Verity Ulibarri Represents Sorghum on International Stage at C0P27

Sorghum was recently spotlighted during COP27 hosted in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, at the U.S. Center on Adaptation and Agriculture Day. This conference highlighted events and initiatives that focused on how U.S. leadership is providing solutions to the climate crisis. Former Sorghum Checkoff Chairwoman and National Sorghum Producers member Verity Ulibarri represented U.S. agriculture producers, speaking to the climate-smart benefits of sorghum and showcasing how U.S. sorghum farmers are poised to preserve our world and conserve resources with the help of NSP’s $65 million USDA Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities grant initiative.

Republicans Win House, Democrats Retain Senate

With 6 seats in the House Chamber still yet to be called, Republicans officially gained the 218 seats necessary to control the House of Representatives following Representative Mike Garcia’s (R-CA) win in California’s 27th Congressional District late Wednesday night. The Senate balance of power stands at 50-49, with Georgia’s December 6 runoff election determining whether the chamber will remain evenly divided or if Democrats gain a one seat edge. Read more here.

ERP Phase II Previewed by USDA, Producer Concerns Expressed

USDA released a preview of ERP Phase II on Wednesday, which will take a significantly different approach from past disaster programs, including ERP Phase I. According to the release, payments will be calculated based on a comparison of income under tax records from either 2018 or 2019 and income under tax records from either 2020 or 2021. A payment is essentially equal to the amount by which benchmark year income exceeds income in the loss year in question, less any factor applied to keep the program within budget. The official rule containing the specifics is expected to be released late this year or early next year. Concerns have already been raised over the new approach. For example, a producer’s income in 2020 or 2021 could be equal to or higher than that in 2018 or 2019 despite a significant crop loss. For instance, the producer could have sold his crop from the previous year in the loss year in question or he could have suffered a significant crop loss that was offset by income elsewhere. A whole farm approach to disaster aid was not envisioned by Congress when it authorized the program. USDA’s press release on both programs may be viewed here.

Lame Duck Congress Seeks to Complete Work on Omnibus, Defense Bill, and Other Items

Amongst the legislative items that many in Congress are seeking to enact into law before Christmas include an Omnibus Appropriations Bill for FY 2023, wrapping up all 12 appropriations bills that were supposed to have been enacted by September 30. This legislation must be enacted by December 16, the date on which the Continuing Resolution (CR) keeping government doors open is set to expire. A critically important element of this legislation would be the prevention of deeper budget sequestration from kicking in next year due to the $1.9 trillion in unpaid-for COVID-19 relief passed under reconciliation early last year.

Last December, Congress passed legislation to protect Medicare and farm programs from deeper cuts this year, but another bill is required to stave off such cuts next year. An extension of the Emergency Relief Program (ERP) could also be a part of this package as might provisions included in the House and Senate bills to address the serious problems caused by the cap on A&O under crop insurance, a provision to help rice producers who did not have higher crop prices to offset higher input costs, and other potential asks. The defense authorization bill is also thought to be a must-pass piece of legislation, though some key Congressional leaders have raised the possibility of delaying the measure until early next year. Tax extenders legislation is also in the mix of possible bills Congress might complete before the 117th Congress adjourns sine die. Read more here.

ERP Extension to Cover 2022 Losses Favored in Omnibus — but Not a Certainty

Extended disaster relief for producers for 2022 losses continues to be a major priority for sorghum farmers as much of the country remains gripped by severe, chronic drought while other parts have been impacted by hurricanes, freezes, and other natural disasters. Earlier this year, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation in the House to extend ERP for 2022. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), the Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), the Ranking Member on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, have previously suggested that ERP stood a good chance of being extended in the context of an omnibus. However, an extension is by no means guaranteed, and it is essential sorghum producers weigh in on the need for this extension with your representatives. The uncertainty also underscores the importance of continuing to strengthen Federal Crop Insurance which offers farmers certainty.

