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USDA to help with feed freight in drought areas

In response to the severe drought conditions in the West and Great Plains, the Agriculture Department this week announced that plans to help cover the cost of transporting feed for livestock that rely on grazing.

USDA is updating the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP) to immediately cover feed transportation costs for drought impacted ranchers.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will provide more details and tools to help ranchers get ready to apply at their local USDA Service Center later this month, FSA said.

FSA Administrator Zach Ducheneaux, a South Dakota rancher, traveled to Bismarck, N.D., for an event with Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member John Hoeven, R-N.D., to announce details of the program.

Hoeven said the program would provide producers impacted by severe drought with 60% reimbursement of their feed transportation costs above what would have been incurred in a normal year.

Hoeven said that previously, ELAP only compensated producers for the cost of hauling water, but now, producers will be eligible for reimbursement of feed transportation costs incurred on or after January 1, 2021 in locations where:

▪ Drought intensity is D2 (severe drought) for eight consecutive weeks as indicated by the U.S. Drought Monitor;

▪ Drought intensity is D3 (extreme drought) or greater; or

▪ USDA has determined a shortage of local or regional feed availability.

–The Hagstrom Report

As House Ag marks up, Scott opposes ‘stepped-up basis’

The House Agriculture Committee has begun consideration of programs under its jurisdiction in the expected reconciliation bill.

As several Republicans said they are worried that the reconciliation bill will include a change in the stepped-up basis provisions in estate tax law that would raise costs for farmers, House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott, D-Ga., said he opposes the stepped up basis provision.

Scott noted that the stepped-up basis tax provision does not come under the jurisdiction of the agriculture committees.

“It is not in this bill and I hope it will not be in the final one as well,” Scott said.

Under current law, farm land and other assets are revalued at the time of death and if heirs sell the asset they pay capital gains taxes on the difference between that “stepped-up” valuation rather than on the original cost of the asset and the sale price.

The markup process may be lengthy. A committee source said that there may be 35 amendments offered. Scott said that votes on amendments will be postponed, and it was unclear whether those votes will take place today.

In an opening statement, Scott called the bill “monumental” and said it would include “critical investments” in agricultural research, rural development, energy and the national forest system.

But Scott also noted that the bill today does not include conservation provisions that are expected to cost $28 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Scott said the conservation provisions will be included in the bill that comes to the House floor but acknowledged that the committee will not have an opportunity to consider them.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., the chair of the subcommittee in charge of conservation, said she wished the bill included the conservation provisions.

Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., noted that the provisions under jurisdiction of the Ag committee are expected to cost $94 billion and of that, $89.1 billion is expected to be deficit spending.

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Glen “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., said that “with solemn regret” he found himself in front of a partisan, secretive process. Thompson complained that the Republicans got the bill less than 24 hours ago and only “seconds” before it was released to the general public.

Thompson noted that neither rural broadband or Whip Plus proposals are included in the bill.

Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., said he wished the Republicans were participating in the process, but they had “made their decision,” as they did on the Affordable Care Act.

–The Hagstrom Report

Montana Stockgrowers, more comment in opposition to APR’s grazing proposal

MALTA, Mont. (September 15, 2021) – Tonight, the Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA), Montana Public Lands Council (MPLC), and the Montana Association of State Grazing Districts (MASGD) provided verbal comments regarding the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) draft environmental assessment (EA) on American Prairie Reserve’s (APR) change application for bison.

In recent years, the organizations have raised a variety of concerns with the APR’s request to BLM to change the class of livestock from cattle to bison, change the authorized seasons-of-use, and the removal of interior fences and have shared disappointment in the BLM’s draft EA and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).

“Regarding Alternative B, we feel additional vetting and analysis should be done by [the BLM],” said Lesley Robinson, MSGA’s Second Vice President. “Our organizations have consistently provided comments regarding our concerns with APR’s proposals and our concern over the impacts to the rangeland health, riparian areas, and socioeconomic impacts to the livestock industry.”

The proposed change by the APR is a significant change that could have serious repercussions on BLM grazing throughout the West. Some of those significant changes include; changing the class of livestock from cattle to cattle and/or bison, modifications to their season-of-use and construction and/or removal of range improvement projects, and adjustments to allotments (such as combining pastures) and administrative actions (such as issuing ten-year grazing permits).

“The APR has made a point to share their goal of an American Serengetti. This can be easily found on their website. This American Serengeti goal is not achievable with just these six allotments. It requires a greater plan and footprint,” stated Raylee Honeycutt, MSGA’s Director of Natural Resources. “Because their mission is public and accessible, we feel this should play a role in the analysis and decision.”

