READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Tuesday, June 15th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Biden Considering Relief for U.S. Refiners

The White House is under pressure from labor unions and senators, including those from President Biden’s home state of Delaware, to consider relief for refiners from the biofuel blending mandates. Three sources close to the matter told Reuters that the issue is pitting two of the administration’s most important political constituencies against each other: blue-collar refinery workers and farmers who depend on biofuel mandates to give stability to corn markets. It may prompt a sharp turn in policy for the administration, which had been pulling back the Trump Administration’s expansion of waivers for U.S. refiners from the Renewable Fuel Standard. The credits, called RINs, are currently at their highest price in the 13-year history of the program. Refiners are saying the policy threatens to bankrupt fuel makers who are already hurt by plummeting fuel demand during COVID-19. Biofuel advocates say that fuel makers should have invested in biofuel blending facilities years ago and can pass on the added costs for buying credits. Democratic Senators from Delaware have met with Micheal Regan, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, in recent weeks to talk about providing relief to refiners.

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Bill Would Combat Anti-Competitive Practices in Meat Processing Industry

Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley joined fellow Republican Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, in introducing legislation on meatpacking. The bill would address the anti-competitive practices in the meat and poultry industries that threaten the nation’s food supply and national security. The legislation comes on the heels of a recent ransomware attack on JBS, one of the country’s largest meat suppliers. “Increased consolidation is driving concerns about competitive market access for livestock producers,” Grassley says. “The recent cyberattack added to existing vulnerabilities in our food supply chain, underscoring the importance of protecting the livelihoods of our family farmers.” He also says food security is national security. The Senators’ bill, called the “Meat Packing Special Investigator Act,” would create the “Office of the Special Investigator for Competitive Matters” within the USDA’s Packers and Stockyards Division. The new investigator would oversee a team of investigators with subpoena power, dedicated to preventing and addressing anti-competitive practices in the meat and poultry industries and enforcing the nation’s antitrust laws.

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China Soybean Imports Boom as Hog Population Recovers

Chinese soybean imports grew significantly during the first five months of 2021, which follows along with a recovery in the country’s domestic hog numbers. However, MSN says domestic demand for the crop looks more modest in the coming months because of rising soybean prices around the globe. China purchased 38.23 million tons of soybeans between January and May. The world’s biggest importer of soybeans spent $19.35 billion on the crop; 44 percent higher than the same period in 2020. As expected, the U.S. and Brazil were once again the top suppliers, with imports up from both countries during the same five months by almost 13 percent year-on-year. While the Phase One Trade Agreement with the U.S. has been one reason for the surge in imports, the recovery of China’s hog herd, devastated by African Swine Fever, is a key driver of the demand for soybeans. A senior animal protein analyst at Rabobank says the expectation of rapid hog restocking has been the key reason for strong imports but the food-service industry’s recovery from COVID-19 also supports Chinese imports. China’s spending on food imports, including grains and meat, is 33 percent higher than it was during the first five months of last year.  

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USDA Begins Issuing Payments for 2018-2019 Disasters

The USDA is set to begin issuing more than $1 billion in payments over the next several weeks, beginning on Tuesday, June 15. The funds are for agriculture producers with approved applications for the Quality Loss Adjustment (QLA) Program and producers who have already received payments through the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+). Producers weathered significant natural disasters during 2018 and 2019, and the programs provide disaster assistance to those producers who suffered losses. For each crop year, the maximum amount that a person or legal entity may receive under the QLA program, directly or indirectly, is $125,000. Payments made to joint operations will not exceed $125,000, multiplied by the number of persons or legal entities that comprise the ownership of the joint operation. Producers who applied for and received their first WHIP+ payment can expect to receive the second payment beginning in mid-June for eligible crop losses. Any producers with questions can contact their local USDA Service Center.

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Colorado Lawmakers Approve Expanded Rights for Ag Workers

Colorado lawmakers have approved a major expansion of rights for the state’s 40,000 agriculture workers. The Colorado Sun says the state’s governor, Jared Polis, is eager to sign off on the legislation. Colorado’s Senate Bill 87 gives farm workers the right to join labor unions, earn state minimum wage and overtime pay. Colorado’s Labor Peace Act currently exempts agriculture workers from job protections, such as the collective bargaining that’s available to workers in other industries. The bill eliminates that exemption and opens the door for agriculture workers to organize and join labor unions, engage in collective bargaining, and hold strikes. Mandated working conditions include periodic bathroom breaks, meals, and rest breaks. It also requires protections that will be determined by the Department of Labor and Employment regarding outdoor temperatures exceeding 80 degrees. The legislation limits the use of short-handled hoes while workers are stooped, kneeling, or squatting, and it limits when workers can be required to do hand weeding or thinning vegetation. It also requires rest breaks when they perform work like that. With COVID-19 in mind, the bill would also add special requirements for housing during a public health emergency.

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CURD Act Would Protect Cheese Quality

Wisconsin Representative Ron Kind introduced the CURD Act last week. The “Codifying Useful Regulatory Definitions” (CURD) Act would create a formal definition of “natural cheese” to ensure consumers are fully informed when purchasing cheese. “America’s Dairyland is proud of the international award-winning, high-quality cheese,” he says. “We need to ensure customers have the information necessary to keep buying the quality Wisconsin cheese families have enjoyed for generations.” Kind also says that June Dairy Month is the perfect time to introduce the legislation to address the issue and make sure Wisconsin cheese can continue to be labeled as “natural cheese.” The term “natural cheese” is historically used to identify cheeses made directly from milk and distinguish those products from processed cheeses. It describes cheese that’s made from milk to which salt, enzymes, and flavorings can be added. It’s the result of the fermentation of milk by adding starter culture. Examples of natural cheeses include cheddar, swiss, cream, parmesan, and string. To help secure the future of Wisconsin Dairy, Kind also introduced his Family Farm Action Plan, which would support hardworking family farmers and help the state’s dairy industry work toward a brighter future.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

By Brian Allmer - The BARN

Tucker 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.