Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 11.14

November 14, 2023

Contents

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

What We’re Watching

Congress 

Appropriations

Over the weekend, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) unveiled his proposal for a Continuing Resolution (CR) since current levels of funding are set to expire this Friday. This CR would take a two-tiered approach; the first tranche would extend funding through January 19th for appropriations bills pertaining to agriculture; energy and water; military construction and Veterans Affairs; and Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development. The second tranche would include the rest of the appropriations bills and would expire on February 2nd. The bill also includes an extension of the 2018 Farm Bill through 2024. The House Rules Committee will be taking up the bill with a full vote aimed for Tuesday this week.

Members of the Senate have been vocal in opposition to a “ladder” CR approach, mainly due to unnecessary complications and the potential for a partial shutdown of different agencies. Senate Democrats have supported a clean CR through December 8, 2023 and may take up the rest of the appropriations bills in a “megabus” package.

Farm Bill

The four corners of the Agriculture Committees have come to an agreement to add a yearlong farm bill extension to the CR. They released a joint statement on Sunday saying “this extension is in no way a substitute for passing a 5-year Farm Bill and we remain committed to working together to get it done next year.” The extension includes $177 million for the 21 orphan programs that are part of the farm bill, and uses the 9003 Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program as the offset. House Agriculture Chair GT Thompson stated the Committees are “still being held back by some USDA technical assistance” and CBO scoring. Both Chairwoman Stabenow and Chairman Thompson have indicated they would like to see a farm bill get done early next year.

Agriculture Labor Working Group Report

The House Agriculture Labor Working Group has released their interim report on the H2-A program. The report outlines results and feedback from the survey opened earlier this year through September and also discusses major bottlenecks and limitations on the ability for employers to use the H2-A program. Main concerns were around wages, specifically the Adverse Effect Wage Rate final rule, and overall costs of maintaining workers. The report also makes the case for the inclusion of more industries, like dairy, forestry, and livestock in the program. This precedes a final report on policy solutions to reforming the program overall.

Administration

AMS Requests Comments for Specialty Crop Initiative

The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) within the US Department of Agriculture has opened a public comment period for the Specialty Crops Competitiveness Initiative. The request asks for feedback from the specialty crop industry on how to:

  • Further support the industry’s domestic marketing and consumption
  • Support the industry’s competitiveness internationally
  • Further support research that will serve the industry
  • Increase producers’ awareness of and access to relevant USDA programs
  • Enhance USDA programs that serve the specialty crops industry
  • Aid the evaluation of existing programs
  • Understand current and future challenges faced by the industry.

The comment period closes on March 8, 2024.

USDA Increases Funding for Rural Cooperatives

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the USDA will be investing $1.2 billion in loans to bolster economic development and advance equity through rural cooperatives. This announcement comes as members of the Biden Administration are meeting with industry stakeholders as part of the Investing in Rural America Event Series. A full list of eligible projects can be found here.

WOTUS Lawsuits Filed in North Dakota and Texas

This week, two dozen states and additional farm groups will file complaints in North Dakota and Texas challenging the recent EPA and Army Corps of Engineers rule that were intended to  comply with the Supreme Court’s Sackett v. EPA ruling. The lawsuit indicates “the new rule failed to fully implement the Sackett ruling” and many ag groups felt the rule didn’t go far enough to provide clarity to the agricultural community.  

USDA Announces Funding for GusNIP

The USDA will be providing $52 million for efforts across the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) grant programs that make up the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP). The grant programs are the Nutrition Incentive, Produce Prescription and the Nutrition Incentive Program Training, Technical Assistance, Evaluation and Information (NTAE) Center to increase access to fresh produce and healthy foods. There will be 19 award recipients receiving a total of $41.8 million, $5.2 million will go toward 11 awardees for Produce Prescription Awards, and one recipient will receive $7 million through the NTAE Center program. 

Notable News

This Week’s Legislation

  • Congressman Jefferson Van Drew (R-NJ) introduced a bill to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to remove the overtime wages exemption for certain employees.
  • Congressman Barry Moore (R-AL) introduced a bill to establish the Commission on National Agricultural Statistics Service Modernization to modernize the data collection and reporting processes of the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
  • Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) introduced a bill to direct the Secretary of Energy to establish a grant program to facilitate tree planting that reduces residential energy consumption.
  • Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) introduced a bill to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to ensure that consumers can make informed decisions in choosing between meat products such as beef and imitation meat products.

Upcoming Hearings

Tuesday November 14

  • 10:00 AM: The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee will hold a hearing on “Innovation in American Agriculture: Leveraging Technology and Artificial Intelligence”
  • 10:30 AM: The House Committee on Natural Resources Water, Wildlife and Fisheries Subcommittee will hold a legislative hearing on H.R. 4219, H.R. 5770, H.R. 6107 and H.R. 6127
  •  2:00 PM: The House Committee on Natural Resources Federal Lands Subcommittee will hold a  legislative hearing on H.R. 4235 , H.R. 4353 , H.R. 4717, H.R. 5582, H.R. 5665, H.R. 6070 and Discussion draft of H.R. _ (Rep. Westerman) the “BIOCHAR Act” 

Wednesday November 15

  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing to “Examine Opportunities in industrial decarbonization, focusing on delivering benefits for the economy and the climate”

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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