Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 2.27

February 27, 2024

Contents

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

What We’re Watching

Congress 

Appropriations

Congress will reconvene this week with only a few days to avoid a partial government shutdown on March 1 and a full shutdown on March 8 if no spending agreement is reached. President Biden invited Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to the White House on Tuesday to discuss the funding bills and avoiding a potential shutdown. Some members have floated the idea of extending the deadline until March 21, however the Speaker and far-right conservatives have been vocal in opposition against another Continuing Resolution.

One area of contention around passage of the Ag-FDA FY24 appropriations bill is a policy rider that would include a pilot program that would restrict purchases made on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Lawmakers expected a deal to be reached on Sunday, but other policy riders and additional funding for WIC have made reaching an agreement difficult.

Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) introduced a resolution that would allow either Democratic or Republican party leadership to sanction any vote to vacate the speaker’s chair in efforts to avoid another motion to vacate. If all 12 appropriations bills are not passed by April 30, a 1% across the board spending cut will be enacted, which some conservatives are supporting.

Farm Bill

As lawmakers continue working through priorities for the farm bill, the overall progress has lost momentum. Following the House Agriculture Committee hearing, the Senate Agriculture Committee will host a similar hearing on Wednesday, February 28 with USDA Secretary Vilsack as a witness.  

House Agriculture Committee Republicans released a Myths vs. Facts document with a number of priorities and how they plan to be addressed in the upcoming farm bill in efforts to kick start negotiations. Topics addressed in the document are Inflation Reduction Act conservation spending, updating the Thrifty Food Plan, farm bill funding, and USDA Secretary authority over the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC).

In addition, a letter undersigned by 30 Representatives was sent to House Agriculture Committee leadership urging the prioritization of mechanization research and development in the farm bill. The letter calls for the Committee’s support for ensuring farmers have the resources to adopt and implement the best technologies, saying “the development and incorporation of innovative and accessible technology is therefore more critical than ever, both to bridge the gaps left by the shortage of human hands and equip the existing workforce with modern solutions to enhance their skill sets.”

International Food Aid

Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Boozman (R-AR) and Senator Booker (D-NJ) wrote a letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack and USAID Administrator Power expressing concerns around delays in the emergency purchase and shipment of U.S. committees to address food assistance concerns globally. The letter references an announcement made in October to use $1 billion through the CCC for support for international food aid programs and urges the deployment as “quickly as possible.”

Administration

USDA and DOE Roll Out RAISE Initiative

The Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy have announced the rollout of the Rural and Agricultural Income and Savings from Renewable Energy (RAISE) initiative – a new program that would invest in underutilized renewable technologies for smaller-scale wind projects. RAISE will be funded through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). In addition, the Department of Energy will be rolling out $4 million in related funding for testing, certification, and commercialization of wind technologies, as well as outreach and identification of innovations in the space. A joint webinar within the program will be held on March 14, 2024 to discuss a National Distributed Wind Network and Resource Hub.

USDA Releases Equity Report

In response to President Biden’s Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, USDA established an Equity Commission. The Commission has been meeting for two years, and their work culminated in a report providing recommendations to advance equity across all of USDA. The recommendations focus on both near and long-term action including a focus on department wide equity; work with farmers and ranchers; farmworkers and support for their families; research and extension; equitable nutrition assistance; immigrants and their families; and overall support to rural communities.

EPA Grants Midwest E15 Petition

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved a petition by governors in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin to allow E15 blends to be sold year-round. Previously, the Clean Air Act banned the purchase of the blend during summertime months. However, the EPA delayed the decision to 2025, which makes the sale of E15 this summer up for question.

USDA Announces Funding for Rural Infrastructure

USDA Secretary Vilsack and White House Domestic Policy Advisor Neera Tanden announced a joint project that will bring $772.6 million in infrastructure investments to 216 projects across 45 states and territories. The projects will aim to provide high-speed internet access, clean water, and other forms of support for rural producers, businesses, and citizens. A broader list of projects that will receive funding can be found here.

USDA 2024 Agricultural Outlook Released

According to USDA’s annual forecast for the farm economy released at the annual Agricultural Outlook Forum last week, producers will face lower prices for most major crops this year with higher input costs and growing export competition. Corn, soybean, and wheat prices are all expected to see a decrease of at least 8.3%, and wheat and corn growers are expected to plant a combined 6.2 million acres less than in 2023. 

Notable News

This Week’s Legislation

  • Congresswoman Salinas (D-OR) and Senators Casey (D-PA) and Fischer (R-NE) introduced the Rural Partnership and Prosperity Act, which would expand federal support and investment in rural communities.
  • Congressman Zinke (R-MT) introduced the Public Lands in Public Hands Act to ban the sale or transfer of most public lands managed by the Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest service except under specific conditions.
  • Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (D-CT) introduced the Closing the College Hunger Gap Act to direct the U.S. Secretary of Education to notify college students of their eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) based on information reported through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.
  • Congressman Sorensen (D-IL) introduced the Securing and Understanding Our National Renewable Agriculture Yields (SUNRAY) for Energy Act to identify and make publicly available best practices for implementing solar on agricultural land. 

Upcoming Hearings

Tuesday, February 27

  • 2:30 PM: The Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management, and Regulatory Oversight will hold a joint hearing to “Examine the Presence of Microplastics in Water”

Wednesday, February 28

  • 2:30 PM: The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold an oversight hearing on the U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • 10:00 AM: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing to examine the “Water Resources Development Act, focusing on USACE water infrastructure projects, programs and priorities”

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. 

Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 4.9

Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 3.19

Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 3.12

More from team torrey

more from team torrey

Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 4.9

Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 3.19

Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 3.12

Navigating Today's Dynamic Political and Regulatory Environment

The Torrey team is the right choice for professionals who need an advocate you can trust to guide you through the sometimes-stressful policymaking process.