USDA is out with its proposed reforms to federal dairy pricing. The proposals still must be ratified by producers, but the National Milk Producers Federation won some key changes, most notably in how Class 1, or fluid milk, is priced. 

USDA is proposing to scrap a formula introduced to the federal milk marketing order system in the 2018 farm bill that has priced Class 1 74 cents above the average of Class 3 (milk sold for cheese) and Class 4 (butter and milk powder). 

Instead, Class 1 would again be priced as the higher of Class 3 and 4, plus a differential. 

“Based on our initial reading, NMPF is heartened that much of what we proposed after more than two years of policy development, and another year of testimony and explanation, is reflected in” in the USDA proposals, NMPF President and CEO Gregg Doud said in a statement. 

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said the USDA proposals “recognize that the dairy pricing system is not working for our farmers and has not performed as intended since Congress changed it” in the last farm bill. Gillibrand and a bipartisan group of 12 other senators recently wrote USDA pushing for the change in the pricing formula. 

Poll: Congressional staffers appear doubtful about House farm bill passage

A new survey commissioned by news organization Punchbowl News indicates 68% of congressional staffers think it is unlikely the House Agriculture Committee’s farm bill will pass this year.

The survey was conducted by Punchbowl and the firm LSG between June 3-21. Some 75% of Democratic staffers and 62% of GOP aides who responded said they believed it was unlikely the farm bill would pass this Congress.

Additionally, 65% of GOP staffers indicated the members they worked for supported the House bill, while 73% of Democratic staffer respondents said their members opposed the bill.

GMO corn arguments made before USMCA dispute panel

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and Mexican officials have made their cases before a dispute resolution panel deciding whether Mexico’s ban on imports of genetically modified corn violates the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. USTR issued a statement Monday about its arguments before the dispute panel last week.

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The U.S. argues there’s no scientific basis for the ban, which has been delayed until next year. Mexico, however, claims corn that is bred to be herbicide-resistant poses health risks; the country also says it wants to protect native maize varieties from the presence of GMOs.

A decision is expected later this year. 

Biopesticide is exempt from food tolerances

EPA won’t require food tolerances for a biopesticide developed by California company BioConsortia that is used in soil “to limit fungal disease pressure at planting and to growing crops at flowering and fruit set,” according to EPA’s ecological assessment.

The agency issued a rule today exempting a strain of Bacillus velezensis from a requirement of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act for tolerances.

The strain naturally occurs in soil and EPA determined it is not toxic through multiple routes of exposure. In addition, “significant dietary and non-occupational exposures to residues … are not anticipated because levels of [the Bacillus strain] after application on food and feed commodities will rapidly decrease to naturally occurring background levels.”

The end-use product, Crimson, can be applied as a foliar spray or soil drench on a variety of crops including brassica, bulb vegetables, fruiting vegetables, leafy vegetables, legumes, row crops, oil seed crops, peanut, roots/tubers, pome fruits, and strawberry. 

USDA awards $5.2 million in urban ag grants 

USDA is providing $5.2 million in 17 grants to support urban agriculture and “innovative production.”

USDA says the grants range from about $86,000 to $350,000. One grant for $268,297 will go to Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, “to expand nutrition access by establishing new orchards in communities struggling with urban blight and poor soil quality in vacant lots.”

The full list of grants can be found on USDA’s website.

Fresh spinach products recalled in New York after listeria detection 

Several fresh spinach products in New York have been recalled after testing positive for listeria.

Solata Foods LLC. of Newburgh, N.Y. voluntarily recalled several fresh spinach products that were distributed locally that may be contaminated with listeria monocytogenes, which can sometimes be fatal to young children or those with weakened immune systems.

No illnesses have been reported so far with the products. The contamination was found after sampling and a lab analysis from New York State Department of Agriculture and Market Food Inspectors detected the organism in a package of Bogopa “Fresh Spinach.” 

The recall applies to about 40 organic and non-organic products under brands including Solata, Gaia, Full Circle, Uncle Vinny’s, Farmer Direct and Bogopa, according to the FDA notice.

Rebekah Alvey, Philip Brasher, Steve Davies and Noah Wicks contributed to today’s Daybreak.