Dawn of March 8: Massive stimulus bill nears finish line | 2021-03-08

The House is set to wipe out President Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion US bailout this week after Senate Democrats repelled GOP attempts to dump the package in a marathon debate that went on all over the place. Friday night to almost noon Saturday.

Among the provisions targeted by GOP senators was the provision that would provide direct payments to minority farmers who hold direct or guaranteed USDA loans.

Take note: Minority farmers could receive payments of up to 120% of their debt on direct or guaranteed loans from the USDA. The additional 20% is intended to pay the taxes that farmers are expected to pay on the payments. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 15,000 farmers would claim the payments and get on average about $ 222,000, according to a source close to the CBO score.

The Senate made a slight change that could allow USDA to cap payments: The original House version stated that payments were to “equal” 120% of debt. The Senate changed that to “up to” 120%. A USDA spokesperson said the department did not seek permission to cap payments, but said USDA would work with the language of the bill.

Learn more about the Senate debate and the stimulus plan here.

Stabenow warnings about the carbon bank

The idea that USDA will set up an agricultural carbon bank to buy credits may not be a done deal. Ag Senate Speaker Debbie Stabenow said Agri-Pulse She hopes to use a hearing this week to hear recommendations from farmers on how the government should encourage climate-friendly practices.

And she cautioned against assuming a carbon bank would be in the mix.

USDA senior climate advisor Robert Bonnie proposed the carbon bank as a way to secure the prices farmers would get for the credits.

“There is no single definition of a carbon bank. It’s been dubbed as a thing, ”she said. “It could be putting more money into conservation. This could be the USDA equaling dollar for dollar the value of the carbon credit farmers are getting. “

Read our Washington Week Ahead here.

USDA Watchdog Investigates Meat Packaging Outbreaks

The USDA Inspector General is examining what the government has done to protect its meat inspectors and to keep packing plants operating during the COVID-19 crisis.

In one letter to Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., the IG says the investigation will include an overview of actions the USDA took after then-President Donald Trump issued an executive order in April 2020 that was widely characterized as authorizing the department to use the Defense Production Act. to keep factories in operation.

Investigators will also examine whether inspectors had adequate protective equipment and access to COVID-19 testing, as well as steps taken by the Food Safety and Inspection Service to communicate federal standards and expectations to people. state health officials.

Lee Beers, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics

FDA to Implement Infant Food Action Plan

The Food and Drug Administration said it will soon implement a plan to reduce toxic elements in baby and toddler foods “to levels as low as reasonably achievable”.

The FDA also sent a letter Friday to baby food manufacturers reminding them of their responsibility under a 2015 rule “to take into account the chemical risks that may be present in food” when carrying out risk analyzes.

The action comes after a House subcommittee published a February report concluding that “baby food is contaminated with dangerous levels of inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury” and “industry self-regulation does not protect consumers as manufacturers set their own dangerously high internal standards for toxic heavy metal levels. “

Quick reaction: The American Academy of Pediatrics welcomed the FDA’s announcement, but said it “only marks the beginning of comprehensive action our government must take.”

“We urge the FDA to work closely with the United States Department of Agriculture to reduce the levels of toxic elements in baby and toddler foods, promote food safety, and promote transparency and trust for parents. and caregivers, ”AAP President Lee Savio Beers said.

FSA Extends Deadline, Relaxes Documentation Requirements For Disaster Program

Producers now have until April 9 to enroll in the Quality Loss Adjustment program, which offers assistance for crop quality losses due to qualifying natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods or drought in 2018 and 2019.

The FSA extended the March 5 deadline to give producers a way other than paperwork to demonstrate the price they received for grain sold in the feed market, as well as to show quality losses.

Because quality loss conditions were so prevalent, especially in the northern plains, silos were not documenting them, said Farm Service Agency associate administrator Steve Peterson.

FSA has “relaxed” this requirement, said Peterson Agri-Pulse, “And if they are willing to work with their elevator, they could still maintain their eligibility and access to the program. “

More than 8,100 producers have registered since the FSA began receiving applications on January 6.

Poultry production in Brazil, exports up this year

China will remain Brazil’s largest foreign market for poultry in 2021, with Brazilian exports to the country expected to increase to meet growing demand, according to a new analysis from the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

“Exports will account for 28 percent of all chicken production in Brazil and increase by four percent in 2021,” FAS analysts based in Brasilia in the United States said. report. Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of chicken meat.

Brazil is now expected to export around 3.9 million metric tonnes of chicken in 2021, up from 3.7 million tonnes in 2020, as it increases shipments to China and the Middle East.

There is a zap for that

Researchers at the Japanese Shibaura Institute of Technology say they have developed a new, non-contact method of finding out whether red fruits like mangoes are ripe enough to be picked.

All you need is a pulsed laser, a series of mirrors, lenses and machines to create air cushions and measure vibrations to produce “an innovative method for measuring firmness of fruit using laser-induced plasma shock waves, ”explains the Shibaura Institute.

The system is not yet ready for large-scale use. But the researchers say “hopefully” adopting the technology “will ensure that the fruit doesn’t reach your plate until the time is right!”

He said it : “The US bailout is historic for other reasons, including the debt relief it provides to black, native, Hispanic and other colored farmers. For generations, socially disadvantaged farmers have struggled to achieve full success due to systemic discrimination and a cycle of debt. – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack reacting to passage of coronavirus relief legislation on Saturday

Questions? Advice? Contact Philip Brasher at [email protected]

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