Farmers Union Minute

Read the latest from North Dakota Farmers Union!

July 10, 2021

White House Tackles Monopolies
On Friday, President Joe Biden signed an executive order  aimed at cracking down on corporate monopolies in the U.S. economy. The order, which includes 72 initiatives at 12 federal agencies, includes a sharp focus on agriculture. It encourages stricter “Product of USA” labeling standards and Packers and Stockyards Act (P&SA) reform. The effort will also strengthen farmers’ rights to repair their own farm equipment.

The order goes well beyond USDA’s purview, including several other initiatives that will benefit farmers, ranchers and consumers. It will promote competition in the rail industry with a focus on reducing shipping costs and improving shippers’ ability to challenge high rates. The White House is also addressing consolidation in the healthcare industry.

NDFU President Mark Watne said the order “takes important steps toward a system that works for farmers, ranchers and consumers.” NDFU has been a vocal advocate for improving competition in food and agriculture. In comments submitted June 21, NDFU encouraged several initiatives included in the executive order.

USDA Invests in Meat Processing
Two hours after President Biden signed the executive order, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a $500 million program to support new meat processors. Another $100 million will be used to offset the added costs incurred by small processors during the COVID pandemic. The funding is part of a previously announced $4 billion USDA is investing to strengthen agricultural supply chains.

Vilsack also highlighted USDA’s plans to implement its portion of Biden’s competition order. In addition to P&SA reform and the “Product of USA” review, Vilsack said USDA will do more to support value-added and local and regional markets. Increasing local and regional slaughter capacity is a key priority in NDFU’s efforts to advance livestock industry reform

“Product of USA” Under Review
USDA initiated a review of the “Product of USA” label on July 1. In a statement, Sec. Vilsack said the voluntary label may not effectively serve its purpose “to the detriment of consumers, producers, and fair and competitive markets.” Under current regulations, “Product of USA” can be applied to foreign products as long as they are repackaged in the United States.

NDFU has repeatedly urged USDA to restrict the “Product of USA” label to products derived from animals born, raised and harvested in the United States. The new rulemaking process will include an open comment period. More on NDFU’s stance on truth in labeling can be found here.  

Courts Deliver Blows to Biofuels
In a setback for the biofuel industry, the Supreme Court recently ruled that EPA could provide extensions of small refinery exemptions (SRE) even after the waivers had lapsed. The decision overturned a 2020 lower court ruling that placed limits on the use of SREs. Despite the court’s decision, National Farmers Union and other petitioners said they are still optimistic EPA will take a “more judicious and responsible approach” to the SRE process.

On July 2, a federal court overturned a 2019 rule that permitted the year-round sale of E15. The decision reinstates restrictions on summertime sales of E15. NFU President Rob Larew expressed disappointment in the ruling but said the organization continues “to look for other opportunities to expand the use of higher level blends of ethanol.”  

Hoeven Hosts Drought Roundtables
Sen. John Hoeven recently hosted a series of drought roundtables with senior USDA officials and North Dakota farm groups. During the discussions, NDFU and other groups pressed USDA to open emergency haying in the Conservation Reserve Program and to provide flexibility on failed crop acres. NDFU also stressed the need for a permanent disaster program and higher support levels through the Livestock Forage Program.

While recent rains have offered some modest improvements, all of North Dakota remains in drought and 52% of the state is in extreme or exceptional drought. Pasture and crop conditions continue to worsen with 77% of pasture and range, 50% of spring wheat, 56% of barley, 52% of canola and 38% of soybeans rating poor or very poor. Information on existing drought resources is below.

Drought Resources

Ask NDFU

Have a question, comment, or concern? Focused on a policy issue we didn’t discuss here? Send Matt Perdue an email at mperdue@ndfu.org, and we will try to include it in the next edition.