House Ag Committee Chairman Glenn Thompson is renewing his pitch to Democrats to talk to him about the farm bill.

“Two weeks ago, the bipartisan 2024 #FarmBill passed out of Committee. While many praised the policy, some took issue with paying for the bill,” the committee’s GOP staff said in a web post Thursday. “The Chairman’s door remains open, though none of our Democratic colleagues — on either side of the Capitol — have come knocking!”

Committee Democrat Jahana Hayes of Connecticut responded with a tweet challenging the way he paid for the bill. “The #FarmBill needs some work,” she said.

Pork industry view: Chase Adams, assistant vice president of domestic policy for the National Pork Producers Council, says he is “very pleased” with the bill, which “addresses all of the priorities for the pork industry,” including a provision that would bar states from regulating livestock production practices in other states.

Speaking to Agri-Pulse’s Lydia Johnson at World Pork Expo, Adams noted “the Senate’s going to take a different approach” to that issue. “We don’t know exactly what that will look like at this point in time.”

Close race is only safe prediction when it comes to Biden vs. Trump, panelists say

Polls are suspect, voters are not energized, and the race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden is too close to call, a panel of election experts said Thursday at a Rural Progress Summit put on by former Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s OneCountry Project.

“We don't know where this stands, other than it's going to be a close race, which I think is the safest thing” to predict, said Tom Bonier of TargetSmart, which provides political data for campaigns and advocacy organizations. 

Bonier, prominent anti-Trump writer Tim Miller of The Bulwark and Heitkamp agreed there is little enthusiasm among voters for either Trump or Biden.

“People don't feel super fired-up about these candidates,” Bonier said, and Heitkamp noted she and others in red areas are not seeing nearly as many Trump signs or MAGA hats as they did in the past.

Reports tie foreign produce imports to high labor costs

The high cost and lack of availability of agricultural labor have led to greater reliance on foreign fruit and vegetable imports, according to reports previewed for news media by the International Fresh Produce Association. 

The studies focus on key challenges facing the U.S. produce industry including a decline in domestic production and a growing reliance on foreign imports. These trends are caused in part by a lack of replacement workers, lower foreign labor costs and reduced foreign standards, John Hollay, IFPA’s director on workforce and labor policy, told reporters Thursday. 

The reports found that the average farmer is unable to access 21% of their necessary workforce. Additionally, reliance on the H-2A visa program has increased by 300% since 2012, and now represents 10-15% of all agricultural labor jobs. 

Farm wages have also grown by over 20% due to increases in the Adverse Effect Wage Rate, which sets the minimum hourly wage employers must pay H-2A workers. 

Wilbur-Ellis employee’s departure to Simplot didn’t violate non-compete agreement, court says

A former Wilbur-Ellis employee did not violate a non-compete agreement when he went to work for J.R. Simplot, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis also vacated an injunction issued by the federal court in South Dakota that had prevented Kevin Erikson from competing for or soliciting customers within 100 miles of McCook County, South Dakota.

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Erikson, however, abided by the terms of his agreement with Wilbur-Ellis after the company bought Lacey’s Farmacy in Salem, S.D., in 2015, the court found. He stayed on but went to work for Simplot in 2023, four years after the terms of the agreement expired.

“Erikson and Wilbur-Ellis performed the obligations they owed each,” the court said, finding that the company was unlikely to win its breach of contract claim.

House Science committee members seek greater collaboration between NSF, USDA

Two House members are looking to strengthen the National Science Foundation’s ties with the USDA.

House Science Committee Chairman Frank Lucas and committee member Andrea Salinas have introduced the NSF and USDA Interagency Research Act, which would authorize the two agencies to “carry out cross-cutting and collaborative research and development activities” on agricultural, food, rural economic and soil research. 

The coordination would be done through MOUs or “other appropriate interagency agreements. The bill would require the agencies to submit a report laying out their coordination, “potential opportunities to expand the technical capabilities of both,” and “areas of future mutually beneficial successes."

Senate ag subcommittee plans field hearing on drought

Senators will convene in the High Plains region later this month to hear from Kansas and Colorado farmers about the impacts of drought and water access. 

The Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Conversation, Climate, Forestry and Natural Resources will hold its first field hearing in Burlington, Colorado, June 26. The hearing, led by subcommittee Chairman Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Ranking Member Roger Marshall, R-Kan., will examine federal drought tools and explore potential new opportunities to address the lack of moisture in the region.