USDA awards $110 million to expand independent meat processing

Five dozen independent meat processors will receive a combined $110 million in grants to go into business or expand their processing capacity, including a new plant in Texas that would create 1,500 jobs, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday.

House Democrats sink pilot project to limit SNAP purchases

On a voice vote Wednesday, minority-party Democrats deleted from the annual USDA-FDA funding bill a pilot project to block SNAP recipients from buying “unhealthy foods.” Democratic members of the House Appropriations Committee said the pilot project, authored by Republican Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland, was paternalistic and impractical.

USDA recommends paying farmers more for fresh milk

Dairy processors would pay farmers more for fresh milk that is destined for table consumption — perhaps totaling $800 million a year — under a set of recommendations from the Agriculture Department on Monday. The "recommended decision" to update the milk marketing system needs USDA final approval after a comment period and must win in a referendum by milk producers to take effect.

Farm bill should insist on stewardship — Des Moines Register

"Congress needs to take the plunge" in the new farm bill and "insist on conservation practices where it has, up until now, asked for cooperation while dangling a bit of cash," said the Des Moines Register, published in the No. 1 corn and hog state. USDA's soil and water conservation programs traditionally have relied on voluntary cooperation from farmers, aided by cost-sharing funds, but progress is unacceptably slow, said the newspaper in an editorial.

USDA offers 90 percent compensation for bird flu losses in dairy herds

The government will compensate farmers for 90 percent of the value of milk lost as a result of H5N1 avian flu infections in their dairy cows, announced Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday. “We want to assist our producers every way we can to help them as they combat this emerging animal health disease,” he said.

FDA begins new round of tests for H5N1 virus in dairy products

As part of research into milk safety, the FDA will conduct a second round of tests for the H5N1 avian flu virus in dairy products, aiming at a broader range of goods, such as aged raw milk cheese and butter and ice cream, the agency announced on Tuesday. The USDA said it intended to eradicate bird flu in dairy cattle without resorting to a yet-to-be-developed vaccine.

USDA proposes fairness-in-marketing livestock rule

Re-entering a battle that dates from the Obama era, the USDA said on Tuesday it would modify its livestock marketing regulations to make it easier for producers to win complaints that they were treated unfairly by meatpackers. At present, producers must show a harm to the market in general. The revision would allow harm to one producer to be sufficient proof of an unfair practice.

Dean to lead year-old Global Food Institute

Stacy Dean, a key Biden administration figure in public nutrition policy, was named executive director of the Global Food Institute, announced George Washington University on Tuesday. Dean will join the institute in mid-July.

Nutrition advocate Stacy Dean to leave USDA

Stacy Dean, a key figure in U.S. public nutrition programs since the early days of the Biden administration, whose tenure included the lightning-rod increase of SNAP benefits in 2021, will leave USDA in mid-July. President Biden twice nominated Dean to serve as Agriculture undersecretary for nutrition but the nomination never advanced in the Senate.

Frost and dry weather damage crop in Russia, world’s top wheat exporter

Russia will harvest a markedly smaller wheat crop this summer due to harsh weather that will also reduce the wheat harvest in Ukraine, said the Agriculture Department on Wednesday. U.S. growers will see higher farm-gate prices for their wheat and larger exports as a result of the setbacks in the Black Sea region, said the USDA.

USDA aims to isolate, exhaust H5N1 virus in dairy herds

The USDA's strategy against bird flu in dairy cattle is to identify infected herds and wait for the virus to die out within the herds, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday. "I'm confident we have a good understanding of the virus and how it is being transferred," he added.

Idaho alpacas are first in the world to be infected with bird flu

Four alpacas in a small Idaho herd were infected with the H5N1 bird flu virus —  the first known infection of alpacas in the world, said the Agriculture Department on Tuesday. The alpacas were on the same backyard farm that culled its poultry earlier this month due to an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

USDA study shows cooking kills bird flu virus in meat

In tests conducted by USDA scientists, the H5N1 bird flu virus did not survive in hamburgers cooked to internal temperatures of 145 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit, said the Agriculture Department on Thursday. “These results validate that [Food Safety and Inspection Service] recommended cooking temperatures are sufficient to kill H5N1 in meat,” it said.

Nebraska and Iowa again have top ag districts

The vast 3rd Congressional District of Nebraska and the 4th Congressional District of Iowa, separated by the Missouri River, are the top farm districts in America, based on the value of their crops and livestock, said the Agriculture Department on Wednesday.

EPA, FDA, and USDA will overhaul biotech regulations

The three federal agencies that share jurisdiction over genetically engineered plants and animals said on Wednesday that they would update and streamline biotechnology regulations in five areas, including modified food animals. The United States is a worldwide leader in agricultural biotechnology.

Revival of USDA reports would cost $7.5 million

USDA officials said that if the money became available, they would restore a handful of crop and livestock reports that were discontinued in April because of a funding gap. “We have heard from our data users how valuable this information is,” said Troy Joshua, executive producer for the Agricultural Statistics Board, on Wednesday.

Revive discontinued reports, lawmakers ask USDA

Three lawmakers who oversee the USDA budget urged Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to reinstate a handful of reports that were cancelled recently for budgetary reasons. "These reports provide critical supply-and-demand data that are not available in any other [USDA] report and are essential to preventing market volatility," wrote Reps. Andy Harris and Sanford Bishop and Sen. John Hoeven.

FDA clarifies its approach to biotech animals

The Food and Drug Administration, the lead U.S. regulator of genetically engineered animals, issued two documents to clarify its risk-based oversight of the creatures and their developers. The agency exercises varying levels of scrutiny, ranging from full-scale review of an animal and its risk profile to instances in which developers can take an animal directly to market without consulting the FDA.

USDA announces update of WIC food packages

The USDA has completed a months-long update of the foods available through the Women, Infants, and Children program (WIC) to reflect the latest nutrition science, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday. The new list, which includes a significant expansion of fruit and vegetable benefits, would take effect in about 60 days.

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