News Briefs: June 2024

House, Senate Release Farm Bill Priorities

In the first full week of May, both the Senate and House agriculture committees released priorities and proposals on the Farm Bill.

On the Senate side, agriculture committee chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) says their version of The Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act makes investments to strengthen the farm safety net; supports beginning, underserved and small farmers and ranchers; and focuses assistance on actual farmers, not billionaire and foreign entities. It also invests in nutrition assistance, increases access to fruits and vegetables and supports people on their path to self-sufficiency while cracking down on fraud. It seeks to improve rural health care, childcare and education, expand access to high speed internet and lower costs for families and businesses.

On ag commodities, it would provide certainty to farmers by making payments more likely to trigger under the Price Loss Coverage and the Agriculture Risk Coverage programs and improves emergency disaster assistance. Under the bill, all major covered commodities will see at least a 5% increase in reference prices during the 2024 Farm Bill, with many seeing 10%-15% increases.

House ag committee chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) also released a title-by-title overview of their policies and priorities for the 2024 Farm Bill.

Their bill, too, reflects a commitment to the American farmer and viable pathways to funding those commitments, and is equally responsive to the politics of the 118th Congress.

For ag commodities, it aids farmers in managing risk and provides assistance following precipitous declines in commodity prices. Through the reauthorization and enhancement of commodity, marketing loan, sugar, dairy and disaster programs, producers are provided some certainty in times of unpredictability.

Additionally, it seeks to increase support for the PLC and ARC programs to account for persistent inflation and rising costs of production. It provides authority to expand base acres to include producers who currently cannot participate in ARC/PLC. It modernizes marketing loans and sugar policy and bolsters dairy programs to continue providing vital assistance. It also seeks to enhance standing disaster programs and expand eligibility for assistance.

Sen. Warnock Happy With Dem’s Proposal

U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) celebrated the Senate democrats’ proposed Farm Bill, and he says the framework includes victories for commodities, including reference price increases, market assistance loan increases and additional base allocation.

Warnock says it provides southern commodities with at least a 5% increase in reference price with many commodities seeing double-digit increases some years. It also includes the Senator’s Southern Commodities, Rates, Opportunities, Production and Support (Southern CROPS) Act to allocate base acres for underserved farmers and improve marketing assistance loan rates.

AGCO Foundation Partnership Supports Farmer Mental Health

The Do More Agriculture Foundation and AGCO Agriculture Foundation partner together to support mental health in North America.

The AGCO Agriculture Foundation, a private entity with the vision to prevent and relieve hunger through sustainable agriculture development, announced a new partnership with The Do More Agriculture Foundation.

With a commitment of $150,000 for three years, the AGCO Agriculture Foundation is dedicated to supporting farming communities across the United States and Canada, with an emphasis on connecting farmers to mental health resources and increasing awareness of their capabilities and benefits. The partnership exemplifies a shared goal to cultivate resilience, provide support and eliminate the stigma associated with mental health in the agriculture community.

“We recognize the distinct pressures that farmers face in their day-to-day work. As a foundation, we are committed to supporting programs and initiatives that make a real difference in the lives of farmers and their families,” says Roger Batkin, foundation chairman. “By growing the farmer mental health initiative, we hope to further address the growing mental health crisis among farmers and provide them with the assurance that help is available.”

Through this partnership, the AGCO Agriculture Foundation is now the presenting sponsor for the #TalkItOut video series, which aims to foster open discussions on mental health issues relevant to the agricultural community. The partnership will also lead to the creation of co-branded mental health support stickers equipped with QR codes to link farmers to instant local mental health resources.

Additionally, the partnership will support mental health workshops and training. The workshops focus on raising awareness about mental health, addressing challenges and providing farmers with tools to manage stress and increase overall mental wellbeing.

“We are thrilled about the potential of our partnership with the AGCO Agriculture Foundation and the profound impact it will have on farming communities,” says Megz Reynolds, executive director of Do More Agriculture. “The commitment to supporting mental health initiatives aligns perfectly with our mission, enabling us to expand our reach and provide critical resources to even more farmers in need of mental health support.”

APC Applauds USAID’s $200M Food Aid Purchase

The American Peanut Council welcomes the announcement by USAID that it will make a special $200 million purchase of ready-to-use therapeutic food as part of U.S. food aid programs. The additional purchase will have a tremendous impact on getting peanut-based, lifesaving nutrition to millions of children around the globe.

By both value and volume, 25% of RUTF is made using peanuts. As part of the American Peanut Council’s export work, the organization promotes the use of U.S. peanuts in RUTF and educates stakeholders about the exceptional nutritional value of peanuts as its primary ingredient.

“In light of devastating events currently taking place around the world, the American Peanut Council applauds USAID’s decision to purchase additional RUTF to help feed those who are most impacted,” says Peter Vlazakis, APC senior director of international programs. “The U.S. peanut industry is committed to helping address global hunger by providing RUTF to disadvantaged and developing countries where children are facing severe malnutrition. This additional purchase by USAID will go a long way toward supporting that mission.”

