Thursday, January 20, 2022

Wednesday January 19 Ag News

 Nebraska to host 101st National Block and Bridle Convention

The Nebraska Chapter of Block and Bridle at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is set to host the 101st National Block and Bridle Convention March 31- April 2 at Nebraska Innovation Campus.  

“The Good Life: Standing out from the Herd” will be the theme this year, where nearly 400 students in 50 Block and Bridle clubs from across the nation will find the opportunity to connect with fellow students and industry professionals, hear from speakers, focus on the future of animal agriculture and tour agricultural industries.  

“I think most people who come to Nebraska think it’s just a flyover state, they don’t really appreciate the ecological and agricultural diversity,” said Tom Burkey, Nebraska’s Block and Bridle advisor and associate dean in the College of Agriculture Sciences and Natural Resources.   

“The highlight of students coming to Nebraska is the opportunity for them to see outside of the I-80 corridor and instill a true appreciation of what the state has to offer.”

Burkey has been working with the Block and Bridle club since 2009, and while he teaches mostly graduate-level classes at Nebraska, he says the club provides him an opportunity to get more involved with undergraduates.  

Students, staff and faculty of Nebraska’s Block and Bridle Chapter have been working collaboratively since 2019 to create a fun, educational and memorable convention with a goal to provide national members with opportunities for professional development through guest speakers, workshops, and going on industry tours to experience Nebraska agriculture.  

Shaye Koester, Nebraska’s past Block and Bridle president has been working diligently on registration, sponsorship and encouraging club members to get involved with convention planning. As an out of state student from North Dakota, Koester is a tri-chair for the convention along with Malina Lindstrom and Emma Schmidt.

“I’m excited to show the vastness of the livestock industry and how diverse it is in Nebraska, said Koester.  

“Obviously Nebraska is the beef state, but we also have poultry, swine, the farming side, agricultural businesses and lots of entrepreneurship.”

Convention attendees will kick off the opening session with a welcome from Chancellor Ronnie Green the day they arrive in Lincoln, and later spend time exploring campus and the Haymarket district in Lincoln. The first evening will close with a motivational keynote from Ron Gustafson, a Nebraska entrepreneur who was raised on a farm.

On Friday April 1, convention attendees will experience “The Good Life” of Nebraska by participating in an all-day production tour. Tour stops will feature various operations that highlight crop and livestock production, animal products, and industry research. Participants will have the option to choose from eight tour options including: companion animal care, dairy, animal products, specialty ag, beef lifecycle, the beef state, allied industries, and ag in Nebraska. The day will conclude with a night of fun at the University of Nebraska Animal Science Complex, compete with games, music and food from local vendors.    

On Saturday April 2, members will have another educational day learning how to “Stand Out From the Herd” by hearing from a lineup of speakers feature in a variety of sessions. Topics relating to entrepreneurship, industry issues and transitioning back to the farm will be covered, featuring Tom Field, director of the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program and several CASNR alumni. That evening, the convention will wrap up with an awards banquet followed by a social event.

Additional details regarding registration, tours, and the program are available online. Find Nebraska Block and Bridle on Facebook and Twitter, and direct any questions to

The Nebraska Chapter of Block and Bridle is dedicated to providing its members with opportunities to further their education of agricultural industries, how to engage in their communities, learn about current issues affecting agriculture and to network with industry leaders.  

The 101st National Block & Bridle Convention sponsors include Cactus Cares, Nebraska Pork Producers, Cactus Cares Foundation, Nebraska Pork Producers, CASNR, UNL Extension, UNL Agricultural Research Division, Kimmel Foundation, Doug Brand, David and Loretta Hamilton, and Bill and Barb Rishel.

FFA Members Explore Agriculture in California during January

Earlier this month, 46 current and former state FFA officers visited California and learned about the various types of agriculture the state offers.

Members flew into California and toured various agribusinesses — from the largest U.S. producer of caviar to a fourth-generation ranch practicing responsible carbon farming and more. They also talked with the California secretary of agriculture, the vice-chair of the California Water Board and the vice president of state government affairs at Western Growers.

