READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Friday, January 29th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Stabenow Announces Senate Ag Committee Agenda

Incoming Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow laid out her agenda for the committee Thursday. The Michigan Democrat says, “My vision for the committee revitalizes our food and farm economy to grow new opportunities in American agriculture and provide access to healthy food for American families.” Stabenow says the committee will build on past bipartisan achievements to strengthen the diversity of agriculture, support the millions of jobs in the farm and food economy, protect land and water, strengthen small towns and rural communities, and support families working hard to make ends meet. The agenda includes responding to COVID-19 to address hunger and the food supply chain, and address climate change with voluntary, producer-led, bipartisan solutions. Additionally, Stabenow seeks to fight childhood hunger with stronger nutrition programs, and create jobs and improve the quality of life in rural America. Stabenow says the committee will fill key leadership positions at the Department of Agriculture and lay the groundwork for the next bipartisan farm bill.

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Senators Seek Guidance for Farmers Applying for PPP Loans

A pair of U.S. Senators want the federal government to issue guidance excluding Coronavirus Food Assistance Program payments from farmers’ and ranchers’ 2020 gross receipts for purposes of obtaining a second draw loan through the Paycheck Protection Program. Senators John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, and Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat, made the request in a letter to the Department of Treasury and the U.S. Small Business Administration. The Senators refer to the interim final rule on the PPP loans released in early January. In outlining how businesses must demonstrate a 25 percent reduction in gross receipts in 2020 compared to 2019, the interim final rules state that forgiven first draw PPP loans do not count toward gross receipts. However, the Senators say the rules are silent on whether or not Coronavirus Food Assistance Program payments count towards farmers’ and ranchers’ 2020 gross receipts for purposes of demonstrating a 25 percent reduction in receipts in 2020 compared to 2019. 

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NCBA Welcomes House Introduction of Bipartisan DIRECT Act

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association hailed the introduction of bipartisan legislation to create new opportunities for cattle producers and processors to market beef products. The Direct Interstate Retail Exemption for Certain Transactions, or DIRECT Act of 2021, would allow retail quantities of meat processed under state-inspection to be sold across state lines through e-commerce. NCBA Policy Division Chair Todd Wilkinson says, “The DIRECT Act will allow cattle producers and smaller beef processors to more easily evolve to meet the growing demand for e-commerce sales.” Many states currently have inspection programs approved by the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service as “at least equal to” federal standards. However, state-inspected products can only be sold interstate if approved to do so under the Cooperative Interstate Shipping Program. The DIRECT Act would amend the retail exemption to allow processors, butchers, or other retailers to sell normal retail quantities of State Inspected Meat online to consumers across state lines.

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Organic Groups Seek Swift Finalization of Origin of Livestock Rule

A coalition of organic groups urges the Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program to finalize the Origin of Livestock rule. In a letter to the acting Agriculture Secretary, the groups say, “We need a strong, enforceable Origin of Livestock rule as soon as possible.” The letter, signed by 118 organic organizations and 249 organic farmers from across the nation, strongly urges the Secretary of Agriculture to oversee finalization of the origin of organic livestock rule and ensure that the rule is enforceable. Last June, USDA’s National Organic Program missed a deadline Congress set for the NOP to finalize the long-awaited rule. Organic Farmers Association Executive Director Kate Mendenhall says, “Organic dairy farmers have been left behind by the NOP, and the years of broken promises of fixing this regulatory loophole have been devastating.” The organic groups say that each month that goes by without implementation of this rule “puts more family organic dairy farmers out of business across the country.”

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CoBank: Uneven Foodservice Recovery Implies Same for Animal Protein

As COVID-19 spread across the country last year, it spurred the “great grocery grab of 2020” – a shift to at-home food consumption not seen since the early 1980s. The abrupt change also forced the most significant shift in meat supplies the industry has experienced, diverting massive volumes of meat and other food originally intended for restaurants into retail distribution channels and grocery stores. U.S. animal protein supplies have returned to normal, and foodservice sales have improved since the onset of the pandemic but may not return to pre-pandemic levels until the second half of 2022, according to a new report from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange. A CoBank spokesperson says the trends in demand “are central to the profitability and viability of the U.S. animal protein supply chain.” The beef and pork sectors have some flexibility to adapt, as major packers sell their products to a variety of retail, foodservice and export customers. In the poultry sector, however, many integrators and poultry plants focus either on retail or foodservice, but not necessarily both.

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Army Corps to Repair $54 Million of Missouri River Navigation Channel

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 2021 civil works plan includes approximately $54 million for the repair of navigation structures along the Missouri River. The structures were damaged from high water and flooding over the past three years. The funding will address the highest priority repairs which pose an imminent threat to the navigation channel function, or significantly jeopardizes nearby critical facilities, structures, or property. The large volume of water that has passed through the system has damaged hundreds of river structures from Sioux City, Iowa, to St Louis. Those structures are critical and provide for a stable navigation channel when river conditions are within the lower range of operational flows. The 2020 navigation season, which saw a lower water year on the river, was challenged by shoaling in the navigation channel. The Corps of Engineers intends to restore full capacity and system reliability to pre-flood conditions providing that funding is appropriated and available.

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.