Agriculture Groups Call for Increased Farm Bill Funding in New Document

In a document intended for the U.S. House and Senate Agriculture Committees, leading agriculture groups, including National Sorghum Producers, called for “sufficient budgetary resources” needed in order to pass the 2023 Farm Bill. The document details farmer challenges such as market volatility, increased input prices, and devastating natural disasters, which have “tested the effectiveness of the farm safety net provided in the 2018 Farm Bill.” The groups are requesting a departure from relying on off-budget ad-hoc assistance, which can be unpredictable, and asking Congressional leaders to instead invest more up-front into a comprehensive farm bill. NSP representative Tom Sell was featured on Agri-Talk this week to discuss this issue, along with other issues impacting America’s farmers and ranchers. His segment can be heard here.

Agriculture Groups Ask Congress to Clarify FIFRA’s Federal Preemption in Statute

National Sorghum Producers and 331 other agriculture groups signed onto a letter addressed to Congressional leaders on Monday urging that Congress affirm through legislation the long-standing government position that the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) occupies the field with respect to the regulation of crop protection products, to the exclusion of state and local laws and regulations of the same. In short, the groups asked Congress to affirm FIFRA’s federal preemption over state and local laws. The likeliest vehicle for such a provision is the Omnibus Appropriations Bill but there will be considerable opposition from biotech opponents in and outside Congress.

Railroad Strike Still Possible in Early December

Media and industry reports both suggest that a potentially devastating railroad strike could still materialize before Christmas and potentially in early December — December 5 or 9 — as union railroad workers continue to reject the proposed terms between railroads and workers that staved off a railroad strike before the elections. Such a strike it is feared would seriously exacerbate supply chain problems and inflation and work particular hardship on the nation’s farmers and ranchers and agriculture sector. Read more here and here.

Diesel Shortage Continues, Prices Skyrocket

The price of diesel has risen nearly 50 percent this year, costing $5.35 per gallon on average. Rising prices across the board have hurt America’s producers, and with the Energy Information Administration’s announcement of a dwindling diesel reserve (the lowest levels since 2008), prices of the fuel have continued to rise. Read more here and here.

Oil, Biofuels Groups Reportedly in Talks with Senator Fischer on E15 Legislation

Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) has shared her intent to introduce a bill that provides a clear path towards year-round E15. Senator Fischer has reportedly worked closely with the American Petroleum Institute and the Renewable Fuels Association in order to achieve a solution. Though there has been no legislative text brought forth yet, agriculture industry leaders including NCGA President Tom Haag and Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor have publicly voiced their support for the initiative. Read more here.

Senate Yet to Confirm USDA and USTR Nominations

A number of USDA and USTR nominations remain in limbo in the U.S. Senate. Mr. Doug McKalip, who was nominated to serve as chief agriculture negotiator at USTR and Ms. Alexis Taylor, who was nominated to serve as USDA Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, await a full Senate confirmation vote. Mr. Jose Emilio Esteban, nominated to be undersecretary for food safety at USDA, and Ms. Stacy Dean, who the Biden Administration has tapped to formally lead USDA’s food, nutrition and consumer branch, are also awaiting a confirmation hearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee but Ms. Dean reportedly faces stiff opposition. Read more here.

EPA Takes Action on Biofuel

The EPA announced two different actions on biofuel this week, including an upcoming announcement regarding a final rule on canola and rapeseed oil lifecycle analysis, and meetings to discuss a proposed rule on RFS levels for the future. Meetings to discuss EPA’s proposed rule on the volume requirements for 2023 and beyond under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), as well as other meetings to discuss electric vehicles (EVs) and decarbonization efforts, have been scheduled. EPA committed via a court-approved agreement with Growth Energy to issue its proposed rule no later than Nov. 30. This does not affect the consent decree deadline for finalizing the RVOs by no later than June 14, 2023. Read more here and here.

Black Sea Grain Deal Extended

Following a tense negotiation period, Russia’s withdrawal and subsequent rejoining of the deal, Russia and Ukraine officially reached an agreement to extend the Black Sea Grain Initiative until March 18, 2023. Wheat and corn prices fell sharply following the U.N. announcement on Thursday morning. Details of the renewal have not yet been released but Russian officials have stated their interest in expanding the deal to include facilitation of Russian food and fertilizer exports. The Black Sea Grain Initiative, brokered with assistance from Turkey and the U.N., is critical in delivering vital food supplies to nations experiencing shortages and receiving food aid. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for the deal to be extended indefinitely. Read more here.

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