Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 5.2

May 2, 2022


  • Big Picture Outlook
  • Thoughts from Team Torrey
  • The Week Ahead
  • A Quick Look Back

Big Picture Outlook

Farm Bill   

On Friday, the Senate Agriculture Committee launched its farm bill hearings at Michigan State University with a field hearing entitled, “Growing Jobs and Economic Opportunity: 2023 Farm Bill Perspectives from Michigan.” The committee heard from a panel of Michigan producers who represented a wide range of commodities, scale, and farming practices. Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow said the next farm bill, “must address the economic security of our farmers, families, and rural communities by supporting a more resilient and sustainable food supply chain.” The conversation covered a variety of topics including commodity support programs, loans, federal program requirements, bird flu, and the federal milk pricing formula. Witnesses offered more general ideas than specific suggestions.  Many of the farm groups intend to finalize specific policy proposals later this summer, at the earliest.

White House Calls on Congress for Additional Support for Ukraine 

Last week, the White House submitted a supplemental spending request to Congress for new appropriations for military support and humanitarian aid. The $33 billion request includes $500 million in domestic food production assistance that is designed to encourage farmers to plant.  This includes an increase in USDA marketing loan rates for specific crops in crop years 2022 and 2023 as well as a crop insurance incentive with a focus on winter wheat and soybeans. The potential crop insurance incentive, similar to the cover crop incentive, will be a $10 per acre “coupon” on the second crop (i.e., soybeans). USDA indicated it wants to relax some rules so farmers can get full coverage on the second crop, namely through written agreements in areas where double crop coverage may not currently be available.   Congress is seeking to better understand the proposal before considering action as part of the overall call for additional resources to support Ukraine in the weeks ahead.

Rail Service

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) met last week to solicit input from stakeholders on recent rail service issues, with all six Class I railroads testifying. Hearing witnesses also included several ag and food industry representatives, including the National Grain and Feed Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, the Fertilizer Institute, Growth Energy, and the Corn Refiners Association. The hearing started off with Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg’s testimony where he stated the agriculture industry is being “significantly impacted by the railroad’s service delays, especially when it comes to obtaining the necessary amount of fertilizer and chemicals that are critical for the growing season.”  Other participants included senior Biden Administration officials from the Department of Agriculture and Federal Maritime Commission as well as representatives of labor unions.  Members of the Agriculture Transportation Working Group, spearheaded by NGFA, called for the STB to address current rail service issues, voicing support for a public comment process on a petition that would allow rail customers to penalize railroads for inefficient use of private railcars, asking for additional data reporting requirements for rail lines, and urging the STB to finalize its proposed rule on competitive switching.  In addition to seeking input on long-term reforms, STB members were focused on understanding what could be done immediately to improve rail service. This included advancing efforts to require rail companies to implement service assurance plans and new reporting metrics for first mile, last mile service as well as a better understanding of whether shortening trains and removing carrier-imposed speed restrictions could immediately alleviate congestion.  In April, the STB proposed new rules that would allow rail shippers to more easily petition regulators to intervene in a time of emergency. They will be accepting public comments on the proposal until May 23.

The Week Ahead

Wednesday, May 4

  • 9:45 AM EST: Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a business meeting to consider Water Resources Development Act of 2022
  • 10:00 AM EST: Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies holds a hearing to examine proposed budget estimates and justification for fiscal year 2023 for the Forest Service

To see a full list of House and Senate Committee business, visit here.

A Quick Look Back

“Secretary Vilsack Highlights $39 Million Investment in Watershed Infrastructure Projects on Rural Infrastructure Tour” USDA

“USDA Opens Grants Application to Improve SNAP Customer Service” USDA

“Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Releases Statement on President Biden’s Executive Order to Strengthen America’s Forests, Boost Wildfire Resilience, and Combat Global Deforestation” USDA

“Column: Record U.S. Corn, Soy Sales for Next Year Signal Demand Strength, Jitters” Reuters 

“EPA Issues Emergency Fuel Waiver for E15 Sales” EPA

“U.S. Governors Seek to Expand Sales of Higher-Ethanol Gasoline Blend” Reuters

“Ukraine Minister Accuses Russia of Stealing ‘Several Hundred Thousands Tonnes’ of Grain from Areas of the Country it Controls” Business Insider

“Big Four Beef Packers Deny Collusion” Southeast AgNet

“Growth Energy Holds EPA to RVO Deadline of June 3rd” Growth Energy

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