Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 6.25

June 25, 2024

Contents

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

TAG will be pausing our newsletter next week due to the Fourth of July recess. We will resume on July 9. 

What We’re Watching

Congress 

Farm Bill

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released their 10-year estimates for farm programs. While this is unlikely to have a major impact on farm bill discussions and spending now, it shows that if Congress does not get a farm bill done this year, it could be more difficult in the future since the baseline shows projections that would make it more expensive to write the bill. The CBO projected that USDA is expected to spend $12 billion from the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). Senate Agriculture Committee Chair, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), released a statement saying that the CBO report proves the House GOP proposal used “magic math,” while the House Republicans criticized Senate Democrats for not releasing bill text yet.

House Agriculture Committee Chair GT Thompson (R-PA) has voiced his desire to move the House version of the farm bill this summer or in September, while Stabenow will only move forward with a farm bill with bipartisan agreement. Both Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR) are considering possible language for extensions.  

Meanwhile, Senators are continuing to introduce and circulate farm bill marker bills. Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) has launched an effort to get Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (MCOOL) in the 2024 Farm Bill. The Senator has offered a sign-on letter to colleagues to generate support after MCOOL got repealed in the 2015 Farm Bill. In addition, Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) has circulated a letter to Chairwoman Stabenow thanking her for including his marker bills, the Southern Commodities, Rates, Opportunities, Production, and Support (Southern CROPS) ActProtecting America’s Orchardists and Nursery Tree Growers Act, and the Promoting Precision Agriculture Act. He also requested a meaningful increase to reference prices in the 2024 farm bill.

Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Roger Marshall (R-KS), who lead the Senate Agriculture Conservation, Climate, Forestry, and Natural Resources Subcommittee, will hold a field hearing on water and drought this week in Burlington, CO. Agriculture and water leaders from Colorado and Kansas will testify during three witness panels. “This hearing will highlight the successes and limitations of existing federal drought tools and help inform new mechanisms to deal with persistent drought in the arid plains,” the Senators said in a joint statement. Some Democrats are pushing for more drought relief in the farm bill.

Appropriations

Movement on fiscal year 2025 government spending will be the primary focus in the House before Congress breaks for the 4th of July recess. The first three bills – Defense, Homeland Security, and State-Foreign Operations – are slated to come to a vote on the House floor later this week. Also this week, House Subcommittee mark ups will wrap up with the final five bills moving through their respective Subcommittees. Both the Interior and Energy-Water bills will be marked up on Friday. The full schedule can be found here. The Senate is slated to begin its appropriations work the week of July 8 when Congress returns after the July 4th break.

H5N1 Letter to USDA

Congresswoman Yadira Caraveo (D-CO) led a letter to urge Secretary Vilsack to coordinate a federal response to the outbreak of H5N1 spillover from birds to dairy cattle. The letter asks that USDA prioritizes partnerships with other federal agencies, and “consideration of efforts such as early ordering of response supplies, including antivirals, to support prepositioning supplies in our state facilities for potential human cases; adequate funding for public health laboratories and epidemiology investigations; and financial support for state personnel expenses, testing and shipping expenses for surveillance, and biosecurity planning and implementation.”  

Senators Write Letter on Cooking Oil

Senators Marshall (R-KS), Brown (D-OH), Ricketts (R-NE), Fischer (R-NE), Grassley (R-IA), and Ernst (R-IA) wrote a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the United States Trade Representative (USTR) concerned with the recent and dramatic increase in used cooking oil imports from China. The letter asks four questions to investigate whether imported oils are virgin vegetable oils fraudulently labeled as used cooking oil. 

Administration

USDA Releases Updated Climate Resilience Plan

The USDA joined 20 agencies in releasing an updated Climate Adaptation Plan to ensure federal operations are increasingly resilient to climate change impacts. The USDA plan would aim to safeguard its over 40,000 facilities from the extreme heat, flooding, and fires that are associated with a changing climate. The department is also preparing for increased demand for conservation technical and financial assistance, disaster assistance programs, risk management products and its response to increased pest and pathogen threats. You can see the full update here.

FDA Proposes Traceability Exemption for Cottage Cheese

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed an exemption for certain cottage cheese products from the Food Traceability Rule. Most of the cottage cheese is regulated through the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS), and the FDA and NCIMS have developed a federal-state program that ensures the sanitary quality of milk and milk products shipped interstate. Comments are due by September 12, 2024.  

USDA Inspectors Attacked in Mexico

The USDA paused inspections of avocados and mangos due to an attack on two employees from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in Michoacan. The inspectors have since been released, but this comes after an incident in 2022 where an inspector received a threat. Michoacan is the biggest exporter of avocados in Mexico, but avocados in transit will not be blocked from entering the U.S., and Jalisco will still be able to export. A recent statement from the USDA indicated that inspections will slowly begin to resume with increased safety measures.

Notable News

This Week’s Legislation

  • Senator Booker (D- NJ) introduced the NO Stool in Herds’ Troughs (NO SHT) Act, which would prohibit factory farms from adding animal excrement to livestock feed for the health of humans and animals. 
  • Senators Lummis (R-WY), Barrasso (R-WY), and Representative Hagemean (R-WY) introduced a Congressional Review Act resolution which opposes APHIS’s rule of mandating electronic identification ear tags for cattle and bison. 
  • Senators Hickenlooper (D-CO), Barrasso (R-WY), Romney (R-UT), Bennet (D-CO), and Lummis (R-WY) introduced the Colorado River Basin System Conservation Extension Act which extends the System Conservation Pilot Program. This program helps manage drought in the Colorado River Basin by water conservation measures. 
  • Congresswoman Peltola (D-AK) introduced the Fisheries Improvement and Seafood Health (FISH) Act which creates a Fisheries and Ecological Resilience program and a study on US seafood in international markets and current federal programs. 
  •  Representatives Westerman (R-AR) and Peters (D-CA) introduced the Fix our Forests Act which reduces wildfires and helps forests and communities through restoring forests. 
  • Congressman Zinke (R-MT) introduced The Fort Belknap Indian Community Water Rights Settlement Act of 2024 which creates a solution in the Fort Belknap Indian Community on the settlement of water rights. 
  • Senators Merkley (D-OR), Braun (R-IN) and Representatives Panetta (D-CA) and Yakym (R-IN) introduced “National Pollinator Week” to acknowledge pollinators to agriculture and ecosystem health. The week would be recognized from June 16- June 22. 
  •  Congressman Kelly (D-AZ) and Romney (R-UT) introduced the Enhancing Mitigation and Building Effective Resilience (EMBER) Act which helps communities manage, prevent, and access wildfires. 

Upcoming Hearings

Wednesday, June 26

  • 10:00 AM: House Science, Space, and Technology committee will hold a hearing titled “An Overview of the Budget Proposal for the Department of Energy for Fiscal Year 2025” 
  • 10:15 AM: The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian and Insular Affairs will hold a hearing titled “To amend the Act of June 18, 1934, to reaffirm the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for Indian Tribes, and for other purposes; and “Poarch Band of Creek Indians Lands Act.” 

Thursday, June 27

  • 9:30 AM: The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife, and Fisheries will hold a hearing on 4 legislative bills titled “to amend the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 to allow the Secretary of Commerce to establish a Coastal and Estuarine Resilience Program, and for other purposes; “Modernizing Access to Our Public Oceans Act”; To require the Secretary of Commerce to establish a grant program to foster enhanced coexistence between ocean users and North Atlantic right whales and other large cetacean species; “Fisheries Data Modernization and Accuracy Act of 2024.” 

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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