READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, March 16th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

USDA Requests Information on USDA’s Climate-Smart Agriculture Strategy

The Department of Agriculture is requesting public input on a climate-smart agriculture and forestry strategy. The request follows President Joe Biden’s executive order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. The executive order states that America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners have an important role to play in combating the climate crisis, and directs Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to solicit input from stakeholders as USDA develops a climate-smart agriculture and forestry approach. Vilsack states, “We want your ideas on how to position the agriculture and forestry sectors to be leaders on climate-smart practices to mitigate climate change.” The request was published in a Federal Register notice, which will be available for public input until April 30, and is available online through the Federal Register. The notice seeks information on four topics: climate-smart agriculture and forestry; biofuels, bioproducts, and renewable energy; catastrophic wildfire; and meeting the needs of disadvantaged communities through USDA’s climate strategy.

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Democrats Reintroduce Safe Line Speeds During COVID-19 Act

Democrats have reintroduced the Safe Line Speeds During COVID-19 Act. The lawmakers say the bill will protect worker, consumer, and animal safety by suspending all current and future USDA waivers and regulations that allow companies to increase production line speeds at meatpacking plants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Senate Democrat Corey Booker, along with Representatives Rosa DeLauro and Bennie Thompson, announced the reintroduction last week. In January, the Department of Agriculture withdrew the Trump administration’s proposed rule, which would have allowed poultry processing plants to increase the speed of their production lines by 25 percent. For the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration, this bill would suspend all active waivers issued by USDA and suspend USDA’s authority to issue new waivers in this area. The bill would also suspend implementation of, and conversion to, the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System established under USDA’s final rule published in October 2019, titled Modernization of Swine Slaughter Inspection.

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Kind Introduces Bipartisan Legislative Fix to Protect Rural Access to Care  

Representative Ron Kind last week introduced the bipartisan Rural and Underserved Small Hospital Protection Act. Known as the RUSH Act, the legislation will update the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act to help ensure rural health clinics across have the resources they need to provide care for patients in rural and underserved communities. The Wisconsin Democrat says, “We must continue to support our outstanding rural health care providers and protect access to care for rural communities.” Kind says the RUSH Protection Act provides clarity after changes were made to the Rural Health Clinic reimbursement rules. Rural Health Clinics play a vital role in providing access to care for rural communities and have been on the frontlines of combatting COVID-19 in rural regions. However, due to a drafting error in the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act, many are affiliated with critical access hospitals that opened in 2020 and face significant Medicare payment cuts. Kind says the legislation will correct this mistake.

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CoBank Releases Spring Agronomy Outlook

Farm supply cooperatives and distributors are positioned to benefit from an active and profitable spring agronomy season, according to a new report from CoBank. The report says the profitable spring is driven by high commodity prices, strong input demand and an expected increase in planted acres of soybean, corn and wheat. Ag retailers begin the 2021 planting season with favorable industry fundamentals and an opportunity to expand profit margins, according to the report. A CoBank researcher says, “Improving profits for cooperative agronomy departments should help cushion the negative carry caused by an inversion in futures prices.” Given the higher acreage forecasts, farmers are expected to purchase more fertilization products during the spring planting season. Rising fertilizer prices are also a positive indicator for new sales and retailer margins. Inventory levels of seed, fertilizer and crop protection products are largely expected to be sufficient for the projected increase in spring-planted acres. However, pandemic logistics challenges may impact deliveries.

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USDA Invests $28 Million in Wetlands Restoration

The Department of Agriculture is investing $28 million in six new Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership projects and four ongoing projects. Announced Monday, the investment enables conservation partners and producers to work together to return critical wetland functions to agricultural landscapes. Partners will contribute $2.82 million, bringing the total investments to $30.82 million. Terry Cosby, acting Chief for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, says, “Wetlands have tremendous benefits ranging from cleaner water to flood prevention, to enhancing wildlife habitat to sequestering carbon.” Since 2014, similar projects across 11 states have resulted in 136 closed wetland easements and wetland easements pending closure, protecting more than 27,400 acres. In total, NRCS has supported landowners in protecting more than 2.85 million acres through wetland easement programs nationwide. The balance of the $28 million initial NRCS investment after the projects are funded is $14.7 million, which provides funding for four projects now in their second year.

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Farm Bureau Farm Dog of the Year Nominations Now Open

Farmers are invited to submit nominations for the 2022 Farm Bureau Farm Dog of the Year contest, supported by Purina. This is the fourth year of the contest, which celebrates farm dogs and the ways they support farmers and ranchers throughout America on the farm. The grand prize winner – Farm Bureau Farm Dog of the Year – will win a year’s worth of Purina dog food and $5,000 in prize money. The winner will be recognized at a Farm Dog of the Year award ceremony at the American Farm Bureau Federation Convention in January 2022. Up to four regional runners-up will each win $1,000 in prize money. Desired attributes for the Farm Dog of the Year include helpfulness to the farmer and his/her family, playfulness and obedience. The 2022 Farm Dog of the Year will also be featured in a professionally-produced video. Eligibility guidelines and submission requirements are available online at www.fb.org.

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.