April 4, 2022
- Big Picture Outlook
- Thoughts from Team Torrey
- The Week Ahead
- A Quick Look Back
Big Picture Outlook
Ocean Shipping Reform
The Senate passed the Ocean Shipping Reform Act on Thursday by voice vote. The bill represents the first significant reform of the regulations governing the movement of goods at U.S. ports and addresses criticisms regarding container carriers over the past two years. The version of the bill passed by the Senate focuses on carrier fees and unfair business practices experienced by U.S. manufacturers and agricultural shippers. A similar bill passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support by a vote of 364-60 in December 2021, and the bodies will soon work to reconcile differences. The House bill was also included as an amendment to the technology and manufacturing-focused COMPETES Act, which is pending a legislative conference.
The House Agriculture Committee is continuing its series of Farm Bill hearings. Last week, the committee held a hearing on horticulture and urban agriculture along with one on the state of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Two farm bill hearings will happen this week, with Tuesday’s focus on renewable energy opportunities in rural America and Wednesday’s on international trade and food assistance programs. Topics will likely include energy efficiency, renewable fuels, environmental impacts of fuels, international food aid, and trade programs authorized in the farm bill.
Biden Trade Policy Agenda
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai took testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday and the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday to discuss the Biden Administration’s Trade Policy Agenda. Tai laid out the administration’s continued focus on a worker-centered trade policy and spoke to a need for new tools to hold our trading partners accountable to U.S. standards on labor, the environment, and equity, among others. The Ambassador emphasized frustrations with China’s unfair trade practices and shortcomings under the Phase One Agreement and noted the need for the U.S. to both address China directly and with allied nations moving forward.
Tai also noted that USTR and USDA would look at all options necessary to ensure Mexico meets its USMCA commitments on biotechnology, leaving the door open for a potential dispute action. Of note, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack is in Mexico this week for meetings. Additionally, Democrats and Republicans alike pushed Tai to prioritize expanding market access for U.S. exports, including by seeking new Free Trade Agreements with key partners. Several members raised concerns about the agricultural trade vacancies at USTR and USDA. Bipartisan reaction to the Ambassador’s testimony in the House and Senate called for a more aggressive approach in pursuing trade deals and enforcing existing deals.
Russia and Ukraine
The U.N. food chief warned that the war in Ukraine has created a catastrophe that will have a global impact “beyond anything we’ve seen since World War II,” as many Ukrainian farmers responsible for a significant amount of the world’s wheat are now fighting against Russian invaders. The war in Ukraine threatens the World Food Programme’s efforts to feed around 125 million people globally, as Ukraine and Russia together provide 30% of supplies to global wheat markets and 20% to global maize markets.
On Friday, the former Russian president and senior security official Dmitry Medvedev threatened to restrict products and agricultural products to Russia’s enemies. Medvedev said that food is a “quiet weapon” in the fight against Western sanctions. Medvedev’s remarks come a day after Russia’s agriculture ministry imposed a quota on sunflower oil exports and banned the export of sunflower seeds and rapeseed.
Secretary Vilsack has been facing increasing calls from Congress and members of the ag industry to allow Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres into production to help address global commodity supply challenges caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In a response letter, the Secretary indicated that, while he shares these concerns, the vast majority of CRP acres are not prime farmland and that the benefits of moving CRP acres into production would be limited.
The Week Ahead
Tuesday, April 5
- 10:00 AM EST: House Agriculture Committee holds a hearing to discuss “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: Energy- Renewable Energy Opportunities in Rural America.”
Wednesday, April 6
- 10:00 AM EST: House Agriculture holds a hearing to discuss “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: International Trade and Food Assistance Programs.”
- 10:00 AM EST: Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works holds a hearing to discuss the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Proposed 2023 Budget with EPA Administrator Michael Regan
To see a full list of House and Senate Committee business, visit here.
A Quick Look Back
“Soybeans Rise to Record in U.S. Planting Intentions for 2022” American Farm Bureau Federation
“Rural Population Bounces Back in 2021”The Daily Yonder
“NGFA Asks STB to Address Significant US Rail Service Disruptions” Progressive Farmer