POLICY, REGULATORY AND ISSUE UPDATES

National Sorghum Producers Mixed On EPA RVO Patchwork Proposal
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday released a proposal to retroactively slash biofuel quotas for 2020 while simultaneously ramping up blending requirements for 2022. NSP and biofuels groups were pleased with the Agency’s decision to set the 2022 Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) conventional renewable fuel requirement (RVO) at the statutory volume of 15 billion gallons (bg) and its move to deny all pending small refinery exemption (SRE) petitions. NSP was also pleased with EPA’s decision to restore 500 million gallons illegally waived in 2016 through additional requirements in the 2022 and 2023 RFS requirements and the proposal to have a more transparent SRE process. However, NSP was dissatisfied with the components of the proposal seeking to slash the 2021 RVO to just 13.32 bg and unprecedently reopening the already-finalized 2020 RVO to reduce the requirement from the original volume of 15 bg to just 12.5 bg. A statement in response to the Agency’s actions from NSP Chairman Kody Carson, a sorghum farmer from Olton, Texas, can be found at SorghumGrowers.com.

Farm, Biofuel Groups Ask EPA To Resolve Summertime E15 Barrier
To facilitate year-round sales of E15 nationwide and remove arcane barriers to innovation and consumer choice in the retail fuel marketplace, six national farm and biofuel organizations, including National Sorghum Producers, asked the EPA yesterday to enact regulations requiring lower-volatility conventional gasoline blendstock in the summertime. This would result in lower tailpipe and evaporative emissions during the summer ozone control season and improve air quality.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, NSP joined the Renewable Fuels Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, Growth Energy, National Corn Growers Association, and National Farmers Union to say reducing the volatility of gasoline by just 1 pound per square inch (psi) would yield significant environmental benefits, as proven by a new environmental study that used EPA modeling tools. The letter also included a new economic study showing showing that lowering the volatility of gasoline blendstock would impact the cost of the fuel by just 1-2 pennies per gallon. Read the full release at SorghumGrowers.com.

Congress Makes Headway to Raise Debt Ceiling, Stop Deep Budget Sequestration on Farm Programs, Medicare, Defense
The House on Tuesday night approved a framework that would allow the Senate to raise the debt limit with a simple majority, or 51 votes. The fast-track process would require Democrats in the Senate to introduce the legislation to raise the debt limit by a certain amount, rather than suspending the debt limit. It could then be voted on with 51 votes, rather than the usual 60 votes needed in the Senate. Democrats and Republicans each have 50 votes in the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote for Democrats. The House passed the legislation almost entirely along party lines. The Senate invoked cloture on the motion to proceed to the measure on a bipartisan vote. The House Rules Committee released the legislation that included setting up the procedure as part of a bill preventing sequestration to farm programs, Medicare, and Defense. Lawmakers have been in talks over how to proceed for weeks after the debt limit was increased in a short-term deal in October. Read more here.

Senate Democrats Add Technical Assistance Money to Agriculture Provisions of Biden “Human Infrastructure” Bill
New Senate provisions would add more than $2 billion in conservation technical assistance to the Democrats’ social and climate human infrastructure bill as compared to the measure that passed the House, also adding $150 million in funding for agriculture research. The House-passed version of the bill had just $200 million for technical assistance. The Senate version would bring that to $2.35 billion. It is not clear where Senate Democrats got the money for the increase. Advocates of climate-based farming practices have argued that it is critical to provide farmers with the guidance and advice they need to apply for farm bill conservation programs. Despite the additional funding, producers are frustrated that none of the new funding in the bill is designated to help them weather skyrocketing input costs. Read more here.

Scott Lays 2022 House Agriculture Committee Agenda
House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott (D-GA) says he plans to start holding farm bill hearings in January. He also noted the House will likely act on the Growing Climate Solutions Act by early next year. Scott said there will be some modifications to the Senate-passed climate measure that he did not specify. View a full Agri-Pulse interview with Chairman Scott here.

