Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 2.6

February 6, 2024

Contents

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

What We’re Watching

Congress 

Tax Package Passes House

Last week, Republicans and Democrats in the House overwhelmingly voted to pass the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024 – a tax package agreed upon by House Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith (R-MO) and Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR). To recap, the legislation includes a number of business priorities, like a restoration of the 100% bonus depreciation and immediate deduction of R&D investments, as well as an expansion of the Child Tax Credit. The bill will now head to the Senate, where the path forward is unclear due to opposition from some top Republicans regarding certain aspects of the Child Tax Credit provisions and some desire to punt any action to next Congress when other provisions within the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will have to be addressed.

Aid Packages Introduced

Over the weekend, both the House and Senate unveiled long-awaited policy proposals on foreign aid and the southern border. On Saturday, the House Appropriations Committee released the text of its Israel Security Supplemental Appropriations Act which only includes funding for Israel, while on Sunday the Senate released a full supplemental package including funds for the border, Israel, and Ukraine. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he will bring the supplemental package to the floor on Wednesday; however, it is unclear whether it will pass due to strong pushback by far-right conservatives. Additionally, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has been vocal that if this package does pass the Senate, it will be “dead on arrival” in the House.

Discussions around both of these packages will take time on the legislative calendar as members face FY24 appropriations deadlines on March 1 and 8.

Bipartisan Congressional Agriculture Trade Caucus Launches

Representatives Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Adrian Smith (R-NE), Jim Costa (D-CA), and Dusty Johnson (R-SD) launched the bipartisan Congressional Agricultural Trade Caucus last week. The Caucus will “work to solidify support for trade policies that benefit farmers, ranchers, producers, rural communities, and all those along our food and agricultural supply chains,” as well as facilitate education and engagement for members of Congress around “policies which boost international competitiveness, increase market access, address non-tariff barriers to trade, improve supply chains, and reestablish U.S. global leadership on trade.” 

Administration

HHS Hosts Food is Medicine Conference

This week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) held their Inaugural “Food is Medicine Summit: Building a Dynamic Future.” The conference hosted several key stakeholders across both the food and healthcare spaces and discussed topics on how to implement food as medicine practices into the current healthcare system, food systems, and how to scale successful programs to reach more communities.

Front-of-pack labeling, decreasing sodium and sugars in food products, prohibiting advertising of ultra-processed foods to children, and increasing nutrition incentives were common themes within the food-related sessions. Three new public-private partnerships were announced at the meeting.

USCIS Finalizes Fee Increases

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published their final rule on adjusting immigration and naturalization benefit request fees. This will be the first time the agency has updated the benefit request fees since 2016, and will go into effect on April 1, 2024. For H-2A temporary agriculture workers, petition fees for named beneficiaries will increase by 137%.

EPA Releases PFAS Proposal

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signed a proposal last week to categorize nine types of PFAS as “hazardous constituents” in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Under the RCRA, a chemical can be listed as a hazardous constituent if scientific studies show that the chemical has “toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic, or teratogenic effects on humans or other life forms. The EPA will collect comments on the proposal once it is published in the Federal Register.

FMSCA Releases Proposed Rule on Flexibilities for Skills Test

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a proposed rule that seeks to streamline the process for obtaining a CDL. Specifically, the rule would expand applicants’ ability to take a CDL skills test in a state other than their original state, would allow for a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holder who has passed the CDL skills test to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) on public roads, and eliminates the requirement that an applicant would have to wait at least 14 days to take the CDL skills test following initial issuance of the CLP. Comments are due by April 2, 2024.

Notable News

This Week’s Legislation

  • Congressman Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Representative Peters (D-CA) introduced the Hydrogen Infrastructure and Innovation Act (HIFIA) to establish a pilot program to provide grants and loans for hydrogen infrastructure projects.
  • Congresswoman Dean (D-PA) reintroduced the PFAS Accountability Act to allow courts to award medical monitoring for victims of PFAS exposure.
  • Congressman Curtis (R-UT) introduced legislation to amend the Clean Air Act to provide for exclusion of air quality monitoring data that is directly due to a catastrophic or beneficial use wildfire from use in determinations with respect to exceedances or violations of the national ambient air quality standard for any air pollutant.
  • Representatives Grothman (R-WI) and Mfume (D-MD) introduced the CBO Data Access Act to streamline CBO transparency.
  • Congresswoman Brownley (D-CA) introduced the Improving Coordination of Agriculture Research and Data Actwhich would facilitate the coordination of agriculture climate research, data collection, and monitoring, and expand adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices.

Upcoming Hearings

Tuesday, February 6

  • 10:00 AM: The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy, Climate and Grid Security will hold a hearing titled “Politics Over People: How Biden’s LNG Export Ban Threatens America’s Energy and Economic Security”
  • 10:00 AM: The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on “Examining Chronic Drug Shortages in the United States”

Wednesday, February 7

  • 9:00 AM: The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade will hold a hearing on “Advancing America’s Interests at the World Trade Organization’s 13th Ministerial Meeting”

Thursday, February 8

  • The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands will hold an oversight field hearing on “Biden’s Border Crisis: The Consequences of Failing to Secure Federal Border Lands”

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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