During the second week of the tour, members visited berry farms, nurseries, a horse ranch, and a feedlot; experienced whale watching; and explored the Muir National Forest. They spoke with a variety of agriculture experts, learned about practices they could take home to their communities, and visited the Mark Richardson Career Technical Education Center & Agricultural Farm in Santa Maria.

The experience was made possible thanks to FFA sponsors John Deere and Bunge.

FFA members who participated in the experience include:
Alyssa Andrews and William Blankenship of Arkansas;
Jillian Johnson, Carter Howell, Julia Heijkoop, Kelly Alexander, Barrett Young and Tyler Brannan of Florida;
Madison Stevenson and Kesley Holdgrafer of Iowa;

Cassandra Moody, Claire Shelton and Katherine Hebdon of Idaho;
Julia Hamblen of Indiana;
Ashley Chandler and Rachel Sebesta of Kansas;
Kyle Schulze of Maryland;
Olivia Coffey and Adele Battel of Michigan;
Nicol Koziolek of Minnesota;
Joceyln Dvorak of Missouri;
Regan Hand of Mississippi;
Bailey Robinson, Emma Kuss, Madison Stracke and Victoria Ference of Nebraska;

Emily Sadlon, Abigail Goodenough, and Johnathan Finney of New Jersey;
Aubrey Schwartz, Jacob Zajkowski, John Dippold, Katherine Price, Kylie Baldwin, Isabel D’Aquisto-Butler and Justin Sharp of Oregon;
Hunter Eide of South Dakota;
Ryder Mortenson of South Dakota and Samantha Olson of South Dakota;
Charles Moser; Samuel Leach; Ellie Vance; Jackson Lohr, Lauren Rhodes and Emma Jackson of Virginia.

 The National FFA Organization is a school-based national youth leadership development organization of more than 735,000 student members as part of 8,817 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.


All layers in Nebraska during December 2021 totaled 8.22 million, up from 7.93 million the previous year, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.  Nebraska egg production during December totaled 205 million eggs, up from 203 million in 2020. December egg production per 100 layers was 2,487 eggs, compared to 2,562 eggs in 2020.

Iowa egg production during December 2021 was 1.29 billion eggs, up 2 percent from last month and up 1 percent from last year, according to the latest Chickens and Eggs report from the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.  The average number of all layers on hand during December 2021 was 49.3 million, down slightly from last month but up 1 percent from the same month last year. Eggs per 100 layers for December were 2,612, up 3 percent from last month but down slightly from last December.

December Egg Production Up 1 Percent

United States egg production totaled 9.66 billion during December 2021, up 1 percent from last year. Production included 8.38 billion table eggs, and 1.28 billion hatching eggs, of which 1.21 billion were broiler-type and 78.2 million were egg-type. The total number of layers during December 2021 averaged 392 million, up slightly from last year. December egg production per 100 layers was 2,464 eggs, up slightly from December 2020.
All layers in the United States on January 1, 2022 totaled 392 million, down slightly from last year. The 392 million layers consisted of 326 million layers producing table or market type eggs, 62.6 million layers producing broiler-type hatching eggs, and 3.03 million layers producing egg-type hatching eggs. Rate of lay per day on January 1, 2022, averaged 79.2 eggs per 100 layers, up 1 percent from January 1, 2021.

Fertilizer Prices Continue Mostly Higher; MAP Moves Lower

Retail fertilizer prices continue to be mostly higher the second week of January 2022, according to retailers surveyed by DTN. However, for the first time in more than 13 months, a fertilizer was actually lower than a month ago.

None of the eight major fertilizers were up a considerable amount, another new trend. DTN designates a significant move as anything 5% or more.

Seven of the eight major fertilizers were slightly higher. DAP had an average price of $863 per ton, potash $807/ton, urea $913/ton (all-time high), 10-34-0 $796/ton, anhydrous $1,430/ton (all-time high), UAN28 $584/ton (all-time high) and UAN32 $679/ton (all-time high).

One fertilizer was actually lower compared to a month ago; this is the first time this has happened since the first week of December 2020. MAP was down just slightly and had an average price of $932/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.99/lb.N, anhydrous $0.87/lb.N, UAN28 $1.04/lb.N and UAN32 $1.06/lb.N.