RUTF is a nutritionally dense paste given to children suffering from acute to severe malnutrition. It does not require water or refrigeration, can be administered at home and can rehabilitate a child under the age of five in just eight weeks. Peanut-based RUTF combines 500 calories and micronutrients to help children gain weight quickly and has a taste profile that children enjoy. It has saved tens of millions of lives around the globe.

According to USAID, approximately 300 million people will need humanitarian assistance this year due to Russia’s war on Ukraine, famine in Gaza and Sudan and environmental factors. Further, it is estimated 45 million children will be affected with what is known as “child wasting,” the most acute, life-threatening form of malnutrition.

Tour Oklahoma Agriculture Prior To APRES Meeting

For an immersive journey into the heart of Oklahoma’s vibrant agricultural landscape, sign up to attend the tour on Monday, July 8. Tour planners say it offers an unforgettable day filled with enriching experiences and fascinating insights.

The tour begins at 8:30 a.m., departing the Omni Oklahoma City Hotel. The first stop will be the Schantz Family Farm in Hydro, Oklahoma, to see variety trials, including the latest innovations and techniques shaping the future of agriculture firsthand. Next, the tour will visit a Birdsong buying point in Eakly, Oklahoma, and delve into the processes of production and distribution.

The tour will continue on to the Oklahoma State University’s Caddo Research Station in Fort Cobb where lunch will be served prior to a tour of the station. Participants will return to the Omni Oklahoma City Hotel by approximately 4 p.m.

To sign up for the tour, visit www.apresinc.com.

USDA Announces Standards Board

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced the appointment of 18 members to serve on the Peanut Standards Board. To maintain staggered terms of office, six appointees each will serve a one-year, two-year and three-year term of office. Nine appointees are producers and the other nine industry members. The appointments are effective immediately.

Appointed members serving a one-year term expiring June 30, 2025, are producers – Larry Ford, Greenwood, Fla.; Greg Hughes, Seminole, Texas; David L. Davenport, Greenville, N.C. and industry members – Dr. Darlene Cowart, Blakely, Ga.; Dr. Michael Franke, Brownfield, Texas; and Carl Gray, Severn, N.C.

Appointed members serving a two-year term expiring June 30, 2026, are producers – Marty McLendon, Leary, Ga.; Aaron Martin, Brownfield, Texas; Donny L. Lassiter, Conway, N.C. and industry members – Rachel Santos, Douglas, Ga.; Lupe De Lira, Seagraves, Texas; Ryan Ososki, Alexandria, Va.

Appointed members serving a three-year term expiring June 30, 2027, are producers – Carl Sanders, Brundidge, Ala.; Michael Newhouse, Clarendon, Texas; Paul Rogers, Wakefield, Va. and industry members Caleb Waver Smithville, Ga.; Shelly Nutt, McKinney Texas; Ashley M. Patterson, Suffolk, Va.

The Peanut Standards Board provides quality assurance reviews and inspections, conducts food safety audits and develops national standards for peanuts — all in support of America’s peanut industry supply chain. More information about the board is available on the Agricultural Marketing Service Peanut Standards Board webpage.

Peanut Butter & Jesus Is Spreading

Peanut butter & Jesus is a community ministry that had as a mission to feed hungry kids in the neighborhood. Over time, the ministry has accelerated to other communities. There are now 35 to 40 chapters around the United States, including Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, Kentucky, Louisiana and Florida, says Tony McBrayer, chief financial officer of Tifton’s Peanut Butter & Jesus. “It’s my dream that maybe one day even another country would start up a chapter of Peanut Butter & Jesus,” he says.

The local ministry, begun in 2017, provides a sack lunch with an inspirational message to hungry children and families every Saturday in Tift County, Georgia. The lunches include a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a snack, a juice and a Bible-based message, oftentimes in cartoon form to get children’s attention. Volunteers pack and deliver the lunches to needy families. The familiar lime-green vans can be spotted in neighborhoods across the county. Peanut Proud and Golden Boy have provided peanut butter.

For resources and information on how to start a chapter of Peanut Butter & Jesus, visit peanutbutterjesus.org.

WIC Rule Excludes PB For Infants

On April 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the final rule on revisions in the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) Food Packages. Despite the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans stating, “Introducing peanut-containing foods in the first year reduces the risk that an infant will develop a food allergy to peanuts,” peanut foods are not included in the infant food package for ages 6-11 months.

“This is a setback for allergy prevention because the science is well supported, and lower-income children are particularly vulnerable to food allergies,” says NPB chairman and Arkansas grower Greg Baltz.

Research shows that high-risk infants — those with severe eczema, an egg allergy or both — need to start peanut foods as early as four to six months and continue at least three times per week as they grow. The researchers behind the LEAP Study are more convinced today the window for prevention is short and closes early, meaning waiting is not an option.

NPB will push forward and has scheduled a meeting with USDA-FNS to determine ways to still reach this important WIC audience.

Moreover, NPB continues to align with partners to engage and educate local WIC offices and staff nutrition consultants so they can champion early introduction among participants. Resources for promoting early introduction to WIC staff and families can be found at PreventPeanutAllergies.org.

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