Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 3.5

March 5, 2024

Contents

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

What We’re Watching

Congress 

Appropriations

Lawmakers released the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2024 on Sunday afternoon, which includes funding for Ag-FDA, Commerce-Justice-Science, Energy and Water Development, Interior and Environment, MilCon-VA, and Transportation-HUD bills. Full bill text can be found here, and a summary can be found here. The House will vote on the package under suspension, meaning it will need a two-thirds majority to pass, with the goal of sending it to the Senate before the Friday deadline. Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) released a statement supporting the bill’s “conservative victories,” while Democrats were able to remove “poison pill policy riders.”

The bill funds the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at $26.2 billion. Notably, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) received $7 billion in funding which would provide the necessary increase in benefits and prevent the creation of a waiting list. A pilot program that would have restricted the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was also removed from the bill after anti-hunger groups and food industry pushback. The package also includes changes to tracking foreign land purchases, would add the Secretary of Agriculture to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. Funding for the Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service all received funding cuts.

Negotiations on the remaining appropriations bills will continue 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 the month.  Despite still working through FY24, the President’s FY25 budget is anticipated to be released on March 11. The process for appropriations requests will continue through the rest of this month.

Farm Bill

The Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing last week featuring USDA Secretary Vilsack as a witness to discuss the farm bill. His testimony focused on the current situation of farmers in rural America, and how USDA is focused on local and regional food systems, climate-smart agriculture, and new income sources. The Senate Committee members addressed a variety of issues including crop insurance, conservation, changes to the Thrifty Food Plan and its impact on nutrition programs, farm bill costs, foreign agriculture land ownership, and more. Despite Member testimony highlighting a difference in partisan priorities, Members on both sides of the aisle recognized the need for and importance of passing a new farm bill.

Leadership Changes

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced he will be stepping down from his Republican leadership position in the Senate after being the longest serving party leader. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), John Thune (R-SD), and Rick Scott (R-FL) are all potential replacements, while former President Trump endorsed Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) for Senate party leader. 

Administration

White House Holds Hunger and Nutrition Meeting

First Gentleman Doug Emhoff announced $1.7 billion in new commitments to end hunger and improve nutrition at the White House. He was joined by Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA), Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, chef Jose Andres, and other stakeholders, athletes, and nutrition advocates. Congressman McGovern urged participants to advocate on behalf of WIC, and both him and Secretary Vilsack highlighted the importance of SNAP and Summer EBT programs. Sen. Stabenow told attendees that she would prefer to have no farm bill upon retirement than a farm bill that cuts nutrition and climate programs.

SAF Tax Credit Clarity Deadline Delayed

The Biden Administration has missed the March 1 deadline to issue an update on modeling and clarity on whether certain feedstocks will be eligible under the sustainable aviation fuel tax credit. The announcement, including an updated  Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET) model is expected in the in the next several weeks. The delay comes following guidance issued in December setting eligibility for the SAF tax credit, which could go as high as $1.75 per gallon. The tax credit is based off the most recent iteration of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation standard. Last week, at Commodity Classic Secretary Vilsack shared that the delay was due to ongoing negotiations regarding climate-smart practices and qualification for the credit.

USDA Expands Crop Insurance for Nursery Growers

The Risk Management Agency is expanding a pilot program for the Nursery Value Select program. The Nursery Value Select (NVS) pilot program allows for nursery producers to tailor their amount of coverage to best fit their individual risk management needs. Historically, NVS has only been available in select counties in nine states but will now be available to producers in all counties and states beginning with the 2025 crop year.

EPA Announces New Agriculture Office

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan announced the formation of the Office of Agriculture and Rural Affairs within the agency at Commodity Classic last week. The statement says that the office will “forge practical, science-based solutions that protect the environment while ensuring a vibrant and productive agricultural system,” and will be led by Rod Snyder, who currently serving as a Senior Advisor for Administrator Regan.

USDA Takes Next Steps to Enhance Participation in Voluntary Carbon Markets 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is moving forward on creating a certification program to facilitate voluntary participation in carbon credit markets as outlined in the Growing Climate Solutions Act. USDA plans to launch the Greenhouse Gas Technical Assistance Provider and Third-Party Verifier Program that will evaluate and list widely accepted voluntary carbon credit protocols and provide information on verified technical assistance providers and third-party verifiers who work with producers to generate carbon credits.

Notable News

This Week’s Legislation

  • Senators Brown (D-IL) and Ricketts (R-NE) introduced the Renewable Fuel for Ocean-Going Vessels Act, which would encourage use of biofuels using homegrown farm products for ships and vessels.
  • Congressman Levin (D-CA) and Senator Merkley (D-OR) introduced the Zero-Emission Vehicles (ZEVs) Act to require a certain percentage of new car sales to be electric vehicles each year, beginning with 43% in 2027, through 100% in 2035.
  • Senators Warner (D-VA) and Blackburn (R-TN) introduced the Promoting United States Leadership in Standards Act of 2024 to require the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to submit a report to Congress that identifies current U.S. participation in standards development activities for AI and other CETs.
  • Senator Kennedy (R-LA) introduced the Crawfish Recovery Assistance from Weather Disasters and Droughts (CRAWDAD) Act to expand Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP) funding to crawfish producers and to classify a drought as a weather event that the Secretary of Agriculture could declare as an emergency. 

Upcoming Hearings

Wednesday March 6

  • 10:00 AM: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on “Global Food Security”
  • 10:00 AM: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing titled “Examining Extended Producer Responsibility Policies for Consumer Packaging”

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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