Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 3.12

March 12, 2024

Contents

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

What We’re Watching

Congress 

Appropriations

On Friday evening, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2024, which includes $26.2 billion in funding for Ag-FDA. Negotiations on the remaining appropriations bills, which include the Labor-HHS and State and Foreign Affairs bills, are continuing as the March 22 deadline quickly approaches. Notably, a 1% across the board cut will occur should all 12 appropriations bills not be finalized by the end of April. 

Meanwhile, President Biden released his budget for Fiscal Year 2025, indicating the start of appropriations discussions for the next fiscal year. The request includes $29.2 billion in discretionary budget authority for USDA, which is a $3 billion increase from the FY2024 levels. Notably, the budget requests $7.7 billion in funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and provides an emergency fund due to higher participation and food prices. It also includes $3.8 billion for ag research, $243 million for the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, $1 billion for loan guarantees for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements, and $6.5 billion in authority for rural electric loans.

The budget included priorities for the upcoming farm bill discussion, specifically calling out “support for new and beginning farmers; agricultural research; protecting and enhancing investments in conservation, climate-smart agriculture and forestry, and clean energy; strengthening local and regional food supply chains; reducing food loss and waste; increasing transparency and continuing to support small and independent processors; open new market opportunities and provide a competitive advantage for American producers—including small and historically underserved producers and early adopters.”

Ag Labor Report

The House Agriculture Committee Agriculture Labor Working Group, co-chaired by Reps. Rick Crawford (R-AK), and Don Davis (D-NC) released their Final Report with Policy Recommendations after months of industry feedback and collaboration. The report has 21 recommendations, and 5 policy considerations (but were excluded from the recommendations). Policies adopted with “unanimous support” include: single portal for filing H2-A applications, allowing H2-A employers to apply for staggered worker entry, streamlined recruiting and hiring processes, expediting review of delayed applications, requiring USDA and DOL to collaborate, and flexibility for the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR). The Department of Labor oversees the H2-A program, and therefore the path forward for legislative outcomes and implementation of recommendations from this report are unclear.

EPR Hearing in Senate

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on March 6th on Examining Extended Producer Responsibility Policies for Consumer Packaging. The hearing identified the state patchwork of laws and lack of definition harmonization as the main pressing, yet solvable, issues when it comes to EPR solutions. Witnesses also discussed solutions for reuse and refill to prevent higher recycling burden. Witnesses were from WWF, AMERIPEN, and S.C. Johnson & Sons Inc.

Administration

President Biden Delivers State of the Union

President Biden delivered his State of the Union address last week, featuring a number of remarks on the food and agriculture industries. He first touted his investments into family farms, led by USDA Secretary Vilsack, and praised the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW). He also highlighted $650 billion in private-sector investment in clean energy, advanced manufacturing and how it has facilitated the creation of thousands of jobs nationwide.

The President commented on the high prices of food, attributing it to corporate greed. He called out snack companies saying they “think you won’t notice when they charge you just as much for the same size bag” and urged Congress to pass Senator Casey’s (D-PA) shrinkflation bill, the Shrinkflation Protection Act.

Another noteworthy comment from the President’s SOTU, was that “no child in this country should go hungry” which was mentioned in conjunction with extending the child tax credits.  

SEC Climate Disclosures Rule Excludes Scope 3

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) voted to finalize a climate-disclosure rule that dropped a requirement for U.S.-listed companies to disclose Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions. The Scope 3 reporting measure was dropped because of industry concerns around compliance costs, since current means of data collection already provide necessary disclosures. Under the rule, large public companies would have to report direct emissions and energy use that is considered essential to investors’ understanding of the company’s fiscal standing. These disclosures would begin in 2026. 

Trade Associations Continue Opposition for Independent Contractor Rule

Regarding the 2024 Independent Contractor Rule, a complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas was argued by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Businesses, National Retail Federation, and American Trucking Associations. The groups joined on other trade associations in opposition of the ruling, stating that it will “irreparably harm not just companies employing independent contractors nationwide, but the workers themselves.” The groups ask the court to declare that the 2021 Independent Contractor Rule remain in effect. 

USTR Publishes Supply Chain Resilience Request for Comment

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has published a request for comment and notice of public hearing to examine strategies to advance U.S. supply chain resilience in trade negotiations, enforcement, and other initiatives. Filing requests and expected testimony at the public hearing are due on April 12, 2024, written comments are due on April 22, 2024, a hearing will be convened on May 2, 2024, and post-hearing written comments must be submitted by May 16, 2024.  

USDA Allocates Funding for Energy Infrastructure

USDA Secretary Vilsack announced $2.3 billion to go toward expanding clean energy through Electric Infrastructure Loans, and through the first iteration of grants for the Powering Affordable Clean Energy Program (PACE). Both of these programs are being carried out under the President’s Justice40 Initiative, which aims to achieve 40% of Federal climate, clean energy, and other covered investments to flow toward disadvantaged communities. 

Notable News

This Week’s Legislation

  • Congresswoman Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced the Agricultural Food Chemical Reassessment Act, which would require the Food Safety and Inspection Service) to reassess seven chemicals used in meat, dairy, and egg products.
  • Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), John Fetterman (D-PA) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Representatives Andy Kim (D-NJ) and Mike Lawler (R-NY) introduced the Enhanced Cybersecurity for SNAP Act to require EBT cards to feature anti-fraud technology capable of preventing cloning, phishing, and skimming.
  • Congresswoman Salinas (D-OR) introduced the SNAP E&T Data and Technical Assistance (DATA) Act to codify and expand Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Data and Technical Assistance Grants to improve performance of Employment and Training programs.
  • Congressman Scott Franklin (R-FL) introduced a bill to strengthen compliance with the FDA Food Traceability Rule to enhance the FDA foodborne illness outbreak investigation process.

Upcoming Hearings

Tuesday, March 12

  • 10:00 AM: The House Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Energy Policy, and Regulatory Affairs will hold a hearing titled “The Power Struggle: Examining the Reliability and Security of America’s Electrical Grid”
  • 10:00 AM: The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing to “Examine Growing U.S. Manufacturing Through the Tax Code”
  • 10:15 AM: The Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing to “Examine the President’s Proposed Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2025”
  • 11:00 AM: The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on “Enhancing Access to Care at Home in Rural and Underserved Communities”

Thursday, March 14

  • 10:00 AM: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing to “Examine Responding to the Increasing Wildfire Threat”

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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