USDA

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is the nation’s largest program to reduce hunger. It’s also the biggest program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But under the White House’s plan to reorganize the federal government, released Thursday, SNAP would have a new home at a revamped Department of Health and Human Services.

Though it’s not yet clear which highly processed ingredients will be labeled as genetically modified foods, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has released possible designs for those labels.

The labels fulfill a law passed in 2016 that gives food companies three options to disclose GMO ingredients: a line of text, a scannable QR code, or a symbol. It is meant to be an impartial notice to shoppers, and the labels avoid the polarizing term “GMO.”

Yet, one of the label designs released this month is a smiling orange and green sun with the letters “b-e” standing for “bioengineered,” which is the word used in the law.

USDA Official To Farmers: Please Be Patient

Apr 8, 2018

It was an appropriate week for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s trade expert to address a gaggle of Nebraska farmers — even if their responses tended toward frustration.

Congress has passed a $1.3 trillion spending bill that’ll keep the federal government running. In that package, which President Donald Trump signed on Friday, is a fix for a troublesome provision for some grain businesses.

Passed in last year’s tax overhaul, the provision allows farmers to deduct up to 20 percent of their earnings from selling crops — but only to cooperatives. That threatens businesses that aren’t co-ops but also buy and sell commodities like corn, soybeans and wheat, including large companies like Cargill and Bunge to small, local grain elevators.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture tossed out a set of proposed changes this week that would have redefined living conditions for dairy and beef cattle, sheep, lamb, poultry and egg-laying chickens on certified organic farms.

New U.S. dietary recommendations are in the works. And for the first time in 30 years, the federal government is seeking public comment about what belongs on the plate.

“This is fabulous because we have so many experts in the field of nutrition and diet and health and I think they can all weigh in to suggest questions about what needs to be addressed,” says Joan Salge Blake, a clinical associate professor of nutrition at Boston University.

About 16.4 million people who receive federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits would not have a say in how to spend about half of their monthly benefits under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year.

Low-income Americans who receive at least $90 a month would see "about half" of their benefits come in the form of a nonperishable, American-grown “USDA Foods package,” or a "Harvest Box," according to a news release Monday from the USDA, which runs SNAP.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it wants feedback on how to get a certain segment of Americans out of poverty and off the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps.

Starting Friday, the public — as well as states and other stakeholders — will have 45 days to comment about possible changes to SNAP benefits for recipients who are between the ages of 18 to 49 and don’t have dependents. They make up about 9 percent of the SNAP recipients, the USDA says.

The two federal agencies tasked with enforcing the nation’s food safety laws agreed this week to collaborate better, update biotechnology regulations and implement new safety inspections on produce farms.

The biggest change from the agreement between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, however, could come from a review of how food processing facilities currently are regulated by both departments. Experts say that could lead to less paperwork for food manufacturers and more streamlined reports of recalls and other food safety issues.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture faces a lawsuit that argues the federal agency must bring back a proposed rule that defined abusive practices by meatpacking companies.

The delivery of federal food benefits for millions of low-income people is likely to change after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last week it will allow states more flexibility in how they dole out the money.

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Farmers, lured by the promise of an easy, steady paycheck by raising chickens are told if they just keep the birds healthy, industrial poultry processors will take care of the rest.

As The Texas Observer reports, however, after growers sign an exclusive contract to build several 24,000-square-foot chicken houses, the companies that process the poultry sometimes require expensive improvements be made to the chicken houses that many growers can’t afford.

Updated 12:30 p.m. Nov. 2 — Sam Clovis, who ran President Donald Trump's campaign in Iowa, has withdrawn his nomination to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientist position. Clovis was linked this week to the federal investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Clovis sent Trump a letter, dated Nov. 1, that says the political climate "has made it impossible for me to receive balanced and fair consideration for this position" during his Nov. 9 Senate confirmation hearing.

USDA Won't Implement Tougher Meatpacker Rules

Oct 19, 2017

The U.S. Department of Agriculture won’t go forward with rules meant to make it easier for small livestock producers to report possible unfair treatment.

The agency’s decision on the proposal, which came at the tail end of the Obama administration, was announced Tuesday and met with mixed response.

