Weekly Food & Agriculture Update 10.15

Monday, October 15th, 2018


October 15, 2018

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

  • Schedule- The House and Senate are out of session and will not meet until after the midterm elections.
  • Farm Bill Expiration Day 15: Even with an expired farm bill, the USDA announced last week that they will begin making payments to producers through the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC), Price Loss Coverage (PLC), and Conservation Reserve Programs (CRP) administered by the Farm Service Agency. The payments total to over $4.8 billion. “Despite a temporary lapse of Farm Bill authorities, farmers and ranchers can rest assured that USDA continues to work within the letter of the law to deliver much needed farm safety net, conservation, disaster recovery, and trade assistance program payments,” Secretary Perdue said in a agency press release. Meanwhile, House and Senate Agriculture committee staff are continuing to meet to reconcile the two versions of the bill, working to close out titles on conservation, credit, energy, and commodities. The USDA has taken steps to wind down some of their small “orphan programs” that have lost funding temporarily as a result of farm bill expiration. The Farm Service Agency has directed state and county offices to pause in accepting applications or finalizing contracts for the Conservation Reserve Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, and Regional Conservation Partnership Program. USDA does not have legal authority to fund these programs without authorizing legislation or a short-term extension of the bill.
  • Producers Face Crop Storage Crisis– With harvest in full swing and an ongoing trade war with China, farmers are facing a shortage grain elevator space for their crops. Low commodity prices and international tariffs have left some silos with 20-25% of their capacity filled with unsold grain from last year. China is the largest export market for soybeans, buying about 60% of the crop and soybean farmers in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Indiana and Louisiana are among the first to feel the squeeze. Some grain facilities in Indiana have been directed to apply to store the grain outside on asphalt or concrete slabs. Earlier this month, Louisiana congressman Ralph Abraham (R-LA) wrote a letter to Secretary Perdue asking USDA to step in to help with relief efforts, emphasizing that “farmers must choose between harvesting soybeans with no place to bring them, or letting them rot in the fields.”
  • Next Week: Dual Agency Hearing on Cell Cultured Meat-  FDA and USDA will hold a joint public meeting October 23-24 to discuss the use of cell culture technology to create meat. The first day will focus on potential hazards in the production process, and consider oversight actions that will to combat those hazards. The second day of the meeting will examine labeling considerations. Industry and consumer groups are invited to weigh in at the meeting. A more detailed agenda of the meeting can be found here.

Nominations & Confirmations

  • Peter Gaynor was confirmed to be Deputy Administrator of FEMA.
  • James Morhard was confirmed as Deputy Administrator of NASA.
  • Kimberly Breier, Denise Natali, and Mary Alizabeth Taylor were confirmed as Assistant Secretaries of State.

The Week Ahead

Congress is out of session and will resume session on November 13th.

MTA In Action

Michael Torrey Associates hosted clients, coalition partners and collaborators for a happy hour at Barrel DC last week. The event brought together private sector friends from the food, agriculture, anti-hunger and forestry spheres and featured themed drinks as a nod to the ongoing farm bill and trade negotiations. MTA Principal and CEO, Michael Torrey shared remarks to the group. “We all benefit from dialogue across the industry from inputs and commodities to processing and distribution. As a firm, we are so grateful for your relationship, your partnership and your collaboration in trying to make a difference for the next generation.” The event was mentioned in the Politico Influence newsletter.

MTA’s Vice President of Federal Affairs, Tara Smith spoke at the SunStream Farm Credit Conference in Denver, Colorado this week. She spoke on the Crop Insurance Coalition panel alongside fellow industry leaders Brandon Willis (Crop Insurance Professionals Association), Mike Davenport (Rain and Hail LLC) and Robbie Boone (Farm Credit Council). Smith shared an update on MTA’s work through the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau (CIRB).

A Quick Look Back

Pertinent Timing Ticker

  • 15 day since farm bill expiration (Sep. 30, 2018).
  • 22 days until midterm elections (Nov. 6, 2018).
  • 28 days until the Lame Duck session (Nov. 13, 2018).