Tag Archives: USDA

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue met with President Donald Trump to talk about a second round of trade-aid payments to farmers.

Perdue had said an announcement was coming out on December third but that’s come and gone. It was first delayed as Washington honored the passing of former President George H.W. Bush. Now, the delay boils down to a Chinese soybean purchase and Office of Management and Budget Director Mike Mulvaney.

Politico says the OMB Director is a longtime critic of farm policy. He’s pushing back against the idea of a second round of trade assistance for farmers and ranchers. “OMB and Director Mulvaney, as always, are looking to hold on to money,” Perdue says. “I understand that. I think this is a commitment that the president made and we hope to have it resolved soon.”

The first Chinese soybean purchase from the U.S. in six months has brought about questions on whether there should even be a second round trade aid, which could amount to as much as $6 billion. While the soybean purchase is encouraging, agriculture is still being hit by retaliatory tariffs imposed by China, Canada, and Mexico.

The Market Facilitation Program trade payments expected early this month to farmers are on hold, for now. The White House is delaying the second round of payments amid the expectation China will soon resume buying U.S. soybeans.

The payments, as part of the $12 billion trade mitigation package, are being held up by the White House Office of Management and Budget, where the package has been stalled for more than a week. Sources close to the matter told Reuters that the payment will likely eventually be approved after some “back and forth.” A Department of Agriculture spokesperson says USDA is “in discussions” with the White House and anticipate the payment rates will be “published before the end of the year.”

The delay comes as China recently pledged to resume purchases of U.S. soybeans. Export inspections for U.S. soybeans are down 42 percent from last year due to the trade war, and the halt of purchases by China.

CHICAGO /PRNewswire/ — School nutrition programs will have more flexibility in areas related to serving flavored milk and whole grains under a final rule released this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The rule also allows more time for schools to reach sodium reduction targets.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recognizes some school districts need additional flexibility to meet improved school nutrition standards provided by this rule. However, the Academy remains committed to strong nutrition standards for school meals that children want to eat and that Academy members have worked hard to implement.

“Registered dietitian nutritionists have demonstrated that making positive changes to improve the nutrition quality of meals served in schools is not only possible, the changes are acceptable and even desired by students,” said registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy President Mary Russell. “While schools in some areas may choose to make programmatic changes in foods that are served, the Academy encourages those that have already successfully adopted the higher standards to maintain them.”

Nine out of ten children consume high levels of sodium, which studies show may increase their risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. The Academy strongly supports reducing students’ overconsumption of sodium, but recognizes the merits of a slower approach that allows more time for reformulating products and for students’ palates to adapt to changes. The Academy looks forward to new sodium Dietary Reference Intake values from the National Academies, which should be factored into future school nutrition standards.

“The Academy has been working on this issue with national stakeholders and has submitted comments throughout the rulemaking process. We will continue to advocate for safe, nutritious meals for children in schools,” Russell said.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy at www.eatright.org.

ROSEAU, Minn. (AP) — Former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Bob Bergland, a farmer from northern Minnesota who was tasked with selling President Jimmy Carter’s unpopular Soviet Union grain embargo to other farmers, died Sunday. He was 90.

Bergland died at a nursing home in his hometown of Roseau, near the U.S.-Canadian border, his daughter Linda Vatnsdal said.

As agriculture secretary, Bergland had the difficult job of defending to Midwest farmers Carter’s unpopular 1980 decision to embargo grain sales to the Soviet Union after the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

Walter Mondale, who was vice president when Carter was in the White House, recalled Sunday that both he and Bergland did not like the grain embargo.

“I don’t think it was good policy,” Mondale told The Associated Press. “This is going to mean Russians are going to buy their grain somewhere else. … I urged the president not to do it. He felt he had to do it.”

Carter lost his re-election bid to Ronald Reagan, and Bergland’s term as agriculture secretary ended with the Carter administration in 1981.

Mondale said Bergland was a “nice guy, also a very confident guy.”

“Carter felt very positive about him. He was very successful in that position. Farmers liked him. That’s a tough job. People in agriculture respected him, and he was always doing very well there,” Mondale added.

Bergland, a Democrat, was a U.S. House member from 1971 to 1977 before becoming agriculture secretary under Carter. While heading the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bergland commissioned a major report on the structure of American agriculture, “A Time to Choose,” and also a USDA study on organic farming. He later served as vice president and general manager of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and as a regent at the University of Minnesota.

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota said he was sorry to hear about Bergland’s death and sends condolences to his family.

“Bob served the Seventh District of Minnesota exceptionally before taking his farmer’s experience and work ethic to USDA to make sure that crop insurance, rural development, conservation and research programs worked better for farmers and ranchers across the country,” Peterson, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, who’s expected to become chairman next year, said in a statement. “I was fortunate to have visited with him back in August and am proud to continue in his footsteps in serving the residents of the 7th District.”

Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chairman Ken Martin called Bergland “a champion of American farmers and consumers.”

“Growing up poor in the farmlands of Western Minnesota, Bob understood the difficulties and obstacles that face family farmers as well as anyone,” Martin said in his statement. “After losing his farm to foreclosure as a young man, Bob dedicated his life to elevating the standard of living for hard-working family farmers while at the same time safeguarding the interests of American consumers.”

A funeral for Bergland is planned for Saturday in Roseau.

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. school lunch program is making room on menus again for noodles, biscuits, tortillas and other foods made mostly of refined grains.

The Trump administration is scaling back contested school lunch standards implemented under the Obama administration including one that required only whole grains be served. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday only half the grains served will need to be whole grains, a change it said will do away with the current bureaucracy of requiring schools to obtain special waivers to serve select refined grains foods.

Low-fat chocolate milk will also be allowed again. Previously, only fat-free milk could be flavored, although that rule had also been temporarily waived. A final goal for limiting sodium will be scrapped as well, but schools will still be required to meet reduced sodium targets.

The School Nutrition Association, which represents local cafeteria operators and companies like Domino’s Pizza, Kellogg and PepsiCo, had called for relaxing the whole grain-only requirement, saying it was too difficult for some districts to meet.

Diane Pratt-Heavner, a spokeswoman for the association, said whole-grain bread and buns generally aren’t a problem. But she said students complained about other items, in many cases because of cultural or regional preferences. Finding whole-grain biscuits and grits that students like are a challenge in the U.S. South, she said, while tortillas are a challenge in the Southwest.

Not everyone welcomed the relaxed rules.

The American Heart Association encouraged schools to “stay the course” and commit to meeting the stricter standards that started going into effect in 2012. The Center for Science in the Public Interest also said the decision to roll back the whole-grain requirement makes no sense because most schools were already in compliance.

Those still struggling to meet the standard would have eventually been able to comply as well, said Colin Schwartz, the center’s deputy director of legislative affairs.

For the current school year, the USDA said 20 percent of schools were applying for exemptions to the whole-grain rule. Pasta, tortillas, biscuits and grits were the most commonly requested items for exemption, it said.

The USDA school lunch program provides low-cost or free lunches in public schools and other institutions. Last year, it served an estimated 30 million children.

Brandon Lipps, deputy undersecretary for the USDA’s food and nutrition division, said that at some schools that only serve whole grain foods, some is wasted if students won’t eat it. In those cases, schools might now consider other options, Lipps said. The USDA defines whole grain-rich foods as at least 50 percent whole grains.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced today that the government of Morocco has agreed to allow imports of U.S. beef and beef products into Morocco. 2018 is the first year that U.S. beef and poultry exporters have access to Morocco’s market under the terms of the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement (FTA).  Morocco opened its market to U.S. poultry in August, 2018.

“President Trump continues to prioritize the opening of new markets for U.S. agricultural products.  New access to the Moroccan market for beef and beef products is an important step in ensuring that American farmers and ranchers can continue to expand their exports of U.S. agricultural products,” said Ambassador Lighthizer.  “I welcome Morocco’s agreement to allow imports of U.S. beef and look forward to growing our shipments to Morocco.”

“Finding new markets for American agricultural products has been a priority for the Trump Administration from day one, and the opening of the Moroccan market is good news for our producers,” said Secretary Perdue.  “American beef is the best in the world, and once Moroccans get a taste of it, they’ll surely want more.”

In 2017, the United States was the world’s third largest beef exporter, with global sales of beef and beef products valued at $7.3 billion.  As of November 2018, U.S. exports of agricultural products to Morocco exceeded $512 million.  Initial estimates indicate that Morocco would be an $80 million market for U.S. beef and beef products. Morocco had prohibited imports of U.S. beef.

Under the  leadership of USTR Chief Agricultural Negotiator, Amb. Gregg Doud and the direction of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Ken Isley, U.S. and Moroccan officials met to negotiate a health certificate and the terms for the import of U.S. high quality and standard quality beef into Morocco.  Representatives also discussed improvements to the administration of Morocco’s wheat tariff-rate quota and other agriculture and SPS issues, and will continue this work through the agriculture and SPS subcommittees under the FTA.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will sponsor seven trade missions in 2019 to expand export opportunities for U.S. agriculture across the globe, Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney announced today.

“Agricultural trade missions offer phenomenal opportunities for U.S. exporters to explore new markets and forge relationships with potential customers,” McKinney said. “The marketing and trade experts from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service carefully select markets – both developing and established – that offer the best prospects for sales of U.S. farm and food products. We’ve got seven such markets, on five continents, lined up for 2019.

