Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 5.28

May 28, 2024

Contents

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

What We’re Watching

Congress 

Farm Bill

The Farm Bill process took a big step forward last week when the House Agriculture Committee held its Farm Bill markup during a marathon session, lasting almost thirteen hours. Democrats offered three primary amendments opposing changes to the Commodity Credit Corporation, future updates of the Thrifty Food Plan which underpins the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and removing the climate-smart provisions from the Inflation Reduction Act conservation funding. All three amendments failed on a party-line vote. An amendment to allow hot foods within SNAP was deliberated with broad support but ultimately withdrawn before a vote. Additionally, an amendment to require a GAO report on illegal child labor in the agricultural workforce was debated with a lot of contention but ultimately passed.

The final Committee vote on the bill was 31-22, with four Democrats – Reps. Caraveo (D-CO), Davis (D-NC), Sorenson (D-IL), and Bishop (D-GA) – joining all the Republican Members to support the bill. The path to the House floor remains unclear and notably, Chairman GT Thompson (R-PA) has publicly stated­ that the earliest the bill could see floor time is September due to the ongoing appropriations process. USDA Secretary Vilsack criticized the House farm bill, and publicly praised Senate Chairwoman Stabenow’s (D-MI) bill as practical and realistic.

Meanwhile, Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR) has announced he will be releasing his own farm bill priorities sometime following the House markup. However overall, the Senate Agriculture Committee has not indicated the timeline or next steps for moving the farm bill forward.

Appropriations

Appropriations topline numbers for FY2025 have been released, indicating that movement on federal spending is beginning to take place. The Ag-FDA topline number was announced as $25.87 billion, about a 1% cut from FY24 levels, with overall non-defense programs being cut by 6%. The House Ag-FDA Appropriations Subcommittee will hold a markup on June 11, and the full committee will markup the bill on July 10.  Both the Interior-Environment and the Water-Energy Subcommittees will have their respective bill markups on Friday, June 28, and then their respective bills will be marked up by the full Committee on Tuesday, July 9.

Congressional Letter on WIC

Representatives Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Andy Harris (R-MD) wrote a letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack regarding the reductions in milk available to families in the “Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC): Revisions in the WIC Food Packages.” The letter claims that the final rule ignored a Congressional directive in the 2024 Ag-FDA appropriations bill stating that the Secretary will not “reduce the maximum monthly allowance with respect to milk when submitting a final rule.”

House Agriculture Appropriations Holds SNAP Choice Hearing

The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing exploring restrictions within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. This hearing followed Chairman Andy Harris’ efforts to include pilots for restrictions in the fiscal year 2024 Agriculture Appropriations bill. Testimony came from Dr. Angela Rachidi of the American Enterprise Institute, Dr. Robert Lustig of the University of California San Francisco, Mr. Robert Seligson of the Physicians Foundation, and Michael Gay, an independent grocer. Several Members of Congress spoke in support of SNAP choice, though the debate around whether to restrict purchases has remained ongoing. A frequently cited article in the hearing from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that SNAP benefits did not cover the cost of a modestly priced meal in 98% of U.S. counties last year.

Administration

FDA Overturns GRAS Determination for Tara Flour

FDA made a determination that tara flour in human food does not meet the “Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) criteria and is an unapproved food additive. FDA issued a memo on the assessment of the ingredient. Tara flour was linked to the 2022 Daily Harvest outbreak of illnesses.  

USDA Announces New Program Within WIC

USDA announced a new program to strengthen the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) established a cooperative agreement with the University of Minnesota Extension to identify evidence-based strategies with recommendations including conducting a formalized WIC job study and market analysis and develop long-term learning opportunities for frontline staff, supervisors and managers. 

USDA Launches SUN Program for Kids

USDA announced the launch of “SUN Programs: USDA’s Summer Nutrition Programs for Kids” a re-branded version of the summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) program, which provides a grocery benefit of $120 per eligible school-aged child this summer. This amount will be adjusted annually for inflation.

USDA Releases RAPP Funding to Boost Trade

Funding allotments for the Regional Agricultural Promotion Program (RAPP) have been released by Secretary Vilsack, allocating $300 million to 66 organizations in the U.S. The program was established in October 2023 utilizing $1.2 billion in funding from the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) to boost trade and help exporters access new markets.

H5N1 Updates

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will be allocating $22.2 million in disease prevention, preparedness, early detection, and rapid response for pathogenic threats to U.S. livestock. The funding is coming from the 2018 Farm Bill’s National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program (NADPRP) and the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) and to be used for cattle herds that have not affected by the H5N1 virus.

Additionally, APHIS has tested beef tissue from 96 dairy cows condemned at select FSIS-inspected facilities, where viral particles were detected in tissue samples, including muscle, from one cow. The rest of the samples have tested negative for viral particles. No meat from these dairy cattle entered the food supply, reiterating that the testing and food safety mechanisms are successful in keeping contaminated meat off the market.

USDA Requests Information on Growing Climate Solutions Act

The USDA has released a request for information on protocols that can be considered for the new Greenhouse Gas Technical Assistance Provider and the Third-Party Verifier Program, which is the main program in the Growing Climate Solutions Act. Establishing the new Greenhouse Gas Technical Assistance Provider and Third-Party Verifier Program is the next step in implementing the Growing Climate Solutions Act, and would provide a list of qualified technical assistance providers and third-party verifiers to generate credible carbon credits. The USDA announcement is just one part of a joint effort from the heads of the Treasury, Energy, and Agriculture Departments as well as the President’ top climate and economic advisers to improve the integrity and set greater transparency for voluntary carbon markets.

Notable News

This Week’s Legislation

Upcoming Hearings

Both the House and Senate are in recess this week. Hearings will resume next week. 

Contact the Team

Feel free to contact Michael Torrey, Tara Smith, Cassandra Kuball, Barbara Patterson, Katie Naessens, Julie McClure, Nona McCoy, Danielle NelsonAshley Smith, Olivia Lucanie, Caroline Snell, 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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