Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 1.23

January 23, 2024

Contents

  • What We’re Watching
  • Notable News
  • This Week’s Legislation
  • Upcoming Hearings
  • Contact the Team

What We’re Watching

Congress 

Appropriations 

Congress passed a third Continuing Resolution (CR) last week to extend government funding through March 1 for the Agriculture, Energy and Water, MilCon-VA, and Transportation-HUD spending bills and March 8th for all other federal agencies. The timing of the new CR could have an impact on floor time to consider a farm bill, since House Agriculture Chair GT Thompson (R-PA) had planned to have a markup and floor time during March. 

Leadership in both the House and Senate are in favor of the CR since Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) came to an agreement on a topline number for Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations, however, individual agency funding levels have not been specified.  

Farm Bill 

Last week, Senate Agriculture Committee Republicans announced they will be drafting their own farm bill framework, which includes plans to boost both crop insurance and crop reference prices, as well as other GOP priorities. Meanwhile, Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has similarly released her farm bill funding ideas in a Dear Colleague letter, which outlines funding plans for various farm programs, including crop insurance, and ensures protection for the nutrition and conservation titles.  Her letter proposes a requirement for producers to opt out of separate risk mitigation programs that provide financial protections from substantial drops in crop revenues if they want to enroll in crop insurance offerings. This will likely face pushback.  

Tax Package 

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) announced an agreement on a $78 billion tax package. The package includes an extension of the child tax credit with an adjustment for inflation, which was a priority for Democrats, and a number of GOP priorities for businesses. Specifically, the bill would extend the allowance for depreciation and amortization in determinations for business interest, extend the 100% bonus depreciation, and increases the limitations on expensing depreciable business assets. The path forward is unclear as Senate Ranking Member Crapo (R-ID) and House Ranking Member Neal (D-MA) continue to review the contents of the package.  

WIC Funding Cliff Report 

House Democrats on the Education and Workforce Committee have released a report titled “On the Brink: The Case for Permanently and Fully Funding the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants & Children (WIC)” to summarize the consequences of failure to fund the program in Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations, as well as advocating for moving the program to permanent funding. The report finds that two million young children and pregnant and postpartum adults could lose access to WIC benefits entirely at proposed funding levels.  

Administration

DGAC Holds Fourth Meeting 

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee (DGAC) met on January 19th to discuss protocol development, evidence review and synthesis, draft conclusion statements, plans for future Committee work, and the development of the scientific report. The meeting also featured presentations made by each of the 4 subcommittees, and then a convening among the entire Committee around progress made since the previous public meeting. The final two Committee public meetings will be held on May 30 and September 26, 2024. The agenda and full meeting can be viewed here.  

USDA Announces Staff Appointments 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced various new staff appointments last week. Kumar Chandran will be appointed as the Acting Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services; Justo Robles will be appointed to Deputy Chief of Staff in the Office of the Secretary; Russellie Bongolan will be appointed to the Chief of Staff to the Deputy Secretary; and Alberto Gonzalez will be made Senior Policy Advisor within the Food and Nutrition Service.  

GAO Releases Report on Foreign Agriculture Land Ownership 

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report recommending changes to the data collection mechanisms in efforts to increase records of foreign ownership of U.S. farmland. The report was requested in October 2022 by House Agriculture Chair GT Thompson (R-PA) and Oversight Chair James Comer (R-KY) along with 128 other members due to concern of inaccurate data as well as unreported data in information housed by the Farm Service Agency. GAO made recommendations for the creation of a portal for online submission of data and a public database for tracking foreign investments of farmland in the U.S. 

Notable News

This Week’s Legislation

  • Congressman John Moolenaar (R-MI) introduced the Supporting Farm Operations Act, which would freeze the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) to 2023 levels.  
  • Congressman Randy Feenstra (R-IA) introduced the Death Tax Repeal Act, a bill to permanently repeal the death tax, which imposes a tax on the transfer of property, land, and other assets from a deceased family member to heirs of family farms and small businesses.
  • Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY) introduced the Carbon Dioxide Removal Leadership Act of 2024, which would address climate change by investing in carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies.
  • Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced a bill that would amend the Energy Policy and Conservation Act to require a certain efficiency level for certain distribution transformers.
  • Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced a bill that would amend the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 to include as a high-priority research and extension area research on microplastics in land-applied biosolids on farmland.

Upcoming Hearings

Wednesday, January 24

  • 10:00 AM: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold an oversight hearing to “Examine the Toxic Substances Control Act Amendments Implementation”
  • 10:00 AM: The Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing on “How the Climate Crisis Threatens Ocean Industries”

Contact the Team

Feel free to contact Michael Torrey, Tara Smith, Cassandra Kuball, Barbara Patterson, Katie Naessens, Caroline Snell, Danielle Nelson, Julie McClureAshley Smith, Olivia Lucanie, Heath Brandt, Tracy Boyle or Matthew Hughes with any questions or comments.

Food and agricultural organizations that need the right results in Washington, D.C. can trust Torrey Advisory Group to put its relationships, reputation, and expertise to work on your issue. Since 2005, the firm has successfully provided legislative and regulatory guidance, issues management, and association management services to a wide variety of clients. Learn more about us at torreydc.com. 

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