READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, March 11th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

American Rescue Plan Act Passes Congress

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack touted provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress this week. The House of Representatives passed the bill Wednesday afternoon, following previous Senate approval, which made a few changes to the legislation previously passed by the House. Vilsack says, “America’s farmers, ranchers and producers will reap the benefits of the American Rescue Plan as more resources flow through the economy.” In rural America, Vilsack says the plan provides significant investments to help struggling homeowners pay their mortgages, property taxes and property insurance. It expands rental assistance and funds broadband to schools and hospitals, and other community facilities. He adds, the bill “provides historic debt relief to Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, and other farmers of color who for generations have struggled to fully succeed due to systemic discrimination and a cycle of debt.” National Farmers Union says the bill “provides a lifeline” for struggling Americans and takes “several steps towards more meaningful, enduring improvements” in the food system.

Farm Groups Welcome Death Tax Repeal Legislation

Legislation introduced in both the House and Senate would eliminate the estate tax. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act temporarily doubles the estate tax exemption to $11 million per person indexed for inflation through 2025. However, without congressional action, the estate tax exemption will revert to $5.5 million per person in 2026, putting even more farms and ranches at risk. And some lawmakers are hoping to end the extension to pay for spending priorities. American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall says, “Eliminating the estate tax removes another barrier to entry” for future family farmers. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Jerry Bohn says, “The estate tax disproportionately harms cattle producers because with few options to pay off tax liabilities,” while announcing the organization’s support for the bills. The effort, however, is largely symbolic. Previous efforts failed to gain traction during the Trump administration, when Republicans controlled both the House and Senate.

USDA Delays Signup for Conservation Reserve Program Grasslands

The Department of Agriculture is postponing the Conservation Reserve Program Grasslands signup originally planned to start mid-March. Announced this week, USDA is currently evaluating the program and ways to increase enrollment. The Department says it will announce new signup dates in the coming weeks. CRP Grasslands helps producers and landowners protect grassland while enabling grazing activities to continue. Lands enrolled support grazing operations and promote plant and animal biodiversity. Lands are also protected from being developed. Timing of some activities, such as haying or mowing, may be restricted by the primary nesting season of birds. The CRP general signup began January 4, 2021. USDA’s Farm Service Agency extended the original deadline, and a new deadline has not been set. This signup includes increased opportunities for enrollment of wildlife habitat through the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement initiative. The program provides annual rental payments for 10 to 15 years for land devoted to conservation purposes.

Lawmakers Call on USDA to Support Biofuels Industry

A group of Senators wants the Department of Agriculture to assist biofuel producers hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. The group includes Republican Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds of South Dakota and others, led by Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley and Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar. Additional funding was added to the Commodity Credit Corporation by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stabilization Act. The lawmakers request Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack “use this explicit authority to aid the nation’s biofuels industry.” The Trump administration claimed using the funds would go against congressional intent. The lawmakers tell the Joe Biden administration that the funds are intended for the biofuels industry. The Senators write to Vilsack, “We have been encouraged by your recent statements at your confirmation hearing that you will fully utilize USDA resources to get biofuel producers back on track and will aid the Biden Administration in restoring the integrity of the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

Lawmakers Introduce Legislation to Create an Intelligence Office in USDA

A Group of House Representatives this week introduced the Agricultural Intelligence Measures Act. The bill would establish an Office of Intelligence within the Department of Agriculture. The lawmakers say the office would utilize the intelligence community to ensure the Secretary of Agriculture is fully informed of all imminent threats to American agriculture. The highly specialized office would work to understand any efforts to steal U.S. agriculture knowledge and technology and develop or implement biological warfare attacks, cyber or clandestine operations, or other means of sabotaging and disrupting the agriculture industry. Introducing the bill, Arkansas Republican Representative Rick Crawford states, “the complex supply chain and invaluable nature of the agriculture industry means it is particularly vulnerable.” Crawford adds that “Agriculture security is national security,” calling the legislation a critical first step to safer food, farms and a safer future. Co-sponsor, Ohio Republican Representative Mike Turner, adds, the legislation “will help safeguard the agriculture industry” from foreign and domestic threats.

State Officials Recommend Enhancements to Farmers to Families Food Box Program

State agriculture officials ask Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to provide recommend adjustments to the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture this week outlined recommendations to promote equity in farmers’ access to the program and remove unnecessary barriers of entry. Recommendations include considering the adverse impact on smaller farms when awarding contracts based on price, enabling vendors to curate boxes based on local preference and availability of food, and encouraging the participation of socially disadvantaged farmers.  NASDA CEO Dr. Barb Glenn states, “with some enhancements, we can extraordinarily expand the benefits of the program by allowing more producers to contribute and increasing the amount of food we can share.” NASDA members voted during the NASDA 2021 Winter Policy Conference to advocate for changes to the Farmers to Families Food Box program based on feedback from their relationships with farmers, ranchers, vendors and food box recipients.

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.