Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 11.7

November 7, 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

With just ten days left before the current continuing resolution expires, both chambers continued to make progress on the appropriations process last week . The Senate passed their minibus package with a vote of 82-15, which included MilCon-VA, Agriculture-FDA, and Transportation-HUD. Out of the 40 amendments considered, 30 were adopted. All 12 appropriations bills have been passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee, but it is unclear how the next tranche of appropriations legislation will be considered on the floor.

Meanwhile, the House continues to take up each appropriations bill individually. Last week, they passed the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act which cuts funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by 40% and the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act. Even though the House has passed 7 out of the 12 spending bills, there is still a long way to go between passage of the rest of the bills, conferencing with the Senate, and then final passage to the White House. Funding expires on November 17th, and Congress will have to pass another Continuing Resolution to avoid a shutdown. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) proposed a CR through January or through April, and has also floated the idea of doing individual CRs for each appropriations bill.

Farm Bill

All four corners of the Agriculture Committees have acknowledged an extension will be necessary for the 2023 Farm Bill. House Chair GT Thompson (R-PA) has expressed that a yearlong extension is unnecessary, and still hopes for a farm bill to be completed sometime next year, while Senate Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has stated that a yearlong extension is the only path forward due to the way the commodity programs work. The Senate is also working to secure funds for the orphan programs in the farm bill, those programs that have mandatory funding but are not part of the baseline, as part of the farm bill extension. Chairman Thompson has signaled he wants to have a clean extension in hopes that finding money for those orphan program and other priorities will press lawmakers to get a bill done early next year. There is support for attaching a farm bill extension to the November appropriations CR, but a path forward on the farm bill is still unclear.

Administration

USDA Releases WIC Participation Study

The US Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) released a report on participation rates in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). The data finds that an average of 12.13 million moms, babies, and young children were eligible for WIC in 2021. However, only 51%, or 6.21 million, of those who were eligible participated. Data from 2022 and 2023 is not yet available, but there is evidence that WIC participation is beginning to increase. However, Congressional threats to WIC funding could put some eligible families on waiting lists, despite existing difficulties in getting families to participate. You can see the full report here.

FDA Proposes Ban on Brominated Vegetable Oil

The FDA recently released a proposal to ban brominated vegetable oil (BVO) in human foods. The ingredient is mainly used in small amounts for beverages, like sodas and sports drinks to ensure citrus flavoring does not separate. This proposal follows a bill in California banning the ingredient, and in 1970, the FDA determined that BVO was no longer “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) and began overseeing its use under our food additive regulations. Currently, there are few beverages that still use the additive, and it is banned in Europe and in Japan.

USDA Releases Commodity Tables for Agriculture Projections

The USDA will be releasing selected commodity tables from the upcoming USDA Agricultural Projections to 2033 report on Tuesday, November 7 at 3 PM. The tables will include 10-year projections for crops and livestock products and reflect how markets may evolve under current conditions and regular weather patterns.

Senators Request H2-A Comment Period Extension

A number of Senators, including Agriculture Committee Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR), have written a letter to the Department of Homeland Security requesting an extension of the proposed rulemaking titled “Modernizing H-2 Program Requirements, Oversight, and Worker Protections,” which is set to close on November 20, 2023. The letter notes that “sixty days is an insufficient amount of time for all producers to develop thorough and meaningful feedback” and discusses the consequences of changes to the H2-A program on the agricultural supply chain. Some changes the proposed rule would provide include additional flexibility for ending work while maintaining the H-2 status, whistleblower protections, and new timelines for grace periods before and after work. 

Notable News

This Week’s Legislation

  • Congressman Max Miller (R-OH) will introduce the Farm to Fly Acton November 7, which clarifies standards around sustainable aviation fuel and would define eligibility for SAF within the USDA’s agriculture bio-energy programs, affirm a common definition of SAF for USDA purposes, and provide for greater collaboration for aviation biofuels through USDA’s programs and public-private partnerships.
  • Congressman Thomas Tiffany (R-WI) introduced a bill to direct the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to submit to Congress a report on the amount of waste collected on certain Federal land along the southern border of the United States.
  •  Congresswoman Andrea Salinas (D-OR) introduced a bill to amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 and the Emergency Food Assistance Act of 1983 to make commodities available for the Emergency Food Assistance Program.
  • Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX) introduced a bill to establish an Office of Colonias and Farmworker Initiatives within the Department of Agriculture.
  •  Congressman John Moolenaar (R-MI) introduced a bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to deny certain green energy tax benefits to companies connected to certain countries of concern.
  • Senator Pete Ricketts (R-NE) introduced the Flood Protection and Infrastructure Resilience Act of 2023, which would modify USDA programs to improve flood protection and infrastructure resiliency.
  • Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced the Reduce Food Loss and Waste Act, which would amend the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to establish a voluntary program to reduce food loss and waste. 

Upcoming Hearings

Wednesday, November 8

  • 10:00 AM: The House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing on “Burdensome Regulations: Examining the Effects of Department of Energy Regulations on America’s Job Creators”
  • 10:00 AM: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing to “Examine accessing clean water infrastructure assistance, focusing on small, rural, disadvantaged and underserved communities”.

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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