Weekly Food & Agriculture Update 1.6

Monday, January 6th, 2020


January 6, 2020

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

Senate Finance Committee to Consider USMCA– The Senate Finance Committee will hold a markup hearing on Tuesday morning to consider the USMCA implementing bill. The House approved the USMCA on December 19, with an overwhelming majority of 385-41. Over the weekend, Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) announced that she will vote for passage, joining several other Presidential contenders, including Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO). Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) said that he will vote against the agreement and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) has yet to declare how he will vote. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said that the Senate will not consider USMCA until after the impeachment trial of President Trump.

Senator Booker Introduces Reforms to Meat Industry– Presidential candidate Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) recently announced the Farm System Reform Act of 2019, legislation to reform the meat industry by phasing out “large” Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) by 2040. The bill would also rewrite the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 to prohibit the use of ranking systems for paying contract growers. The EPA definition of a “large” CAFO includes operations that confine at least 700 mature dairy cows or 1,000 cattle (other than mature dairy cows); 2,500 swine weighing 55+ pounds or 10,000 swine weighing under 55 pounds; 30,000 laying hens or broilers or 125,000 chickens or 55,000 turkeys, for example. The bill would be a major overhaul to the meat and poultry industry. Senator Booker is a vegan, but has previously said that he does not believe in telling Americans what they should eat.

2019 Agricultural Recap– 2019 was a challenging year for agriculture, with increased uncertainty in the agriculture economy and international markets. Agricultural Economic Insights created a Year in Review that breaks down last year’s top headlines affecting agriculture.

Trade issues were top of mind, as the Trump Administration pursued changes in relationships with major trading partners including Mexico, CanadaJapan and China. Farmers also saw unprecedented moisture and flooding last spring, which resulted in a historic 19 million acres of prevented planting across the Midwest and Great Plains states.These factors, combined with an already down agriculture economy, prompted USDA to distribute $22.4 billion in federal funds to farmers through disaster assistance, “top-up” prevent plant payments and two rounds of Market Facilitation Program payments. These direct farm payments amount to 24 percent of all farm income for 2019.

On the global scale, African Swine Fever (ASF) emerged as a major threat to the pork industry. The disease has been steadily spreading throughout several Asian countries. ASF still has not been found in the United States.

Historically, food and agriculture has not been a central policy issue for Presidential campaigns. However, many of the 2020 Democratic candidates have already shared agricultural policy platforms, showing a concerted effort to appeal to rural voters. Platforms for Democratic candidates range from strengthening the farm economy, reforms to animal agriculture and addressing climate change. Democratic candidates continue ramping up their campaign efforts with the Iowa caucuses on February 3, 2020.

The Week Ahead

Tuesday, January 7
  • The Senate Finance Committee will consider the USMCA implementing bill approved by the House of Representatives.
  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “The Nonpoint Source Management Program Under the Clean Water Act: Perspectives from States.”
Thursday, January 9
  • The House Veteran’s Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity will review, “The Availability of Resources to Address Veteran Hunger.”
  • The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment will consider, “Proposals for a Water Resources Development Act of 2020.”

MTA In Action

In December, MTA’s Tara Smith spoke to 4,000 agricultural leaders at the Farmers Business Network, Farmer2Farmer Conference. Smith discussed the evolution of crop insurance, the challenges farmers faced in 2019, and what changes can be expected in 2020. Other panel members in the session included USDA Risk Management Agency Administrator Martin Barbre, Dr. Art Barnaby of Kansas State University, Lucas Strom of Farmers Business Network and Strom Farms, Jonathan Coppess of University of Illinois and Clif Parks of AgriLogic.


A Quick Look Back