Trump-backed legal group sues for debt relief for white farmers

With Texas agriculture commissioner Sid Miller as the plaintiff, a Trump-aligned legal group on Tuesday challenged the $4 billion debt-relief plan approved by Congress for Black and minority farmers, saying it was unconstitutional. "Americans of all races and ethnicities must have the opportunity to receive" USDA loan forgiveness, said America First Legal Foundation in announcing the suit. No paywall

Frigid weather hits meat plants, ports, citrus, and livestock

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

Feds investigating after H-2A worker died of Covid-19 complications at a Texas potato plant

Marco Antonio Galvan Gomez, a 48-year-old husband and father from Guanajuato, Mexico, had worked eight years on a seasonal visa at Larsen Farms, one of the biggest potato producers in the nation, when he died of complications related to Covid-19 on July 20. He had spent the previous 12 days struggling to keep working despite suffering from fever, aches and shortness of breath; Larsen officials denied his request to return home to Mexico, and Galvan got no medical treatment from local health officials, according to FERN's latest story, published with Texas Observer. (No paywall)

Project aims to feed low-income children in Ohio during school closures

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the second public-private initiative to provide replacement meals for low-income children who lost access to free or reduced-price meals due to school closures. The new project would feed children "vulnerable to hunger" in Ohio and follows the creation of an effort in Texas to offer shelf-stable meals to students in a limited number of rural schools closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.(No paywall)

Texas Panhandle community chokes on fecal dust from feedlots

Cattle outnumber people 40 to one in Deaf Smith County in the Texas Panhandle, giving the county seat of Hereford its title as the "beef capital of the world." But the area is also a hotspot of citizen complaints about manure dust storms created when fierce winds hit feedlots housing tens of thousands of animals, according to FERN's latest story, written by Chris Collins and produced in collaboration with The Texas Observer and Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.(No paywall)

U.S. citrus harvest down 20 percent in one year

Citrus production has trended downward for years, but it dropped abruptly, by 20 percent, in the just-ended 2017/18 season, affected greatly by Hurricane Irma in Florida, said the USDA in its annual Citrus report.

As ICE threatens, meatpacker struggles to find workers

In December 2006, Immigration and Customs Enforcement carried out the largest workplace raid in history. They arrested over 1,300 workers in six states, including 300 from Cactus, Texas, a small town with just over 3,000 residents. The Cactus workers were picked up from a meatpacking plant, then owned by Swift & Co. before it was acquired by JBS in 2007.

Field tests of poison bait for wild pigs to begin soon

The USDA will begin tests in Texas and Alabama of a toxic sodium nitrate bait to kill feral swine, said USDA's Wildlife Services, which combats invasive animals. More than 6 million wild pigs roam parts of at least 35 states and cause an estimated $190 million in crop damage annually, says the USDA.

Texas asks EPA for waiver from 2018 biofuels mandate

Almost as soon as the EPA set the biofuel targets for the new year, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott requested a waiver that would exempt one-fourth of U.S. refining capacity from the Renewable Fuel Standard for the coming year, reports Argus Media. Meanwhile, the White House was reported to schedule a meeting for Thursday between the oil industry and ethanol producers to discuss possible changes to the 10-year-old RFS.

Hurricanes knock 600,000 bales, or 3 percent, out of U.S. cotton harvest

The one-two punch of Hurricane Harvey on Gulf coast and Hurricane Irma in the Southeast reduced the U.S. cotton crop by more than 600,000 bales, or 3 percent, said the USDA in its monthly crop report. The USDA lowered its estimate of the harvest in Texas, the No. 1 cotton state, and in No. 2 Georgia, down by 300,000 bales apiece.