Senate Ag Committee veteran Chuck Grassley sees a glimmer of hope for a farm bill. As Agri-Pulse’s Rebekah Alvey reported this week, Georgia Democrat Raphael Warnock has told Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., that her proposed reference price increases are too low. 

Grassley told reporters Thursday that Warnock’s concerns “might be a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel.” 

That said, Grassley thinks there is too little legislative time left this year for the Senate to pass a farm bill, and there’s still the lingering issue of how to pay for the commodity program fixes that Republicans and Warnock want. 

Take note: A key funding problem for the GOP is that the Congressional Budget Office doesn’t agree with Republicans on how much money can be saved by restricting use of USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation account. 

In Grassley’s view, it would be a mistake for lawmakers to direct CBO to provide the CCC score that Republicans need for the farm bill: “I don't think Congress should dictate to CBO that you’ve just got to come up with this number, because why have a CBO?”

Looking ahead: Republicans have a good shot at winning control of the Senate in November, which would give them more say in writing a farm bill in 2025. But Grassley warns that election outcome is not a given. “I don't know how many times I've been in the Senate, I expected a Republican majority to happen,” and it didn’t, he said. Grassley’s been in the Senate since 1981, so he’s got some experience in that regard. 

Pingree: CR could include farm bill extension

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, says Congress is going to have to pass another stopgap spending bill in September to keep the government funded into fiscal 2025, and she won’t be surprised if it includes a farm bill extension. Interviewed for this week’s Agri-Pulse Newsmakers, the House Ag Committee member says she doesn’t know how long the extension would run. 

Congress effectively has until the end of the year to either pass a new farm bill or an extension. Otherwise, a permanent farm law would kick in that would force USDA in 2025 to start raising prices for milk and other commodities. The current, one-year extension was enacted last November. 

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Pingree voted against the GOP farm bill in committee and doesn’t believe it has the support to pass the full House. “I don't think that the votes are there yet,” she said. 

This week’s Newsmakers will be available today at

Petition seeks to shine more light on meatpacking operations

A new petition submitted to USDA is seeking increased transparency and oversight of the inspection and regulation of slaughterhouses and egg-processing operations.

The Vermont Law and Graduate School’s Farmed Animal Advocacy Clinic is representing the petitioners — the Center for Biological Diversity, the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

They want USDA to recognize that the National Environmental Policy Act should apply to facilities regulated by the Food Safety and Inspection Service. Since 1983, “FSIS has been categorically excluded from environmental disclosure requirements because it allegedly does not significantly impact the environment,” the groups say in a news release.

The groups contend FSIS’s regulation of slaughterhouses, meatpacking and egg facilities “leads to substantial threats to the environment.” 

Senators push for greater transparency in used cooking oil imports

Some Senate Ag Committee members are pushing the Biden administration to increase scrutiny of used cooking oil imports, which have increased in recent years to meet federal and state clean fuel policies. 

In a letter, senators echo concerns by the renewable fuels industry that imported UCO, largely from China, may be blended with virgin vegetable oils such as palm oil, which is linked to deforestation in Southeast Asia. This practice could classify as fraudulent value distortion of the commodity in order to take advantage of U.S. tax incentives, lawmakers write. 

“The Biden administration has created vigorous standards to verify, not just trust, American producers, and it is imperative that the same scrutiny is applied to imported feedstocks,” the senators write. 

Grassley and Roger Marshall, R-Kan., led the letter, which was sent to EPA, USDA, the U.S. Trade Representative, and Customs and Border Protection. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, was the sole Democrat to sign on.  

The lawmakers want the agencies to confirm if these imported products are counterfeit. 

Take note: U.S. used cooking oil imports grew from less than 200 million pounds per year in 2020 to over 3 billion pounds in 2023, with more than half of that coming from China, according to the letter. Clean fuel standards in California, Oregon and Washington drove this increase.

Cargill hiring for new digital hub in Atlanta

Cargill is opening a new office hub in Atlanta to expand its digital operations.

The company’s Digital Technology and Data organization will comprise most of the new office, which will be adding 400 workers in generative artificial intelligence and data engineering. Recruitment for that new workforce is beginning now, with the office scheduled to open this fall.

“Employees working at this facility will help create digital solutions that power our global food supply chain, harness analytics and artificial intelligence to open new markets, and drive technical innovation,” said Jennifer Hartsock, chief information and digital officer at Cargill.

Cargill is headquartered in Wayzata, Minnesota, outside of Minneapolis, and employs 160,000 worldwide.

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