USDA sends more dollars for school meals


With assist from Helena Bottemiller Evich and Meredith Lee

— The Agriculture Department has bumped up funds for school meals to assist with rising prices as colleges battle with provide chain woes.

— The American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual conference is underway in Atlanta, with President Joe Biden and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack set to deal with the group at present.

— Biden visited Colorado on Friday to survey injury from the historic Marshall Fire, as lawmakers in D.C. wish to beef up wildfire prevention and response.

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MORE MONEY FOR SCHOOL MEALS: USDA introduced late final week that it’s going to give colleges roughly 25 cents more per school lunch this yr. That may sound small, however it’s a giant deal for school meals operators battling elevated prices, from meals to labor and packaging, in addition to upended provide chains.

What does it imply? The transfer will ship roughly $750 million more to school meal applications this yr, per USDA. That’s an addition to the $1.5 billion in further funding USDA not too long ago directed out of the Commodity Credit Corporation.

It’s additionally on prime of the upper than regular reimbursement charges colleges have been receiving for a lot of the pandemic to assist make issues simpler on their diet applications, which have been central in efforts to feed thousands and thousands of youngsters in addition to their households all through the pandemic. Overall, USDA stated colleges are getting 22 % more than they might usually.

“This rate adjustment delivers desperately-needed relief to school meal programs, struggling with tight budgets that are stressed by rising pandemic costs and supply chain disruptions,” stated Beth Wallace, president of the School Nutrition Association, in a press release. “SNA greatly appreciates USDA’s ongoing efforts to provide additional support for school nutrition professionals who are working so hard to ensure students continue to receive healthy meals at school.”

What’s subsequent on school meals? Well, we’re speculated to be gearing up for a shot at little one diet reauthorization, or CNR, because it’s identified in Washington. MA readers will recall that the final time Congress tried to do that, it blew up when House Republicans tried to incorporate language for a block grant pilot program, which was primarily a poison capsule. So at this level, the final time Congress did a correct CNR was more than a decade in the past, when former President Barack Obama was in his first time period.

There was some expectation that there could be an preliminary House Education and Labor Committee listening to to kick off the method in January, however there’s nothing but scheduled. It appears more and more possible the timeline will get pushed again as Biden’s Build Back Better spending package deal languishes on Capitol Hill. That invoice accommodates $10 billion for little one diet, so having it caught in limbo is complicating issues for now.

Coming quickly: USDA later this month is anticipated to difficulty a closing rule on sodium, complete grains and milk requirements for school meals. The forthcoming rule comes after a federal court docket in the end struck down a Trump administration transfer to calm down some requirements.

The closing rule will cowl the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years. In the interim, USDA is planning to return out with a longer-term replace to school meal patterns, that are required to comply with the Dietary Guidelines.

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VILSACK, PERDUE ADDRESS FARM BUREAU CONVENTION: The annual occasion continued over the weekend with panels on all the things from provide chains, labor and water guidelines to journalism and psychological well being. Farm Bureau members will hear from Vilsack at present, after his predecessor took the stage on Sunday.

During his opening remarks, Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall touted the group’s curiosity in climate-friendly agriculture, whereas condemning the Biden administration’s “30×30” plan to preserve 30 % of all U.S. land and water by 2030.

Duvall additionally slammed the proposed Waters of the U.S. rule modifications: “It is critical that this administration understand that we should not have to have a team of lawyers and consultants just to farm our land,” he stated.

Sunday highlights: Former Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, in a dialogue with Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), spoke concerning the upcoming farm invoice and reminisced concerning the Trump period.

Reminder: Although Perdue praised former President Donald Trump’s love of farmers, the 4 years of his presidency weren’t all sunshine and rainbows for the ag business. Farmers and ranchers suffered steep losses amid Trump’s commerce warfare with China, requiring large bailout applications to remain afloat, whereas USDA noticed main staffing cuts that the Biden administration is now grappling to reverse.

