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Policy quick hits: Are soldiers being fed like lab rats?

Also: Senate bill offers grazing flexibility on federal lands, Connecticut Dems look to boost small farm crop insurance and USDA addresses tribal food sovereignty.

Joshua Baethge, Policy editor

June 10, 2024

4 Min Read
U.S. capitol building with flag background
Getty Images/franckreporter

There’s never a shortage of agriculture news. Here are a few policy stories you may have missed over the past week.

Cattle producers denounce plan to study lab met for military use

The National Cattleman’s Beef Association is not interested in studying how lab-grown meat may help American troops. On June 7, NCBA officials condemned a recently announced Department of Defense research grant to study and develop lab-grown meat products.

While the study’s conclusions are likely years away, NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane called it a “misguided research project.” He contends the study is a “giant slap in the face” to all who have served, adding veterans and active-duty troops deserve much better.

“It is outrageous that the Department of Defense is spending millions of taxpayer dollars to feed our heroes like lab rats,” Lane says. “U.S. cattle producers raise the highest-quality beef in the world, with the lowest carbon footprint – and American troops deserve to be served that same wholesome, natural meat and not ultra-processed, lab-grown protein that is cooked up in a chemical-filled bioreactor.”

Bipartisan Senate bill aims for more flexibility of federal grazing lands

Sens. John Barrasso, R- Wyo., and Ron Wyden, D- Ore., introduced a bill they say will improve grazing activities on federal land. Their Operational Flexibility Grazing Management Program Act would expand a Bureau of Land Management grazing program to allow permitted grazers more flexibility with how they manage federal rangeland they utilize.

The bill directs BLM to develop “flexible grazing use alternatives” at the request of a grazing permittee or lessee. It establishes adjustable pasture rotations dates of up to two weeks before and after a specified date to allow for better responses to weather changes, fire, drought and other temporary conditions. The BLM is also required to take additional monitoring and evaluation actions

Barrasso, the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, says the bill will give ranchers the tools they need to best manage their grazing activities.

“Ranchers need more flexibility to adapt and respond to on-the-ground threats like drought and wildfires,” he says. “This will both support our ranching communities and encourage better management of our federal lands.”

Connecticut Dems look to expand small farm crop insurance access

Connecticut Reps. Jahana Hayes, John Larson, Joe Courtney, Rosa DeLauro and Jim Himes introduced a House bill intended to help small farmers better access federal crop insurance programs. Their Save Our Small Farms Act would streamline the application process for the Insurance Crop Disaster Assistance Program. They say this would help farmers in areas where crop insurance is unavailable. The NAP cap on indemnity payouts would double from $300,00 to $600,000.

The bill also includes incentives for farmers to move into the Whole Farm Reserve Protection Program. Farmers who enroll would receive premium discounts for three years. They would also be allowed to submit five years of Schedule F tax returns in place of an itemized record of all crops being produced.

Compensation for crop insurance agents would be increased to help make this option more available.

USDA would also be tasked with developing an index-based crop insurance policy that provides more support for income and crop losses due to extreme weather.

According to bill sponsors, 32 industry organizations have endorsed the legislation, including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

“The SOS Farms Act represents a true and needed commitment to build a farm safety net that supports all farmers, not only the biggest,” NSAC policy specialist Billy Hackett says. “This bill streamlines burdensome requirements and creates responsive options for small farmers who sell fresh fruits and vegetables into local and regional markets to access coverage against droughts, floods, and hurricanes, which are only becoming more frequent and severe.”

USDA vows to strengthen tribal food sovereignty

USDA announced a series of investments to address food security and agriculture production on tribal lands. On June 5, the agency announced $42 million in grants through the Indigenous Animals Harvesting and Meat Processing Grant Program. Those funds will be used to expand processing opportunities for native North American animals using modern and tradition methods.

USDA also announced an additional $18 million in funding to support 23 projects through the Tribal Forest Protection Act. Those projects will focus on efforts to reduce hazardous fuels and restore watersheds that provide drinking water.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says USDA has worked hand-in-hand with Tribal Nations to ensure its programs incorporate Indigenous knowledge and perspectives.

“As part of our commitment to tribes, we are making good on our promises and investing in projects that advance food sovereignty and self-determination for tribal nations,” Vilsack says. “These investments create economic opportunities in tribal communities, enhance co-stewardship of precious forests and grasslands, and ensure Indigenous foods are available to tribal students participating in school meal programs, all while furthering USDA’s goal of creating a more resilient food system.”

About the Author(s)

Joshua Baethge

Policy editor, Farm Progress

Joshua Baethge covers a wide range of government issues affecting agriculture. Before joining Farm Progress, he spent 10 years as a news and feature reporter in Texas. During that time, he covered multiple state and local government entities, while also writing about real estate, nightlife, culture and whatever else was the news of the day.

Baethge earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas. In his free time, he enjoys going to concerts, discovering new restaurants, finding excuses to be outside and traveling as much as possible. He is based in the Dallas area where he lives with his wife and two kids.

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