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Senators propose expanding biofuels for aviation

Legislative Watch: Farm to Fly Act; USDA launching remote meat grading pilot program; House passes bill targeting Russian ag inputs.

Eric Bohl

January 26, 2024

3 Min Read
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Legislation to expand the use of biofuels to replace jet fuel was introduced this week by Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). The “Farm to Fly Act” would set a common definition of sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF, for USDA purposes, clarify eligibility for SAF within USDA programs and provide more opportunities for partnerships with private industry and within USDA.

“Sustainable aviation fuel is a promising alternative fuel source that can provide new markets for farmers while increasing our domestic energy production and security,” said Sen. Moran. “This legislation would increase the accessibility of biofuel for commercial use and directly support rural America and its farmers, the agriculture industry and the aviation sector.”

Moran was joined by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). A similar bill was introduced last year in the House of Representatives but has yet to see legislative action.

USDA launching remote meat grading pilot program

Last week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new pilot program allowing the grading of beef carcasses via remote means. The Remote Grading Pilot for Beef is intended to allow smaller processors to afford beef grading services more easily. Processors are required to pay for the grader’s salary and travel expenses, which can be cost-prohibitive for small plants.

Under the pilot program, workers will photograph carcasses and upload them to a USDA-employed grader in a remote location. The grader will review the images and take other items into account such as the plant’s historical data before assigning grades like Select, Choice or Prime. According to USDA, the pilot will “allow AMS to gather additional information on actual costs involved, and the level of surveillance necessary to ensure program integrity, before formalizing this option as part of the USDA Quality Grading Service.”

In a speech in Denver announcing the program, Vilsack said, “On average, a beef carcass that grades as USDA Prime is valued at hundreds of dollars more than an ungraded carcass, but costs for this voluntary USDA service often prevents smaller scale processors and the farmers and ranchers they serve from using this valuable marketing tool. This remote grading pilot opens the door for additional packers and processors to receive grading and certification services allowing them to access new, better, and more diverse marketing opportunities.”

House passes bill targeting Russian ag inputs

The House of Representatives has passed legislation intended to combat dependence on Russia for fertilizer and grain. The No Russian Agriculture Act, introduced by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Rep. Zach Nunn (R-Iowa), passed by voice vote and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.

The bill would require U.S. representatives to the International Monetary Fund to support projects that decrease reliance on Russia for agricultural commodities, ensure the resilience of global grain supplies and stimulate private investment in projects that meet these goals.

“Russia’s unprovoked, brutal war is a crime against Ukraine and also threatens people around the globe. By intentionally disrupting the world’s food supply, Putin is knowingly causing pain and threatening nations with food scarcity and hunger,” said Waters. “That’s why this bipartisan bill, introduced in partnership with Representative Zach Nunn, is significant, helping to reduce global dependence on Russia’s agricultural commodities and increasing grain resiliency against its shocks.”

About the Author(s)

Eric Bohl

Eric Bohl is an agricultural policy leader with extensive experience on Capitol Hill. He served six years as Chief of Staff to Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO) and Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), and previously served as Legislative Director to Rep. Hartzler. During that time, he led her work on the House Agriculture Committee and was influential in efforts to craft the 2014 Farm Bill, as well as handling environmental, energy, transportation and infrastructure, and agricultural trade issues.

Eric’s experience starts at the ground level. His family has deep roots in both animal and row-crop farming going back several generations. This understanding of the unique challenges real farmers face brings valuable perspective to help solve clients’ needs. His midwestern values also allow him to build meaningful relationships with people on both sides of the political aisle and find common-sense solutions that transcend partisan lines.

This approach has continued to be the cornerstone of Eric’s career in grassroots advocacy. He served more than five years as Director of Public Affairs and Advocacy for Missouri Farm Bureau. He was a senior member of the organization’s legislative team and led communications and coalition advocacy efforts, including on the 2018 Farm Bill. His writings on agriculture and rural policy have been published in newspapers across the nation. He serves as First Vice President of the St. Louis Agribusiness Club and is a board member of the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City, two of the nation’s largest and strongest organizations supporting agribusinesses.

Before his career in public policy, Eric was a practicing attorney for nearly five years, focusing on real estate and agricultural law, commercial transactions, and commercial litigation. Eric earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Missouri, graduating from both programs with honors, and served as the Managing Editor of the Missouri Law Review.

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