Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 10.31

October 31, 2023

Contents

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

What We’re Watching

Congress 

Speaker Updates

The House is back to legislative business after electing a new Speaker, Congressman Mike Johnson (R-LA), last week. The Congressman has been in office since 2017 and previously served as the vice chairman of the House Republican Conference and chairman of the Republican Study Committee. Speaker Johnson circulated a Dear Colleague letter outlining a legislative agenda for the next year, with separate appropriations bills  set to be considered in November and then conferenced with the Senate into 2024, as well as a proposal to pass the House version of the   farm bill in December. Current spending levels expire on November 17th and Speaker Johnson has stated that another Continuing Resolution (CR) will likely be needed, extending through January or April – depending on what the conference agrees upon.

In addition, Speaker Johnson has indicated that the current rule, in which just one member can put forth a motion to vacate, should be changed. Notably, he has not pushed it as his top priority, but  Congressman Max Miller (R-OH) introduced a measure that would require 112 members from either the Majority or the Minority party to bring a motion to vacate to the floor, thus changing the current rule.

Appropriations

As outlined in the Dear Colleague letter, the House leadership has laid out an appropriations schedule through the month of November. The first item on the agenda was the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act, which was passed last week, making it the fifth spending bill the House has passed. This week, the House is set to consider an aid package for Israel along with appropriations for the Legislative Branch, Interior and Environment, and Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD).  Debate and passage of the Ag-FDA appropriations bill is currently scheduled for the week of November 13. For the bill to move forward, Speaker Johnson acknowledged that certain FDA-related “poison pill” provisions must be addressed in order for the bill to pass, and he has introduced the idea of a working group to find a path forward. If all bills are passed according to schedule, the House will work on conferencing with the Senate from mid-November through 2024.

Meanwhile the Senate has continued to vote on amendments for the minibus package. Last week, a number of agriculture amendments were agreed to on a voice vote and passed en bloc. This week, they will likely continue voting on individual amendments.

Farm Bill

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) made an announcement on the Senate floor requesting a year-long extension of the farm bill, noting that a full year extension will allow for commodity programs to operate properly. This follows remarks by Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR) voicing support for attaching a one-year farm bill extension to a November Continuing Resolution.

Congressman Brad Finstad (R-MN) led a sign-on letter to Speaker Johnson signed by 61 Republican Members of Congress underscoring their commitment to passage of a farm bill that would support rural America. The letter states that passing a farm bill is a “critical agenda item that must be addressed this Congress” and supports the GOP conference in “ensuring swift passage of a strong Farm Bill that is written by farmers, for farmers, and by rural communities, for rural communities – supporting the farm, ranch, and forester families we represent,’ as well as highlighting that farm and food security is a matter of national security. 

Administration

USDA Increases Investment in International Trade and Food Aid

US Department of Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced the agency will be putting $2.3 billion from the Commodity Credit Corporation to addressing challenges related to trade and food insecurity. $1.3 billion will be used for the Regional Agricultural Promotion Program to support specialty crop industries and diversify export markets, and $1 billion will go toward addressing global hunger.

USDA Provides Assistance to Industries Impacted by 2022 Natural Disasters

The USDA announced they will be allocating $3 billion to commodity and specialty crop producers impacted by natural disaster events in 2022 in an effort to offset the financial impacts of crop yield and value losses from qualifying disasters. Eligible impacted producers can apply for financial assistance through the Emergency Relief Program (ERP) 2022 under Track 1 or Track 2 designations. Disaster-impacted producers may be eligible for ERP 2022 assistance under one or both tracks.

Food Insecurity Report Released

The Economic Research Service (ERS) within USDA released a report on “The State of Food Security in the United States.” The report found that food insecurity spiked sharply through 2022, with 12.8% of households struggling to get enough food. This is an increase from 2021, where 10.2% of households were deemed food insecure. The report also finds that in 2022, about 55% of food-insecure households participated in one or more of the three largest Federal nutrition assistance programs – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and the National School Lunch Program during the month prior to the 2022 survey.

President Biden Signs Executive Order on AI

On Monday, President Biden signed an Executive Order to direct developers of AI software to implement consumer safety provisions, including sharing safety test results with the federal government, develop standards and tests to ensure AI systems are safe and trustworthy, protect against the use of AI in developing dangerous biological materials, and to protect Americans against fraud and to safeguard privacy. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will be tasked with creating standards to make sure AI is safe before public release, and the Department of Commerce will be issuing guidance on how to label AI-generated content. The guidance is set to be implemented over the span of a year.

Department of Labor Joint Employer Final Rule

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a new final rule on the joint-employer standards, overturning the rule from 2020. The 2023 rule considers “the alleged joint employers’ authority to control essential terms and conditions of employment, whether or not such control is exercised, and without regard to whether any such exercise of control is direct or indirect.” Essential terms and conditions of employment are defined as: wages, benefits, hours of work and scheduling, assignment and supervision of duties, work rules, tenure of employment, and employee safety. The new standard for determining joint employer status will make it easier for the Board to find that two companies are joint employers obligated to bargain over essential terms and conditions of employment and liable for labor law violations. The effective date is December 26, 2023, but could be subject to change.

Notable News

This Week’s Legislation

Upcoming Hearings

Wednesday, November 1

  • 10:00 AM: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on “The Science of Extreme Event Attribution: How Climate Change Is Fueling Severe Weather Events”

Thursday, November 2

  • 10:00 AM: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing to “Examine the opportunities and challenges in deploying carbon capture utilization and sequestration and direct air capture technologies on federal and non-Federal lands”
  • 10:15 AM: The House Committee on Natural Resources will hold a Member 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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