Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 1.30

January 30, 2024

Contents

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

What We’re Watching

Congress 

Appropriations

This week, both the House and Senate are back in session to continue appropriations discussions, as well as consider a tax package and a proposal on the southern border. On the appropriations front, Senate and House Appropriations Chairs Patty Murray (D-WA) and  Kay Granger (R-TX) announced  an agreement on funding levels for the twelve spending bills – also known as 302(b) allocations. Exact numbers have not yet been released, but lawmakers can now work through the details for the programs in each bill in anticipation of the March 1 and 8 funding deadlines. Officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are particularly interested in seeing funding levels for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which is facing a shortfall if no additional funding is included in the Agriculture-FDA bill.

Other Legislation

The House will likely consider the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024, a tax package agreed upon by House Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith (R-MO) and Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR). Despite the bipartisan, bicameral agreement, passage of the bill could be difficult given it’s already facing pushback from both parties.

The Senate is also anticipating a vote on a border deal this week, after Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) announced text was being finalized. Passage of the deal is uncertain with support from Senate Republicans in question. Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has already declared the deal  “dead on arrival.”

Farm Bill

With a number of legislative vehicles taking priority over the next few weeks, timing on the farm bill may get pushed back later into the spring. While House Agriculture Chair, GT Thompson (R-PA), has been vocal about wanting to move a bill through Committee by March, that will depend on timing of appropriations, border legislation, and whether the House takes up the tax package. Negotiations on the Senate side remain at a standstill after a recent impasse between Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR) on title I and crop insurance issues.

Meanwhile, Secretary Vilsack is scheduled to testify in front of both House and Senate Agriculture Committees in February, where he will discuss USDA’s dissemination of funding through the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as fraud within farm bill programs. 

Administration

USDA Launches Assisting Specialty Crop Exports Initiative

In efforts to bolster the specialty crop sector and increase global projects across the industry, Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the launch of the Assisting Specialty Crop Exports (ASCE) initiative, which will provide $65 million for projects through a set aside from the Regional Agricultural Promotion Program (RAPP). He also announced $72.9 million in grant funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP). Both programs aim to assist specialty crop growers by funding projects that would expand their global competitiveness through expansion into new markets.

FDA Publishes Regulations Under Development and Priority Guidance Topics  

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published a new website listing regulations it plans to publish by October 2024, and longer-term regulations being prioritized for publication. The FDA also has updated the list of guidance topics that it expects to publish before the end of this year for the first time since July 2023. They have added a number of new topics to the list of guidance documents, including: Notifying FDA of a Permanent Discontinuance in the Manufacture or an Interruption of the Manufacture of an Infant Formula; Draft Guidance for Industry; The Food Traceability Rule: Questions and Answers; Draft Guidance for Industry; Voluntary Sodium Reduction Goals: Target Mean and Upper Bound Concentrations for Sodium in Commercially Processed, Packaged, and Prepared Foods (Edition 2): Draft Guidance for Industry; and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food; and Chapter 12: Preventive Controls for Chemical Hazards: Draft Guidance for Industry.

USDA Announces Funding for Clean Energy and Domestic Fertilizer Projects

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $207 million to be allocated toward renewable energy and domestic fertilizer projects in efforts to lower energy costs, facilitate job creation, and increase competitiveness. Funding will be awarded through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and the Fertilizer Production Expansion Program (FPEP). 

Notable News

This Week’s Legislation

  • Senators Braun (R-IN) and Tester (D-MT) introduced the AFIDA Improvements Act of 2024, which would enact several changes to the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA) based on recommendations the recent Government Accountability Office report.
  • Representatives Langworthy (R-NY), Tokuda (D-HI) and Spanberger (D-VA) introduced the Creating Access to Rural Employment and Education for Resilience and Success (CAREERS) Act which seeks to expand skills development opportunities within the USDA’s Rural Innovation Stronger Economy (RISE) Grant Program.
  • Sen. Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sen. Casey (D-PA) introduced the Healthy Food Financing Initiative Reauthorization Actwhich would double funding for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI).
  • Reps. Finstad (R-MN) and Slotkin (D-MI) introduced the Farm and Food Cybersecurity Actwhich would strengthen cybersecurity protections within the agriculture infrastructure sector.
  • Congressman Burlison (R-MO) introduced the Banning EPA’s Encroachment of Facilities (BEEF) Act, which would prohibit the EPA from finalizing, implementing, or enforcing a new proposed rule entitled “Clean Water Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Meat and Poultry Products Point source category.”
  • Congressman Beyer (D-VA) introduced the Innovative Practices for Soil Health Act, which would aim to improve soil health and support farmers who incorporate perennial systems and agroforestry into their operations.
  • Congressman Newhouse (R-WA) introduced the Defending Against Manipulative Negotiators Act, which would prohibit the use of federal funds from being used in breaching or altering the Lower Snake River Dams and would prohibit the implementation of the Columbia Basin Restoration Initiative.

Upcoming Hearings

Tuesday, January 30

  • 10:00 AM: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation will hold a hearing on “Menace on the Red Sea: Securing Shipping Against Threats in the Red Sea”
  • 10:00 AM: The House Financial Services Subcommittee on National Security, Illicit Finance, and International Financial Institutions will hold a hearing on “Better Investment Barriers: Strengthening CCP Sanctions and Exploring Alternatives to Bureaucratic Regimes”
  • 10:00 AM: The House Energy and Commerce Energy, Climate, and Grid Security Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Exposing President Biden’s Plan to Dismantle the Snake River Dams and the Negative Impacts to the United States”
  • 10:00 AM: The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government will hold a hearing on “The Southern Border Crisis: The Constitution and the States”

Wednesday, January 31

  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing to examine “Avoiding, Detecting, and Capturing Methane Emissions from Landfills”

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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