USDA’s Risk Management Agency announced a series of regulatory updates this week. RMA is making permanent a flexibility allowing producers to hay, graze, or chop cover crops for silage, haylage, or baleage at any time and still receive 100 percent of a prevented planting payment, a change sought by Senators John Thune (R-SD), John Hoeven (R-ND) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND). Previously, cover crops could only be hayed, grazed, or chopped after November 1. RMA is also introducing new “1 in 4” prevented planting flexibilities including: (1) the annual regrowth for an insured perennial crop, such as alfalfa, red clover, or mint, to be considered planted; (2) allowing a crop covered by the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) to meet the insurability requirement; and, (3) if crop insurance or NAP coverage is not available, allowing the producer to prove the acreage was planted and harvested using good farming practices in at least two consecutive years out of the four previous years to meet the insurability requirement.

RMA is also revising four organic definitions to be consistent with USDA’s National Organic Program. Additionally, RMA is providing an option for producers to delay measurement of farm-stored production for 180-days through the Special Provisions, similar to flexibilities already available to grain crop producers. The Agency also added earlage and snaplage as acceptable methods of harvest for coarse grains. Read the full press releases here and here.

Congress Avoids Government Shutdown, but Debt Ceiling and Budget Sequestration Loom
Following the Thanksgiving Day recess, lawmakers returned to Washington facing several December deadlines. The continuing resolution (CR) that has been keeping the government funded since the 2022 fiscal year began October 1 was set to expire today. However, the House and Senate voted on another short-term funding patch to avert a government shutdown and moved the new deadline to February 18. The next deadline that Congress must meet is Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s call for Congress to increase or extend the debt ceiling by December 15. Yet another is the need for Congress to pass the National Defense Authorization Act — legislation passed every year without fail since 1961 — which got hung up in the Senate and which is now slated to be voted on by the House and Senate again once the measure has been addressed to meet certain objections. Moreover, absent Congress voting to waive statutory PAYGO relative to the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion COVID-19 related package of earlier this year, automatic budget sequestration cuts on non-exempt programs, including, for examples, Medicare and most farm programs, will increase. Under the Budget Control Act of 2011, the budget sequester automatically kicks in to pay for any legislation that Congress did not pay for that has the impact of raising the deficit. Read more here and here.

Midwest House Members Seek to Block Retroactive RFS Cuts
Last week, Reps. Ashley Hinson (R-IA), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Angie Craig (D-MN), and Ron Kind (D-WI), introduced the bipartisan Defend the Blend Act, legislation to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from reducing the minimum applicable volume of biofuels into transportation fuel once the Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) levels are finalized for any given year. The legislation has been endorsed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, Growth Energy, Renewable Fuels Association, National Corn Growers Association, and National Farmers Union. Read more here.

Fertilizer Prices Projected to be High Through Spring Planting
Fertilizer prices have been running at all-time highs for a variety of reasons and will likely remain elevated at least through the spring planting season, according to a new report from CoBank. The benchmark Green Markets North American Fertilizer Index has risen 265 percent since May 2020. Read the full report here.

ORGANIZATION UPDATES

Agri-Pulse Launches Cover Crop Series
This week Agri-Pulse launched an editorial series – “Cover Crops: The Potential, the Pitfalls, and the Policy Options.” National Sorghum Producers is one of four sponsors of this four-part series covering the various nuances of cover crop benefits. In the first article, Dan Atkisson, NSP past chairman and farmer from Stockton, Kansas, discusses how water limitations create a challenge for producers considering growing cover crops in arid climates like those found in the Sorghum Belt. Read the full article here, and the next article in the series will be released next week at Agripulse.com.