There’s a genetic technology that scientists are eager to apply to food, touting its possibilities for things like mushrooms that don’t brown and pigs that are resistant to deadly diseases.

And food industry groups, still reeling from widespread protests against genetically engineered corn and soybeans (aka GMOs) that have made it difficult to get genetically engineered food to grocery store shelves, are looking to influence public opinion.

Iowa’s secretary of agriculture is one step closer to a new post at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Bill Northey appeared before the Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday. He answered questions about a variety of farm-support and conservation programs he would oversee as undersecretary from the farm and foreign agricultural services.

smarterlunchrooms.org

A critique of a U.S. Department of Agriculture program aimed at getting students to eat significantly more fruits and vegetables suggests the benefits of the program have been exaggerated.

As The Denver Post reports, the critique, published on the academic platform PeerJ, alleges that researchers have exaggerated the benefits of the USDA’s Smarter Lunchrooms Movement, which has been adopted by over 30,000 U.S. schools since 2010.

USDA boosts forecast for wheat production

Jun 12, 2017
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH SERVICE

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday boosted its forecast for wheat production.

As Reuters reports, the USDA raised its forecast for overall winter wheat production from 1.246 billion bushels to 1.250 billion bushels

The report was expected to reflect a decrease in overall production to 1.239 billion bushels.

CC0 Public Domain

Increased income limits through U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development may increase opportunities for rural families to own their own home.

As the High Plains Journal reports, the USDA announced the new 2017 income limits for its direct and guaranteed home ownership loan programs that may make more households eligible to obtain 100 percent financing.

President Donald Trump spent the campaign pledging to revive rural communities, where many voters have felt ignored by previous administrations. But after announcing staffing changes and budget plans that would make cuts to programs aimed at rural areas, critics are questioning whether the White House remains committed to that goal.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Several farm groups are opposing a reorganization of the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last week by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Bob, Robbie and Leah Maass ready equipment for planting season on their farm near Ellsworth, Iowa.Credit AMY MAYER / HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIAEdit | Remove

Three months after his nomination, Sonny Perdue faces a confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate Monday for the post of secretary of agriculture.

Andrew Harrer / The Washington Post

Sonny Perdue, Donald Trump’s appointee to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture, faced some tough questions last week during his confirmation hearing.

Farm and rural advocacy groups say cuts to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would harm rural communities, at a time when many of them need an infusion of cash.

In what’s being called a “skinny budget” because it sets an outline and contains scant details, Trump’s proposal calls for a 21 percent reduction in the USDA’s annual discretionary spending, and lays out rationales for why some programs are either eliminated or scaled back, calling some “duplicative,” or “underperforming.”

Creative Commons

Ag experts are expecting a revised farm bill this year, as a new administration takes control in Washington.

As Politico has noted, employees from the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation have begun to exert heavy influence over the young administration.

Feed & Grain

Many in the ag sector were cheered by Donald Trump’s selection of former Georgia Governor sonny Perdue to head the USDA. But now, as The Guardian reports, there is growing concern that Perdue will focus on global agribusiness to the detriment of American family farms.

Perdue’s history suggests he will prioritize the exporting of commodity crops for global markets. But this presents a couple of questions.

Wikimedia Commons

Some regulatory freezes instituted by President Donald Trump could be damaging to the country’s farm belt, according to some agricultural groups.

As Reuters reports, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will delay implementation of this year’s biofuels requirements along with 29 other regulations finalized in the last weeks of Barack Obama’s presidency, according to a government notice, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will delay rules affecting livestock.

Bruce Tuten / Wikimedia Commons

After a long wait that caused no shortage of nervous fidgeting among the ag sector, Donald Trump has finally selected a candidate for Secretary of Agriculture.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Soon-to-be-former Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack will join team dairy after he leaves his position as secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As Politico reports, Vilsack will become president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

Bob Daemmerich / Texas Tribune

President-elect Donald Trump appears to be closing in on a choice to head the Agriculture Department in his administration—and a few Texans are at the top of the list.

As Politico reports, Trump will meet with Former Texas A&M University President Elsa Murano today at the president-elect’s Florida resort, known as Mar-a-Lago. Trump also plans to speak tomorrow with controversial Texas ag commissioner Sid Miller.

Pages