Weekly Food & Agriculture Update 11.25

Monday, November 25th, 2019


November 25, 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

House Judiciary Committee Approves Farm Workforce Modernization Act– Last week, the House Judiciary Committee passed The Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 5038) by a party-line vote of 18-12. The legislation is focused on addressing the shortage of agricultural labor in the US by expanding and simplifying the H-2A program and allowing for agricultural workers in the US to earn legal status through continued ag employment and contribution to the ag economy. There was one amendment approved, which was offered by Rep. Jackson-Lee (D-TX) and would extend Certified Ag Worker eligibility to holders of Temporary Protected Status who met the prior ag work and other eligibility requirements. The bi-partisan bill has the support of 26 Democrats and 23 Republicans. In addition, more than 300 food and agricultural organizations sent a letter to House leadership supporting the bill. However, several Republicans on the Judiciary Committee spoke out in opposition of the bill because of its pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants working on farms. It is expected that the bill will be considered by the full House in the coming weeks.

FDA Nominee Gives Little Insight on Labeling Policies– The Senate Confirmation Hearing for FDA Commissioner nominee Dr. Stephen Hahn focused primarily on youth vaping nicotine addiction and the opioid epidemic. However, a handful of Senators on the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee raised food labeling issues. The nominee committed to work with Senator Murphy (D-CT) on sesame allergen food labeling. Though when asked if FDA would enforce its own ruling to limit dairy terms on plant-based products, Hahn dodged a direct answer. “I’m in favor of clear, transparent and understandable labeling for the American people,” Dr. Hahn told Senator Baldwin (D-WI). Senator Roberts (R-KS) echoed Baldwin’s comments and asked that Dr. Hahn also consider beef when thinking about standards of identity. Senator Murkowski (R-AK) asked the agency to enforce consistent and clear labeling requirements in genetically engineered salmon and other animals for human consumption. Dr. Hahn committed to giving “focus and energy” to the issue.

Appropriators Extend to December 20– In the midst of impeachment hearings, Congressional negotiators passed another Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government through December 20. The previous deadline had been Thursday, November 21. With this extension, lawmakers continue to work partisan differences, for example, whether to fund $5 billion towards a border wall along the US-Mexico border. A deadline that falls close to the holidays is meant to encourage negotiations as lawmakers will be feeling the pressure to leave town. It is clear that both parties do not want a repeat of last holiday season, which resulted in the longest government shutdown in history. The CR passed last week includes $7.2 billion in funding for the 2020 Census as well as a pay raise for all members of the military.

The Week Ahead

Monday, November 25
  • The Capitol Christmas tree arrived at the US Capitol at 10am. The tree will be decorated with thousands of handmade ornaments from New Mexico.
  • The 2019 White House Christmas Tree will arrive and be received by First Lady Melania Trump. The tree was grown at Mahantongo Valley Farms in Pitman, Pennsylvania.
Tuesday, November 26
  • The White House will host the official “pardoning” ceremony for the National Thanksgiving Turkey, presented by the National Turkey Federation. This is the 72nd anniversary of the tradition, which began in 1947 with President Harry Truman.

MTA In Action

Honors students from the Kansas State University Grain Science and Industry Department were in Washington DC last week on a trip sponsored by the American Bakers Association. MTA organized meetings with Kansas Senators Roberts and Moran and for a Capitol Night Tour with Congressman Marshall (R-KS-01). MTA also arranged for the students to meet with professionals at USDA Food and Nutrition Service, USAID, Senior Professional Staff of the Senate Agriculture Committee and recieved a tour of the Library of Congress.

Andrew Jerome (far left) and Marissa Dake (second from left) with Congressman Marshall (R-KS-01) and staff from the American Bakers Association.


A Quick Look Back