Time is running out for the farm bill, warns McConnell

Senate Republicans will do their part to smooth the way, but time is already running out for Congress to write the new farm bill, said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday. The 2018 farm law expires in four months, and leaders of the Senate and House Agriculture committees have yet to unveil a first-round text for the farm bill, an unusually late start for a time-consuming process.

As seaweed farming expands, UN report urges more research, ‘cautious optimism’

In a comprehensive assessment of the potential risks and benefits of expanding seaweed farming, the United Nations Environment Programme called this week for “cautious optimism” and a lot more scientific research. Seaweed aquaculture is growing quickly amid enthusiasm about macroalgae’s potential to do everything from mitigating climate change to feeding the world to replacing petroleum-based fuels and plastics. But the potential risks to the environment and to vulnerable communities are still poorly understood, the report found. (No paywall)

Drought spreads across the corn and soybean belt

Drought covers large portions of the Midwest from Ohio to the Missouri River, said the weekly Drought Monitor on Thursday. Less than an inch of rain fell in eastern Nebraska during May, and half of Illinois was in drought, an increase of 20 points in one week.

Today’s quick hits, June 9, 2023

U.S., Japan talk potatoes: Agriculture Undersecretary Alexis Taylor said she had “a very positive discussion” with Japanese counterparts about the long-held goal of opening that country to fresh potatoes from the U.S. (FERN’s Ag Insider) States scramble on ABAWDs: State agencies and the USDA …

‘We stand united’ to protect SNAP, say ag panel Democrats

House Democrats announced their opposition to further cuts in SNAP on Wednesday amid signs the farm bill will be the next battlefront over work requirements for safety net programs. “We stand united against efforts to take food away from children, families, or any vulnerable American — in the farm bill or any legislation,” said Rep. David Scott, the senior Democrat on the Agriculture Committee.

Lawsuit challenges EPA approval of 2,4-D herbicides

The EPA failed to take environmental and public health risks into account when it reapproved two brand-name weedkillers produced by Corteva that contain the herbicide 2,4-D, according to a federal lawsuit that challenges the 2022 decision. The plaintiffs asked the U.S. district court in Washington, D.C., to vacate the registrations of Enlist One and Enlist Duo and to halt sales of the products while the EPA reconsiders their risks.

Today’s quick hits, June 8, 2023

USDA appointments: Two former Democratic members of the House Agriculture Committee were named to top USDA posts. Iowa’s Cindy Axne will be senior adviser for rural engagement, and Arizona’s Tom O’Halleran will be senior adviser to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. (USDA) Weak global …

House panel votes to add whole milk to school lunches

Overriding nutritional guidelines, the House Education Committee approved, 26-13, a bill to allow schools to serve whole milk as part of the school lunch program. "For too long, milk has been demonized," said sponsor Rep. Glenn Thompson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and a senior Republican on the Education panel.

Farmers are becoming more doubtful of a farm bill in 2023

Two out of three crop and livestock producers say they are uncertain or believe Congress is unlikely to enact a new farm bill this year, said a Purdue University survey on Tuesday. Neither the Senate nor House Agriculture committees has unveiled a preliminary version of the bill or scheduled a bill-drafting session, an unusually slow start.

Today’s quick hits, June 7, 2023

‘Dead zone’ grows bigger: The fish-killing “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico was forecast to cover 4,155 square miles of water this year, an increase of 1,000 square miles from last year and twice as large as the long-term goal, said NOAA. (NOLA.com) U.S. scraps e-RIN …

PFAS present in more than 1,000 pesticides, analysis shows

PFAS, known as "forever chemicals" because of how long they last in the environment, are present in at least 1,400 pesticides, according to a new analysis from the Environmental Working Group. The chemicals are found in products ranging from herbicides applied to corn, sugar beets and cranberries to insecticides used on livestock and pets, to algaecides that protect boat paint.

Issue new SNAP exemptions quickly, senators say

With the debate on the debt limit over, Democrats heading four Senate committees urged the Biden administration to act swiftly to remove a time limit on food stamps to able-bodied veterans, homeless people and young adults who "aged out" of foster care. The debt bill waived the time limit on those groups at the same time it lengthened the age range of people who must work at least 80 hours a month or be limited to 90 days of SNAP benefits in a three-year period.

Explosion in U.S. soybean plantings and production

In the past 20 years, U.S. soybean production has soared by 56 percent, driven by higher yields per acre and larger plantings of the oilseed, said the USDA on Monday. Soybeans are the most valuable farm export, although corn remains the most widely planted field crop.

Today’s quick hits, June 6, 2023

Fifty percent higher: Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere were measured at a record 424 parts per million (ppm) in May, typically the peak month in the northern hemisphere. That’s 3 ppm higher than a year ago, researches said, and 50 percent higher than before the industrial age. (Scripps …

What the Supreme Court’s ruling means for the future of U.S. wetlands

Mark Squillace, a professor of Natural Resources Law at the University of Colorado Law School, spoke with FERN's Ag Insider about how a recent Supreme Court decision will affect the nation's wetlands. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. (No paywall)

Summer is near but farm bill may be months away

The Senate and House Agriculture committees are weeks or even months away from drafting the 2023 farm bill, a remarkably late start for what is always a detailed and time-consuming process.

U.S. ratchets up corn dispute with Mexico

The Biden administration asked for USMCA consultations with Mexico over its ban on imports of GMO corn for human consumption, the last step before filing a trade complaint in the long-running dispute.

Today’s quick hits, June 5, 2023

New food-agency ambassador: President Biden tapped Jeffrey Prescott, a high-level State Department official, to serve as U.S. ambassador to the UN agencies for food and agriculture in Rome. (White House) FAO food index decline: The FAO Food Price Index fell 2.6 percent in May — the 11th monthly …

Lawsuit would force EPA to regulate coated seeds

The EPA wrongly exempted insecticide-coated seeds from regulation and must be ordered to “assess and register” the seeds as pesticides, said two environmental groups in a lawsuit filed on Thursday.

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