After three years at USDA, Censky to return to soy group

One week after the Nov. 3 general election, Deputy Agriculture Secretary Steve Censky will start work for his former employer, the American Soybean Association (ASA) as its chief executive officer. Censky held that post for 21 years before joining the Trump administration in 2017.

At poultry plants allowed to run faster processing lines, a greater risk of Covid-19

Forty percent of the poultry plants participating in the USDA's controversial line speed waiver program have had Covid-19 outbreaks, according to an analysis of FERN’s outbreaks database. Labor advocates have warned that faster speeds on crowded processing lines could expose slaughterhouse workers to a greater risk of Covid-19, and even the top federal workplace authority has suggested that meatpackers reduce line speeds to curb the spread of the virus.(No paywall)

After record-low rate in 2019, hunger more than doubles in pandemic

Nearly 4 percent of U.S. households sometimes or often did not have enough to eat in 2019, including 5 million children, according to the USDA. Although those numbers are significant, they are the lowest on record since the USDA’s Economic Research Service began tracking these statistics in 1998. But by August of this year, those numbers had more than doubled.

Q&A: A rural Montana school district scrambles keep kids fed during pandemic

Like school nutrition staff across the country, Marsha Wartick, food service director for the Ronan School District in tiny Ronan, Montana, spent the last six months feeding hungry kids and their families under a USDA emergency meals program. Now, as kids head back to school, Wartick is scrambling to react to mixed signals from the administration and hoping the emergency program is allowed to continue through the entire school year. (No paywall)

USDA creates a food gap in P-EBT, say House Democrats

Congress created the P-EBT program early this year to help low-income parents buy food for their school-age children during coronavirus closures. Two high-ranking House Democrats said on Thursday the USDA would cut off benefits to students at schools that begin classes later than usual because of the pandemic.

In abrupt reversal, USDA extends summer school food waivers

In a sudden reversal, the Department of Agriculture announced Monday that it would extend school meal waivers through Dec. 30—less than a week after Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue had said the programs would lapse by Sept. 30. The shift came amid an outcry from advocates and lawmakers from both parties, who argued that Perdue’s refusal to extend key waivers and flexibilities around free summer meals would worsen record levels of child hunger. (No paywall)

Farm management rule is a step toward equity, say reformers

Although the USDA adopted a stricter rule on who qualifies for crop subsidies, farm-program reformers said on Monday there was more work to do. The new rule, which applies to people who say they deserve a payment because they help manage a farm,  should be applied across the board to all USDA programs and it needs to have teeth, they said.

Beef slumps while pork exports surge

For the first six months of the year, exports of American beef tumbled by 15 percent, probably due to Covid-19 turmoil, while pork exports soared by 28 percent compared to 2019 levels, said the USDA on Tuesday. Large shipments to China were the primary factor in the surge in pork shipments, …

Sam Clovis, tainted in Russia probe, resurfaces in Trump campaign

A national co-chair of the 2016 Trump campaign, Sam Clovis, is a member of the newly announced Farmers and Ranchers for Trump, according to the organization's website. Clovis withdrew his nomination for USDA chief scientist on Nov. 2, 2017, after investigators said he encouraged a campaign staff worker to try to contact Russians claiming to have harmful information about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.