READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Wednesday, February 24th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Senate Confirms Vilsack as Ag Secretary

The Senate Tuesday overwhelming approved the nomination of Tom Vilsack as Agriculture Secretary. The Senate voted 92 to seven to approve the nomination via a roll call vote, sending Vilsack back to the Department of Agriculture’s top position. Vilsack returns to the agency after serving as Agriculture Secretary during the Obama administration. The Senate allowed for 20 minutes of debate, but opted for short statements from Senate Agriculture Committee leadership before calling for the vote. Senate Agriculture Chair Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, says, “After an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, Secretary Vilsack can now get to work.” Noting Vilsack is “uniquely qualified” to head up the USDA, having served there previously, National Association of Wheat Growers CEO Chandley Goule stated Vilsack “has an exceptional understanding of agricultural and rural issues.” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall says, “His strong track record of leadership and previous experience at USDA will serve rural America well.”

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Organic Trade Association Hosts Virtual DC Fly-in

Organic agriculture representatives met with lawmakers Tuesday through a virtual fly-in. The Organic Trade Association hosted the event, continuing Wednesday, to brief the new administration on the challenges the organic sector faces. The issues from more than 20 organic producers from a dozen states are expansive and including ensuring continuous improvement and accountability in organic standards. Industry advocates also expressed the need for increasing funding for organic research, providing organic farmers, businesses and workers with adequate support and protection to help deal with COVID-19 and restoring full funding to help organic farmers cover their certification fees. The industry also seeks investment in federal programs to support farmers in successfully transitioning to, and staying in, organic production. Organic Trade Association Vice President of Government Affairs Megan DeBates says, “There are plenty of spaces now where our ‘asks’ can come, in the next farm bill, climate change policy, COVID recovery, so this is a great time to be presenting the organic case.”

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Farm Groups Embrace New EPA Position on SREs

Farm and biofuel groups welcome the recent Environmental Protection Agency announcement supporting the Tenth Circuit Court’s January 2020 decision regarding small refinery waivers. EPA states that it “agrees with the court that the exemption was intended to operate as a temporary measure and, consistent with that Congressional purpose, the plain meaning of the word ‘extension’ refers to continuing the status of an exemption that is already in existence.” The four petitioners in the case—the Renewable Fuels Association, National Corn Growers Association, American Coalition for Ethanol and National Farmers Union, welcomed the announcement in a statement. The groups say, “This announcement marks a major step forward by the Biden administration to restore the integrity of the Renewable Fuel Standard.” Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a request from two refiners to review the Tenth Circuit case, even though EPA did not ask the high court to examine the ruling. Arguments before the Supreme Court are expected in the spring.

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Ag Energy Coalition Releases 2021 Policy Recommendations

The Agriculture Energy Coalition recently announced its 2021 policy recommendations. Those priorities include providing the Department of Agriculture Rural Energy for American program at least $2.5 billion over ten years, including a financial infusion upfront and Increase to 90 percent REAP Loan Guarantee for any loan amount under $1 million. They also seek to extend clean energy tax credits, provide USDA with additional rural development funding and authorize and modernize the Biorefinery Assistance, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Program. The recommendations also include modernizing the Advanced Biofuel Payment Program, increase funding for the BioPreferred program, and make sustainable aviation fuels a priority for USDA. The coalition says USDA Should prioritize the role of biomass in forest management and wildfire risk reduction. Finally, the group asks USDA to consider using the Commodity Credit Corporation to support low carbon renewable energy innovation. The Agriculture Energy Coalition represents a diverse set of interests in agriculture and renewable energy, such as farmers, advanced biofuel and bio-based manufacturers, clean-tech, rural lenders, and environmental NGOs.

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PLC to Hold Legislative Conference Virtually Next Month

The Public Lands Council Tuesday announced their 2021 Legislative Conference is being held virtually March 23-25, 2021. PLC volunteer leaders, staff, and affiliates will host legislative strategy sessions and workshops on how to successfully advocate the livestock industry in our nation’s capital. Attendees will hear from Members of Congress, policy experts, scientists, and other industry professionals who are dedicated to Western lands, waters, and perspectives. This also gives public lands ranchers the opportunity to catch up, after a busy start to the year. PLC President Niels Hansen says, “Even though we are meeting virtually this year, all of these things are still a focus of our Legislative Conference.” Panel discussions will focus on how grazing facilitates opportunities for other multiple uses, how permittees help protect open spaces from conversion, reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, and promote biodiversity. Registration for the event is free and is available on the Public Lands Council website, publiclandscouncil.org.

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Still Time to Be Counted in the 2020 Local Food Marketing Practices Survey

Farmers and ranchers still have time to respond to their 2020 Local Food Marketing Practices Survey.  The Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will continue to accept responses through April to ensure an accurate picture of U.S. local and regional food systems.  The 2020 Local Food Marketing Practices Survey is part of the Census of Agriculture program and required by federal law. These federal laws require producers to respond and USDA to keep identities and answers confidential. Over the next several weeks, NASS will follow-up with additional mailings and phone calls to farmers and ranchers who have not yet responded. Producers are encouraged to complete their questionnaire online at www.agcounts.usda.gov, by mail, or phone as soon as possible. All information collected will be used for statistical purposes only and published on the NASS website in aggregate form this November. To learn more about NASS and the Local Foods Marketing Practices Survey, visit www.nass.usda.gov.

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.