Farmers are nearing the end of corn planting and are on pace with seeding soybeans as well, according to USDA’s weekly Crop Progress report.

Some 83% of the corn acreage was planted as of Sunday, up 70% from the week before. The five-year average at this point is 82%. Last year, 89% of the corn crop was in the ground at this time.

Similarly, 68% of the soybean crop had been planted as of Sunday, up from 52% a week ago and ahead of the five-year average of 63%. Last year at this time 78% had been planted.

Checking in on wheat: Some 48% of the winter wheat crop is rated as good to excellent, compared to 34% at this time a year ago.

Hunger groups draft letter pushing against SNAP cut in farm bill 

Anti-hunger groups are recruiting organizations to co-sign a letter urging Congress to protect and strengthen SNAP in the House farm bill, which moved out of committee last week. 

The Food Research & Action Center is leading the letter, which opposes any farm bill that proposes cuts to projected nutrition spending through restrictions on future Thrifty Food Plan updates. The group also opposes any provisions allowing the privatization of SNAP administration.

Democrats frequently highlighted those two issues during the House Ag Committee’s debate. The legislation was approved 33-21, with four Democrats joining Republicans in favor.

“Historically, the Farm Bill has been a bipartisan effort that has prioritized improving the lives of millions of households who struggle to get the nutrition they need,” reads the draft letter. “We urge Congress to return to this core farm bill principle and only advance a bold and equitable farm bill that protects and strengthens SNAP and the commodity assistance programs that support millions of households in every corner of our country.”

Read more about the House farm bill’s prospects in this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter, which also includes stories on the debate over potatoes (grain or vegetable?), drought prospects, a new soy-based firefighting foam, and farmworker wages.

House lawmakers to hear border perspective from North Dakotans

The House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing today in North Dakota to obtain views on immigration and border issues.

Titled “The Biden Border Crisis: North Dakota Perspective,” the hearing will feature the state’s attorney general, Drew Wrigley; Jesse Jahner, sheriff of Cass County; Rebecca Davis, executive director of the Wahalla Area Chamber of Commerce, and Roger Hutchinson, sheriff of Renville County. 

Wrigley was one of 18 attorneys general to sign on to a lawsuit filed by 18 states last year challenging the Department of Homeland Security’s “Circumvention of Lawful Pathways” rule, which is designed to incentivize the use of legal pathways to enter the country.

H5N1 detected in alpacas in Idaho 

USDA has confirmed the detection of H5N1 in alpacas in Idaho, the first detection of the bird flu in those animals in the U.S.

USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories “has confirmed that the viral genome sequence for these samples is the same sequence currently circulating in dairy cattle,” and is “consistent with sequences from the depopulated poultry on this premises,” the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said.

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NVSL confirmation was completed on May 16. “APHIS reported the confirmation to the World Organisation for Animal Health and on the HPAI livestock website upon completion of additional gene sequencing, per APHIS policy for disease detections in new species,” the agency said.  

DOJ, states’ lawsuit against Agri Stats can proceed in Minnesota

A federal judge has denied agricultural data provider Agri Stats' motion to dismiss an antitrust lawsuit involving the pork and turkey industries. John Tunheim of the U.S. District Court of Minnesota said the antitrust claims made by the Justice Department and six states have enough legal standing for the lawsuit to continue and that the case isn’t bound by a decision in a previous poultry antitrust case.

Tunheim added that those poultry claims can also continue despite Agri Stats having been dismissed as a defendant in a separate antitrust case, In re Broiler Chicken Antitrust Litigation, in Illinois.

"While the Broilers opinion will certainly be helpful to the court’s own analyses, and maybe even persuasive, the Court declines, at this earlier stage of litigation, to deprive itself the opportunity to consider the evidence and arguments that will be developed during discovery in this highly complex antitrust action brought by the United States,”  the judge wrote.

Take note: The judge also denied Agri Stats' motion to transfer the case to the Northern District of Illinois, where Broilers and a turkey industry antitrust case are both pending, or to the Northern District of Indiana, where the company is based.

He said it: “Those four Democratic votes against the full court press is really impressive." — Former Republican House Ag Committee Chair Mike Conaway, R-Texas, on current chair Glenn Thompson securing four Democratic votes for his farm bill draft despite Democratic leaders encouraging them not to.

Rebekah Alvey, Philip Brasher and Noah Wicks contributed to this report.