WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2016 - Citrus growers in Florida have been bracing for the arrival of Hurricane Matthew, fearing the high winds will damage the grapefruit crop. The state citrus commission has already eased its juice standards so that growers can salvage fruit that is knocked off of trees. 

Andrew Meadows, a spokesman for Florida Citrus Mutual, says a major grapefruit production region is located around Vero Beach on the east coast and that winds as low as 50 miles per hour can knock fruit from trees.

The storm was expected to slide up the coast of Florida and South Carolina before heading back out to sea. That trajectory means the storm is unlikely to bring needed relief to drought-stricken areas of the Southeast, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. A stretch from Mississippi to northern Georgia and the Carolinas is currently experiencing severe to extreme drought

Rural electric cooperatives in Florida got ready for Matthew’s arrival by bringing in co-op crews from as far away as Ohio and Arkansas to assist in restoring service in the region. 

Animal Lib philosopher headlines HSUS conference. Peter Singer, the controversial Princeton University philosopher, will headline a conference hosted by the Humane Society of the United States that kicks off tonight in Washington. 

Singer, whose book “Animal Liberation” shaped today’s animal rights movement, applauds changes in the way that livestock and poultry are being raised. But he has made it clear that he wants to see people stop consuming animal products altogether. 

The conference will focus on state initiatives as well the changes in corporate policies for which HSUS has been pushing. As a result of those efforts, egg producers are now facing a sweeping transition to cage-free systems at an estimated cost of at least $5.6 billion.

NRCS management of CSP faulted. USDA’s inspector general and the Natural Resources Conservation Service are in sharp disagreement over the agency’s management of the Conservation Stewardship Program. The IG says its latest audit of the program found similar errors to those identified in a 2009 report. 

In the latest review, the auditors say there were mistakes or inconsistencies in participant-reported information in 40 of 115 CSP contracts that were selected for review. The errors involved people getting contracts they weren’t eligible for as well as eligible farmers getting paid too much. 

But NRCS officials vigorously challenged the audit’s finding that they fail to fully use Farm Service Agency data to verify applicant information. NRCS officials also said that some of the FSA data are self-certified and isn’t “as reliable or valid as the information that NRCS obtains through its current procedures.”

Judge sides with wheat growers on APH exclusion. Winter wheat growers who challenged USDA for failing to allow them to take advantage in 2015 of a new crop insurance provision have won the latest round in their legal battle. 

A federal magistrate in Texas has concluded that the wheat growers should have been allowed to exclude some past yields from their Actual Production History (APH) when the farmers insured their 2015 winter wheat crop. 

The magistrate’s recommendation now goes to a federal judge. An attorney for the farmers, Jeff Todd, says he’s confident the district judge will agree with the recommendation. The APH exclusion was authorized by the 2014 farm bill.

Global food prices rose in September. Global food prices increased nearly 3 percent in September, continuing a trend this year driven by higher prices for sugar, dairy products, meat and other commodities. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says its Food Price Index, which is a measure of a basket of commodities, was 10 percent higher in September than a year ago. 

The overall increase in the index masks the continued slump in world grain prices, which fell 2 percent and were down 8.9 percent from September 2015, according to FAO.

FSIS rejecting catfish from many countries. The Food Safety and Inspection Service hasn’t been telling the public when the agency rejects shipments of imported catfish under its new inspection program. But the agency is developing a website that will soon report all of the rejections as well as the reason the fish were turned away and the origin countries. 

About 337,000 pounds of foreign catfish have been rejected since April, according to data from industry sources who say the numbers were given to lawmakers by USDA. A U.S. government official confirmed the total for Agri-Pulse.

The rejections of catfish from Vietnam, the largest supplier to the U.S., have been heavily publicized, but data show FSIS has also barred imports from Nigeria, India, Brazil, El Salvador and Colombia.

Senate Ag staff chief stresses open dialogue. The staff director for the Senate Agriculture Committee, Joel Leftwich, says the most important lesson he’s learned on Capitol Hill is the value of listening. He tells Agri-Pulse that it’s something he stresses whenever he speaks with beginning staffers and advice he still follows in his current position. 

“Certainly, all of our staff has more professional experience and knowledge than I do,” he said, “so for me it’s how do we create a conversation where we can ask those questions internally as a team, with the boss, with the chairman, and then develop that policy."

To hear more of his Meet the Farmhands interview, click here

Looking ahead. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton hold their second debate on Sunday, this time in a town hall format in St. Louis. … The World Food Prize’s annual Borlaug Dialogue is next week in Des Moines, with a focus on biofortification. The four prize winners this year have developed several biofortified crops, including beans, corn and sweet potatoes … On Tuesday, the Consortium for Common Food Names releases an economic analysis on the EU’s use of geographic indications. …  On Wednesday,  USDA releases this month’s WASDE and crop production reports … On Thursday, the Bipartisan Policy Center and Kansas State University host a forum, “Bio Agro-Defense Policy: America’s Food Supply, Health, and Economy at Risk.”

Bill Tomson and Spencer Chase contributed to this report. 

Daybreak will return on Tuesday, Oct. 11.


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