READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, April 15th

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USDA Cancels Farmers to Family Food Box Program

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told House lawmakers Wednesday the Department of Agriculture is ending the Farmers to Families Food Box program. Representative David Valadao, a California Republican, stated, “although it wasn’t a perfect program, this program provided families with healthy, nutritious food items grown here in the U.S.,” asking Vilsack what USDA will do next. Vilsack says USDA will continue to provide healthy food, but doing so through the most efficient system USDA has. Vilsack responded, “A lot of problems with it, Representative, a lot of problems,” regarding the cancellation during a House Ag Appropriations Committee hearing. Vilsack told lawmakers USDA will take the best of the program, “and incorporate it into our traditional regular programs that are very efficient of food distribution.” USDA announced new pandemic aid programs Monday to help make up for the Farmers to Families Food Box program. The program purchased U.S. commodities and food for distribution to the public.

USDA Announces Further Pandemic Aid

The Department of Agriculture this week announced the availability of more than $330 million as part of the Pandemic Assistance for Producers program. The funding includes $169.9 million for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, $75 million for Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program grantees and approximately $80 million in payments to domestic users of upland and extra-long staple cotton. The funding will aid in developing new markets for U.S. agricultural products, expand the specialty crop food sector, and the purchase of fruits and vegetables by low-income consumers. USDA also announced plans for the Dairy Donation Program as established in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. USDA launched the Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative in March with $6.5 billion in available funding to address shortfalls and disparities in how assistance was distributed in previous COVID-19 assistance packages, with a specific focus on strengthening outreach to underserved producers and communities and small and medium agricultural operations.

NPPC Outlines Top Legislative Priorities

Expanding market access to Vietnam, visa reform to address a livestock agriculture labor shortage, and foreign animal disease prevention are the focus of the National Pork Producers Council’s Legislative Action Conference this week. Pork producers from across the country are gathering virtually to address these and other issues with lawmakers. NPPC President Jen Sorenson says, “Trade remains crucial to the continued success of the U.S. pork industry.” Domestic pork consumption in Vietnam is greater than 2.5 million metric tons per year, more than Mexico, where the United States exported 688,252 Metric tons, valued at $1.1 billion in 2020. Last year, U.S. pork producers only exported 25,183 metric tons to Vietnam, valued at $54 million. Additionally, NPPC says current visa programs fail to meet the workforce needs of pork producers and other year-round livestock farmers. NPPC is urging Congress to address labor reform that both opens the H-2A visa program to year-round labor, without a cap, and provides legal status for agricultural workers already in the country.

Stabenow Introduces Rural Forest Markets Act

Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow Wednesday introduced the bipartisan Rural Forest Markets Act. The Michigan Democrat, joined by Senate Republican Mike Braun of Indiana, introduced the bill to remove barriers for small-scale, family foresters and help them benefit from new economic opportunities through climate solutions like carbon markets. The bill is the latest bipartisan climate-smart forestry legislation to come out of the committee after the REPLANT Act was introduced last month. Stabenow says, “For too long, there have been barriers that prevent family foresters from being able to take advantage of the economic benefits of the carbon reduction efforts they’ve been doing.” As companies increasingly express interest in offsetting their footprint through carbon and other environmental markets, foresters are tapping into those opportunities and being financially rewarded for the voluntary, sustainable steps they’re taking in managing their land.  The legislation provides a federal loan guarantee to support projects that help small forest owners address climate and other environmental challenges by adopting sustainable land management practices.

USAID Launchers Effort to Combat Infectious Disease threat, Antimicrobial Resistance

The United States Agency for International Development has tapped a consortium led by Cargill to improve livestock management and combat the threat of diseases to both human and animal health. The five-year, $33 million Transformational Strategies for Farm Output Risk Mitigation consortium will harness innovation to sustainably improve animal health, strengthen animal agriculture production systems in Asia and Africa and enhance global health security. As a farm-based initiative, the effort will prioritize efforts to decrease the risks of antimicrobial resistance, diseases spread from animals to humans such as foodborne pathogens, anthrax and Avian and swine influenza. The group will also consider transboundary animal diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease and African swine fever. Scientists estimate that more than three out of five known infectious diseases in people can be spread from animals. The effort seeks to increase the capacity of government, agribusinesses, and farmers to prevent and, if needed, identify, and quickly respond to these threats to human health.

USDA NIFA Invest $14 million in Ag Workforce Training

The Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture recently announced more than $14 million in workforce training grants. USDA NIFA has awarded $9.4 million in funding for 19 Agricultural Workforce Training grants, and 12 awards totaling $4.8 million for rural economic development projects. The grants are part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. The Agricultural Workforce training grants will provide community, technical or junior college students the skills and tools necessary to secure industry-accepted credentials to join the workforce. NIFA Director Dr. Carrie Castille says, “These awards will help students earn a two-year degree or an industry-accepted credential that will create better job opportunities and fuel the talent pipeline needed in the food and agricultural sector.” NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and extension across the nation to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges, and supports initiatives that ensure the long-term viability of agriculture.

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.