The Biden administration is being pushed to consider dismantling the county committee system that the USDA has long relied on to manage farm programs at the local level. The county committees are supposed to provide direct interaction between producers and the USDA on a number of issues related to commodity and conservation programs. Members are selected from among local farmers.
But a recommendation approved by the USDA’s Appropriations Commission Thursday night said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack should explore eliminating county committees and developing “a fairer alternative for ALL farmers.” The commission was created to examine ways to eliminate discrimination in USDA programs.
The recommendation was one of 30 approved for the interim report, which is still being developed, so the wording of the recommendations is subject to change.
“The deck is stacked against us,” P.J. Haney, a Virginia farmer and chairman of the National Council of Black Growers and a member of the commission’s subcommittee, said of the county committee system. “The county committee has too much power.”
By the way: The commission agreed to collect more data before making specific recommendations on delays in processing civil rights complaints. The commission is still considering the idea of transferring discrimination complaints from the Office for Civil Rights to the department’s National Appellate Division.
Stabenov: I will defend climate finance
Some battle lines are starting to form in Washington over the next farm bill. The Republican chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Glenn Thompson, suggested this week that he may try to reallocate nearly $20 billion in conservation program funding, including in the recently passed climate law, the Inflation Reduction Act.
We asked Senate Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, R-Mich., about Thompson’s remark, as she may be well-positioned in the next Congress to make sure IRA funding remains intact.
“Certainly, I intend to enforce the law as it was enacted,” she said Thursday. She added: “We’re just going to move forward with this and assume the department will use … the funds as they’ve been allocated.”
Thompson said at a House Ag hearing this week that he would not be bound by the IRA distribution. Channeling funds to fight climate change risks undermining political support for conservation programs, he said.
By the way: A freshman member of the Kansas House of Representatives committee, Republican Tracy Mann, says it’s too early to know if there might be additional money to write the next farm bill.
“The best way to fund the bill is to exhaust every opportunity to redistribute funding from unused or outdated programs,” he said in an interview this week. Agro-Pulse Newsmakers.
Newsmakers will be on the air today Agri-Pulse.com.
USDA requires reporting on cattle contracts
The USDA plans to require beef processors to begin reporting details of current cattle contracts. The information will be used in the Livestock Contract Library, which Congress authorized as a pilot program.
In a note to industry, The Agricultural Marketing Service talks about the reporting requirement needed to “populate the pilot with information from current contracts.”
Repelling the packer: The North American Meat Institute says AMS lacks the legal authority to require contract reporting. (The USDA relies on its authority under the Livestock Price Reporting Act.)
North American Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts says packers have “legitimate concerns about the implications for the entire livestock chain of requiring companies to share sensitive business data with the government.”
Keep in mind: The pilot program will only be funded until September 2023.
The US Grains Council welcomes a batch of Kentucky bourbon
The Kentucky Distillers Association, a nonprofit trade group “dedicated to protecting Kentucky’s bourbon heritage and sharing it with the world,” is the newest member of the U.S. Grains Council.
“Kentucky distillers use 15 to 20 million bushels of corn annually,” the USGC reports. “In fact, 75% of the corn used by KDA distillers in 2020 came from Kentucky farmers.”
The forecast for Russian wheat has been raised again
The research company of the Black Sea agricultural markets SovEcon again increases the forecast of wheat production in Russia this year. The firm now expects Russian farmers to produce 100 million metric tons of wheat. A little over a month ago, SovEcon raised its forecast to 94.7 million tons.
According to the new forecast, Russia will significantly surpass the previous production record of 86 million tons, and this is “thanks to near-perfect weather for winter wheat and good weather for spring wheat.”
Reclamation postponed to “long term” anti-drought solutions
Lawmakers from Colorado and New Mexico are calling on the Bureau of Reclamation to use $4 billion in IRA funding to spur “long-term” reductions in Colorado River water use.
In the letter, lawmakers said IRA funding should be channeled through state, local and tribal governments to “limit potential speculation or speculation by those suffering the effects of the drought.” Lawmakers say the agency should also consider ways to spend money on data collection or technology that would reduce water use.
She said this: “There are things that our office is investigating that I can’t talk about because they’re not public,” Elizabeth Audette, assistant attorney general in the Minnesota Attorney General’s office, during a discussion on food systems.
Minnesota’s attorney general was one of 11 state CEOs who asked the Justice Department to open an investigation into the nation’s four largest beef processors. Minnesota has not been confirmed as an active participant in the investigation.
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https://www.agri-pulse.com/articles/18282-daybreak-sept-23-usdas-local-structure-comes-under-fire Dawn Sept. 23: USDA’s local structure comes under fire