More than agriculture at USDA, but not in its name – November 30, 2020

More than agriculture at USDA, but not in its name

It took little more than a shake of the head and a few reproachful words for House Agriculture chairman Kika de la Garza to sink a Clinton-era proposal to change the USDA’s name to the Department of Food and Agriculture. “It would better reflect what USDA actually does and where the dollars are spent,” said Dan Glickman, the agriculture secretary who brought the idea to Capitol Hill as part of a reorganization of the department and its myriad duties.

Higher crop prices and coronavirus aid boost farm income

Farm income recovered this summer from the steep coronavirus-driven declines of last spring, according to ag bankers in the Plains and Midwest who took part in Federal Reserve surveys. “An influx of government payments and higher prices for agricultural commodities provided greater support for farm finances in the third quarter and seemed to limit demand for financing,” said a summary by two Kansas City Fed economists.

Today’s Quick Hits

Three Democrats lose on House Ag: Democratic Rep. T.J. Cox lost in a rematch with former Rep. David Valadao in California’s Central Valley and is the third Democrat on the panel, along with chairman Collin Peterson and Xochitl Torres Small, to lose re-election contests. A fourth Democrat, Anthony Brindisi, trails Republican Claudia Tenney by 11,000 votes in a district in upstate New York. (FERN’s Ag Insider)

USDA tries again to ease food standards: After losing a lawsuit over the matter, the USDA published a new proposal to allow chocolate milk in schools, reduce the requirements to serve whole-grain products to students and allow more time before requirements take effect for less salt in food. (The Counter)

Water runs short for 3 billion people: More than 3 billion people around the world live in agricultural areas with high to very high levels of water shortages and scarcity, says an FAO report. (Food and Agriculture Organization)

When pig guts fly: Taiwanese lawmakers threw pig guts at one another in a scuffle over the government’s decision to allow imports of U.S. pork and beef containing residues of ractopamine, a growth promotant. (Associated Press)

Autonomous ‘chicken trucks’ in China: Self-driving red-and-white “chicken trucks” are vending KFC meals on the streets of Shanghai, unlocking an access door after customers order their food and pay for it in a contactless sale. (Interesting Engineering)

Knock on wood? Knock on corn: A plant under construction in northwestern Iowa will convert corn stover — the stalks, leaves and husks of corn plants — into a wood alternative that the manufacturer says will weigh less than wood but have the same structural integrity. (Storm Lake Times)

On the Calendar


USDA releases monthly Agricultural Prices report, 3 p.m. ET.

USDA releases final Crop Progress report of the year, 4 p.m. ET.   


Chicago Federal Reserve Bank holds virtual annual conferences on Midwest agriculture and shifting consumer preferences, 10 a.m. ET. Purdue economist Jayson Lusk is the featured speaker..

Food Tank holds a virtual summit, “Resetting the food system from farm to fork.” 

Purdue University releases the monthly Ag Economy Barometer, a gauge of the health of the agricultural economy.


Former agriculture secretary Dan Glickman is among witnesses at the Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, “Agricultural research and securing the U.S. food supply,” 2:30 p.m. ET. 

USDA updates its estimate of U.S. farm income for 2020, now forecast for $ 102.7 billion, the highest since 2013 due to the largest farm subsidies on record, $ 37.2 billion, noon ET. The Economic Research Service will hold a webinar to discuss the report at 1 p.m. ET.

The House is scheduled to vote on S 4054, the U.S. Grain Standards Reauthorization Act. The bill, already passed by the Senate, allows collection of user fees to help pay for federal inspection of grain. 

USDA holds a webinar to provide an overview of its GMO food-labeling regulations that will take effect in 2022, 2 p.m. ET. 

National Milk Producers Federation holds webinars for dairy farmers, cooperative members and state dairy associations on how to develop effective risk management plans in the face of potentially volatile milk prices in 2021.


The House is scheduled to vote on HR 7045, directing USDA to conduct a study on lands that could be included in a national forest in Hawaii. 

UN Food and Agriculture Organization releases the monthly Food Price Index, Rome.

America’s Farm Report