National Ag News for March 1, 2023

USDA Receives Equity Commission Interim Recommendations

USDA’s Equity Commission presented its 2023 Interim Report to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Tuesday. The 37-page report and its findings are based on the personal experiences and expertise of its members, their collaborative and in-depth review of USDA’s programs and practices, and stakeholder input. Examples of the recommendations include offering new sources of capital to owners of heirs’ property and fractionated land, as well as steps to prevent the creation of these types of property to reduce barriers to USDA programs in the future. Arturo S. Rodriguez, co-chair of the Equity Commission and United Farm Workers President Emeritus, says, “The Equity Commission’s recommendations address issues that are not new to USDA, but they do require a renewed commitment to improve access to programs and services for all stakeholders Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says, “We’re confident the work of the Equity Commission will bolster our efforts to realize lasting change at USDA and are grateful to the members for taking on this work.”

Study: Ethanol Cuts Gas Price by 77 Cents per Gallon

Adding low-cost ethanol to the nation’s gasoline supply improves energy security and saves the average American household more than $750 annually. That’s according to a new study by energy economists from the University of California-Berkeley. The analysis concluded that “adding ethanol to gasoline decreases the price paid by U.S. drivers at the pump.” The researchers estimate the average discount per gallon to be $0.77 between 2019 and 2022, reaching a total savings of $95.1 billion annually for U.S. consumers. The authors of the study attribute much of this benefit to the Renewable Fuel Standard. Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper said the study’s results come at a critical time for U.S. policymakers. Cooper says, “American consumers would be paying much higher prices at the pump if not for the inclusion of more than 14 billion gallons of low-cost, low-carbon ethanol in our nation’s gasoline supply each year,” RFA commissioned the new study.

Bipartisan DAIRY PRIDE Act Reintroduced

Senate lawmakers this week reintroduced the DAIRY PRIDE Act of 2023. The bill is titled The Defending Against Imitations and Replacements of Yogurt, milk, and cheese to Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday Act of 2023. The legislation would require non-dairy products made from nuts, seeds, plants, and algae to no longer be mislabeled with dairy terms such as milk, yogurt or cheese. The reintroduction follows last week’s Food and Drug Administration proposal allowing nut, oat, soy, and other non-dairy products to use the name “milk.” Senate Democrat Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin says, “The Biden Administration’s guidance that allows non-dairy products to use dairy names is just wrong.” Current FDA regulations define dairy products as being from dairy animals. However, last week the FDA released draft guidance allowing plant-based products to continue to use dairy terms despite not containing dairy, nor having the nutritional value of dairy products.

USDA Encourages Farmers to Prepare for new Rice Production Program

The Department of Agriculture Tuesday previewed plans to provide up to $250 million in assistance to rice farmers. The plans include what steps rice producers can take to be prepared to sign up when the program is released later this spring. The full program and application details will not be available until later this year. But farmers can get prepared to signup, if they qualify for a higher payment limitation. The payment limitation for the program is set by law and is higher if the farmer’s average adjusted gross farm income is more than 75 percent of their average adjusted gross income. Rice farmers may visit their local county office to submit the appropriate form and if they qualify for and want to seek the higher payment limit and get part of the paperwork done early. More information will be provided when FSA announces the signup period in the coming weeks. 

Pandemic Food Away From Home Spending Varied

Data from USDA’s Economic Research Service shows food away from home spending varied during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2020, spending at full-service restaurants declined 71 percent compared with April 2019. Spending at fast-food restaurants fell 32 percent, and spending at all other food-away-from-home establishments dropped 41 percent over the same period. Full-service restaurants typically offer food and alcohol to seated customers, which was hard to provide during the pandemic. However, the limited physical interaction with customers made it easier for fast-food establishments to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions, and by the second half of 2020, they managed to recover to pre-pandemic spending levels. Despite efforts by many full-service restaurants to expand takeout and delivery services, these outlets took slightly longer to bounce back, and returned to pre-pandemic spending in March 2021. By December 2021, both full-service and limited-service restaurant spending had fully recovered and were each about 10 percent higher than in December 2019.

Farm Bureau Accepting Ag Innovation Challenge Applications

The American Farm Bureau Federation, in partnership with Farm Credit, is seeking entrepreneurs to apply online for the 2024 Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge. Now in its 10th year, the national business competition showcases U.S. startup companies developing innovative solutions to challenges faced by America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities. Farm Bureau is offering $165,000 in startup funds throughout the course of the competition, which will culminate in the top 10 semi-finalists competing in a live pitch competition in front of Farm Bureau members, investors and industry representatives at the AFBF Convention in January 2024 in Salt Lake City, Utah. AFBF President Zippy Duvall says, “We’re pleased to recognize startup companies that provide solutions to problems facing rural America and support farmers.” Applications remain open through May 12, and the ten semi-finalist teams will be announced September 12. Each semi-finalist team will compete to advance to the final round of four teams. Find more information at


By Tucker 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.

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