Retail fertilizer prices compared to a year ago show all fertilizers have increased significantly, with several fertilizers having well over 100% price increases. MAP is now 69% more expensive, 10-34-0 is 70% higher, DAP is 78% more expensive, potash is 116% higher, urea is 145% more expensive, UAN32 is 175% higher, UAN28 178% is more expensive and anhydrous is 202% higher compared to last year.

Historic Investment to Repair Nation’s River Infrastructure

Appropriations from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which passed in 2021 with bipartisan support, will soon be funding upgrades to infrastructure projects important to corn growers.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced today it would allocate $2.2 billion from the infrastructure legislation to repair and update the following locks along the Upper Mississippi River System:
    Kentucky Lock along the Tennessee River, near Grand Rivers, Kentucky.
    Montgomery Lock on the Ohio River, 30 miles south of Pittsburgh.
    Lock and Dam 25 on the Upper Mississippi River, north of St. Louis.
    Three Rivers Lock along the Ohio River, southwest of Pittsburgh.
    T.J. O’Brien Lock and Dam along the Illinois River.

“Corn growers depend on America’s rivers to import supplies, like fertilizers, which play an important part in planting and harvesting our crops,” said Iowa farmer and NCGA President Chris Edgington. “These rivers are also important in shipping our products to key markets in the U.S. and abroad. When barges are delayed because of problems with aging locks and dams, farmers are economically affected.”

Lock and Dam 25 is crucially important Edgington noted, as 60% of America’s corn and soybean exports are transported on the Mississippi River.

An aging system – many of the locks were constructed between 1907 and 1936 – has led to delays and closures along the river. Farmers often feel the economic impact of these problems, and the funding will help ensure the river system’s long-term viability.

“We are thankful for the efforts of our state corn growers who worked closely with their members of Congress to make this happen,” he said. “NCGA is also appreciative of our congressional allies who made sure this funding was included in the infrastructure plan.”

Mississippi River lock to receive construction funding

Mike Steenhoek, Executive Director, Soy Transportation Coalition

This morning the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released the details of their “work plan” – the detailed list of projects to receive funding this year due to the passage of the “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act”.  We are extremely pleased to report that a significant priority of the soybean farmers – Lock and Dam #25 – was included on the list.  Lock and Dam #25 specifically will receive $732 million to complete the design and construction of the project.

Located in Winfield, Missouri (45 miles north of St. Louis), Lock and Dam #25 was opened in 1939 and is the most southern lock and dam on the Mississippi River with a single, 600 ft. X 110 ft. lock chamber.  Most every bushel of soybeans, corn, and other grain transported along the Mississippi River from the states of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin will pass through Lock and Dam #25 en route to export facilities near the Gulf of Mexico.  The construction at Lock and Dam #25 will result in a new 1,200 ft. X 110 ft. lock chamber being built adjacent to the existing 600 ft. X 110 ft. lock chamber.  This would enable a typical fifteen barge tow – transporting over 800,000 bushels of soybeans or corn – to transit the lock in one single pass (a 30-45 minute process) compared to disassembling the barge tow into two sections, which will result in two passes (over two hours).  In addition, a second lock will provide needed resiliency and redundancy – allowing a key link in the supply chain to remain operational if one of the lock chambers was closed.   

Many who have been engaged in agriculture for a number of years are familiar with the repeated efforts to achieve necessary funding from the federal government to enhance a number of the key lock and dam sites along the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers.  Unfortunately, most of these funding intentions did not result in funding outcomes.  As a result, many of these lock and dam facilities – including Lock and Dam #25 – have continued to wait for needed enhancements.

This morning’s announcement is the result of years of determined and persistent advocacy by agriculture, the barge and towing industry, and a variety of other inland waterway stakeholders.  The Waterways Council, in particular, provided effective leadership in helping make this a reality.  Numerous elected officials throughout the Midwest were consequential in this project finally receiving the green light.   

America’s soybean and corn farmers have been essential in promoting the inland waterway system and specifically projects along the Upper Mississippi River, including Lock and Dam #25.  In the effort to encourage tangible investment in the system, a group of farmer-funded and farmer-led organizations – the United Soybean Board, the Soy Transportation Coalition, the Illinois Soybean Association, the Iowa Soybean Association, the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, and the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council – partnered together and announced on November 29th the offer of $1 million to help underwrite the cost of pre-engineering and design expenses of Lock and Dam #25.

