Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is preparing to confirm later this morning that he will be using $2.3 billion in funding from USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation to help farm groups promote their goods in foreign markets as well as donate more U.S.-grown commodities to those in need overseas, according to government officials. 

Of that total, $1.3 billion of the CCC funds will go toward the new Regional Agricultural Promotion Program, which is meant to replace the expiring Agricultural Trade Promotion program, or ATP, put in place during the Trump administration. Those funds will also deliver an “investment in providing targeted technical assistance to the specialty crops industry” and “help it enter and expand markets that often impose onerous non-tariff barriers on their products,” according to a USDA document obtained by Agri-Pulse

And $1 billion in the CCC funds will go toward donations of more U.S.-grown commodities to those in need overseas.

The amounts being announced by USDA later today are slightly less than the overall $2.5 billion that the department proposed using in a letter last month to the House and Senate Appropriations committees, as reported on by Agri-Pulse on Sept. 15.

Take note: Sources tell Agri-Pulse that USDA is not close to accepting RAPP proposals. USDA told industry officials Monday that it still has to go through the lengthy rule-making process in the Federal Register. But, when USDA does eventually accept proposals, it wants farm groups to concentrate on promoting exports to Southeast Asia, Africa and South America.

Plan C: House Rs vote on third speaker nominee

House Republicans are set to meet today to find a new nominee for speaker among their eight candidates.

Notably, former President Donald Trump says he’s not taking a public position this time. He previously endorsed Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, who withdrew from the race Friday after he lost a third straight round of floor balloting.

“I’m staying above it. I have to right now,” Trump said in New Hampshire Monday. That should be good news for Majority Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota, who’s considered the leader among the nine candidates. Emmer is one of two candidates – Ag Committee member Austin Scott of Georgia is the other – who voted to certify President Joe Biden’s election in January 2021. 

Trump said Emmer is “my biggest fan now, because he called me yesterday (Sunday) and told me he’s my biggest fan.”

Take note: The hard-right House Freedom Caucus is calling for lawmakers to stay in Washington until a new speaker is elected. Most of the Republicans who forced the ouster of then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy are HFC members.

By the way: A ninth candidate, Dan Meuser of Pennsylvania, dropped out of the speaker race Monday evening. 

House Ag Dems look to protect IRA funding

Democrats on the House Ag Committee are appealing to Chairman Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., and ranking member David Scott, D-Ga., to keep the conservation funding provided under the Inflation Reduction Act restricted to climate-smart practices.

Republicans would like to bring the IRA money into the farm bill and take off the climate guardrails. It’s one of the $60 billion in possible farm bill funding offsets that Thompson has presented to Democrats in recent weeks.

“The Inflation Reduction Act was intended to go towards climate smart conservation, and it would ultimately be a disservice to American farmers should these funds go elsewhere,” the House Ag Democrats say in a letter to committee leaders. “We implore you to keep the funds for their intended purpose and provide the resources farmers need.” 

Farmers reject EPA’s Endangered Species Act herbicide strategy

The Environmental Protection Agency’s “complex framework" for complying with EPA’s draft herbicide strategy to mitigate risks to endangered species would “impose enormous new regulatory burdens and uncertainties on nearly every agricultural herbicide user in the contiguous lower 48 states,” says a letter to EPA signed by more than 1,500 producers. 

The letter says producers and applicators may have difficulty in determining if their land falls under regulation or compliance obligations. The letter identifies producers’ environmental concerns if herbicides are limited, including the inability to continue to use reduced tillage and cover crops.

“Weeds can steal limited water and nutrients from the soil and crowd out your crop. If not properly managed, they can quickly overtake a field and even result in total crop failure. If the herbicide strategy or other regulations deprive us of the tools needed to manage these destructive pests, many farms across the U.S. will struggle to stay afloat,” says Alan Meadows, a soybean grower from Halls, Tennessee, and director with the American Soybean Association in a statement.

St. Lawrence Seaway shut down amid worker strike

Striking St. Lawrence Seaway workers have led to a temporary shutdown of the lock and canal system, which serves as a major route for both U.S. and Canadian grain shipments.

Members of the UNIFOR worker union on Saturday voted to strike after clashing with the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation over wage increases. The Seaway will continue to be shut down until both parties reach some sort of agreement, even temporarily, the SLSMC in a release

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Take note: The SLSMC has filed an application with the Canada Industrial Relations Board seeking a ruling to “provide employees during a strike to ensure vessels engaged in the movement of grain continue transiting the system."

CFTC orders grain merchandiser Ceres to pay $3M penalty

Ceres Global Ag Corp. agreed to pay $3 million in fines to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for manipulating the price of the July 2016 and March 2017 oats futures contracts. 

According to an order filed by the CFTC, “senior personnel at Ceres knew about and facilitated the building of large long positions at or close to the spot month speculative limits, holding those long positions into the delivery period, and taking delivery of oats, intending both to boost the price of oat futures in those contracts and to obtain higher quality oats at lower delivery prices.”

“If Ceres thought it could roll the oats market without consequence, it was mistaken,” says CFTC Director of Enforcement Ian McGinley. 

He said it. “I’ve said there’s only one person who can do it all the way. You know who that is? Jesus Christ.” – former President Donald Trump, joking in New Hampshire about the House speaker’s race.

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