Today’s quick hits, Nov. 24, 2021

Sugar sale suit: The Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit to block U.S. Sugar Corp from acquiring rival Imperial Sugar Co., alleging the transaction would reduce competition in sales of refined sugar in the Southeast and result in higher sugar prices for consumers. (Justice Department) …

Meat prices climb on high demand and supply constraints

Strong consumer demand for meat and labor shortages at packing plants were factors in persistently high meat prices this year, said the USDA on Tuesday in a monthly report on food inflation. Meat prices were forecast to climb by 6.5 percent this year, double its long-term average of 3.2 percent annually.

Cropland values soar by 15 percent in Midwest and Plains

High commodity prices and low interest rates fueled a sharp 15 percent increase in the value of cropland in the Midwest and Plains in the third quarter, according to surveys of ag bankers by four regional Federal Reserve banks. "Alongside prospects for further strength in commodity markets, the outlook for farm finances and agricultural land values through the end of 2021 remained strong," said a summary of the surveys.

U.S. farm exports to set a record, but not as big as expected

China is buying less U.S. crops and livestock than expected, particularly soybeans, and America's ag exports are feeling the pinch. Sales are forecast at a highest-ever $175.5 billion this fiscal year, said the USDA on Tuesday, but just like the record set last year, the crest was not as high as it looked in the summer.

The farmworkers in California’s fire evacuation zones

In 2020, as thousands of residents fled Sonoma County because of wildfires, hundreds of farmworkers stayed behind and continued working under a little-known government "ag pass" program, Teresa Cotsirilos reports in FERN's latest story, produced in collaboration with Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting and the radio show World Affairs. No Paywall

‘Significant progress’ in Covid-19 vaccinations at USDA

USDA "critical services" will not be disrupted by the Biden administration mandate for federal workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19, said the department on Monday as the deadline passed for inoculations. Farm and livestock groups said earlier this month the mandate might leave the USDA short of meat inspectors or staff at its local offices.

Senate bill would ban broad swath of pesticides

The United States would ban the use of two classes of insecticides—organophosphates and neonicotinoids—and the herbicide paraquat under a bill unveiled by Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey on Monday. More than 100 pesticides would be affected, including chlorpyrifos, recently slated by the EPA for termination as an agricultural aid.

Today’s quick hits, Nov. 23, 2021

Ethanol profits soar: Thanks to rising demand for ethanol and its co-products since late summer, ethanol plants are making near-record profits with one analyst saying “we are in rarified territory for ethanol prices and profits.” (Successful Farming) Meat efficiency grants: The USDA announced a …

Danger signs for 2023 farm bill in partisan rancor on Capitol Hill

Congress traditionally enacts the farm policy bills covering the gamut from crop subsidies to food stamps at the urging of a coalition of farm, conservation and anti-hunger groups. A former USDA official said the 2023 farm bill could be in peril if there is a repetition of the political turbulence that temporarily derailed the omnibus legislation twice in the eight years.