In addition to the overall challenges confronting our global supply chain, a number of specific disruptions – Hurricane Ida, the Suez Canal, the I-40 bridge near Memphis, the Colonial Pipeline, etc. – have provided a vivid reminder over the past year that if one of our critical junctures goes awry for any number of reasons, the consequences to the broader economy can be significant.  For agriculture, a catastrophic failure at a key lock and dam would suffocate the ability of farmers to meet the demand of their international customers.  Given this vulnerability, we are extremely pleased Lock and Dam #25 will receive the necessary funding to increase in capacity and resilience.

NGFA commends Army Corps for prioritizing Mississippi River infrastructure upgrades in spending plan

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) commended the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for prioritizing crucial inland waterways infrastructure projects in its spending plan released today that includes nearly $23 billion in supplemental funding.

In the plan released on Jan. 19, the Army Corps announced it would spend $732 million to finish design and construction of Lock and Dam 25, located on the Upper Mississippi River in Winfield, Mo. This is the first time this project has received construction funding since it was authorized in 2007. NGFA supported the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, in which Congress provided $2.5 billion for inland waterways construction projects giving the Army Corps 60 days to produce a detailed spending plan.

“NGFA thanks the Biden administration, Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Reps. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., and Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, for leading a bipartisan contingent of lawmakers in the House and Senate that highlighted the critical need to fund the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) starting with Lock and Dam 25,” said NGFA President and CEO Mike Seyfert. “We appreciate their leadership on this long-standing priority for NGFA and we are grateful for this result.”

The Corps’ spending plan, which includes about $4 billion for commercial navigation improvements at ports and on inland waterways, details how the Corps will allocate money under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the 2022 Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.

“The existing locks on the Upper Mississippi River-Illinois Waterway were built in the 1930’s with 600-foot chambers to accommodate the standard vessels used for commerce during that time,” Seyfert said. “However, today’s towboats can push a 1,200-foot-long tow of 15 barges which must ‘double-lock’ through, resulting in significant, costly delays. Modernizing these outdated locks will help discipline rail rates, reduce wear and tear on U.S. roads and bridges, and make American agriculture more competitive.”

NGFA led 24 other members of the Agricultural Transportation Working Group in urging the Army Corps to prioritize and fund NESP, including sending its most recent letter on Dec. 16, 2021.

NGFA has worked with its member companies, agricultural partners and lawmakers to highlight the importance of healthy waterways infrastructure to the U.S. economy. U.S. agricultural exports traditionally contribute a nearly $15-20 billion surplus to the U.S. balance of trade, as well as provide more than 20 percent of U.S. farm income. In 2020, the U.S. exported 29 percent of its grains and oilseeds, with more than half of those exports transported on the Mississippi River system.


Today, the House Judiciary Committee, Antitrust Subcommittee held a hearing on “Addressing the Effects of Economic Concentration on America’s Food Supply.”

In testimony submitted by National Farmers Union, President Rob Larew documented the extreme corporate concentration in America’s farm and food system and discussed steps that must be taken to ensure a more resilient food supply for consumers and a competitive marketplace for family farmers and ranchers.

“A small handful of dominant firms control the market for most farm inputs… processing, food manufacturing, wholesale distribution, food service, and retail grocery,” described Larew. “These very large firms in the middle of the supply chain wield immense market power… As companies have gotten larger and competition has declined, anticompetitive conduct by dominant firms has received insufficient scrutiny.”

“Across the economy, there must be more scrutiny of buyer power, and regulators must consider the need for robust competition at all links of the supply chain,” wrote Larew, “Market participants must be provided with reliable information through truthful and accurate labeling. Furthermore, increased investment is needed to support local and regional production, processing, distribution, and retail options, and appropriate workforce training to support these systems. Finally, in the meat and poultry sector, rules must be implemented that reinvigorate the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA), clearly delineate prohibitions on packers under the PSA, and create needed protections for farmers under contract.”