In the comments MSGA, MPLC and MASGD also asked that equality be in place across all permittees. If Alternative B is to be selected in the decision without an EIS being done, the BLM should retroactively review and reconsider previous requests from cattle permittees who have asked for similar grazing changes, grazing date changes or fence removals requests.

MSGA would like to thank Attorney General Austin Knudsen for facilitating the in-person meeting and allowing ranchers and members of the community who are impacted by this issue to be heard.

The deadline for public comments is September 28, 2021. In addition to the verbal comments shared at tonight’s session, MSGA, MPLC and MASGD will be submitting formal, written comments. MSGA, MPLC and MASGD encourage Montana ranchers to submit comments of their own utilizing MSGA’s Take Action webpage that can be found at www.mtbeef.org.

–Montana Stockgrowers Association

Major cattle organizations meet to discuss challenges facing producers

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (May 17, 2021) – On Monday, May 10, 2021, member leaders of American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Farmers Union, R-CALF USA, and the United States Cattlemen’s Association met in Phoenix, Arizona.

These groups convened at the request of Livestock Marketing Association to discuss challenges involved in the marketing of finished cattle with the ultimate goal of bringing about a more financially sustainable situation for cattle feeders and cow-calf producers.

The group talked openly and candidly about a wide range of important issues facing our industry today, including but not limited to:

  • Packer concentration,
  • Price transparency and discovery,
  • Packer oversight,
  • Packers and Stockyards Act enforcement,
  • Level of captive supply, and
  • Packer capacity.

The group also agreed to take to their respective organizations for consideration these action items:

  • Expedite the renewal of USDA’s Livestock Mandatory Reporting (LMR), including formula base prices subject to the same reporting requirements as negotiated cash and the creation of a contract library.
  • Demand the Department of Justice (DOJ) issue a public investigation status report and as warranted, conduct joint DOJ and USDA oversight of packer activity moving forward.
  • Encourage investment in, and development of, new independent, local, and regional packers.

This unprecedented meeting brought together diverse producer organizations to identify issues and discuss potential solutions. These issues and action item lists are not comprehensive, due to time constraints of this meeting. Attending organization representatives were pleased to have reached consensus on many issues and are committed to the ultimate goal of achieving a fair and transparent finished cattle marketing system.

 

About the Livestock Marketing Association

The Livestock Marketing Association (LMA), headquartered in Overland Park, Kan., is North America’s leading, national trade association dedicated to serving its members in the open and competitive auction method of marketing livestock. Founded in 1947, LMA has more than 800 member businesses across the U.S. and Canada and remains invested in both the livestock and livestock marketing industries through support, representation and communication efforts. For more information, visit www.LMAWeb.com.

Vilsack calls for TPA renewal, consideration of CPTPP

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack this week called on Congress to renew Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and said that the United States should consider joining the Comprehensive and Progressive TransPacific Partnership (CPTPP), which emerged when the Trump administration abandoned the TransPacific Partnership that the Obama administration was negotiating.

The current TPA expires July 1. It gives the executive branch the authority to negotiate trade agreements that Congress will only vote up or down, not amend.

“I’m hoping that Congress during the course of this year begins to get serious about resuming and extending Trade Promotion Authority, which will then give us the opportunity to complete negotiations with the U.K. potentially,” Vilsack said during an annual agricultural trade conference organized by the Virginia governor’s office, Politico reported.

Politico trade reporter Doug Palmer added, “Vilsack’s outspoken support for renewing TPA stands in contrast to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai’s evasive answers on the topic as part of her Senate confirmation process. Other members of the Biden administration have played down signing new trade deals, saying they first want to focus on domestic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Washington Trade Daily also reported that Vilsack said at the conference that he is not ruling out the possibility that the United States might eventually join the Comprehensive and Progressive TransPacific Partnership. Vilsack said U.S. agriculture particularly would benefit from the CPTPP, WTD said.

 

Biden unveils infrastructure proposal, including broadband

In a speech in Pittsburgh, President Biden unveiled a $2 trillion infrastructure proposal that covers traditional projects such as roads, bridges and inland waterways but would also attempt to reduce greenhouse gases and bring high-speed internet service to remote parts of rural America.

