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The AGree Newsfeed
 
January 7, 2021
Today's Headlines
Stabenow Pledges Focus on Ag Carbon as Dems Prepare to Take Senate -- Agri-Pulse
Source: Agri-Pulse
January 6, 2021

 
“Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who is poised to take back the chairmanship of the Senate Agriculture Committee pending the outcome of a Georgia runoff, says she would make it a “top priority” to facilitate establishment of an agricultural carbon market…Having control of the Senate will allow Democrats to decide which bills get considered on the floor and in committee, and make it significantly easier for President-elect Joe Biden to get his nominees confirmed and legislative priorities enacted. Democrats also could use a legislative process under the Congressional Review Act to repeal some regulations implemented since August of the Trump administration. “We certainly will be deciding… what bills come to the floor, which is a dramatic difference, and as well as what bills are brought up before the committee,” Stabenow told a congressional pool reporter. “As chair of the Agriculture Committee, we're going to lead an effort to create a voluntary climate exchange and… climate policy for farmers and ranchers, and that's a top priority for me,” Stabenow said. The Biden transition team is discussing the possibility of using USDA’s Commodity Credit Corp. to set up a carbon bank that could buy and sell ag carbon credits…Arkansas Sen. John Boozman, who will become the top Republican on the Senate Ag Committee if Democrats control the Senate, has expressed some concerns about ag carbon trading, fearing it will primarily benefit the credit traders…But he said he expected to have the working relationship with Stabenow that former Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has had. It’s unclear what regulations that Democrats could attack with the CRA process…Best estimates by experts are that any rules adopted on or after Aug. 21 are vulnerable to CRA review. Not included in that list are the Trump administration’s new “waters of the U.S.” definition, already the subject of multiple lawsuits in different federal courts, and its rewrite of National Environmental Policy Act regulations.”
 
What a Democratic Congress Means for Ag -- Politico Pro
Source: Politico Pro
January 7, 2021

Ryan McCrimmon
 
“Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock defeated Republicans David Perdue and (Senate Ag member) Kelly Loeffler in the Georgia runoffs, giving the party a slim Senate majority for the next two years: 50 seats plus Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to break any tie votes, which are sure to be a common occurrence. Still, even the narrowest possible majority means Biden’s legislative agenda becomes far more attainable, along with confirmation of his nominees. Democrats suddenly have major political leverage as they begin preparations for the 2023 farm bill and enact other food and ag policies in the interim…Get ready for Senate Agriculture Chair Debbie Stabenow: The Michigan Democrat will set the tone for the ag panel. It’s traditionally one of the more bipartisan groups, especially on the Senate side, but Stabenow and new House Ag Chair David Scott (D-Ga.) are expected to lay the groundwork for a more progressive farm bill than previous iterations. Other Democratic policy goals that will get a boost include implementing major climate change reforms within the agriculture sector, as well as reforming the farm labor system to give employees more protections and grant legal status to certain foreign workers. Some of Stabenow’s signature issues, from nutrition and conservation programs to bolstering local food systems and promoting urban farming, are poised to get plenty of attention in the years ahead. Democrats will also have more power to forge ahead with efforts to address racial inequalities in agriculture — a longstanding issue that Biden and Tom Vilsack, his nominee for Ag secretary, have said will be a priority — and potentially crack down on consolidation within the industry. There’s growing bipartisan support among farm-state lawmakers for tougher antitrust enforcement, particularly in meat production. A Democratic majority could also clear the path for Congress to legalize marijuana, potentially as part of a criminal justice reform package.”
 