On faucet at present: Vilsack will probably be closing out the primary occasions of the conference this morning. Later within the day, he travels to East Point, Ga., the place he’s set to make an announcement with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, a nonprofit affiliation of Black farmers, landowners and co-ops.

What we’re watching: As MA reported final week, the secretary is anticipated to debate challenges throughout the agriculture sector after a yr of utmost climate and Covid-19, and to focus on the administration’s work on applications which have benefited farmers over the previous yr. He’s additionally prone to tout Biden’s plans to extend competitors within the meat business — one Biden administration transfer that the Farm Bureau voiced some help for final week.

First in MA: POTUS speaks: Biden can even deal with the conference through a pre-recorded video message, per a White House official. The video will run previous to Vilsack’s remarks. But not like his predecessor, Biden gained’t deal with the conference in particular person, though he’s touring to Atlanta this week to advertise voting rights laws.

UNICORN FOOD CO. LOOKS TO ENGAGE ON ORGANICS, FARM BILL: Daily Harvest, an up-and-coming plant-based frozen meals maker that’s been valued at more than $1 billion, says it plans to have interaction on meals points in Washington.

The younger firm’s opening salvo? Projecting a number of massive billboard-type photos onto USDA’s headquarters in D.C. over the weekend, together with one which learn: “Big Food, Bite Me.” The projections accompany full-page advertisements in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times.

The firm, which makes frozen smoothie kits, flatbreads and different gadgets, says it’s working immediately with farmers and attempting to encourage more of them to “make the leap to go organic and invest in cover crops and biodiversity,” per Rachel Drori, CEO and founding father of the corporate.

“But if we want to get serious about a healthier, more sustainable food system that’ll keep people and the planet healthy, we need everyone to do more,” Drori stated in a press release. “That starts with change at the highest levels of government and industry.”

The context: Up-and-comers in meals normally avoid Washington until they should be right here. It’s actually uncommon to see lobbying and even a lot PR within the Beltway from the high-growth newbies.

Is this simply an remoted PR stunt or is there a brand new voice on this house? We requested! A rep instructed us Daily Harvest “intends to engage on the farm bill and be an active player in D.C. pushing for an increase in organic farming.” We’ll undoubtedly be keeping track of this one.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT WORSENING WILDFIRES: Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) on Friday launched laws aimed toward stopping wildfires, funding firefighting gear and supporting restoration efforts, as we flagged for MA readers final week, within the wake of essentially the most damaging hearth in Colorado historical past.

President Joe Biden was in Boulder County on Friday to survey the injury from the Marshall Fire alongside Colorado lawmakers. In his speech, Biden famous that the realm of land that has burned in Western states together with Colorado and Idaho is the same as the dimensions of New Jersey.

“A blinking code red”: That’s what Biden referred to as the acute drought and wildfires within the West, a warning signal that federal motion is required to deal with local weather change — such because the local weather and forestry provisions in his stalled Build Back Better plan.

“The driest period from June to December ever recorded, unusually high winds, no snow on the ground to start — created a literal tinder box,” he stated. “These fires are being supercharged by change in the weather.”

— Senate Minority Whip and Agriculture Committee member John Thune is working for reelection this yr, the South Dakota Republican introduced over the weekend. POLITICO’s Marianne LeVine has more.

— Two conservatives are battling it out within the upcoming GOP major for Texas agriculture commissioner: incumbent Sid Miller and challenger James White. Read more concerning the election from the Dallas Morning News.

— New York farmworkers are forming their first union within the state, hoping to discount over additional time pay rights. Farmers and labor advocates within the state are divided over the hour threshold for staff to obtain additional time pay. Capital and Main has the story.

— Sugar cane burning in Florida has generated ash and smoke air pollution inside communities of shade within the state. But Brazil’s strategies may present a template for much less damaging manufacturing. The Counter has the report.

— The U.Ok.’s plan to help British farming with its personal subsidies post-Brexit may truly scale back farmer earnings and enhance the nation’s reliance on meals imports, The Guardian experiences.

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