Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 6.18

June 18, 2024

Contents

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

What We’re Watching

Congress 

Appropriations

Last week, the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee released their spending bill for Fiscal Year 2025, and then successfully passed it out of the Subcommittee the following night. The bill provides $25.9 billion in total funding, with $22 billion for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and $6.75 billion for the Food and Drug Administration.  

USDA research programs were overall flat funded with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) receiving a funding increase of $5.8 million and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture receiving a $5 million decrease in funding. The bill includes increases in funding for “high-priority initiatives” and programs for pests and diseases within the ARS, as well as providing increases for animal health and specialty crop programs. Also included in the bill is $1.24 billion for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and $903 million for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Nutrition programs – which have been of contention in past appropriations bills – received the following amounts in funding: $123.16 billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, $7.235 billion for WIC, and $31.749 billion for Child Nutrition Programs. The bill also includes language appropriating $2 million for 5 voluntary SNAP restrictions pilot programs that would restrict foods “as determined by the Secretary.” The bill will go before the full committee for consideration on July 10.

Farm Bill

Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member, John Boozman (R-AR), released the Republican-led farm bill framework last week. The proposal outlines various policy priorities including significantly expand farm safety net programs and largely mirrors the bill that the House Agriculture Committee approved in May. The framework also serves as a counterproposal to Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow’s (D-MI) rival farm bill framework. While both Boozman and Stabenow expressed interest in restarting negotiations, there has been little movement thus far and the rapidly dwindling Congressional calendar make the future of a final bill this year, uncertain to say the least.

NDAA

The House also passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last week with a final vote of 217 – 199. The bill emerged from the House Armed Services Committee with bipartisan support, but a slew of partisan amendments that were approved, resulted in just six Democrats voting for the final bill. A number of amendments around agriculture were also included involving biodefense, pest management, climate resilience, and  companies with headquarters or funding from foreign entities. A full list of amendments can be found here. Additionally, the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday passed its NDAA bill out of Committee with a vote of 22-3.

Administration

Administration Rolls Out National Strategy for Reducing Food Loss and Waste and Recycling Organics

The  White House announced the National Strategy for Reducing Food Loss and Waste and Recycling Organics as part of President Biden’s National Food Loss and Waste Reduction Goal of reducing food loss and waste by 50% by 2030 through the work of USDA, EPA, FDA, and USAID. The strategy provides an outline for a public-private partnership to increase recycling of food and other organic materials, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save money, and build cleaner communities through 4 key objectives. The announcement was made by Secretary Vilsack at the ReFED Food Waste Solutions Summit in Baltimore, Maryland.

USDA Awards $50 Million for Agricultural Workers

The USDA will be awarding $50 million to over 140 awardees through the Farm Labor Stabilization and Protection Pilot Program. The award funding will aim to improve resiliency of the food supply chain by addressing agricultural labor issues, strengthening protections for farmworkers, and expanding legal pathways for labor migration. The awards will be given to 177 unique agricultural operations and over 11,000 workers, and 60% of employer awardees plan to utilize the H-2A visa program. 

USDA and FFAR Announce Innovation Challenge

USDA and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) launched the “Nourishing Next Generation Agrifood Breakthroughs” Innovation Challenge. Modeled after the X Prize, the funding will be provided to transdisciplinary teams led by early-career researchers to facilitate new discoveries and research in areas that intersect nutrition security, equity and justice, and climate-smart agriculture. USDA and FFAR will award up to $2 million to successful proposals that have a focus on sustainable food production, human health, reduction of inequities, and nutrition security. Applications due, July 29.

OIG Releases Report on Infant Formula Shortage

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) finalized a report on the FDA response to the infant formula shortage titled “The Food and Drug Administration’s Inspection and Recall Process Should Be Improved To Ensure the Safety of the Infant Formula Supply.” The report found “inadequate policies and procedures to identify risks to infant formula and respond effectively,” and makes nine total recommendations.

State Attorneys General Sue the Department of Labor Over H2-A

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading a lawsuit, along with a group of other state attorneys general, to the Department of Labor around the new H2-A rules allowing workers to collectively bargain and engage in unionization. The rule was issued in April 2024 titled “Improving Protections for Workers in Temporary Agricultural Employment in the United States,” and the lawsuit claims that this rule violates current federal law.  

Notable News

This Week’s Legislation

  • Senators Bennet (D-CO) and Padilla (D-CA) introduced the Disaster Relief for Farm Workers Act, which would provide emergency assistance grants to American farm workers following natural disasters.
  • Congressman Schiff (D-CA) introduced the Language Access for Workers Act, which would add language translation requirements and a grant program under the Department of Labor to allow non-profit and for-profit organizations and government agencies provide language access and translation services to employees.
  • Congresswoman Barragan (D-CA) introduced the SNAP Recertification Reform Actwhich would give flexibility around SNAP recertification and renewal of benefits.
  • Representatives Houlahan (D-PA) and Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced a resolution to designate the second Friday in June as National Service and Conservation Corps Day.

Upcoming Hearings

Check back next week for additional hearings. 

Staff Announcements

The Torrey Advisory Group is thrilled to announce our two interns, Tatum Brunkow and Haley Vollmer who will be joining the team for the summer! 

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Tatum Brunkow

Tatum Brunkow has a master’s degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Nebraska- Lincoln and has experience in state government affairs, as well as in the offices of Representative Tracey Mann (R-KS) and Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS). 

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Haley Vollmer

Haley Vollmer is a graduate from Kansas State University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration-Marketing and a minor in agriculture communications, entrepreneurship, and a certificate in sales. She has previous experience in marketing and communications and was the President of the Kansas State Rodeo Team.

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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