Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 5.7

May 7, 2024

Contents

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

What We’re Watching

Congress 

Farm Bill

Members of Congress are moving ahead on farm bill progress, with both the House and Senate releasing proposals and next steps. In the House, Republicans released their bill summary, with notable provisions being maintaining Inflation Reduction Act conservation dollars in Title II, and limits to the Thrifty Food Plan (nutrition assistance) for costs savings but reinvesting funding into nutrition programs and other farm bill programs  including trade  research, broadband, and specialty crops.  The funding for risk management and commodity programs comes from changes to the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). House Agriculture Committee Chair GT Thompson (R-PA) scheduled a bill markup for May 23, with bill text likely to be released within a week prior.

Senate Democrats have also released a Farm Bill outline and a more detailed section-by-section summary. Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) wants to move the bill forward with over 100 bipartisan proposals included, and addressed her colleagues on the Senate floor to encourage passage of the legislation. Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR) released a statement in response to release of the documents calling them a “welcome development.” It is unclear what the path forward will be since no date has been set for a committee markup, but conversations internal to  the Committee and with stakeholders are still being held around text and potential timelines.

Appropriations

The House Appropriations Committee deadline for Programmatic Requests and Language Requests has closed as of May 3, but Community Project Funding Requests have been extended for some subcommittees. Community Project Funding Requests for Ag-FDA, Energy-Water, Homeland Security, and MilCon-VA has passed as it remained on May 3. The deadline for Commerce-Justice-Science, Interior-Environment, and Transportation-HUD has been extended to Friday, May 10.

Senate Appropriations Committee deadlines will take place throughout this week and next week. Submission deadlines for Ag-FDA requests are this Wednesday, May 8, and Energy-Water is Friday May 10. Other requests are due next week, including Interior-Environment. A full list of deadlines can be found here.

Senators Send Letter on HPAI Response

Senate Agriculture Committee members sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, asking for a “broad, coordinated approach” from the USDA, CDC, FDA, and state and local partners. This letter comes as the agencies have continued to test and confirm that the milk supply is safe, and that pasteurization kills any live pathogens that could be present. In addition, the USDA has tested ground beef and found that ground beef sold at retail stores does not contain viral fragments. 

Administration

Agricultural Water Final Rule Published

The FDA published their Final Rule on Agricultural Water, which would change the pre-harvest agricultural water assessments for covered produce (excluding sprouts) which would be used to identify risk factors for produce and contact surfaces. Under the proposed requirements, farms would be required to conduct pre-harvest agricultural water assessments once annually, and whenever a change occurs that increases the likelihood that a known or anticipated hazard will be introduced into or onto produce or food contact surfaces. The final rule has been published in the federal register as of May 2, 2024.

Treasury Department Releases Sustainable Aviation Fuel Tax Guidance

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released guidance on eligibility for Sustainable Aviation Fuel Tax Credits. The Treasury Department is in charge of tax regulations and the Energy Department is expected to announce an update of the GREET model, which would incorporate new data. The credit would incentivize the production of SAF that achieves a lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions reduction of at least 50% as compared with petroleum-based jet fuel. Producers of SAF are eligible for a tax credit of $1.25 to $1.75 per gallon. The announcement also incorporates a USDA pilot program to encourage the use of certain Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) practices for SAF feedstocks.

EPA Proposes Ban for Acephate

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is releasing a proposed interim decision to cancel all but one use of acephate – a pesticide that is registered for both agricultural uses, such as cotton and soybean, and non-agricultural uses, such as tree injections for forestry and ant mound treatment around homes. The agency’s updated human health draft risk assessment (HH DRA) and drinking water assessment (DWA), published last year, claimed that the pesticide can cause tremors, fatigue, and nausea in humans with high levels of exposure. The decision could be finalized between 2024 to 2026.

FDA Clarifies Regulatory Process for Intentional Genomic Alterations in Animals

The FDA has updated guidance documents for the regulatory process for intentional genomic alterations (IGAs) in animals, as well as establishing a memorandum of understanding with the USDA to delineate roles and regulatory responsibilities. The guidance focuses on “Heritable Intentional Genomic Alterations in Animals: A Risk-Based Approach” and “Heritable Intentional Genomic Alterations in Animals: the Approval Process” – both which aim to advance the FDA’s Animal and Veterinary Innovation Agenda.

EPA Dicamba Review Ongoing Through Next Fall

The EPA’s timeline for reviewing a new dicamba label submitted by Bayer could potentially stretch through next fall. This season, growers have been able to use dicamba because of an existing stocks order issued by the EPA, however, an appeal for the decision was not filed. Last week, the EPA received an application for new uses of Xtendimax, an herbicide that has been sprayed on dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton. Because the proposed new use would be coded as an additional food use, it could potentially extend the decision through September 2025.

USDA Confirms Potato Will Remain a Vegetable

USDA Secretary Vilsack confirmed in a call to Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) that the agency will support keeping the potato classified as a vegetable instead of a grain. This comes as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) is being considered, with both the USDA and HHS having jurisdiction over the process. Reclassification from a vegetable to a grain would have implications on its use in federal food programs. 

Notable News

ICYMI: Listen to Torrey Advisory Group Executive Vice President Tara Smith on AgriPulse Newsmakers!

This Week’s Legislation

  • Senators Smith (D-MN), Markey (D-MA), and Casey (D-PA) introduced the Warehouse Worker Protection Act, which would prohibit the use of worker quotas in warehouses from interfering with workers welfare, and directs OSHA to create an ergonomic standard.
  • Congressman Jackson (R-TX) introduced a bill that would amend the Agricultural Act of 2014 to establish additional payments for unborn livestock under the livestock indemnity payment program.
  • Senators Rubio (R-FL) and Cotton (R-AR) introduced a bill that would provide for a permanent extension and expansion of the pilot program for streamlining awards for innovative technology projects.
  • Congresswoman Caraveo (D-CO) introduced the Increasing Nutrition Access for Seniors Act, which would streamline the process for states to adopt strategies to help seniors access SNAP benefits.  

Upcoming Hearings

Tuesday, May 7

  • 9:00 AM: The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies will hold an American Indian and Alaska Native Public Witness Hearing

Wednesday, May 8

  •  9:00 AM: The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies will hold an American Indian and Alaska Native Public Witness Hearing
  • 10:00 AM: The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies will hold a budget hearing on the “Fiscal Year 2025 Request for the Department of Commerce
  • 10:00 AM: The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies will hold a Member Day hearing
  • 10:00 AM: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing to “Examine the President’s proposed budget request for fiscal year 2025 for the Environmental Protection Agency”
  • 10:00 AM: The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies will hold a hearing to “Examine the proposed budget estimates and justification for fiscal year 2025 for the Food and Drug Administration”
  • 10:30 AM: The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies will hold a hearing to examine “Proposed budget estimates and justification for fiscal year 2025 for the Department of the Interior”

Thursday, May 9

  • 10:00 AM: The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies will hold a Member Day hearing

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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