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Policy quick hits: Concerns grow over avian flu

Also: New sustainable aviation fuel rules expected this week.

Joshua Baethge, Policy editor

April 29, 2024

2 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.

Senator calls for more action on avian flu

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D- Wisc., is calling on USDA to take more action to contain avian influenza. Despite a new federal order mandating more testing on dairy cattle, she says more needs to be done. Last week, she penned a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack calling for additional action to contain the disease.

“Wisconsin’s dairy industry supports thousands of good paying jobs, drives our rural economies, and provides nutritious products around the world, and it is critical to our state that we get the response to this virus right,” Baldwin says. “The federal government has to step up to help our dairy farmers and producers weather and combat this outbreak, stop the spread of this virus, and ensure consumers know what is being done to keep them safe.”

Columbia restricts U.S. beef sales

Columbia the first country to ban U.S. beef products over avian influenza concerns. USDA reports that Columbia’s temporary restriction on raw bovine meat products applies to fresh and frozen beef, as well as beef products, originating from eight states on or after April 15. Those states include Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota and Texas.

Shipments from exporters holding valid permits may still be held at port.

New SAF rule expected this week

The Biden administration is expected to release new modeling for sustainable aviation fuel. The details of the report will determine how ethanol producers can qualify for climate-smart tax credits. This comes as a coalition on industry stakeholders, including major airlines and airports, launched a new initiative called the SAF Coalition. The group says it will advocate for policies to improve U.S. competitiveness in the market and increase domestic SAF production.

USDA to fund more than 700 clean energy projects

Deputy Agriculture Secretary Xochitl Torres Small used Earth Day to announce USDA will fund more than 700 clean energy projects. The agency will provide $238 million in funding through its Rural Energy for America Program and Higher Blends infrastructure Incentive Program.

The $194 million in REAP loans and grants will help ag producers and small businesses in 35 states and Puerto Rico expand wind, solar, geothermal and small hydropower energy projects. The $43 million in HBIIP grants will help business owners in 15 states increase biofuel availability.

“The Biden-Harris Administration and USDA are committed to expanding access to modern clean energy systems and fueling options that strengthen the nation’s energy independence while creating good-paying jobs and saving people money,” Torres Small says. “As we celebrate Earth Day this year, we are excited to partner with hundreds more family farms and small businesses to address the impacts of climate change, grow the economy and keep rural communities throughout the country strong and resilient.”

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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