In his speech, Biden said, “I’m proposing a plan for the nation that rewards work, not just rewards wealth. It builds a fair economy that gives everybody a chance to succeed, and it’s going to create the strongest, most resilient, innovative economy in the world”

“It’s not a plan that tinkers around the edges. It’s a once-in-a generation investment in America, unlike anything we’ve seen or done since we built the Interstate Highway System and the Space Race decades ago.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release, “Just as the American Rescue Plan is helping families recover from the pandemic and recapture hope for a brighter future, the American Jobs Plan will help us rebuild our economy and rural communities and create good-paying jobs with staying power — enough to support a family, have a good home, and give our children a brighter future.”

“President Biden believes this is the moment to reimagine and rebuild our country’s infrastructure and reinvest in American competitiveness and leadership,” Vilsack said.

“The plan promises to close the broadband gap in rural America for millions of Americans, which is so critical for health care, education, and employment in our digital age. I look forward to working with Congress to make these plans a reality for American workers and rural communities and thank President Biden and Vice President Harris for their vision and commitment to rebuilding the middle class.”

National Farmers Union President Rob Larew said, “We sincerely hope that this will set the stage for comprehensive improvements that strengthen rural communities, build resilience to climate change, and hasten economic recovery. In the coming weeks and months, we look forward to reviewing the plan and subsequent legislation in greater detail, including the pay-for provisions.”

Chris Gibbs, an Ohio farmer and board president of Rural Voices USA, a nationwide network of farmers and rural community leaders who were critical of President Donald Trump said, “Getting this done in a bipartisan manner should be the priority but putting these investments on hold any longer shouldn’t be an option.”

“Rural Voices USA strongly supports President Biden’s American Jobs Act and the benefits it will provide for America’s rural communities. We will be a constant voice in the push to get this plan over the finish line for the rural families we represent.”

Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, said, “I look forward to seeing further details of the plan as they become available, but President Biden should be commended for recognizing the need to devote significant resources to improving our nation’s infrastructure.”

“Whenever infrastructure receives attention and a proposed strategy to improve it from any president, that is always a welcome development.”

Steenhoek added, “Given how Republicans and Democrats overall agree that improving infrastructure is a legitimate use of government resources, there is a unique opportunity to achieve something significant on behalf of the American people in a collaborative, bipartisan manner if the focus remains on enhancing roads, bridges, inland waterways, ports, railroads, etc.

“It does concern me to see the proposal extend beyond what most Americans would define as ‘infrastructure.’ Whenever legislative proposals and initiatives — especially controversial ones — get attached to a particular plan, the prospects of ultimate passage usually go down rather than up.”

The package would be financed partly by increasing taxes on companies. The proposal does not include the elimination of stepped up basis and the taxation on capital gains at death. That is a separate proposal coming from Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and others.

Opening Statement: Republican Leader Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson to Full Ag Committee Hearing to Review the State of Black Farmers in the U.S.

Remarks by Glenn ’GT’ Thompson (Penn.) as prepared for delivery:

Good morning, and thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding today’s hearing on such an important issue—an issue that I know is not only near and dear to your heart, but an issue of importance that each and every one of us participating today, including those tuning in to our live stream, can learn something from.

Today’s hearing to review the state of Black farmers in the United States is an opportunity to address some questions that have gone unanswered for far too long.

Everyone participating today is familiar with the 1999 class action suit, Pigford v. Glickman, a case that alleged decades of discrimination by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) against Black farmers applying for farm loans and other government assistance. Since the original Pigford settlement, more than $2 billion has been allocated as compensation for Black farmers.

Without a doubt, there has been discrimination at USDA in the past against Black farmers and other socially disadvantaged groups. Sadly, I’m sure instances of discrimination remain today.

The American Rescue Plan was signed into law on two weeks ago today. Among the nearly $2 trillion in spending was $5 billion allocated for Black farmers, $4 billion of which was designated for loan forgiveness.

Let me be clear. I did not vote for this bill for many obvious reasons—the fact that the bulk of the multi-trillion-dollar bill had virtually nothing to do with COVID was chief among them. It was also drafted behind closed doors with no input from the minority party. Moreover, the bill was drafted based on hypotheticals, misinformation, and incomplete data. Unfortunately, that’s what happens when you force through partisan legislation through budget reconciliation.

Paying off the loans of socially disadvantaged farmers may help in the short term, but it does very little to address the root cause of the issue. It does nothing to attack discrimination head on, and it certainly doesn’t prevent racial exclusion for Black farmers or any other socially disadvantaged group in the future.

