USDA fills in the blanks on farm aid- POLITICO

With the help of Leah Nylen and Eric Wolff

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— The Department of Agriculture detailed which farmers will receive federal checks under its coronavirus relief program, and how payments will be calculated.

— Food Lion and a Maryland-Virginia dairy cooperative are suing to block Dairy Farmers of America from acquiring three Dean Foods facilities in North Carolina and South Carolina as part of the recently approved DFA purchase of the milk processing giant’s assets.

— The EU will publish today its “Farm to Fork” plan for a sustainable food system, including plans to rapidly reduce the use of herbicides and other chemicals. But the proposed phase-out is undermined by poor-quality data on pesticide use among European farmers.

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USDA FILL IN THE BLANK ON FARM AID: President Donald Trump hosted an event at the White House on Tuesday to discuss his administration’s efforts to help struggling farmers and ranchers who have seen their markets disappear due to the pandemic. During his speech, the USDA released essential details of its $16 billion direct payment program, including new limits on the size of stimulus checks and the list of qualifying livestock and crops. your host reports. Here are some highlights:

— USDA maintained the payment limit of $250,000 per farmer, but the initial cap of $125,000 per product was removed after bipartisan backlash from Congress. Corporations and other entities can get up to $750,000 based on the number of shareholders who put in at least 400 hours of management or farm work.

— Multiple installments: Due to high demand for help and a limited amount of money (which Secretary Sonny Perdue, lawmakers and industry groups virtually all agree is too little), the department will send growers 80 percent of your payment and will distribute the rest later if the funds have not arrived. has not been exhausted.

As we noted earlier for MA readers, Farmers and ranchers can apply for help starting next Tuesday, and the USDA will start mailing checks as soon as a week later. That matches the timeline Perdue set in mid-April when he first outlined the department’s relief package.

— Who didn’t make the cut? The USDA also named crops and livestock that are not eligible for help because their prices have not fallen by at least 5 percent since January, including certain types of wheat, rice and peanuts. But the department left the door open to “reconsider” whether those growers can prove their harm to the market, except for two crops: hemp and tobacco.

Have a look: Read the full list of rules, eligible products, and payment rates.

FOOD LION FILES TO DISRUPT THE DAIRY UNION: in a federal antitrust suit Filed in North Carolina on Tuesday, the supermarket chain (owned by Dutch food retailer Ahold Delhaize) and the Maryland and Virginia Association of Dairy Farmers Cooperatives said DFA, the largest cooperative in the U.S. dairy industry.”

How we got here: Dean Foods, the nation’s largest milk processor, filed for bankruptcy in November, and DFA won an auction to buy most of Dean’s assets for $433 million. The Justice Department removed the transaction over antitrust concerns earlier Sign off in the agreement, on the condition that the companies sell plants in Illinois, Massachusetts and Wisconsin.

But but but: Antitrust prosecutors made no conditions on the three plants at issue in the new lawsuit, including one in High Point, North Carolina, that the Maryland-Virginia cooperative had tried to buy from Dean.

Bad blood: Food Lion has previously sued DFA and Dean for antitrust violations, alleging that they conspired to divide the southeast milk market. Dean and DFA finally reached a confidential settlement with Food Lion in 2017. The companies also agreed to pay dairy farmers $300 million in a related lawsuit arising from the same conduct.

THE EU LACKS DATA TO SUPPORT ANTI-PESTICIDE POLICIES: The European Commission’s new sustainable food and agriculture framework, the agricultural plank of its Green Deal, includes a goal of halving agricultural pesticide use by 2030. But reaching that goal could be difficult without adequate data on products. chemicals currently being sprayed on the block. farmland, writes Eddy Wax of POLITICO Europe.

An EU official said there is a “shocking dearth” of data on pesticides that could take years to address. While European laws require farmers to keep three years of detailed records on their own pesticide use, each country is only required to send the aggregate data to Brussels every five years, much less frequently than the reporting rules for other agricultural figures.

The result is statistical chaos: Each country can choose which crops to focus on and when to conduct their one-year survey during the five-year window. In 2015, Eurostat, the Commission’s data wing, deemed the hodgepodge of information unfit for publication.

“We will not be able to reach zero pollution, reverse biodiversity loss and achieve sustainable food production if we don’t fix the whole framework for pesticides and bridge this knowledge gap,” said Martin Hojsík, Slovakian Member of the European Parliament from the group Renew Europe.

Instead of usage statistics, the Commission plans to measure the volume of pesticides sold out in each country. EU officials say it’s a less than ideal metric, especially with strict rules governing the disclosure of private sales information. The farm-to-fork plan proposed today is also expected to propose changes to the 2009 law on pesticide data.

REPUBLICANS WANT WHEELER TO RESIGN: EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is under increasing pressure from oil state leaders to reduce industry biofuel blending requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard due to the sharp drop in gasoline use during the coronavirus lockdown.

On Tuesday, a group of 15 Republicans led by the president of the Senate for the Environment and Public Works Juan Barraso (R-Wyo.) sent Wheeler a letter citing falling fuel consumption and rising RFS compliance costs as cause for invoking the agency’s purported powers under the Clean Air Act.

Bipartisan governors of oil states and state attorneys general have already applied for waivers allowing refiners to evade their 2020 RFS obligations. “If the governors’ requests are not granted, in whole or in part, this provision within the Clean Air Act would be completely meaningless.” “. the senators wrote.

Good weather: Wheeler is ready to testify before the Barrasso committee today at 10 am

— The Federal Reserve’s $600 billion loan program for midsize businesses will begin operations in late May, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told senators at a hearing on Tuesday. Mnuchin and Fed Chairman Jerome Powell are under increasing pressure to maximize the scope of their economic rescue efforts and remain judicious about distributing taxpayer dollars to big corporations. write to Victoria Guida and Zachary Warmbrodt of Pro Financial Services.

— The House of Representatives will address bipartisan legislation next week that would modify the Paycheck Protection Program by easing restrictions on how small businesses can use federal loans, which the government can currently forgive after eight weeks if employers keep workers on their payroll. Zachary and Heather Caygle have the details.

— China has significantly increased its imports of US farm products in the past two months. US corn and pork purchases were about eight times higher than during the same period in 2017 (before Trump launched his trade war with Beijing). Cotton sales were three times higher and soybean imports were up a third, according to USDA data. The Wall Street Journal has more.

— The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has pledged to step up its workplace inspections and enforcement. after Democrats and unions criticized the agency’s efforts as inadequate to ensure companies protect workers from the coronavirus, Reports Rebecca Rainey of POLITICO.

— Global carbon dioxide emissions fell 17 percent in April compared to last year due to the economic shutdown, according to a study published in Nature Climate Change. More from Zack Colman of Pro Energy.

— Syngenta’s David Hollinrake was promoted to lead the company’s global seed strategy and portfolio, with primary focus on the US seed market. Justin Wolfe has been named North American Regional Seed Manager. Both movements are effective June 15, Syngenta announced.

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