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7 ag stories you might have missed this week - March 12, 2021

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COVID-19 aid package passes, hemp final rule is near and torrential rains harm Brazilian crops.

Missed some ag news this week? Here are seven stories to catch you up.

1. The House on Wednesday passed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. The bill passed without any Republican votes. Individuals making less than $75,000 will receive $1,400 direct payments. The bill also included enhanced jobless benefits. The bill includes $10.4 billion for agricultural programs, including additional money to purchase and distribute agricultural commodities to nonprofits. – NBC New, Farm Futures

2. USDA's Inspector General has "initiated an inspection" to determine how federal actions may have contributed to the spread of COVID-19 in meatpacking plants and other agricultural processing facilities. Early in the pandemic, meat processing plants saw some of the highest rates of COVID-19 infections in the nation. – Food and Wine

3. Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar together with eight of their Senate colleagues sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging USDA to assist biofuel producers hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. – Office of Sen. Grassley

4. Soybean farmers in Brazil's major growing regions have experienced torrential rains, making harvest difficult. The hardest hit region was Sorriso County, where 25% of soybeans haven't been harvested. – Bloomberg, Farm Futures

5. More than a year after two USDA research agencies were moved to Kansas City, Missouri, the agencies remain understaffed and are delivering fewer reports than before the move. The Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture were moved out of Washington, D.C. by the Trump administration. The ERS examines issues including the rural economy, international trade, food safety and programs that provide food assistance to poor Americans. NIFA provides grants for agricultural research and other farm services. – News Tribune

6. The Senate confirmed Michael Regan as Environmental Protection Agency administrator on Wednesday by a vote of 66-34. The agency will be charged with carrying out executive orders related to cutting emissions from power plants, revamping vehicle efficiency standards and cracking down on methane emissions from oil and gas operations. – Farm Futures, Reuter

7. African swine fever has reemerged in China, Vietnam and Malaysia. The latest outbreak in China includes new variants that are milder, but harder to detect. – Farm Futures

And your bonus.

USDA's final rule on hemp is moving toward implementation later this month. The final rule implements changes from the interim final rule, including an increase in the hemp sampling window, flexibility in sampling standards and additional options for hot hemp disposal. The requirement that hemp testing labs will need to be registered by the DEA has been delayed until December 2022. – Hemp Grower

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