How did USDA leadership fail so spectacularly to allow for this ongoing discrimination for so many years? Why were the bad actors allowed to continue their comfortable government or appointed jobs when they so brazenly allowed discrimination to continue, even if not having directly engaged in the discrimination itself? Is simply forgiving debt the best way to address this problem and provide a forward-thinking and equitable outcome?

The American Rescue Plan gives USDA blanket authority to handle the funds provided through the legislation. Surely, leaving an unelected bureaucracy with a decades-long track record of racial discrimination to their own devices cannot be the best way to right wrongs.

We cannot forget the progress Congress has already made by authorizing programs and initiatives through previous Farm Bills to assist Black and other socially disadvantaged farmers. From credit to conservation, there have been a number of provisions that seek to address inequities.

For example, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) now targets direct loans and guarantees loans to eligible socially disadvantaged farmers to buy and operate family-sized farms and ranches. When it comes to conservation and forestry, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has made a concerted effort to provide resources for socially disadvantaged and historically underserved producers. Every year, NRCS targets five percent of its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for socially disadvantaged farmers. However, over the last decade, NRCS has exceeded expectations with 33 percent of EQIP funding going to historically underserved producers and beginning farmers.

Of course, I would be remiss not to mention the 2018 Farm Bill investments in historically Black 1890 land-grant universities, including $80 million in scholarships for HBCU students to pursue agricultural education.

While much work remains, we should look to this previous progress as a blueprint in continued discussions. We must work together as a farm team—farmers, ranchers, producers, legislators, stakeholders, and activists alike—to reduce barriers that are preventing Black and other socially disadvantaged farmers from participating fully in a robust farm economy. We must support a strong farm economy that lifts up all.

I would like to thank our Chairman once again, and I would especially like to thank our witnesses. Your testimony is critical in helping us better understand the discrimination Black farmers have faced, and it will play a crucial role to ensure our agriculture policy does not discriminate, rather it empowers farms of all races, sizes, and commodities. I am here to listen. We are all here to listen, and I look forward to participating in this long overdue conversation.

 

Tester, Grassley introduce 50-14 bill in Senate

On Wednesday, U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced a bill to require each U.S. meat processing facility that slaughters over 125,000 head of cattle each year to purchase fifty percent of their weekly volume of beef slaughter on the open or ‘spot’ market.

Read the bill here:

Spot_Market_Bill.pdf

Other co-sponsors of the bill include Senators Tina Smith (D-MN); Ron Wyden (D-OR); Cory Booker (D-NJ); John Hoeven (R-ND); Joni Ernst (R-IA); Mike Rounds (R-SD); and Steve Daines (R-MT).

United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) President Brooke Miller issued the following statement:

“We commend Senator Grassley for continuing to champion legislation that seeks to strengthen the U.S. cattle producer’s bottom line.

“This legislation, the ’50-14’ or spot market bill, follows legislation already supported by USCA, the Cattle Market Transparency Act of 2021 introduced by Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska. The two bills, while different, both focus on necessary changes and enhancements to the cattle marketplace. USCA supports both pieces of legislation and will be working with both offices on paths forward.

“As Congress looks to the reauthorization of the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Program (LMR) prior to its expiration on September 30, 2021, USCA appreciates any and all efforts to reform the program. LMR must be better utilized as a mechanism for accurate and transparent reporting in order to advance price discovery and shore up the fundamentals of the CME cattle futures contracts.

“USCA looks forward to working with members of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees to realign the cattle marketplace with its true fundamentals and level the playing field in producer-packer relationships.”

Another industry organization says the bill isn’t the right solution.

NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane said, “NCBA has and will continue to work alongside our affiliates, Congress, and USDA to increase price discovery and improve the business climate for producers across the country. However, simply put, Senator Grassley’s bill misses the mark. The industry – from leading livestock economists to NCBA state affiliates – agrees that any legislative solution to increased price discovery must account for the unique dynamics within each geographic region. As we have seen in other sectors, a one-size-fits-all government mandate rarely achieves the intended goal. Per our grassroots policy, NCBA supports a voluntary approach first to increased negotiated trade. If a voluntary approach is unsuccessful, that same policy provides guidance toward a legislative solution that more closely resembles Senator Fischer’s Cattle Market Transparency Act. We will continue to work toward a more level-playing field for producers, and we invite Senator Grassley to join the majority of stakeholders in reaching a collaborative solution.”

