The House Agriculture Committee approved legislation on Wednesday to create a special investigator’s office at the Agriculture Department to enforce fair-play laws in the highly concentrated meat industry. Cleared for a House vote on a party-line, 27-21 roll call, the bill, HR 7606, is the strongest competition bill to advance in this session of Congress.
Agricultural intensification and a lack of regulations drove a 78-percent increase in the farm sector’s ammonia emissions between 1980 and 2018, according to a paper published by The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.
By large, bipartisan majorities, the House passed bills on Wednesday to introduce more transparency in cattle marketing and to keep in force a law that requires meatpackers to report purchase prices of livestock. The bills now go to the Senate for action.
A bill to require USDA reports on the number of cattle being delivered under contract for slaughter by meatpackers will be called for a House vote on Tuesday. It will be debated under provisions that prohibit amendments and require a two-thirds majority for passage, an approach usually reserved for bills that are noncontroversial.
Payments totaling $270 million are being made to so-called contract producers to offset revenue lost to the pandemic in 2020, said the Agriculture Department on Thursday. Previous aid programs were directed at the owners of livestock but not the farmers who produced hogs, poultry, and eggs under contract to them.
The USDA would work with farmers to reduce agricultural emissions of methane, said the White House in describing the domestic impact of the UN climate summit in Scotland. The United States also is a leader in the Agricultural Innovation Mission for Climate, designed to accelerate breakthroughs in climate-smart farm production.
A report from the nonprofit Ceres said that "food companies need to do more" to manage risks to the water they use to grow and process their products. The 38 major food companies in the Ceres analysis had an average score of 49 out of 100 possible points, while the average score in the meat sector was just 18 points.
Tracy Stone-Manning, a long-time environmentalist, will serve as the first Senate-confirmed director of the Bureau of Land Management in more than four years, winning a party-line roll call on her nomination, 50-45. Montana Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat, said Republicans resorted to character assassination in their attempts to defeat the nomination.
Buoyed by a Biden administration pledge to vigorously police agricultural mergers, the National Farmers Union launched the nationwide "Fairness for Farmers" campaign on Wednesday to restore competition in the marketplace. "This endeavor has clear goals: to curtail consolidation in agriculture and bust the monopolies, which negatively impact farmers, ranchers, and consumers," said NFU president Rod Larew.
At the same time the Taliban are taking control of Afghanistan, its farmers and herders, the backbone of the nation's economy, are hit by an ever-worsening drought, said the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. The wheat crop is 15 percent below average while livestock herders may have to sell their animals because of high feed costs.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a mammoth USDA-FDA funding bill on Wednesday that includes $7 billion in disaster funds for crop and livestock losses in 2020 and this year. Almost immediately after the 25-5 vote, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell threatened to sidetrack the USDA and other appropriations bills in a budget dispute with Democrats, who control the Senate.
Biden nominee Jennifer Moffitt said she would strengthen USDA rules to give farmers more muscle in dealing with meat processors if she is confirmed as agriculture undersecretary for marketing. "Should I be confirmed, I do commit to supporting trade, to supporting fair marketplace practices," she told senators on Thursday.
President Biden will issue an executive order to expand competition in the agricultural sector and assure farmers of the right to repair increasingly complex tractors and other equipment, said the White House on Tuesday. The "right-to-repair" rules were expected to include smartphones and other widely used devices.
The USDA will propose three rules to give cattle, hog and poultry producers more leverage in dealing with meat processors in an increasingly concentrated industry, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The initiatives would make it easier for a producer to prove unfair treatment by a processor and would write a new regulation on use of so-called tournament systems by processors to determine pay for poultry farmers.
Drugmakers will have two years to change the sales availability of some medically important livestock antimicrobials to prescription-only, said the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday. The shift from over-the-counter sales would mean the drugs can be used only under veterinary supervision.
Plant-based meats, an alternative to beef, pork and chicken, have only a toehold in the meat market but U.S. farmers expect their market share will grow rapidly. Half of the farmers surveyed by Purdue University said plant-based proteins could hold up to 10 percent of the meat market in five years and some expected the share to be much larger.
Snow and bitter cold damaged the citrus crop in Texas, slowed meat production in the Plains, and threatened to snarl grain exports through the Gulf of Mexico. Some traders have claimed force majeure because of ice and cold weather in Houston and New Orleans, reported AgriCensus
Row crop farmers would see payments of $20 an acre and livestock producers would be compensated for animals culled during the pandemic under the $900 billion coronavirus relief bill that was unexpectedly challenged by President Trump on Tuesday, a day after Congress passed it. The $13 billion bill includes a $400 million dairy donation program, aid to contract poultry growers, and assistance for textile mills and, potentially, ethanol refineries.
The Democratic-controlled House passed a $2.2-trillion-coronavirus-relief bill without the support of House Agriculture chairman Collin Peterson and four other Democrats serving on the Agriculture Committee. They were among 18 Democrats who voted against the bill, which passed, 218-207; no Republicans voted for it.