USDA

Rural broadband projects get $500 million in USDA funding

The Biden administration announced a half a billion dollars in grants and loans for high-speed internet projects in rural areas from Alaska to Alabama on Thursday, with more awards expected soon. The 2021 infrastructure bill set aside billions of dollars for broadband access, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “We now have, genuinely, an opportunity to cover all of rural America.”

Farm-state Republicans object to climate focus in land stewardship

Climate mitigation does not deserve priority over other soil and water conservation goals notwithstanding the $20 billion earmarked for it, said two senior Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee on Tuesday. "I don't feel bound by the amount of funding or the specific program allocation passed in the partisan (climate, health and tax) bill," said Pennsylvania Rep Glenn Thompson, the Republican leader on the committee.

Largest U.S. Covid fraud scheme victimized child nutrition program, say feds

The Justice Department on Thursday accused 47 people of looting $250 million from the federal child nutrition program by fraudulently claiming to feed thousands of poor children daily in Minnesota during the pandemic. Instead, they allegedly spent the money on cars, houses, jewelry, travel and real estate the United States, Kenya and Turkey in what Attorney General Merrick Garland said was "the largest pandemic relief fraud scheme" yet.

U.S. lists biotechnology and ‘agricultural industrial base’ as national security interests

President Biden directed the Treasury-led committee that scrutinizes foreign investment in America to consider the national security impact any deals would have on U.S. technological leadership, including biotechnology and “elements of the agricultural industrial base that have implications for food security.” The executive order was issued amid rising concerns about Chinese purchases of U.S. land and companies.

USDA releases $1.9 billion for food banks and school meals

Emergency food providers, such as food banks and school meal programs, will receive an additional $1.9 billion for the purchase of U.S.-grown foods, said the Agriculture Department on Wednesday.

USDA triples funding for climate-smart ag projects

Showered by "amazing" proposals, the Biden administration said it will put $3.5 billion — three times more than originally planned — into pilot projects to mitigate global warming and create markets for climate-smart commodities. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the demonstration projects would put the United States in the lead internationally in climate-smart agriculture.

Vilsack: We will act quickly on aid to financially distressed farmers

A congressionally created $3.1 billion debt relief program for financially distressed farmers who borrowed money through USDA programs could be in place within weeks, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday. Speed is vital, he said, because a moratorium on debt collections and foreclosures could expire in October.

USDA offers $100 million for biofuel infrastructure

The government will pay up to half of the cost of installing pumps, tanks and other equipment at gas stations and other retailers that want to sell higher blends of biofuels, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday. Projects would receive cost-share grants drawn from $100 million available through the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIPP).

USDA extends WIC waivers for infant formula to Dec. 31

With shortages continuing in parts of the country, the USDA extended on Tuesday a series of waivers that give WIC households additional options for buying infant formula. The waivers were set to expire on Sept. 30 but now would run through the end of the year.

USDA unveils nutrient management initiative

The USDA will direct additional funds toward voluntary nutrient management projects on the farm and streamline the process of applying for funding, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday. Vilsack said nutrient management would "help farmers address local resource concerns and global food security issues while also improving their bottom line."

Broadband projects in 21 states get USDA financing

The USDA has awarded $401 million in grants and loans to 21 projects in 11 states, from Alaska to Texas, to provide residents and businesses with access to high-speed internet service, announced the Biden administration on Thursday.

Antitrust settlement requires poultry processors to reform tournament system

Two large poultry processors agreed to guarantee a base payment to the farmers who raise their birds, a fundamental reform of the so-called tournament system that pits growers against each other for income, said the Justice Department on Monday. The reform was part of a proposed consent decree that would order the processors, Sanderson Farms and Wayne Farms, plus Cargill Inc to pay $84.8 million in restitution for conspiring to hold down wages paid to processing plant workers.

Half of states have summer EBT plans — USDA

An estimated 13 million children in 25 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico will receive benefits through the summer EBT program, said the Agriculture Department on Monday. Families of eligible children typically receive $391 per child for the summer.

USDA seeks more grocers for online SNAP sales

One in seven SNAP households buys groceries online, according to the USDA — phenomenal growth since the option first became available in New York State in spring 2019. Now, with online shopping offered in 49 states, the Agriculture Department is looking to flesh out the network of stores that offer digital sales to food stamp recipients.

Producers receive $4 billion in ERP payments

In the six weeks since the USDA launched the program, farmers have received $4 billion from the Emergency Relief Program as compensation for losses from wildfire, drought, hurricanes, winter storms, and other natural disasters, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday.

House committee votes to ban sale of U.S. farmland to Russia and China

Companies from Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran would be barred from purchasing U.S. agricultural land under language approved by the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

Pay hike of up to 50 percent for fighting wildfires

In a long-expected step, the White House announced hefty increases in pay for wildland firefighters on Tuesday, amounting to an additional $600 million over two years, to confront increasingly destructive fires. The Forest Service has acknowledged difficulty in hiring enough firefighters this year; some state and local agencies offer much higher pay.

Middling support for helping farmers adopt sustainable practices

Americans agree that federal aid to farmers during a disaster is important. They are less likely to support federal assistance to help producers adopt sustainable farming practices, according to the quarterly Gardiner Food and Agricultural Policy Survey.

Colorado infections push HPAI losses above 40 million birds

More than 40 million birds in domestic flocks, mostly chickens and turkeys, have died in the worst outbreak of bird flu since the 2014-15 epidemic, according to USDA data released on Monday. The outbreaks, which have killed 6 percent of the egg-laying hens in the country, were blamed for an Eastertime spike in egg prices.

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