Trump selects a congressional lobbyist for a USDA short of executives

Nearly a year after taking office, President Trump tabbed farm group official Ken Barbic to be USDA's congressional liaison, rewarding Western growers who backed his campaign. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said he was "very excited by the nomination" while noting that two nominees for top-tier posts at USDA are bottled up in the Senate.

Losing ground: Winter wheat sowings smallest in 109 years

In a USDA survey, growers indicated that they planted 32.6 million acres of winter wheat for harvest this spring, the smallest area since 1909 although not as small as expected by analysts. The decline in winter wheat, the dominant wheat grown in the United States, is part of a long-running shift to corn and soybeans that is projected to result in the smallest all-wheat plantings in the country since recordkeeping began.

Food stamp revisions possible but not radical change, says key House Democrat

States have abused their discretion in order to keep able-bodied adults on the food stamp rolls, said Collin Peterson, the Democratic leader of the House Agriculture Committee, suggesting that some changes were possible in the anti-hunger program but also warning that attempts at radical reforms could blow up the 2018 farm bill.

For Millennials, convenience tops the grocery list

Members of the millennial generation, born between 1981 and 1996, are less likely to go to the grocery store than Baby Boomers or Gen X-ers and spend less per person when they do go to the store, write two USDA economists. "Millennials are demanding healthier and fresher food — including fruits and vegetables — when making food-at-home purchases, and they place a higher preference on convenience than to other generations."

For the second year in a row, no overall increase in retail food prices

Thanks to the strong dollar, food inflation is standing still this year following the first instance, in 2016, of food deflation since the 1960s, says the USDA. In a new forecast, USDA economists say overall supermarket price levels in 2018 could be lower than they were in 2015.

USDA’s top lawyer says politics not a part of reassigning senior officers

Stephen Vaden, the former Trump transition official now serving as the USDA’s interim chief lawyer, says politics played no part in the reassignment of 13 of the department’s top-rank and highest-paid civil servants since the new administration took office.

State contractors can handle food stamp data, says USDA

In a step to ease state agency handling of social services programs, the USDA announced that contractors can “provide basic case-specific information” about food stamp applications — work that is usually handled by civil servants.

Debating the differences between gene-edited crops, GMOs, ‘accelerated breeding technology’

Thomas Stoddard used this pitch — “You make a little more money, you have a great experience, and you are part of a revolution” — when he recruited farmers to plant a gene-edited soybean variety that yields a healthier oil, says the MIT Technology Review.

USDA may revamp food stamp time limits for able-bodied adults

When Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said this week that food stamps should not be “a permanent lifestyle” for able-bodied adults without dependents, he may have hinted at a forthcoming USDA proposal.