NFU has long fought for increased competition in the marketplace and last year launched Fairness for Farmers, a national campaign to advocate for solutions and give voice to the farmers, ranchers, and rural communities being harmed by economic concentration.

R-CALF USA Submits Testimony to House Judiciary Subcommittee; Asks for Stopgap Measure

In written testimony submitted for today’s hearing held by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law: “Reviving Competition, Part 5: Addressing the Effects of Economic Concentration on America’s Food Supply,” R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard asked Congress to implement a stopgap measure to preserve what is left of the U.S. cattle industry.

Bullard explained the U.S. cattle industry is fast losing its critical competitive infrastructure – its participants, its feedlots, and its cow herd, which have all been reduced during the past few decades. He stated his group’s concern that Congress has not yet signaled its intent to make needed structural reforms to a market that has persistently returned noncompetitive prices to producers, prices that did not return the cost of production to U.S. cattle producers.

The “U.S. cattle industry suffers from systemic market failure, which though chronic for decades, has worsened considerably during the past seven years. And, yet, Congress has not enacted, and does not appear inclined to immediately enact, any meaningful structural reforms,” Bullard wrote.

The testimony explained that since 2015, beef packers had used their enhanced market power to purchase cattle at an average price of only 55% of the average weekly wholesale beef price and this has caused horrendous losses to both cattle feeders and cow/calf producers.

He wrote that if the marketplace in 2021 had required packers to pay the same percentage of the average wholesale price for cattle that the marketplace provided from 2007 through 2014, then the price of fed cattle in 2021 would have been $173 per cwt rather than the $123 per cwt that producers had actually received, which would have put an additional $650 per head into the pockets of producers for each head of fat cattle they sold.   

By way of example, this was the form of an emergency stopgap measure that R-CALF USA asked Congress to consider pending enactment of meaningful market structure reforms that would reinstate competitive market forces in the U.S. cattle market.

“Tying cattle prices to a wholesale beef value index will not restore the competitive market forces that has been purged from the market due to severe structural deficiencies, but it would temporarily prevent the ongoing loss of equity that America’s cattle farmers and ranchers are experiencing each day the market remains dysfunctional. It would also temporarily remove the beef packers’ incentive to lower the price of cattle in the industry’s price discovery market – its negotiated cash market. Congress’ prolonged inaction in enacting meaningful structural reforms now necessitates an emergency stopgap measure such as this if America’s food security interest is to be preserved,” the testimony states.

North American Meat Institute to House Judiciary: Meat & Poultry Industry not to Blame for Inflation

The North American Meat Institute (Meat Institute) today said consumers saw increased meat prices in 2021 because of labor shortages, greater consumer demand, supply chain problems and other factors experienced by most sectors of the economy.

 “Inflation is hurting consumers by erasing the wage gains workers received due to the tight labor market and the pandemic,” said Julie Anna Potts, President and CEO of the North American Meat Institute. “It is no wonder the Biden Administration and some members of Congress would rather hold press conferences and hearings instead of addressing the labor shortage and supply chain bottlenecks.”

The Meat Institute submitted additional testimony for a hearing of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law called, Reviving Competition, Part 5: Addressing the Effects of Economic Concentration on Americas Food Supply.

The Meat Institute provided important context to antitrust allegations.

“The meat packing industry has been, and continues to be, one of the most highly scrutinized industries when it comes to antitrust review,” said Potts in the testimony submitted. “The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) Packers and Stockyards Division (P&S) is uniquely charged, by statute, to provide on-going oversight for fair business practices and to ensure competitive markets in the livestock, meat, and poultry industries.  Additionally, any potential merger or acquisition regulators believe threatens ‘too much market power’ is subject to review by the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission.  The last proposed merger of two of the ‘big four’ fed cattle slaughterers occurred in 2008 – and it was blocked by the Department of Justice.”

USDA Releases 2020 Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today published the 2020 Pesticide Data Program (PDP) Annual Summary. The summary shows that more than 99 percent of the samples tested had pesticide residues below benchmark levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This report for 2020, issued by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), marks the 30th year of PDP results. Over the 30 years, USDA has tested 126 commodities, including fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, dairy, meat, poultry, grains, fish, rice, specialty products and water. PDP monitoring results for more than 310,000 samples through the years are available on the Pesticide Data Program website.

