Farm groups cheer, progressives lament return of Vilsack to USDA
President-elect Joe Biden’s selection of Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary angered farm and food activists who feuded with Vilsack during the Obama years and had hoped for a progressive agenda under Biden. The largest U.S. farm groups welcomed Vilsack on Wednesday as an experienced leader for the recovery from the trade war and the pandemic.
Dean Foods seeks to get back money paid to dairy farmers before bankruptcy
Hundreds of dairy farmers nationwide fear they could owe substantial sums to the bankrupt dairy processor Dean Foods after the company sent out letters attempting to claw back payments made to farmers in the months preceding the company’s Chapter 11 filing last year. Dean’s actions have been harshly criticized by farm groups and, for some, underscore the dangers of a heavily consolidated dairy industry that leaves farmers with few processing options.
Coronavirus package boosts SNAP benefits by 15 percent
A bipartisan Senate coronavirus relief package would increase SNAP benefits by 15 percent through April and provide additional funding for WIC and food donations to food banks, according to a summary released on Wednesday.
First USMCA challenge is over dairy quotas
The Trump administration said it was challenging Canadian quotas on dairy imports as unfair to U.S. milk producers. The challenge, announced on Wednesday, was the first under the United States-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement.
Today’s Quick Hits
Walkout at poultry plant: Thirty workers staged a walkout at a George’s poultry plant in Springdale, Arkansas, to protest the end of staggered shifts intended to reduce the risk of coronavirus. George’s is one of the 10 largest U.S. poultry producers. (Facing South)
Higher incentives on ‘continuous enrollment’ land: The USDA said it will increase incentive payments by as much as 20 percent to landowners who adopt specific erosion and water-quality practices on fragile land entering the Conservation Reserve under the so-called continuous enrollment option. (USDA)
Biden taps Tai as trade rep: President-elect Joe Biden tapped Katherine Tai, chief trade counsel on the House Ways and Means Committee, to serve as U.S. trade representative, according to unnamed sources. (Washington Post)
U.S. secretary of sustenance: The United States should create a new Department of Food and Agriculture, “with a seat on the National Security Council and a mission to improve our nation’s sustenance,” writes chef José Andrés, head of the charity World Central Kitchen. (New York Times)
Eat more python: Florida wildlife and health officials are testing tissue samples from Burmese pythons, and if mercury levels are low enough, the invasive species may end up on menus as a way to encourage removal of the pythons from the wild. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)