USDA

Biden nominates two for USDA undersecretary posts

President Biden selected two veterans of U.S. agriculture and nutrition policy for sub-cabinet positions at the Agriculture Department. Stacy Dean was nominated to serve as undersecretary for nutrition and Alexis Taylor to be undersecretary for trade, announced the White House. Dean has been the senior official overseeing USDA nutrition programs since Biden took office and Taylor has been Oregon's agriculture director since December 2016.

Meatpackers drafted Trump order on meat plants during Covid-19

Facing pressure from local health officials over conditions in their plants, meatpacking companies "drafted and pitched an executive order to the Trump White House" to keep slaughterhouses open during the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic, said a congressional staff report on Thursday. When President Trump issued an order that adopted the industry position, meatpackers exaggerated its scope.

Flood of applications for climate-smart funding

More than 350 groups proposed climate-smart pilot projects to help farmers develop a market for sustainably produced commodities, said the Agriculture Department on Tuesday. The large-scale projects, with budgets of up to $100 million, would draw on $1 billion in targeted USDA funding.

USDA announces $50 million in apparel industry relief

Apparel manufacturers are eligible for $50 million in pandemic relief funding that will indirectly help cotton and wool producers, said the Agriculture Department on Thursday. The USDA said the new Cotton and Wool Apparel program would mitigate the downturn in sales of dress apparel during the pandemic.

High commodity prices shift conservation lands to crop fields

Landowners told the USDA they will take 1.7 million acres out of the long-term Conservation Reserve and put it back into crop production, betting on profits from sky-high commodity prices. This year’s “general signup” for the reserve would also bring the smallest amount of land into the reserve …

White paper urges ag data modernization

The Agriculture Department should be a leader in facilitating data collection, utilization, sharing and research, said the AGree farm policy initiative and the Data Foundation on Tuesday. "The time has come for USDA and the policy community to consider how to accomplish the joint objective of protecting critical data while also allowing its use to answer critical questions," said the organizations in a white paper that encouraged interagency sharing of information.

Administration taps USDA emergency fund for food aid overseas

Six countries in Africa and the Middle East will receive $670 million in additional food aid to mitigate severe food insecurity, said the Biden administration on Wednesday. The assistance will mean the complete drawdown of a USDA emergency fund for the purchase of U.S. commodities for donation to hunger programs overseas.

USDA adds $263 million for bird flu costs

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack approved the second infusion of additional funding to the agency fighting outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza from the Atlantic to the Rockies, said the USDA on Wednesday.

Trump’s USDA relocated research agencies despite warnings of high staff attrition

In 2019, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the government would save $300 million over 15 years by moving two research agencies to Kansas City from the District of Columbia. However, congressional auditors now say USDA's selection process was flawed and disregarded estimates that up to 75 percent of employees would quit rather than move.

Election outlook softens for two House Democratic aggies

The political environment looks promising for Republicans in the House, said Sabato’s Crystal Ball on Wednesday. The political newsletter said two Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee, Sanford Bishop and Antonio Delgado, are facing races that have become more competitive than they once were.

U.S. to connect rural areas with development funding

The U.S. government will put field staff in more than two dozen rural communities to provide an on-the-ground link between local leaders and federal economic development programs, said the White House on Wednesday. The Rural Partners Network will be run by USDA but will have a "whole of government" approach, working with 10 federal departments, the EPA and the Small Business Administration, and will expand to all 50 states if Congress provides additional funding.

Ag groups urge USDA to take over regulation of GE animals

Calling it a step for “much-needed innovations,” 11 agricultural organizations urged an Agriculture Department takeover of federal regulation of genetically engineered food animals, now in FDA’s hands. The Trump administration proposed the transfer — over FDA objections — in late 2020 and it …

Despite inflation, taste matters more than price to food shoppers, says report

Americans say they are spending an additional $15 a week on food but that inflation is less important to them at the grocery store than buying good-tasting food, according to a survey by Purdue University. “At present, consumer food demand is price insensitive,” said the Consumer Food Insights report.

Minnesota loses 1 million turkeys in bird flu outbreaks

Turkey farmers in Minnesota, the No. 1 turkey-producing state, lost more than 557,000 turkeys in 12 outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) this week, said the Agriculture Department on Wednesday. Total losses since the first outbreak was reported on March 25 are slightly over 1 million turkeys.

Tenfold increase proposed for rural energy program

Congress should guarantee at least $500 million a year for USDA grants and loan guarantees to install renewable energy systems or improve energy efficiency on farms and small businesses in rural areas—10 times current funding, said an environmental group on Tuesday. House Agriculture chairman David Scott said mandatory funding levels for USDA energy programs would be considered as part of writing the 2023 farm bill.

Bird flu losses may be significantly less than 2014 -’15 epidemic, says Vilsack

U.S. poultry producers have strengthened their safeguards against disease, and the nation may see "significantly less" damage from this year's outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday. The 2014-'15 bird flu epidemic killed more than 50 million birds, mostly chickens and turkeys, in domestic flocks and created spot shortages of eggs in grocery stores.

USDA unveils disaster aid for livestock producers

Livestock producers will receive at least $577 million in disaster payments to offset forage losses due to severe drought or wildfires last year, said the Agriculture Department on Thursday.

USDA inaugurates livestreaming of ‘secretary data briefings’

With the arrival of the internet, the Agriculture Department made its vast library of reports and analyses available to the public, from the closely watched monthly crop estimates to assessments of the impact of the pandemic on meatpackers. The USDA went a step further on Wednesday by presenting the first live internet broadcast of one of the briefings USDA analysts give the agriculture secretary whenever a major report is published.

Broilers, pullets and turkeys hit as HPAI toll jumps to 15.5 million birds

The Agriculture Department reported on Monday 18 outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) that claimed 1.2 million turkeys, broiler chickens and pullets. More than 15.5 million birds in domestic flocks have died of HPAI or been culled in efforts to prevent the spread of the contagious viral disease in less than two months.

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