President Biden Outlines Details of American Jobs Plan

President Joe Biden released details about the $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan on Wednesday. The proposal would modernize 20,000 miles of highways, roads and main streets, repairing the 10 most economically significant bridges in the country and the worst 10,000 smaller bridges. An emphasis on high-speed broadband is in the package, including the 35 percent of rural Americans who lack access to broadband.

USDBC Outlines Top Three Trade Policy Areas

The U.S. Dry Bean Council (USDBC) continues to pursue an ambitious trade policy agenda into the third quarter of 2021 as key U.S. government trade personnel are confirmed and/or appointed. 
 
The organization is addressing numerous trade policy priorities around the globe, and has identified the top three as:
  1. Removal of EU/UK tariffs – U.S. dry bean imports to the EU and UK continue to face 25 percent retaliatory tariffs as a result of U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. While the respective governments have agreed to suspend tariffs in the Airbus/Boeing dispute, the steel and aluminum tariffs and retaliatory response predates this and has not been resolved. USDBC has already sent letters to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and will be reaching out to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo to ask for the suspension of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. dry bean imports.
  2. Dominican Republic (DR) Adherence to Duty-Free, Quota-Free Imports – Since the full implementation of the CAFTA/DR trade agreement last year, U.S. dry beans imports can enter the Dominican republic duty-free with no limit to tonnage. While this should be beneficial to both sides, it has instead resulted in market protection mechanisms by the DR to limit the amount of U.S dry beans entering the country, especially during peak local harvest. This is in direct violation of the trade agreement. USDBC has been in long-standing talks with USDA/FAS Santo Domingo and will be meeting with USTR officials this week.
  3. Low or Zero-tolerance MRLs – USDBC remains concerned about the continued proliferation of low or zero MRLs/tolerances for pesticides/herbicides. Many of the most important export markets continue to veer away from Codex and impose unrealistic tolerances levels that will result in a disruption of trade. USDBC is particularly concerned about the EU and Mexico. An RFP to bring on a technical specialist to assist has been issued in a new initiative to help address this ongoing area of concern worldwide.

Pandemic Assistance for Producers Plan Unveiled

After reviewing existing COVID-19 relief, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will take a new approach for distributing additional assistance to farmers and ranchers. This new initiative is called the Pandemic Assistance for Producers.
 
It includes:
1.) $6 million to expand assistance to more producers, with an emphasis on small farmers and ranches, dairy, specialty crops, euthanized livestock and poultry, renewable fuels and more.
2.) Adds $500 million to existing programs.
3.) Carries out formula payments for existing Coronavirus Food Assistance Programs.
 
USDA will also reopen CFAP 2 sign-up for 60 days starting on April 5. Get the full details.

U.S. House Passes Farm Workforce Modernization Act

On a 247 to 174 vote, the U.S. House passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. The bill would pave the way for undocumented farm workers to obtain legal status and allows more flexibility in the H-2A program. The bill now moves on to the U.S. Senate.

More Farm Program Funds Needed

After securing an additional $1.5 billion to fund the WHIP+ and the Quality Loss Adjustment programs in 2020, North Dakota Senator John Hoeven says the Farm Service Agency needs more money. Hoeven recently met with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
 
“The secretary didn’t commit to saying we’ll get the money, but he did commit to working with us. It’s frustrating because we already addressed this once and we need to keep it moving,” said Hoeven.
 
FSA needs anywhere from $300 million to another $1.5 billion, according to Hoeven. The remaining half of the 2019 WHIP+ program payments could be at risk. To secure more funds, options include the appropriations process or using other sources at the USDA.

Tai Confirmed by the U.S. Senate

The U.S. Senate has confirmed U.S. Trade Representative Nominee Katherine Tai on a 98-0 vote. Tai will now be sworn into office as the USTR. The confirmation received applause from the agriculture industry.

Dry Bean Scene

The Quality Loss Adjustment Program deadline has been extended to April 9. Farm Service Agency Administrator Steve Peterson says the agency is working through documentation clarifications. Learn more in the Dry Bean Scene on the Red River Farm Network, made possible by the Northarvest Bean Growers Association.

American Rescue Plan Signed into Law

President Joe Biden signed the nearly $2 trillion American Rescue Plan. That was followed up by a prime time address Thursday night where Biden touted the bill and marked the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic. Democrats passed the bill in both chambers of Congress without a single Republican vote.
 
This package includes $4 billion to respond to the disruptions in the food supply chain. There’s another $4 billion to provide debt relief for farmers of color with 120 percent of the outstanding federal loans forgiven. The COVID-19 bill also expands last year’s 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits through the end of September.

QLA Program Signup Period Extended

USDA has extended the Quality Loss Adjustment program enrollment deadline to Friday, April 9th. The original deadline was set for today. At this point, more than 8,100 applications have been filed. Payments will be made after the application period ends. Listen to an exclusive Red River Farm Network interview with USDA Farm Service Agency Associate Administrator Steve Peterson.

Tai Testifies

On Thursday, U.S. Trade Representative-nominee Katherine Tai told the Senate Finance Committee that, if confirmed, a top priority will be implementing and enforcing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
 
“For the enforcement side on the USMCA I talked about in my opening statement. It’s about caring and nurturing the agreements we have to make sure they deliver on the promises that have been made,” said Tai. “That also goes for the other trade agreements we have under our belt. I want to make clear that’s a priority and the phase one deal with China.”