Each year, USDA and EPA work together to identify foods to be tested by the PDP on a rotating basis. In 2020, tests were conducted on 9,600 samples from 18 commodities of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables. AMS partners with cooperating state agencies to collect and analyze pesticide residue levels on the selected food commodities.

USDA tests a wide variety of domestic and imported foods, with a strong focus on foods that are consumed by infants and children. EPA relies on PDP data to conduct dietary risk assessments and to ensure that any pesticide residues in foods remain at or below levels that EPA has set. The data also provide regulators, farmers, processors, manufacturers, consumers and scientists with important insights into the actual levels of pesticide residues found on widely consumed foods.

The annual pesticide residue results are reported to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and EPA in monthly reports as testing takes place throughout the year. FDA and EPA are immediately notified if a PDP test discovers residue levels that could pose a public safety concern.

2022 Young Farmers & Ranchers Leadership Conference Slated for Feb. 25-28

The American Farm Bureau Federation will host the 2022 Young Farmers & Ranchers Leadership Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, Feb. 25-28, at the Omni Louisville Hotel.

Highlights of the conference include inspiring speakers, hands-on learning sessions, local tours and the Collegiate Discussion Meet.

“This conference is a great opportunity for young farmers and ranchers to meet and help take their leadership and advocacy to the next level,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “New ideas and energy are so important to the future of farming and Farm Bureau.”

On Saturday night of the conference, attendees will head to the Kentucky Derby Museum for an evening of fun, music, networking and all things related to horse racing. Duvall will provide closing remarks on Monday morning.

The Omni Louisville is the host hotel for the conference, with the majority of sessions, meals and events taking place there.

Register for the conference at Early registration for the conference closes on Wednesday, Jan. 19, at noon Eastern. Regular registration will remain open until noon Eastern on Friday, Feb. 4.

Bliley Appointed to EPA Advisory Subcommittee

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan has appointed Growth Energy’s Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Chris Bliley to EPA’s Mobile Sources Technical Review (MSTR) Subcommittee. The subcommittee provides the Clean Air Act Advisory Committee (CAAAC) with independent advice and recommendations on the scientific and technical aspects of EPA programs related to mobile-source air pollution and motor vehicles and engine fuels.  

Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor congratulated Bliley on his appointment:
“With decades of experience at EPA, Congress, and in the biofuels industry under his belt, I can’t think of a more well-suited person to serve on this subcommittee than Chris Bliley,” said Skor. “Bliley leads our team and the association’s 92 biorefineries in working with EPA to recognize the economic and environmental benefits of ethanol in the agency’s proposals and regulations. With the continued role of biofuels and higher biofuel blended fuel options in lowering emissions, it’s important to have a seat at the table on EPA’s MSTR Subcommittee, and I look forward to Chris’ important contributions.”                

SVP of Regulatory Affairs Chris Bliley thanked EPA and Administrator Regan for his appointment:
“I’m honored to join the MSTR Subcommittee and serve in an advisory role to EPA and to their efforts related to emission modeling and engine fuel policy,” said Bliley. “Throughout my career, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to work with EPA staff, leadership, and many others around the development of rules and regulations related to the Clean Air Act. I look forward to continuing this important work along with my other subcommittee members.”

Chris Bliley serves as Growth Energy’s Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs. Prior to joining Growth Energy in 2011, Bliley was a director at the Nussle Group, a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm. He served as the Associate Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency running the agency’s Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations from 2007 until 2009 under President George W. Bush. He was also Chief of Staff and Legislative Director for Congressman Jim Nussle.  

USDA Launches Pilot Program to Deploy Renewable Energy Infrastructure to People in Rural Towns

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the Department is making up to $10 million available to help people living in rural towns develop community renewable energy projects that will help them cut their energy costs and contribute to the nationwide effort to reduce pollution that contributes to climate change. These funds will be targeted to help people who live in communities that have been historically underinvested and disinvested.

USDA is making the funds available through the new Rural Energy Pilot Program to help the people of rural America build back better, stronger and more equitably than ever before. Through this program, USDA is supporting the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to making environmental justice a part of every agency’s mission to address the disproportionate health, environmental, economic and climate impacts on disadvantaged communities.

