One of D.C.’s most experienced veterans of farm policy says lawmakers are still far from the finish line on a new farm bill, despite House Ag Committee Chairman Glenn Thompson’s success in getting four Democratic votes for his legislation in a marathon markup last week.

Getting some rank-and-file Democratic votes for a bill is not the same as having the support of the senior Democrats on the House and Senate Ag committees, says Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. Conner led farm policy in the George W. Bush White House and later served as deputy agriculture secretary. 

“There’s bipartisanship, and there’s bipartisanship among the leaders of the House and the Senate that will ultimately be at the table when this bill is finished. Right now, those leaders are not on board with this bill and have no plans to do so,” Conner says in an Agri-Pulse Open Mic interview

Conner notes the House Ag Committee’s ranking Democrat, David Scott of Georgia, was “extremely sharp in his criticism” of the bill. “They’ve got a long ways to go,” Conner adds. 

Keep in mind: Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., were actively involved in trying to keep Democrats united against the bill. 

What’s next: The top Republican on the Senate Ag Committee, John Boozman of Arkansas, is expected to release an outline of his farm bill proposal sometime after lawmakers return from this week’s recess. 

‘Viral particles’ found in one of 96 beef tissue samples tested

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has announced the detection of H5N1 viral particles in one of 96 beef tissue samples tested. But the agency says no meat from the cull dairy cattle entered the food supply.

“FSIS collected multiple tissues, including muscle samples from the diaphragm, at FSIS-inspected slaughter facilities from cull dairy cattle that have been condemned for systemic diseases,” the agency says. The samples were then analyzed by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

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Meanwhile: Michigan’s Department of Agriculture & Rural Development has confirmed H5N1 in three more herds in the state, bringing the total in Michigan to 21 herds in 10 counties. USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories has yet to confirm the results for two of the herds.

NVSL has now confirmed H5N1 in 63 herds in nine states. South Dakota, where a herd was first identified with H5N1 on April 9, has had three herds confirmed since May 17.

Food safety watchThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 109 people from 29 states have become ill from salmonella after touching or caring for backyard poultry. Thirty-three people have been hospitalized but so far, no deaths have been reported.

Volume of pork exports up, industry group says

Trade with Mexico, Korea, Central America and Colombia is propelling new growth in U.S. pork exports, says U.S. Meat Export Federation President Dan Halstrom 

The U.S. saw a 6% increase in both the volume and value of U.S. pork exports for the first quarter of this year over the same period in 2023. "We have some optimism, I think, on several fronts in the pork industry, but without a doubt, the international side is definitely one of those positive notes,” Halstrom said at the recent U.S. Meat Export Federation annual conference.

Meanwhile: Beef export volume was down slightly year over year — by less than 1% — but the value of beef exports was up 9%. Halstrom said that was “a very good sign that would indicate beef is still in demand, though it might be at higher prices.” 

Imports filling the gap as demand outpaces U.S. aquaculture

The number of fish farms in the U.S. is declining even as consumer demand for fish and shellfish has boomed. According to a report from USDA’s Economic Research Service, U.S. aquaculture sales have continued to grow somewhat as the number of farms has declined, but consumption has increased even more.

According to the report, per capita consumption for fish and shellfish grew by 31% from 2002 to 2021 to 20.5 pounds. Meanwhile, the number of U.S. aquaculture farms declined to 2,932 in 2018, the latest year in the report, down from 4,309 in 2005. Sales from U.S. farms grew by 3% from 2013 to 2018, adjusted for inflation.

Keep in mind: Imports are supporting Americans’ growing appetite for seafood. Imports totaled $25.5 billion in 2023, with Canada and Chile accounting for 14% and 13% of that respectively. 

Commerce seeks members for renewable energy advisory committee

The International Trade Administration in the Department of Commerce is seeking nominations for the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee. The panel’s work will focus on “technologies, equipment, and services to generate electricity, produce heat, and power vehicles from renewable sources such as solar, wind, biomass, hydropower, geothermal, and hydrogen,” ITA says in a Federal Register notice.

Non-fossil fuels that reduce carbon consumption, such as liquid biofuels and pellets, are included within the committee’s purview. The committee can include up to 30 members. Nominations are due by June 14.

Meeting on tap of export council: The White House today is announcing a meeting of the President’s Export Council. The June 11 session will include a discussion of recommendations to expand exports and  presentation of a report about a fact-finding trip by some members to Thailand in March. Land O’Lakes CEO Beth Ford is on the council.