There are a lot of new details now about the farm bill that Republicans plan to push through the House Agriculture Committee next week. Committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., on Friday afternoon released a 38-page section-by-section summary on his draft. He’s expected to release more detail later this week.

Commodity groups were briefed on Thursday about the details of his changes to Title 1 programs. The section-by-section summary says Price Loss Coverage reference prices would be increased by 10% to 20%, based on input costs. The summary doesn’t identify the specific increases for each commodity.

Thompson and his staff have been working to convince some vulnerable Democrats to get on board with the draft. So far, none has done so publicly. But in an open letter that accompanied the summary, Thompson said, “my door remains open,” suggesting he’s amenable to some negotiating.

By the way: We can be pretty sure Democratic Reps. Chellie Pingree of Maine, Nikki Budzinski of Illinois and Andrea Salinas of Oregon aren’t going to get on board with the bill. They’re taking part in a news conference Wednesday to talk about the need to keep climate restrictions on the Inflation Reduction Act conservation funding that would be brought into the bill.

Read our full report on the section-by-section summary. House Ag Republicans are posting information about the bill here.

For more on this week’s D.C. agenda, read our Washington Week Ahead.

Interior readies rollout of near-term Colorado River water reduction plan

The Interior Department has officially signed off on Arizona, Nevada and California’s plan to preserve at least 3 million acre-feet of Colorado River water through 2026 while the seven states that share the river negotiate a longer-term plan for cutting back on water use.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland last week approved implementation of the plan in a record of decision, agreeing to compensate water users for up to 2.3 million acre-feet of reductions with Inflation Reduction Act funding. The remaining 700,000 acre-feet or more of water included in the plan would either go uncompensated or be paid for using state or local funds. 

"These supplemental guidelines represent the department’s determination as to the most appropriate set of guidelines to adopt at this stage of the ongoing drought,” the record of decision says of the lower basin proposal.

But, but, but: The 3-million-acre-foot commitment is only intended to sustain lakes Powell and Mead, the river’s two primary reservoirs, through the end of 2026. Negotiators are trying to craft an entirely new set of guidelines for future curtailments, but are currently locked in an upper-basin-vs-lower-basin fight over how to share the burden.

Surface Transportation Board chairman retires

Surface Transportation Board Chairman Martin Oberman is retiring on the heels of the board’s passage of a rule allowing shippers and receivers to petition for reciprocal switching agreements.

A former alderman in Chicago where he often clashed with legendary Democratic boss and Mayor Richard Daley, Oberman “was known for asking the hard, direct, and incisive questions necessary to get from parties the information the agency needed to get to the bottom of the issues presented,” the STB says in a news release.

Oberman was appointed to one of the two Democratic seats on the board by President Donald Trump in 2019 and became chairman after Joe Biden’s election.

“His work to lead the railroad industry out of the service crisis was extraordinary,” Vice Chair Karen Hedlund said. “At the same time he achieved final consensus on a historic new regulation on reciprocal switching. … His leadership will be sorely missed.”

Next in line: President Biden intends to designate board member Robert Primus as STB chairman. Primus, who was appointed by Biden in 2021, has spent most of his career in the House of Representatives working for a variety of Democratic lawmakers.

Solar storm throws off GPS signals during spring planting

The geomagnetic storm that has captivated Americans is hindering farmers’ use of GPS-based precision agriculture systems in the thick of planting season, a situation one John Deere dealer described Saturday as “definitely not ideal."

LandMark Implement in Nebraska and Kansas warned farmers in a post that “pass-to-pass accuracy” on John Deere tractor systems were “extremely degraded” due to ongoing solar flares, adding they should closely watch their guess rows. The problem extends to other brands of equipment as well, the company added.

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"We are in search of tools to help predict this in the future so that we can attempt to give our customers an alert that this issue may be coming. We do believe this historic event and it isn’t something that we are going to have to continue to battle frequently,” the post said.

USDA seeks information on vaccine for use in cattle

USDA is conducting “preliminary market research” on the potential to develop a vaccine targeting highly pathogenic avian influenza in cattle.

The Center for Veterinary Biologics has asked for “additional information from interested manufacturers on their capability to develop, license or permit, and manufacture a safe and effective vaccine,” according to a formal request for information, or RFI.

“This request is exploratory only and should not be interpreted as a decision to use vaccine in U.S. dairy cattle,” the RFI says. It is “not a solicitation and does not constitute a request for proposals.”

More aid for affected farms: Meanwhile, National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Gregg Doud thanked Vilsack “and federal leadership for effectively using their existing authorities to offer necessary assistance for dairy farmers as they meet the challenges of H5N1 in dairy cattle. Care for farm workers and animals is critical for milk producers, as is protecting against potential human health risks and reassuring the public.”

USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services announced financial assistance for testing personal protective equipment and farmworker monitoring on Friday

The virus has been detected in 42 herds in nine states.

He said it: “While I look forward to spending more time with my family, I will miss the dedicated STB staff who have worked tirelessly as public servants.” – Surface Transportation Board Chairman Martin Oberman, upon his retirement.

Philip Brasher and Noah Wicks contributed to this report.