 

 

Hipp: Feds need to work with tribal governments, Native farmers

The federal government needs to work on a more equal level with tribal governments, and Native American farmers need contracts to provide foods for federal food assistance programs, Janie Simms Hipp, President Biden’s nominee for Agriculture Department general counsel, said in a video that was released today but taped on Friday.

The White House announced Hipp’s nomination on Monday and sent the Hipp nomination to the Senate today.

Speaking in her capacity as CEO of the Native American Agriculture Fund, Hipp told the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference that over the past year she has developed deep respect for tribal governments as they have coped with the coronavirus pandemic. The tribes, she said, had to lay off employees and send children home from school at the same time they were trying to provide food to people and restrict access to reservations to try to keep out COVID-19 because their health care systems are so weak.

“I have never been so proud of tribal leadership. They have made sure food insecurity is at the top of their agenda,” Hipp said. The federal government needs to “elevate” tribal governments so that they are full partners in the delivery of programs, she said. Hipp is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation.

Most Americans do not think much about Native Americans because the reservations are located in such remote parts of the country, she said. While lines at food banks highlighted the hunger issue for many Americans, on Indian reservations there were fewer lines because there are fewer food banks. Often there are no grocery stores, only convenience stores, she added. USDA is allowing participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to use online purchasing, but that won’t help in a lot of Indian Country because people don’t have the Internet access that is needed for online shopping, she said.

“We are going to have to get creative about how to order food,” she added.

Tribes have been fighting for more control over federal feeding programs, Hipp said. On the reservations, federal food assistance programs are managed by the tribal governments “with a strong arm” from USDA, she explained.

“A lot of folks have forgotten Native peoples were here growing food, feeding ourselves for tens of thousands of years. We assume Native communities can’t feed themselves. There is a lot of food grown within Native communities. It leaves, goes into other people’s communities.”

But contracts with federal assistance programs would help stabilize Native American farming operations, she said.

“We need to figure out how food intervention programs can be contoured in a new way that lifts up the communities we are trying to serve,” she said. At present people who are raising food “down the road can’t get into the programs,” she added.

There has been progress in getting Native foods into food distribution, but Native American foods are not “just buffalo and wild rice,” she said.

“Cultural foods actually feed your soul at the time they are feeding your body,” she said. “Science really supports that when we access foods that are traditional it is actually healthier.”

Hipp also noted that the relationship between Native Americans and USDA goes across many agencies. The Native American Agriculture Fund, she pointed out, was established out of money left over from the settlement of the Keepseagle case that Native American farmers won against the USDA’s Farm Service Agency for discrimination against Native American farmers.

While other minority leaders have criticized Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s performance during the Obama administration, Hipp pointed out that Vilsack settled that suit and she said she is glad he has returned as secretary. Vilsack, she noted, “doesn’t have to get up to speed” and that she believes there will be many progressive actions from the team he is building.

 

Interior Department Announces Details for Public Forum on Federal Oil and Gas Program

The Interior Department today released additional information about the upcoming virtual forum regarding the federal oil and gas program, including the public’s viewing options and ability to submit written input to inform Interior’s review.

The public forum is part of Interior’s comprehensive review of the federal oil and gas program as called for in Executive Order 14008 and will feature several panels to highlight perspectives from invited participants including industry representatives, labor and environmental justice organizations, natural resource advocates, Indigenous organizations, and other experts.

DATE: Thursday, March 25, 2021

TIME: 1:00 pm – 4:30 pm ET

REGISTRATION: The forum will take place via Zoom Webinar. Anyone interested in viewing the forum may register via Zoom. A livestream of the event will also be available at doi.gov/events. The forum will be recorded and have live captions.

The information gathered at the forum will help inform an interim report from the Department that will be completed in early summer. The report will include initial findings on the state of the federal conventional energy programs, as well as outline next steps and recommendations for the Department and Congress to improve stewardship of public lands and waters, create jobs, and build a just and equitable energy future.

Members of the public can submit additional information through April 15 to inform Interior’s interim report at energyreview@ios.doi.gov.

The agenda for the forum is below:

1:00 pm: Welcome and introductory remarks by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Interior leadership.

1:15 pm: Presentations by the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on offshore and onshore oil and gas programs.

1:50 pm: Presentations and Q&A by invited individuals representing environmental justice and frontline communities, academia, oil and gas industry trade associations, Indigenous organizations, conservation organizations, and labor groups. A list of participants will be updated on Interior’s website as available.

4:30 pm: Adjourn

In addition to the forum, the Interior Department is conducting extensive outreach to Members of Congress, Governors, Tribes, and other state and local elected leaders.