Farmers could combine environmental and economic sustainability through practices that lock carbon into the soil, but it's dauntingly difficult to enter the carbon sequestration market and get paid for it, said the leaders of the two largest U.S. farm groups on Wednesday.
The government would offer $7.5 billion in grants, loans, and loan guarantees to build storage capacity at food banks, send surplus food to hungry people, and help small and medium-size food processors expand production under a bill filed by Senate Democrats on Wednesday. (No paywall)
Sen. Kelly Loeffler received stock and other awards worth more than $9 million from her former employer just before she was appointed to the Senate in January. To quash criticism of the package, the Georgia Republican stepped down from the Senate agriculture subcommittee that oversees the futures markets.
Republican Sen. Kelly Leoffler, who took office on Monday, will replace fellow Georgian David Perdue on the Senate Agriculture Committee in a step that will assure a strong Southern bloc on the panel. The committee oversees the farm program, although its top issue this year may be re-authorization of child nutrition programs, headlined by WIC and school lunch, that cost $30 billion a year.
The Trump administration is siding with Big Oil despite announcing a plan to increase ethanol consumption, farm state senators told the No. 2 USDA official on Thursday. “That’s a president that has chosen oil companies over family farmers,” said one of the critics, Democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
The USDA will hold its first “general” signup for the land-idling Conservation Reserve Program under the 2018 farm bill in early December, and “we expect to enroll a large number of acres,” said Deputy Agriculture Secretary Steve Censky on Thursday.
President Trump is creating instability in the farm sector with his periodic threats to withdraw from NAFTA, said the senior Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee. Also at an Agriculture hearing on Wednesday, farm groups called for speedy passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which has been put in doubt by the opening of an impeachment inquiry in the House.
The 2018 farm bill legalized the production of industrial hemp and farmers are clearly interested in a potential new cash crop, but many obstacles must be overcome before the industry can take root, said lawmakers and federal regulators on Thursday.
With the USDA on the cusp of moving two research agencies to Kansas City, a senior official said on Thursday that massive staff turnover — so far, 250 employees have declined to leave Washington — is par for the course for cross-country relocations. Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow offered a different take: “This is not a relocation. It’s a demolition.”