“During and after the numerous USDA trade missions I’ve led, the feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive. But most importantly, the results speak for themselves. In 2018, six USDA missions enabled more than 200 U.S. companies and organizations to engage in 3,000 one-on-one meetings with foreign buyers, generating more than $140 million in projected 12-month sales,” McKinney said.

While final dates are subject to confirmation, planned USDA trade missions for 2019 are:

  • Taiwan (Taipei), March 11-14
  • Canada (Montreal and Toronto), April 2-5
  • Colombia (Bogota), June 3-6 (to include buyers from Panama)
  • Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City), October 14-17 (to include buyers from Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand)
  • Kenya (Nairobi), October 28-31 (to include buyers from Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda)
  • Mexico (Mexico City), November 5-8
  • United Kingdom (London)
     

Keep up to date on plans for USDA’s 2019 trade missions by visiting https://www.fas.usda.gov/topics/trade-missions. You can also subscribe to email updates by going tohttps://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/usdafas/subscriber/new, entering your contact information, and under “Information by Topic” selecting “Trade Missions.”

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $291 million to build or improve community infrastructure and essential services for 761,000 residents in 18 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

“Modern community facilities and infrastructure are key drivers of rural prosperity,” Hazlett said. “As partners to municipal, tribal and nonprofit leaders, we are investing in rural communities to ensure quality of life and economic opportunity now and for generations to come.”

USDA is investing in 41 projects through the Community Facilities Direct Loan Program. The funding helps rural small towns, cities and communities make infrastructure improvements and provide essential facilities such as schools, libraries, courthouses, public safety facilities, hospitals, colleges and day care centers. For example:

  • The Tahlequah Area Habitat for Humanity Inc. in Oklahoma will receive a $642,100 loan to purchase land and construct a building where donated items will be received and sold. The project will combine the home improvement and clothing stores in a single location. The store will provide Tahlequah’s 15,753 residents with access to quality household goods and clothing at discounted prices.
  • In the Leino Park Water District of Massachusetts, a $1.1 million loan will be used to replace a dilapidated bridge. This project will address an urgent public safety hazard affecting 7,277 residents.
  • In North Carolina, the city of Rockingham will use a $6.7 million loan to construct a 40,000-square-foot building. The city will own the building and lease it to Richmond Community College to provide space for the School of Business and Information Technology. This project will benefit the area’s 9,558 residents.

The projects announced today will help improve the quality of life in rural areas in Alaska, Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington.

More than 100 types of projects are eligible for Community Facilities program funding. Eligible applicants include municipalities, public bodies, nonprofit organizations and federally and state-recognized Native American tribes. Applicants and projects must be in rural areas with a population of 20,000 or less. Loan amounts have ranged from $10,000 to $165 million.

In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.

Lawmakers return to Washington, D.C., this week with a need to still find a path forward on the farm bill. However, multiple measures, including 2019 appropriation bills, must also be passed in the lame-duck session.

The House is scheduled to leave on Thursday, December 13th, while the Senate is scheduled to adjourn on Friday, December 14th. But, Congress could stay in session longer if the necessary end-of-the-year business is not completed by the target dates, according to the Hagstrom Report. Leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees say they still hope to finish a farm bill this session, but they have not shown signs of reaching a final agreement.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley has hinted that the farm bill might be added to the appropriations bill so that House leadership would not have to bring it up as a separate piece of legislation. Meanwhile, Representative Collin Peterson of Minnesota, who will chair the House Ag Committee next year, says that if the bill does not pass, he wants to organize his committee quickly in January and bring up the farm bill in short order.

SILVER SPRING, Md./PRNewswire/ — Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration held a public meeting to discuss the use of livestock and poultry cell lines to develop cell-cultured food products. At this meeting, stakeholders shared valuable perspectives on the regulation needed to both foster these innovative food products and maintain the highest standards of public health. The public comment period will be extended and will remain open through December 26, 2018.

After several thoughtful discussions between our two Agencies that incorporated this stakeholder feedback, we have concluded that both the USDA and the FDA should jointly oversee the production of cell-cultured food products derived from livestock and poultry. Drawing on the expertise of both USDA and FDA, the Agencies are today announcing agreement on a joint regulatory framework wherein FDA oversees cell collection, cell banks, and cell growth and differentiation. A transition from FDA to USDA oversight will occur during the cell harvest stage. USDA will then oversee the production and labeling of food products derived from the cells of livestock and poultry. And, the Agencies are actively refining the technical details of the framework, including robust collaboration and information sharing between the agencies to allow each to carry out our respective roles.

This regulatory framework will leverage both the FDA’s experience regulating cell-culture technology and living biosystems and the USDA’s expertise in regulating livestock and poultry products for human consumption. USDA and FDA are confident that this regulatory framework can be successfully implemented and assure the safety of these products. Because our agencies have the statutory authority necessary to appropriately regulate cell-cultured food products derived from livestock and poultry the Administration does not believe that legislation on this topic is necessary.