Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 1.9

January 9, 2024

Contents

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

What We’re Watching

Congress 

Appropriations Update

Congress returns in session this week as they face a January 19th deadline for the first tranche of appropriations bills, which includes the Agriculture-FDA; Energy and Water Development; Military Construction and Veterans Affairs; and Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development funding levels.  Just days before Congress returned from the holiday recess, House Speaker Johnson (R-LA) and Senate Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY) announced an agreement on topline spending. The $1.7 trillion deal would largely adhere to the funding levels set over the summer during the debt ceiling negotiations, providing $773 billion in nondefense spending and $886 billion in defense spending. The agreement comes after more than 850 organizations sent a letter warning both House and Senate leadership about steep cuts to spending levels.

Congress will have less than two weeks before the first funding deadline, needing to pass at least four of the twelve spending bills or pass another  continuing resolution (CR) to avoid a partial government shutdown. If Congress does not agree to these new topline amounts and instead passes a CR, a budget cap will be implemented as cited in the debt ceiling agreement from May 2023. The implementation process has been outlined in a letter from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to House Budget Committee Chairman Arrington (R-TX) and Ranking Member Boyle (D-PA), which would cap non-defense spending at $736 billion, and defense spending at $850 billion in a CR.

Complicating matters, House Republicans still have an even slimmer margin heading into 2024, as Representative Bill Johnson (R- OH) will be retiring on January 21 and Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA) is undergoing medical treatment that may keep him from voting in January. These announcements put even more pressure on Speaker Johnson to work across the aisle for more votes on future legislation. 

Administration

USDA Rolls Out MAP and FMD Funding

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) announced $203 million allocated to the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) Program. Specifically, the FAS will provide $174.3 million through MAP to 68 organizations and cooperatives, while the FMD program will receive $27 million across 20 trade organizations.

Treasury Department Announces Partial SAF Tax Credit Guidance

Just before the holidays, the Treasury Department released guidance on the 40B tax credit for sustainable aviation fuel. The guidance included welcomed news from agricultural groups as an updated version of the GREET model will be among the methodologies used to determine eligibility for the tax credit. While this is an important step for agricultural commodities with a vested interested in sustainable aviation fuel, the updates to the GREET model, anticipated by March 1, will provide actual clarity on which feedstocks will qualify. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has said, “GREET model updates would account for the impact of climate-smart farming practices, and carbon capture and sequestration.”

Biden Administration Reopens 4 Points at Southern Border

The Biden administration has reopened four ports of entry – Eagle Pass, Texas; San Ysidro, California; Lukeville, Arizona; and Nogales, Arizona – that had previously been closed because of a record influx of migrants. This comes following industry pushback since all entry points are critical to agriculture supply chain imports, and as 60 Republican lawmakers visited Eagle Pass crossing on Wednesday January 3rd.

USDA Releases Food Price Outlook for 2024

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (ERS) released their Food Price Outlook (FPO) for 2024, which predicts that supermarket prices will decline by about 0.6%, the cost of eating out will rise by 4.9% in 2024, and overall food prices will rise by 1.2%. This is the smallest increase in overall food prices since 2017. However, some economists are predicting that rising costs of labor and supply chain bottlenecks may impede the softening of inflation for many different food products.  

Notable News

This Week’s Legislation

  • Congressman Bruce Westerman (R-AR) introduced a bill amending the Water Resources Development Act of 1992 and the Flood Control Act of 1968 to provide for provisions relating to collection and retention of user fees at recreation facilities. 

Upcoming Hearings

Wednesday, January 10

  • 10:00 AM: The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials will hold a hearing on “Protecting Clean American Energy Production and Jobs by Stopping EPA’s Overreach”

Thursday, January 11

  • 10:00 AM: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing to examine “Federal Electric Vehicle Incentives Including the Federal Government’s Role in Fostering Reliable and Resilient Electric Vehicle Supply Chains”
  • 10:00 AM: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Proposals for a Water Resources Development Act of 2024: Members’ Day Hearing”

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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