lowered their projections for corn and soybean prices over the next few years. However, the price of soybeans in particular is expected to remain well above the prices that would trigger payments under the Price Loss Coverage program. 

FAPRI estimates soybean prices will drop from $12.88 a bushel for this year’s crop to $10.94 for 2024 and $10.55 for 2025 before rebounding somewhat due to growing biofuel demand. 

The average price of corn is expected to drop from last year’s $6.80 a bushel to $4.94 for this year’s crop and then down to $4.24 for the 2026 harvest. That 2026 price estimate would be just below the projected effective PLC reference price for corn, potentially triggering payments to farmers.  

Take note: FAPRI expects the use of biomass-based diesel to increase by more than a billion gallons from 2022 through 2028, while domestic use of ethanol remains flat.

Plant-based protein sales nearly back to pre-pandemic levels

Plant-based protein sales in the U.S. foodservice sector have nearly rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, according to a new report from the Good Food Institute. Sales at food service establishments reached 60 million pounds, or $304 million, last year. That compares to 61 million pounds in 2019, with sales at $282 million. Sales dropped to 48 million pounds in 2020. 

Still, only 10% of U.S. consumers purchased plant-based meat alternatives at a foodservice location in 2022, and most of those consumers only did so once during the year. GFI research analyst Ben Pierce says, “This signals a large runway for the plant-based meat category to further expand in the foodservice sector, if products can appeal to more consumers and earn greater loyalty.”

Brazil nears completion of ‘safrinha’ corn harvest

Brazil’s harvest of its largest corn crop of the year – the “safrinha” that’s planted on soybean acreage – is 88% complete, according to the consulting firm AgRural.

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Field work has ended in the country’s biggest corn farming state of Mato Grosso, but farmers are still harvesting in states such as Paraná and Mato Grosso do Sul where progress has been hampered by rains.

USDA: Mexican cotton production plunges, partly on lack of new GM seeds

Falling cotton fiber usage, rising competition from synthetics, increased yarn imports from Asia and a weak peso are all weighing on Mexico’s cotton farmers. But they’re also suffering from the government’s failure to approve new genetically modified seeds, according to USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

“The government of Mexico has not approved any genetically engineered cotton planting permits since 2019,” says a report from FAS’ Mexico City office. “The only approved GE cotton seeds permitted in Mexico are obsolete varieties and mostly unavailable on the world market.”

Mexican cotton production is expected to be down 30% this year. 

Trout Unlimited gets funding to restore western watersheds

Trout Unlimited will work with ranchers and other land users in the West to restore watersheds in the region under a five-year, $8.8 million agreement with the Bureau of Land Management.

TU says it will “reconnect watersheds and habitat for wild and native trout across BLM lands in the West, making these regions more resilient to drought.” Among the areas targeted: the Colorado River, California-Great Basin, and Columbia-Pacific Northwest river systems.

He said it. “By the end of this month, the House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, all must get on the same page about keeping the government open and avoiding a pointless shutdown, a shutdown that will hurt just about every single American. A shutdown that, of course, shouldn’t happen.” – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.