Opportunities coming for land stewardship, says Vilsack – April 16, 2021

Opportunities coming for land stewardship, says Vilsack

The USDA is days away from announcing “greater opportunities” for landowners to take fragile farmland out of production in exchange for an annual payment, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday. Since early February, the Biden administration has been mulling how to stop a 13-year decline in enrollment in the Conservation Reserve, the largest U.S. land set-aside program.

As schools reopen, the fight over nutrition standards resumes, with salt and sugar still in the crosshairs

School nutrition standards haven’t been updated since 2010, when the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act — former First Lady Michelle Obama’s overhaul of school nutrition standards that mandated more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and reduced sodium — was passed. As Congress moves forward with a long-overdue Child Nutrition Reauthorization, lawmakers and advocates are sparring over what changes, if any, should be made to the food kids eat at school.

Operating loans drive decline in ag lending

With federal pandemic aid in their hands, farmers and ranchers borrowed far less money than usual from ag bankers during the opening months of this year for equipment, livestock, and operating expenses, according to a Federal Reserve survey of commercial lenders.

Today’s Quick Hits

Wait-and-see approach: Although California’s Prop 12, which will bar the sale of pork from farms that don’t give pigs room to move around, is scheduled to go into effect in 2022, few hog farmers that supply the state are remodeling their barns, because Prop 12 is being challenged in court, say pork industry officials. (FERN’s Ag Insider)

Letlow joins House Ag: Louisiana Rep. Julia Letlow, winner of a March 20 special election called after the death of her husband, was appointed to the House Agriculture and the House Education and Labor committees. (House Republican Leader)

Greenstein goes to Brookings: Bob Greenstein, who retired at the end of 2020 as head of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, was appointed a visiting fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, where he will be part of the Hamilton Project on social safety net programs. (Brookings)

Farm runoff worsens: Six years after Illinois launched a voluntary program to help farmers reduce nitrogen and phosphorus runoff, nutrient losses have actually increased for reasons that include more rainfall, limited funding by the state, and a low participation rate. (Harvest Public Media)

Drought intensifies in Dakotas: The area covered by extreme drought expanded in North Dakota and South Dakota in the past week. According to reports, cattle were being culled in South Dakota. (Drought Monitor)

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