Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 2.13

February 13, 2024

Contents

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

What We’re Watching

Congress 

Farm Bill

In the House, conversations on Farm Bill are heating up, with House Agriculture Committee Chairman GT Thompson (R-PA) and Ranking Member David Scott (D-GA) releasing dueling op-eds outlining their respective priorities and plans for the Farm Bill. Last Wednesday, Ranking Member Scott published a memo outlining the Democratic Farm Bill priorities, which included opposing any cuts to food assistance programs and keeping Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding for conservation and renewable energy. Chairman Thompson responded with an op-ed calling for a bipartisan Farm Bill that meets the needs of growers and consumers but pays for these needs through changes to the Thrifty Food Plan and IRA funding – both red lines for Democrats. In his own op-ed, Ranking Member Scott urged GOP leaders to identify additional resources outside the Farm Bill that could be utilized.

The discussion will continue this week, with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Vilsack testifying in front of the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday and the Senate Agriculture Committee later this month. These hearings will present opportunities for Members to vocalize their priorities and for the Secretary to discuss implementation of various programs and topics that have been up for discussion among Members as negotiations continue.

Appropriations

Democrats on the House Education and Workforce Committee wrote a letter to Appropriations Committee leadership, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) urging them to include funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in the upcoming FY24 Ag-FDA Appropriations bill. The letter states “If Congress fails to include additional WIC funding, as many as two million young children and pregnant and postpartum adults could lose access to WIC benefits entirely” and cites support from “hundreds of public health and faith-based organizations and advocacy groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, Save the Children, Children’s Defense Fund, and the National Council of Churches.” The new deadline for the Agriculture Appropriations bill is March 1, giving Congress just a few short weeks to finalize the bill.

Retirements

Last week Reps. Rosendale (R-MT), McMorris Rogers (R-WA), and Gallagher (R-WI) all announced they will not seek re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives. Congressman Rosendale will be running for Senate in a primary race against Tim Sheehy to then face incumbent Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) in the general election. Congresswoman McMorris Rogers (R-WA) will be stepping down, leaving an open leadership seat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Congressman Gallagher (R-WI) announced he will not run for another term, also leaving open his Chair position on the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party. 

Administration

USDA Launches New Working Land Climate Corps

This week, the USDA announced the Working Lands Climate Corps, a program through the American Climate Corps Initiative, to provide technical training and career opportunities for young Americans and generate jobs in the climate-smart agriculture space. The first cohort of the program will create service opportunities for over 100 Americans in partnership with AmeriCorps, The Corps Network and the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD). The program has drawn interest from over 50,000 people, and 2,200 people have participated in American Climate Corps listening sessions.

USDA Writes Letters to States on SNAP

The USDA issued letters to state Governors urging them to take action around improving the rollout of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits following data on poor key benchmarks of state administration and oversight of the program. Benchmarks listed were the Program Access Index, Payment Error Rates, Application Processing Timelines, and Case and Procedural Error Rates, and the letters listed ways to improve program efficiency. Individual state letters can be found here.  

US Mexico Corn Dispute Hearings Held in June

Hearings will be held on the week of June 25 to consider the ongoing trade dispute between the US and Mexico over genetically modified corn. Doug McKalip, the chief U.S. agricultural negotiator in this process, said that the case will be resolved by the end of the year, with a final ruling anticipated by November. Despite the ongoing case, reports are showing that Mexico continues to purchase record levels of corn from the United States. U.S. corn output was record-large in 2023, and Mexico is also reported to have purchased a record amount of corn from 2023-24 with the U.S. as the main supplier.

USDA Announces Funding for Supply Chain Resiliency

USDA announced $270 million in funding to improve state and local food systems through the Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure program. At the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture’s 2024 Winter Policy Conference, Secretary Vilsack announced Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Utah, and West Virginia have all opened their Request for Applications for the Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure program. Projects include aggregation, processing, manufacturing, storing, transporting, wholesaling, and distribution of food products.

Producers Send Letter to President Biden on Electric Vehicle Standards

The National Corn Growers Association sent a letter to President Biden urging the administration to consider the benefits of biofuels, and warning that the heavy focus on shifting to electric vehicles could “significantly limit the administration’s ability to immediately lower greenhouse gas emissions and put the nation on a climate-smart path.” The letter cites surveys taken showing that Americans have issues with purchasing and using electric vehicles, and biofuels could present as a more immediate climate solution.

CBO Releases Decade Projections

The Congressional Budget Office released their Budget and Economic Outlook for the next decade, which shows projections for the deficit, publicly held debt, and outlays versus revenues. The deficit totals $1.6 trillion in fiscal year 2024 and then eventually is projected to reach $2.6 trillion in 2034. Debt held by the public increases from 99 percent of GDP at the end of this year to 116 percent of GDP the end of 2034, which would be the highest level ever recorded.

Notable News

This Week’s Legislation

  • Sen. Carper (D-DE) introduced a bill to reauthorize America’s Conservation Enhancement Act.
  • Rep. Neguse (D-CO) introduced a bill to amend the Agricultural Credit Act of 1978 to authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to carry out emergency watershed protection measures on National Forest System land.
  • Rep. Hayes (D-CT) introduced a bill to amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to increase the Federal cost share for the supplemental nutrition assistance program administration to improve staffing and retention.
  • Sen. Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience Initiative Act, which would restore and protect the Mississippi river corridor.
  • Sen. Cramer introduced the Congressional Review Act (CRA) Joint Resolution of Disapproval to nullify the FHWA rule.

Upcoming Hearings

Wednesday, February 14

  • 10:00 AM: The House Budget Committee will hold a hearing on “The Congressional Budget Office’s Budget and Economic Outlook”
  • 10:00 AM: The House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing on “Burdensome Regulations: Examining the Impact of EPA Regulations on Main Street”
  • 10:00 AM: The House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing “For the Purpose of Receiving Testimony from The Honorable Thomas J. Vilsack, Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture”

Thursday, February 15

  • 10:30 AM: The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials will hold a hearing on “Safeguarding American Prosperity and People’s Livelihoods: Legislation to Modernize Air Quality Standards”
  • 2:00 PM: The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold an oversight hearing on “Bidenomics & Land Management: The Misguided National Strategy to Develop Environmental Economic Decisions”

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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