COVID-19 Risk, Unemployment Rates Lowers Number of Migrant Workers -- Harvest Public Media
Source: Harvest Public Media
January 5, 2021

Seth Bodine
 
“The number of migrant farmworkers in the U.S. dropped 42% in 2020, likely because of the risk of COVID-19 coupled with high unemployment rates. H-2A farmworkers, who are hired to help with seasonal harvests, make up 10% of farmworkers in the United States. Last year, there were 150,000 H-2A farmworkers in the field from January through July. According to the Economic Policy Institute, it’s a decrease from 2019, which had 257,667 H2-A certified jobs. High unemployment rates decrease the demand for H-2A workers. Diane Charlton, a professor of agricultural economics at Montana State University, says a 1% increase in a state’s unemployment rate is associated with a 5% decrease in demand for H-2A workers. Charlton says another 11% of the farm workforce are international “shuttle migrants” — undocumented seasonal workers. Charlton says many of those workers also could have been discouraged by the COVID-19 pandemic to work in the U.S. last year. Charlton says many of these workers migrate from Mexico…Jayson Lusk, a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University, says areas with farmworkers were hit harder by the coronavirus. He says COVID-19 could continue to affect migrant farmworkers this year. “How coronavirus affects the ability to move across borders, particularly Mexico, is going to be something to keep an eye on,” he says.”
 
England Launches Plan to Ease Crop Gene Editing Regulation Post-Brexit -- Reuters
Source: Reuters
January 7, 2021

Nigel Hunt
 
“England’s farming and environment minister George Eustice said on Thursday he was launching a public consultation on gene editing in agriculture, with the prospect the technology will the regulated less stringently than genetic modification. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in July 2018 that mutagenesis-based gene-editing methods such as a tool called CRISPR/Cas9, which can rearrange targeted bits of DNA, fall under rules that now apply to genetic modification via strands of DNA from a different species. Britain opposed the verdict, which was widely condemned by biotech and chemical industry associations, as well as academic scientists, but drew praise from some environmental and consumer rights groups…“Now we have left the EU we are free to make coherent policy decisions based on science and evidence and it starts today with a new consultation on proposed changes to English law that will enable gene editing to take place, so we can achieve a simpler, scientifically credible regulatory framework to govern important new technologies,” Eustice said…Proponents of gene editing argue the method can be seen as equivalent to conventional breeding but many times faster. The consultation was welcomed by the National Farmers Union…But Liz O’Neill, director of environmental group GM Freeze, said the government was pushing the high-tech, quick-fix agenda favoured by industrial farming corporations.”
 
Fighting Food Insecurity During a Global Pandemic -- Johns Hopkins University
Source: Johns Hopkins University
January 6, 2021

 
(Article Summarized by Meridian Institute) Jessica Fanzo, a professor who directs the Global Food Ethics and Policy Program at Johns Hopkins University, in a recent op-ed in the journal Nature, said that governments must evolve and cooperate if we are to heal the damage to food systems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. An estimated 130 million more people are facing acute food insecurity due to the pandemic, Fanzo said, on top of the 135 million who suffered from food insecurity before the pandemic hit. Every aspect of our food systems, she adds, has been impacted. Governments, she argues, should support food-assistance programs and the United Nations’ COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan. “Instead of the splintered responses to the COVID-19 crisis seen so far, involving political polarization and geopolitical competition, politicians must embrace global cooperation and inclusion,” she writes. “Governments should not face inward. They should double down on opportunities to reengage and collaborate on the interlinked challenges of climate change, malnutrition, and environmental collapse.”
 
World Food Prizes Rise for Seventh Month in a Row in December -- Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Source: FAO
January 7, 2021

 
“World food prices rose for the seventh consecutive month in December, led by dairy products and vegetable oils, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reported today. The FAO Food Price Index averaged 107.5 points in December, 2.2 percent higher than in November. Over the whole of 2020, the benchmark index, which tracks monthly changes in the international prices of commonly-traded food commodities, averaged 97.9 points, a three-year high and a 3.1 percent increase from 2019 although still more than 25 percent below its historical 2011 peak.”
 

About the AGree NewsFeed

The AGree NewsFeed highlights important stories surrounding domestic and international food and agriculture to foster inclusive dialogue and raise awareness. It reflects the public conversation on food and agriculture and is not an endorsement of the articles summarized.

The AGree Economic and Environmental Risk Coalition (AGree Coalition) creates a bridge between positive environmental outcomes and profitability for farmers and ranchers. Visit www.FoodandAgPolicy.org to learn more and join our effort to transform federal food and agriculture policy to meet the challenges of the future.
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