Weekly Food & Agriculture Update 2.24

Monday, February 24th, 2020


February 24, 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

GAO to Investigate MFP– Senate Agriculture Committee’s Ranking Member, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), has asked the Government Accountability Office, to investigate the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments made to farmers by USDA. In a January 9 letter, Senator Stabenow expressed concern over data that suggests a disproportionate amount of payments went to southern states, wealthier farming operations, and foreign-owned companies. Last week, GAO announced they will open an investigation in response to Senator Stabenow and other Members of Congress. House Democrats have also voiced concern about the program, questioning USDA’s Inspector General, Phyllis Fong, at a recent Appropriations Committee hearing. Despite the scrutiny MFP faces, House Agriculture Committee’s Ranking Member, Congressman Mike Conaway (R-TX), said it is possible that the Trump Administration may issue a third round of MFP payments, even though the most recent tranche was assumed to be the last. Another round of payments seems even more likely after President Trump recently promised to deliver more trade aid to farmers in a tweet as they wait for the new trade deals to fully kick in.

USDA, Coalition Announce Climate Change Efforts– At the 2020 Agricultural Outlook Forum, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue officially announced the Agriculture Innovation Agenda, USDA’s short- and long-term goals for the industry through 2050. The plan aims to “align public and private research efforts” in order to reduce American agriculture’s environmental footprint by 50% while increasing its production by 40% before 2050. Shortly before USDA’s announcement, 21 agriculture groups publicly announced a new coalition, Farmers for a Sustainable Future. This coalition, led by Farm Bureau, plans to engage in sustainability efforts on the policy level and has five focal points: reducing barriers, incentivizing innovation, creating resilient infrastructure, conducting science-based research, and focusing on outcomes.

The Week Ahead

Tuesday, February 25
  • 9:00am: The Farm Foundation will hold a forum on “Assessing the Threats, Gaps and Opportunities for Safeguarding American Agriculture,” focusing on emerging, transboundary diseases that pose a “significant, growing threat to U.S. agriculture.”
  • 10:00am: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will meet to discuss the President’s FY2021 budget request for the Forest Service.
Wednesday, February 26
  • 10:00am: The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry will hold a hearing on “Innovative Wood Products: Promoting Rural Economics and Healthy Forests.”
  • 10:30am: The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing to discuss, “US-China Trade and Competition.”
Thursday, February 27
  • 9:30am: The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security will hold a hearing to discuss the budget request for Customs and Border Protection in FY2021.
  • 1:00pm: The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies will meet to discuss the President’s FY2021 budget request for the Forest Service.
Unless noted, all times are in Eastern Standard Time (EST).

MTA In Action

CIRB Annual Meeting– Earlier this month, the MTA team was in Bonita Springs, Florida to host the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau’s 56th Annual Meeting. For one of the conference sessions, Michael Torrey facilitated a panel on hemp featuring three perspectives: a processor, an insurance provider, and a farmer. On the final morning of the meeting, Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, received the Lifetime Achievement Award for the support he has given to the crop insurance industry throughout his career. Click here to see coverage from AgWired, including an interview with Michael Torrey.


CIRB Chairman Zane Vaughn (left) presents the Lifetime Achievement Award to Senator Roberts (right).

Michael Torrey Featured as First Guest on New Dairy Podcast– “Dairy Stream” is a new podcast, hosted by Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative and the Dairy Business Association (DBA). Each podcast episode will discuss topics relevant to the dairy community, such as emerging technology, government policy, consumer trends, and conservation practices. The premiere discussed US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and featured Michael Torrey as the first guest. Click here to listen to this and other Dairy Stream episodes.

A Quick Look Back