CoBank Reports Input Costs to Dog Agriculture Well Into 2022
Farmers should not expect to see relief from high production cost until the third quarter of 2022, at the earliest, according to economists at CoBank, the bank for cooperatives. The analysis also says an “expected decline in direct government payments in 2022 will further squeeze farm income statements. The single biggest wildcard for U.S. agriculture is export sales to China, currently the largest export market for U.S. farm product.” Among the bright spots in the farm economy: biofuels. The fuel ethanol complex “is revving on all cylinders driven by strong consumer demand” and higher prices, CoBank says. The economists also expect the build-out of soy oil refining capacity to continue apace due to the growing demand for renewable diesel. Read more here.

NSP Encourages Sorghum Farmers To Capitalize On CSP Provisions At Sign-Up
Certain provisions in the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) can provide environmental and economic advantages to sorghum farmers. These CSP practices include: 328E – Soil health crop rotation, 329C – No till to increase plant-available moisture, 329D – No till system to increase soil health and soil organic matter content, 328A – Resource conserving crop rotation, 328B – Improved resource conserving crop rotation, and 345C – Reduced tillage to increase plant available moisture. Deadlines to sign up for CSP and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) are rapidly approaching. Sorghum Belt sign-up deadlines can be found on the NRCS website or by contacting your local NRCS office.

Crop Insurance Leaders Provide Insight to House Agriculture Committee Roundtable Panel
The House Agriculture Committee’s General Farm Commodities and Risk Management (GFCRM) Subcommittee held a roundtable focusing on Federal Crop Insurance on December 3. Leaders from two crop insurance companies, one farmer, and one crop insurance agent participated to help update and educate the Subcommittee’s 13 members on the workings of this critical component of the farm safety net. CIPA’s Marva Ulleland highlighted the challenges of delivering crop insurance given that administrative and operating expense reimbursements have not kept a pace with inflation, not having been adjusted since 2015. In addition to the good work of agents in delivering Federal Crop Insurance, Marva highlighted the critical assistance agents provided producers amidst pandemic-related closures especially in navigating the rules of the Farm Bill and ad hoc programs to deal with trade issues with China, COVID-19, and natural disasters.

EPA, Corps Kick Off Comment Period on WOTUS Proposal
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers have officially published a proposal to establish a “foundational rule” defining “waters of the U.S.” under the Clean Water Act. The proposal seeks a return to regulations in place before both the Obama Administration’s 2015 rule and the Trump Administration’s 2020 rule. The rule, however, would retain “significant nexus” tests that would allow EPA to regulate remote, non-navigable, non-interstate waters under the Clean Water Act, putting it into the crosshairs of a new Supreme Court where a majority of justices is likely to take a more narrow view of federal jurisdiction based on the history of the statute. The 60-day comment period will run through February 7. Read more here.

Some Key Democrats Appeal to EPA on Important Pesticides
Some key House Democrats led by Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) are asking EPA to delay making potential herbicide registration revisions, including restrictions on atrazine, because of the high input costs farmers are facing. “During this period of economic uncertainty caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, taking steps to restrict the number of herbicides that farmers can utilize could seriously exacerbate existing strains on supply chains, leading to shortages, increased demand for already supply-constrained alternatives, price hikes, and significant losses directly to farmers who have already purchased herbicide and seed for the upcoming 2022 growing season,” the lawmakers say in a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan. Read the letter here.

Companies to Tap Data to Help Farmers Access Low-Carbon Markets
Bayer is working with two other companies on a new pilot program that aims to help farmers take advantage of low-carbon fuel markets by implementing “sustainable farming practices.” The program was developed in collaboration with Bushel, an agricultural software developer, and Amazon Web Services. Project Carbonview will initially enable ethanol producers to track carbon emissions across their supply chains, from planting to production, according to Bayer. Read more here.

