USDA launches loan-forgiveness program for minority farmers – May 24, 2021

USDA launches loan-forgiveness program for minority farmers

Socially disadvantaged farmers will begin receiving letters this week alerting them of a Biden administration program to pay off loans they owe to the USDA — “historic debt relief” in the words of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Loan forgiveness could total $ 4 billion by the time, later this year, the government retires bank loans made to minority farmers with USDA loan guarantees.

SNAP enrollment running 5 million above pre-pandemic levels

Some 42 million people received food stamps according to the latest count by the government, roughly 5 million people, or 14 percent, more than before the pandemic took hold in March 2020. Congress temporarily increased benefits 15 percent in response to the pandemic, a boost that is set to expire Sept. 30.

Opinion

If Biden wants farmers to join his climate fight, he needs a better sales pitch

The president is betting the political farm that American farmers and ranchers are ready to help solve the climate crisis. We think that a critical mass of growers across the nation, from row crop farmers in Iowa to apple growers in Washington State, are ready to join this effort. But Biden and his team have to sell their strategy to farm country, and that will require that they abandon the feckless messaging that Democrats have used for too long, and develop a sales pitch that is more empowering than the GOP’s.

Today’s Quick Hits

JBS, NCBA split: The world’s largest meat packer, Brazil-based JBS, “suspended” membership in the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association a year ago, but plans to stay involved with the group, which is calling for more transparency in price-setting for slaughter cattle. (Politico)

Chicken producer indicted: As part of an ongoing investigation into anti-competitive behavior in the broiler chicken industry, a federal grand jury indicted Georgia-based Claxton Poultry Farms for allegedly participating in a nationwide conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chicken products; two top Claxton executives were indicted on similar charges last June. (Justice Department)

Persistent drought forecast: The wheat-growing northern Plains and much of the West will remain in drought through the end of August, along with a band of territory on either side of the Iowa-Minnesota border and stretching across southern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois to cover most of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, said the Seasonal Drought Outlook. (National Weather Service)

‘Efficient’ grocers, more food waste: How a consolidated grocery sector drives food waste on the farm, and what to do about it. (ReFed)

KCS-CN merger: The board of directors of the Kansas City Southern railroad voted to merge with the Canadian National Railway, rather than the Canadian Pacific Railway, to create a railroad serving the three largest countries in North America. (KCS)

Polluter didn’t pay: North Dakota used $ 66 million in pandemic relief funds to clean up old oil and gas wells, reducing environmental damage but also relieving dozens of small to mid-sized companies from their responsibility to plug their wells themselves. (InsideClimate News)

On The Calendar

Monday
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and House Majority Whip James Clyburn tour Nathaniel Rhoads farm and discuss loan forgiveness payments now underway for socially disadvantaged farmers, 9:45 a.m. ET, Rowesville, North Carolina.
Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank holds annual agricultural symposium online, “The roots of agricultural productivity growth,” through Tuesday.
Informa Markets holds Natural Products Expo West online, through Thursday. Events include a “climate justice” keynote speech by Rev. Lennox Yearwood on Monday at noon ET; a “state of the natural and organic” session on Tuesday at noon ET; a keynote speech by political commentator Van Jones on “justice, equity, diversity and inclusion” on Wednesday at noon ET; and a keynote speech by Eve Turow-Paul on “the changing consumer” on Thursday at noon ET.
USDA releases monthly Cold Storage report, 3 p.m. ET.
USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report, 4 p.m. ET.

Tuesday
USDA releases monthly Food Price Outlook, 9 a.m. ET. Food inflation is forecast at present for 2.5 percent this year, in line with the long-term average. Food-away-from-home, which includes restaurant and carryout meals, is expected to increase in price at twice the pace of grocery prices but both are below 2020’s rates and close to their 20-year average.

Wednesday
House Agriculture subcommittee hearing online, “The future of SNAP: Moving past the pandemic,” noon ET. .
Forest Service chief Vicki Christiansen is lead witness at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing, “Rethinking resiliency: Budgeting for the future of forest management,” 10 a.m. ET, 138 Dirksen.
USDA updates its estimate of U.S. agricultural exports, now forecast at a record $ 157 billion.
USDA releases semi-annual Farm Labor report, 3 p.m. ET.
U.S. Meat Export Federation holds spring conference online, through Friday.

Thursday
Senate Agriculture Committee holds confirmation hearing on Jamie Hipp, nominated to be USDA general counsel, 9:30 a.m. ET, 366 Dirksen.
International Grains Council releases monthly Grain Market Report, London.
USDA releases annual Floriculture Crops report, 3 p.m. ET.

Friday
President Biden releases full budget, including mandatory outlays, for fiscal 2022. The White House previously released a “skinny” budget that covered only discretionary spending. .
USDA releases monthly Agricultural Prices report, 3 p.m. ET.

May 31
Memorial Day, honoring men and women who died while serving in the armed forces, is observed annually on May 31. Originally known as Decoration Day following the Civil War, Memorial Day became a federal holiday in 1971. Waterloo, New York, is credited as the birthplace of Memorial Day because it hosted an annual community-wide observance in which businesses closed and residents put flowers and flags at the graves of soldiers, says History.com. In 1868, former General John Logan of Illinois proposed a nationwide day of remembrance of the war dead.

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