READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, January 22nd

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Biden Names Acting Federal Agency Leaders

President Joe Biden designated acting leaders to federal agencies to oversee the government until his political appointments are confirmed upon taking office. Biden assigned Kevin Shea as the acting Agriculture Secretary. Shea will assume the duties until the Senate confirms Biden’s pick, Tom Vilsack, for the top post at USDA. Shea has been administrator of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service since 2013. Vilsack is well-known to agriculture, serving as the Obama administration’s Agriculture Secretary. Biden also appointed Jane Nishida (nah-she-dah) as acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. She is the Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator in the EPA Office of International and Tribal Affairs. She will assume the duties until Michael Regan, Biden’s pick to head the EPA, can be confirmed. Regan spent more than nine years working for the EPA under the Clinton and Bush administrations, and eight years at the Environmental Defense Fund. Regen has spent the last four years leading the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

USDA Announces Three Deputy Undersecretaries

The Department of Agriculture Thursday announced three senior appointments. USDA named nutrition policy expert Stacy Dean as deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services. Before joining USDA, Dean served as vice president for food assistance policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C. USDA also announced Justin Maxson, CEO of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, as deputy undersecretary for rural development. The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation is an organization that works toward poverty alleviation and economic justice in southern states. USDA also announced Mae Wu as deputy undersecretary of marketing and regulatory programs. Before joining USDA, Wu served as a senior director at the Natural Resource Defense Council, helping to lead its health and food work. Katharine Ferguson, chief of staff in the Office of the Secretary, says, “We are honored to have professionals of the caliber of Stacy, Justin and Mae join our team.”

D.C. Circuit Court Stays Last-minute EPA Waivers

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ordered a temporary block to last-minute small refinery waivers issued by the Trump administration. The stay is in response to an emergency motion filed Tuesday evening by the Renewable Fuels Associations. Thursday, the court ordered that the Environmental Protection Agency action to grant three small refinery petitions must be “administratively stayed pending further order of the court.” The order prevents EPA from further processing the small refinery exemptions, at least until the court has had “sufficient opportunity to consider the emergency motion for stay.” EPA has until February 3 to respond to the motion, and any replies are due to the court by February 10. The stay was issued roughly 36 hours after EPA approved two 2019 waiver petitions and one 2018 petition, which—if allowed to stand—would waive another 260 million gallons of Renewable Fuel Standard blending requirements. RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper says, “We took this action immediately to prevent the agency from doing further economic damage.”

Republican Senators Criticize Biden Action on Keystone XL Pipeline

Following the executive orders signed by President Joe Biden, a group of Republican Senators announced opposition to the halting of construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The effort was led by Senator Steve Daines of Montana and Republicans from Idaho, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma and North Dakota. Several other western senators are expected to sign on to legislation Daines will introduce to authorize the pipeline’s continued construction. In a statement, the Senators say, “It’s only day one, and with the stroke of a pen, Biden has already taken steps to kill American energy projects.” The Senators claim revoking the Keystone XL Pipeline will drive up the price of gas at the pump, cost thousands of jobs, crush the energy industry and put the country back on a path to dependence on foreign oil. The pipeline is also a priority for Canada. President Biden is expected to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by phone Friday.

Tyson Agrees to Price-Fixing Settlement

Tyson Foods this week agreed to $221.5 million to settle claims related to price-fixing lawsuits. The settlements are with three consumer and commercial purchasing groups who bought chickens directly from Tyson and require a federal judge’s approval. Tyson did not admit liability in agreeing to settle and said the payments will be reflected in its first-quarter financial statements, according to Reuters. The company still faces price-fixing claims from large corporations, including Chick-fil-A, Walmart and Sysco. Earlier this month, Pilgrim’s Pride agreed to a $75 million settlement in the litigation. Sanderson Farms and Perdue Farms are also included in the litigation. The lawsuit claims chicken producers have conspired since 2008 to inflate prices through tactics such as restricting production and sharing nonpublic data about supply and demand. The U.S. Department of Justice in April of 2019 subpoenaed major chicken firms over the issue. The investigation followed a private antitrust suit brought in 2016 by chicken buyers seeking damages from major producers who allegedly conspired to raise prices.

Former Agriculture Secretary Perdue Privileged to Serve Farmers

In modern societal norms, perhaps leaving your employer is not official until announced on social media. Former Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue did so this week via Twitter. Perdue stated, “It has been a privilege to serve America’s farmers, ranchers, and producers the past four years.” The Trump-era head of the Department of Agriculture promised to continue to fight for U.S. agriculture. Perdue highlighted his visits to farms in all 50 states, saying, “I have learned that while accents and commodities may vary, the heart of the farmer remains the same.” Perdue calls agriculture a selfless profession of men and women who strive to feed a growing population. Perdue added, “I want to thank President Trump for the opportunity he gave me to serve you. Let’s continue to do right and feed everyone.” Perdue served as Agriculture Secretary throughout the entirety of the Trump administration, along with several familiar names to Midwest agriculture in other USDA positions.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

By Brian Allmer - The BARN

Brian Allmer & the BARN are members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB), the Colorado FFA Foundation, the Colorado 4H Foundation, the Colorado Farm Show Marketing Committee, 1867 Club Board Member, Denver Ag & Livestock Club Member, the Weld County Fair Board, the Briggsdale FFA Advisory Council, Briggsdale 4H Club Beef Leader & Founder / Coordinator of the Briggsdale Classic Open Jackpot Show.