Vilsack Announces Climate Change Grants and Loans
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced USDA is spending $633 million on rural communities to reduce climate change. Vilsack highlighted 791 investments that USDA is making in Community Facilities Disaster Grants, the Electric Loan Program, the Rural Energy for America Program, the Rural Energy Savings Program, and the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program. Access USDA’s combined chart of the grants and loans here.

NASS Seeks Information on Producer Involvement in Agriculture for Census
USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service is mailing a survey this month to more than 1 million persons to determine whether they are involved in agricultural activity. The National Agricultural Classification Survey “is one of the most important early steps to determine who should receive next year’s Census of Agriculture questionnaire,” Ag Census and Survey Division Director Barbara Rater said. “Every response to NACS is vital.” A farm is defined as USDA as “any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products are produced and sold, or are normally sold, during the year,” NASS said. “The definition of a farm is not based on size, type, or location,” Rater said. “A farm can be an urban rooftop or a backyard greenhouse. It can be large pastures of cattle or fields of corn, as well as blooms, honey, vegetables, or eggs sold to neighbors, friends, and family.” Read more here.

ORGANIZATION UPDATES

NSP and USCP Host December Board Meetings
National Sorghum Producer and the United Sorghum Checkoff Program both held their December board meetings in Lubbock, Texas, this week. NSP hosted a fundraiser on Sunday for Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS) who has and continues to be a champion for both sorghum and agriculture as a whole. This preceded the NSP board meeting where directors received updates from staff, experts and government officials in key policy and regulatory areas. Past Chairman Dan Atkisson of Stockton, Kansas, was also honored for his service and dedication to the sorghum industry. The board will reconvene at Commodity Classic in New Orleans March 2022.

NSP Sponsors Highlights the Nuances of Cover Crops for Sorghum Farmers in Agri-Pulse Editorial Series
Last 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 first two articles here and here, and the next article in the series will be released next week at Agripulse.com.

National Sorghum Producers Welcomes Row Shaver As Industry Partner
National Sorghum Producers announced Thursday Row Shaver Systems, LLC, a weed management company, joined the NSP Industry Partner program as a Partner Level sponsor. Row Shaver is focused on managing weeds by eliminating the development of herbicide resistant weed seeds. They offer a range of products, including the Row Shaver and Row Trimmer. Read the full release at SorghumGrowers.com.

NSP Member Reappointed to FCC Task Force
Dale Artho, a National Sorghum Producers member from Wildorado, Texas, has been reappointed to serve on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Task Force for Reviewing the Connectivity and and technology Needs of Precision Agriculture in the United States. The Task Force is charged with accelerating the deployment of broadband internet access service on unserved agricultural land to promote precision agriculture. The Task Force’s first meeting will be held on January 13 at 10:00 am ET.

United Sorghum Checkoff Program Strengthens Marketing Efforts with Team Approach and New Staff Addition to Fully Capitalize on Sorghum’s Versatility
The United Sorghum Checkoff Program announced yesterday a strategic reorganization of its marketing team. Under the new structure, the Sorghum Checkoff will focus on developing and advancing sorghum as the resource-conserving ingredient and efforts to reveal the potential and versatility of sorghum through increased shared value. The new marketing team includes longtime Sorghum Checkoff team members who now hold expanded roles from their previous regional marketing positions: Shelee Padgett, Director of Emerging Markets & Grower Leader Development; Brent Crafton, Director of Feed Ingredient Utilization; and Zach Simon, Director of Ingredient Utilization and Pet Food. Lanier Dabruzzi, MS, RD, LD, is the most recent addition to the restructured marketing team. She joins the Sorghum Checkoff as the Director of Food Innovations and Institutional Markets and will be responsible for increasing the use of sorghum in the U.S. food supply as an ingredient and stand-alone product. Retiring as Market Development Director, NSP would like to thank Doug Bice who has devoted eight years to the Sorghum Checkoff and sorghum industry. Read the full release at SorghumCheckoff.com.