“Under the leadership of President Biden and Vice President Harris, USDA is providing grant assistance for people who live in particularly underserved rural towns to help them cut their household energy costs and address climate change at the local level,” Vilsack said. “As we continue to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, USDA is targeting resources and investments to help meet our nation’s energy needs and combat climate change. The new program we’re announcing today will pilot the viability of community-scale renewable energy investments to mitigate the energy-burdened circumstances of particularly disadvantaged rural communities. This assistance will help to keep people in their hometowns by supporting good-paying jobs, business opportunities, and a more affordable cost of living.”

USDA will make up to $10 million in grants available to particularly underserved rural communities. The funds can be used to deploy community-scale renewable energy technologies and innovations to reduce climate pollution and increase resilience to the impacts of climate change. These technologies include solar, wind, geothermal, micro-hydroelectric and biomass/bioenergy. Up to 20% of awarded funds may also be used for community energy planning, capacity building, technical assistance, energy efficiency and weatherization.

USDA is offering priority points to projects that advance key priorities under the Biden-Harris Administration to help communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, advance equity and combat climate change. These extra points will increase the likelihood of funding for projects seeking to address these critical challenges in rural America.

Details on an upcoming informational webinar is forthcoming and will be posted to the Rural Energy Pilot Program webpage.

Prospective applicants must inform the Agency by submitting a required Letter of Intent prior to submission of a complete application. The letters must be submitted via electronic upload into a secure cloud vault, by 11:59 p.m. EST on April 19, 2022.

Application guides and submission information are available on the program website, under the To Apply tab,

U.S. Department of Agriculture Announces Key Staff Appointments

The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced the names of individuals who will hold senior staff positions in Washington, D.C.

Scott Marlow was named Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs in the Farm Service Agency
Marlow joins USDA after most recently serving as the founder and CEO of Long Rows Consulting where he oversaw the analysis of risk management, credit, and disaster assistance programs and provided training for farm services organizations on working with farmers in financial crisis and the mental health impacts of farm transitions. He spent over 20 years in the non-profit sector with the Rural Advancement Foundation International where he held various roles during his tenure – starting as a Project Director overseeing and managing farmer-focused networks aimed at developing new programs, to Senior Policy Specialist, where he developed and delivered educational programs for farm families on farm financial management and disaster assistance programs. Marlow holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Duke University and a Master of Science in Crop Science from North Carolina State University.

Tim Gannon was named Chief of Staff for Farm Production and Conservation
Recently, Gannon was the Coalitions Advisor for the Biden-Harris campaign in Iowa where he was responsible for outreach and communications with farm, agricultural, and rural groups and activists with particular focus on policy proposals and their impact on rural America. Gannon returns to the Department after previously serving as the Director of Advance in the Office of the Secretary and Associate Administrator in the Risk Management Agency during the Obama-Biden Administration. Gannon is a graduate of the University of Iowa where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Global Studies.

Andrea Delgado was named Chief of Staff for Natural Resources and Environment
Delgado most recently served as the Government Affairs Director at the United Farm Workers Foundation, where she developed and implemented legislative and administrative strategies aimed at improving living and working conditions for agricultural workers across the country. Previously, Delgado held roles of Legislative Director for the Healthy Communities Program and Senior Legislative Representative at Earthjustice. She also spent time as a policy fellow with the National Latino Coalition on Climate Change. Delgado received her Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Geneseo.

Sara Bleich, PhD was named Director of Nutrition Security and Health Equity for the Food and Nutrition Service
Since joining the Biden-Harris Administration in January 2021, Bleich has served as Senior Advisor for COVID-19 in the Office of the Secretary. Previously, she served as a Professor of Public Health Policy at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Her research centers on food insecurity, as well as racial injustice within the social safety net. She is the author of more than 150 peer-reviewed publications. From 2015-2016, she served as a White House Fellow in the Obama Administration, where she worked in USDA as a Senior Policy Advisor for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. Bleich holds a PhD in Health Policy from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University.

“The collective expertise of Tim, Andrea, Scott and Sara will continue our efforts to effectively serve people in communities across the country – and around the world. They are valuable assets to the work being done at the Department,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

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