A smooth path to USDA for Perdue, but not speedy

Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, the last of President Trump's nominees for the cabinet, is sailing, albeit slowly, to confirmation as agriculture secretary with the backing of the major U.S. farm groups. The agricultural community talks so much about Perdue buckling down to work at USDA that today's confirmation hearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee or Senate approval of the nomination seems like a formality.

Low on personnel and money, Marine Protected Areas struggle

Only 9 percent of Marine Protected Areas have enough staff and only 35 percent receive adequate funding, says a report published in the journal Nature. MPAs, which include marine reserves, no-take zones, sanctuaries, and parks, are an increasingly popular way to conserve marine species by restricting fishing and energy extraction.

Whole Foods and others say their tuna will be ethically-caught

Retailers across the country, including Whole Foods, are upping their tuna game with new sustainability standards focused on how the fish was caught. “Last Wednesday Whole Foods Market announced that by January 2018, all canned tuna sold in its stores or used in its prepared foods departments will be sourced from fisheries that use only pole-and-line, troll or handline catch methods that eliminate bycatch (accidental harvest of other fish, birds or mammals) because fishermen are catching tuna one at a time,” says NPR.

Big ag importer, China slows its approval of GMO crops for entry

U.S. officials repeatedly have prodded China for a faster and more open system for deciding whether to approve the import of new genetically engineered strains of crop. A U.S. business group says China is headed in the opposite direction by taking longer to approve a smaller number of GMO varieties — only one in 2016, reports Reuters.

USDA says it will double-check imports of Brazilian beef

With the safety of Brazilian beef in question in a meat-inspection scandal, the USDA said it will re-inspect and test fall shipments of beef from the South American country for pathogens. The USDA said none of the 21 facilities targeted by Brazilian police have shipped meat to the United States.

Dairy farmers ask for more generous subsidy plan

The dairy subsidy created in the 2014 farm law, the insurance-like Margin Protection Program, "is not working" but it can be retooled into an effective safety net, the head of the National Milk Producers Federation told the House Agriculture Committee. The changes would provide more assistance to producers during tough times, like the past couple of years, and potentially drive up costs to the government.

Hog and turkey farmers say they could suffer if NAFTA renegotiation blows up

After withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, President Trump's top trade objective is renegotiation of the 23-year-old U.S.-Canada-Mexico agreement known as NAFTA. Farm groups speaking for U.S. hog and turkey farmers told a House Agriculture subcommittee that their industries could suffer greatly if exports are disrupted.

Montana senator would ban Brazilian beef for four months

With a scandal clouding Brazil's meatpackers, Montana Sen. Jon Tester announced legislation for a 120-day ban on U.S. imports of meat from the South American country. The ban will give USDA "time to comprehensively investigate food safety threats and to determine which Brazilian beef sources put American consumers at risk," said Tester's office.

Des Moines City Council backs bill allowing Water Works takeover

Days after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by the Des Moines Water Works against farm runoff, the City Council voted to support a bill in the Iowa House allowing regionalization of the water utility, said the Des Moines Register. The chief executive of the Water Works says the regionalization bill, sponsored by a legislator who is a hog farmer, is retaliation for the lawsuit, which wanted to apply water pollution laws to agricultural runoff.

Three-fourths of Americans want CO2 emissions regulated

About 70 percent of Americans want government regulations on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, yet government officials are poised to roll back coal restrictions, says The New York Times, laying out public opinion on climate change in a series of maps.