Weekly Food & Agriculture Update 3.18

Monday, March 18th, 2019


March 18, 2019

A quick look at what’s happening in Washington, D.C. that’s impacting food and agriculture. If you would like to subscribe to the receive the updates right to your inbox, please contact Marissa Dake

Big Picture Outlook

  • Ag Leaders Respond to President’s Budget – Last week, the President submitted his proposed FY 2020 Budget to Congress. The proposal cuts funding to USDA by $3.6 billion, or 15 percent and suggests a 12 percent funding decrease for the Department for Health and Human Services, which houses the FDA. Various Congressional ag leaders weighed in on the proposal. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Peterson (D-MN) shared in a statement that the “proposal tells us one of two things: either the White House doesn’t understand why these programs are important, or they don’t care.” Peterson’s counterpart, Ranking Member Conaway (R-TX), delivered overall support for the budget, but voiced a caveat for ag saying, “when the chips are down we must keep our promise to farmers and ranchers and rural America made under the five-year farm bill, and I fully expect the President to be onboard.” “Just months after the President signed the historic bipartisan Farm Bill into law, his budget proposal rolls back much of this critical support for agriculture and rural America,” explained Senate Ag Ranking Member  Senator Stabenow(D-MI). Senate Ag Chairman Roberts (R-KS) shared his disapproval of the proposed cuts to the farm safety net during a Senate Finance Committee Meeting. “We are not cutting crop insurance. They say it’s reform, it’s not. It would gut the program and that’s the one thing that farmers, ranchers, and growers all over the country said was the number one issue,” Roberts assertedSecretary Sonny Perdue released a statement defending the plan, “The time to act is now and USDA will actively do its part in reducing federal spending.” He continued, “at the same time, we will maintain a safety net for farmers, ranchers, foresters, producers, and people who need assistance in feeding their families.”
  • US-China Trade Negotiations Update- Last week, two top members of the Trump Administration indicated a US-China trade deal may materialize soon. “I think we’re headed toward a remarkable historic deal,” White House National Economic Council Larry Kudlow said in an interview on Friday. He reported that the deal includes China reducing subsidies to state-owned firms and a promise to “de-emphasize” its Made in China 2025 plan which aims to dominate the technology sector. At a Senate Finance Committee Hearing, USTR Lighthizer told the panel that the two countries are in the “final weeks” of negotiations. He cautioned there are still major issues to be worked out, but would not elaborate on them in a public forum. He assured the Committee, “if those issues are not resolved in favor of the United States, we won’t have a deal.” Earlier this month, the White House announced they would indefinitely postpone a tariff increase, which was originally scheduled for March 2.

Nominations & Confirmations

William Beach was approved to be Commissioner of Labor Statistics for the Department of Labor.
The Senate Ag Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Dr. Heath Tarbert to be Chairman and a Commissioner of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Dr. Tarbert currently serves as Assistant Secretary for International Markets at the Treasury Department. He has been tapped to replace CFTC Chairman Christopher Giancarlo, as his term is expiring. The vote to advance Dr. Tarbert is forthcoming.
The Senate Banking Committee advanced the nomination of Claudia Slacik to serve on the board of the Export-Import Bank. Slacik is the final of President Trump’s nominees to lead the bank. It is unclear when the full Senate will vote on her nomination.

The Week Ahead

Monday, March 18
  • Agri-Pulse hosts its 2019 Ag & Food Policy Summit at the National Press Club. The theme this year is Shaping Farm and Food Policy Strategies for 2040.
Friday, March 22
  • USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service will host a Farm Bill Listening Session to hear from stakeholders on programs under the Trade Title of the 2018 Farm Bill. The agenda will focus on two areas: the Food Assistance and Fellowship and Exchange Programs and Export Market Development.

MTA In Action

Intern Spotlight: Oscar Chapa- Oscar Chapa is a senior at the University of Michigan majoring in General Studies with an emphasis on Food Systems and the Environment. He is minoring in Entrepreneurship. Chapa comes to MTA with a passion for urban agriculture, sustainable food systems and anti-hunger efforts. At MTA, Chapa conducts research, covers hearings and briefings and assists staff with client projects. Chapa previously interned with the US-Mexico Foundation, serving as a consultant for small Indigenous business owners. He has also served as an AmeriCorps Volunteer and developed an app with his classmates to reduce food waste. Chapa was recently featured as the Student of the Week for the Michigan in Washington Program. Read more here.

A Quick Look Back

Pertinent Timing Ticker