Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 12.5

December 5, 2023

Contents

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

What We’re Watching

Congress 

Floor Updates 

This week, both chambers will be in session with limited legislative days until the end of the year. Last week, the House voted to expel Representative George Santos (R-NY), making this the sixth time in history that a lawmakers was removed from Congress. This brings the House GOP margin down to three, which could impact the way House members come up with topline numbers and negotiate on must-pass vehicles.  

Farm Bill 

The GOP has been considering penalties for states with high error rates within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the upcoming farm bill. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced the SNAP Back Inaccurate SNAP Payments Act in September, and this week, Representatives Randy Feenstra (R-IA) and Mike Bost (R-IL) introduced a House companion bill. The legislation would direct states to recollect SNAP overpayments, require states to pay back what they owe, hold states accountable for payment error rates to incentivize better management of funds, and improve the accuracy of SNAP payment error rates by requiring all errors to be reported.  

Additionally, a letter was signed by over 100 bipartisan members and sent to the House and Senate Agriculture Committee leadership requesting a provision in the farm bill to allow SNAP beneficiaries to purchase hot foods with their benefits. The letter was led by Representatives Grace Meng (D-NY), Brian FItzpatrick (R-PA), Andrew Garbarino (R-NY), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), and Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO). 

Congresswoman Caraveo (D-CO), who is the Ranking Member on the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Commodity Markets, Digital Assets, and Rural Development, led a letter urging the Committee to utilize Inflation Reduction Act funding in the next Farm Bill to aid rural communities, businesses, and utilities in their clean energy transition. Members advocated for the Powering Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) initiative, the Empowering Rural America initiative, and the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). 

House Agriculture Committee Chair GT Thompson (R-PA) said that he will be looking for a “string of weeks” in the beginning of 2024 to bring a farm bill through the Committee, then to the floor. 

Administration

Multi-Agency Strategy to Reduce Food Loss and Waste  

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) jointly published for public comment the Draft National Strategy for Reducing Food Loss and Waste and Recycling Organics. This strategy will aim to prevent the loss and waste of food through four objectives: preventing the loss of food where possible; preventing the waste of food where possible; increasing the recycling rate for all organic waste; and supporting the policies that incentivize and encourage food loss, waste prevention, and organics recycling. The announcement was made at COP28 to achieve USDA’s goals of enhancing the ability to address global food security, manage the consequences of climate change, and engage in innovative practices. 

GAO Releases Report on Crop Insurance 

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on reducing program costs, requested by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ). The report specifically focused on cuts to the private sector delivery system and means testing.  The Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau, National Crop Insurance Services, and American Association of Crop Insurers responded with the following statement, “The report contains several recommendations that in the long run would result in reduced participation, diminish the financial soundness of the current program, and reduce the effectiveness of the private-sector delivery system. America’s crop insurers work in partnership with USDA to provide insurance coverage on approximately 500 million crop and rangeland acres and provided approximately $200 billion of financial protection in 2022 to America’s rural economy. This compares to 265 million acres in 2011 and $100 billion in financial protection for the same year.” Read more here.  

Iowa Attorney General Forces EPA Action on E15 

Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird filed a motion for summary judgement to urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to finalize a decision to allow midwestern states to sell E15 year-round. Previously, the EPA proposed a rule that would allow E15 (Unleaded 88) to be sold during the summer months in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin; however, the rule has yet to be finalized. Industry groups hope that this motion will put increased pressure on EPA to take action.  

FDA Releases Updates to the Food Traceability Rule 

The FDA unveiled its third wave of Frequently Asked Questions and tools for the Food Traceability Rule to inform stakeholders and assist required entities with ensuring their compliance. The compliance date for the Food Traceability Rule is January 20, 2025, and routine inspections will begin in 2027. 

USDA Announces Opening for RAPP Applications 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announcedthe Notice of Funding Opportunity for the first tranche of funding under the Regional Agricultural Promotion Program (RAPP). There will be $300 million in funding for the first year for eligible markets, with an emphasis on Africa, Latin American/Caribbean, and South/Southeast Asia. RAPP awards will be generally granted for a period of performance of five years, with an expected period of performance starting June 1, 2024, and ending on September 30, 2029. Applications are due by 5 p.m. ET on Feb. 2, 2024. 

Notable News

ICYMI: Watch Torrey Advisory Group’s Tara Smith featured on Agri-Pulse Newsmakers

This Week’s Legislation

  • The House will take up the DOE and USDA Interagency Research Actthis week, which would direct both agencies to collaborate on biofuel development, crop science, pest control, renewable projects, and other agricultural priorities. The bill was cosponsored by Representatives Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). 
  • Representatives Randy Feenstra (R-IA) and Mike Bost (R-IL) introduced the Snap Back Inaccurate SNAP Payments Act to penalize states for overpayments of SNAP benefits.
  • Representative Doug Lamborn (R-CO) introduced a bill to amend the Energy Act of 2020 to provide for energy parity.
  • Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) introduced a bill to amend the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 to protect ranchers from out-of-state regulation that interferes with interstate livestock production.
  • Senator Peter Welch (D-VT) introduced a bill to amend the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 to improve the Rural Energy for America Program. 

Upcoming Hearings

Tuesday, December 5

  • 10:00 AM: The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment will hold a hearing on “Water Resources Development Acts: Status of Past Provisions and Future Needs”
  • 10:00 AM: The Senate Committee on Finance will hold a hearing on “Drug Shortages: Examining Supply Challenges, Impacts, and Policy Solutions from a Federal Health Program Perspective”
  • 2:00 PM: The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands will hold an oversight hearing on “Examining Opportunities to Promote and Enhance Tribal Forest Management”

Wednesday, December 6

  • 9:00 AM: The House Committee on Agriculture will hold a Member Day hearing.
  • 10:00 AM: The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing on “IIJA Investments in Habitat and Ecosystem Restoration, Pollinators, and Wildlife Crossings”

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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