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November 28, 2023
There’s never a shortage of agriculture news. Here are a few policy stories you may have missed over the past week.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Monday that USDA will devote $196 million in grant and loan funding to expand markets for agriculture producers. The funds will support 185 projects in 37 states and Puerto Rico.
“Today’s investments in agricultural producers and rural entrepreneurs will create better economic opportunities that bolster food supply chains across the country and increase competition—a key pillar of Bidenomics,” Vilsack says. “This will result in more affordable prices and choices for consumers, as well as more opportunities and revenue for farmers.”
One of the largest beneficiaries will be Lone Star Bakery in China Grove, Texas. The third-generation family-owned business will receive a $40 million through the Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan Program to make equipment and technology upgrades.
Lot 279, LLC in Nebraska will receive a $250 million Value-Added Producer grant to expand its direct-to-customer beef business. Merchant’s Garden LLC in Tucson, Arizona will receive a $250,000 grant to expand its prepackaged salad mix sales.
Italy became the first country to ban lab-grown meet. Lawmakers in that nation’s Senate passed a bill that prohibits the production, sale or importation of cultivated meat or animal feed.
The bill passed by a 159 to 53 margin in a vote that evoked heated responses from both sides. Many advocates for and against the law descended on the Italian parliament to make their voices head.
In a social media post following the vote, Italy’s Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida says the law defends health, the Italian production system and thousands of jobs as well as his nation’s culture and tradition.
“With the law approved today, Italy is the first nation in the world to be safe from the social and economic risks of synthetic food,” he said
Indianapolis-based Ingredion Incorporated, a plant-based ingredient maker, has agreed to pay nearly $8 million to settle complaints it violated the Clean Air Act at its corn wet milling facility. Per the settlement terms, Ingredion will pay approximately $7 million to implement processes that reduce its unpermitted particulate matter emissions. The company will also pay more than $1.1 million in civil penalties.
“Today’s settlement will not just bring Ingredion back into compliance with the Clean Air Act, it will hold it to more stringent air pollution standards going forward,” Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division says. “This settlement will result in cleaner air for the residents of Indianapolis, particularly those who live in the overburdened community near the Ingredion facility.”
Hearings to revise the Federal Milk Marketing Order system resume this week in Carmel, Indiana. Those hearings began in August, and were widely expected to be completed by October. However, due to several factors including scheduling conflicts and unexpected disagreements, they may continue for some time.
During a recent radio interview, National Milk Producers Federation spokesperson Alan Bjerga says he wouldn’t be surprised to see those hearing continue into 2024. He blames the delays on venue issues and representatives of the processor industry dragging out the proceedings much longer than expected.
Mental health advocates are pushing lawmakers to prioritize the Farmers First Act of 2023. The bill was introduced earlier this year by Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D- Wisc., and Joni Ernst, R- Iowa. The bill would reauthorize the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network established in the 2018 Farm Bill and increase funding for the program to $15 million per year.
FRSAN was created in response to what many consider to be a mental health crisis in the ag industry. Multiple studies have shown that agricultural workers suffer from higher rates of suicide. A Morning Consult poll in 2021 found that more than half of all farmers, farm workers and rural adults were experiencing more mental health challenges than previous years. The same report also found that many in the agriculture industry feel there is still a stigma surrounding seeking treatment for mental health issues.
While many would like to see the legislation pass, the bill’s prospects are pretty much up in the air at this point – just like everything else in Congress.
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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