Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 6.6

June 6, 2023

Contents

  • What We’re Watching
  • Notable News
  • Upcoming Hearings
  • Contact the Team

What We’re Watching

Congress

Debt Ceiling 

Last week, the Senate voted, 63-36, to pass the debt ceiling compromise bill, The Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023. President Biden signed the bill into law on June 3, just two days before the U.S. Treasury Department’s June 5 deadline. The law suspends the nation’s debt limit through January 1, 2025, therefore preventing need for Congressional action  until after the 2024 elections.  

The law changes work requirements for able bodied with dependent (ABAWD) participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Food Assistance Program (SNAP). The deal includes a phase-in approach to increase the minimum age for work requirements from 49 to 54 by 2025 – excluding veterans, those who are homeless, and individuals leaving foster care. And, it limits states’ abilities to exempt ABAWDs from the work requirements.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released their score of the SNAP provisions estimating that the cost of the program will increase by $2.1 billion over the next decade despite the amended work requirements. This scoring could fuel members to push for additional SNAP work restriction changes in the Farm Bill. However, Chairwoman Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Boozman (R-AR) made statements about how SNAP restrictions “will not be revisited in the Farm Bill” and that work requirements will be “one less topic that we will have to deal with.”  

Appropriations 

Also included in the debt ceiling compromise bill, was a provision incentivizing lawmakers to pass all 12 appropriations bills by the end of the year, otherwise a stopgap funding proposal would automatically be enacted cutting one percent of current spending levels. Both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) released a joint statement announcing their agreement on budget caps and requesting that the Senate Appropriations Committee begin the appropriations process. We anticipate that markup schedules could be announced as soon as this week.   

Immigration  

On May 31, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing called From Farm to Table: Immigrant Workers Get the Job Done. Members  showed bipartisan support for farm worker immigration, however, Republicans remained committed to addressing immigration issues as a whole, instead of just focusing on the agricultural component. Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) called out Senators Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) to work collaboratively to champion a bipartisan solution since they had requested the hearing. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) also released a statement encouraging Senators to support his Affordable and Secure Food Act, a bill that would “lower food prices, create wage certainty for farmers, and ensure that farm workers have legal protections and a pathway to legal status.” 

Farm Bill 

Last Friday, the House Agriculture Committee members held a farm bill listening session in Albany, Oregon. Stakeholders shared their priorities for this year, which included specialty crops, disaster relief, and modernizing risk management tools for specialty crops. The full session is available here

This Wednesday, the House Agriculture Committee will be reviewing nutrition programs and opportunities for modernization in the farm bill. Additionally, the House Agriculture Committee is scheduled to close the Farm Bill portal this Friday, June 9th. The portal is an opportunity to provide feedback on the 2018 Farm Bill, as well as your organization’s priorities for 2023.  Stakeholders can submit comments here. 

Also this week, Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Organics, and Research will be reviewing programs for specialty crop producers on Wednesday, June 7th. You can livestream the hearing here.

Administration

US Works With Mexico on Biotechnology Regulations 

United States Trade Representative (USTR) Ambassador Katherine Tai announced that the U.S. has requested dispute settlement consultations with Mexico under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) regarding agricultural biotechnology. This announcement is an initial request for consultations, and then if a dispute is unresolved after 75 days, the U.S. can request a panel.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack continues to publicly oppose Mexico’s stance, saying “We fundamentally disagree with the position Mexico has taken on the issue of biotechnology, which has been proven to be safe for decades. Through this action, we are exercising our rights under USMCA while supporting innovation, nutrition security, sustainability, and the mutual success of our farmers and producers” and Ambassador Tai voiced concerns with U.S. exports to Mexico, stating ‘The United States has repeatedly conveyed its concerns that Mexico’s biotechnology policies are not based on science and threaten to disrupt U.S. exports to Mexico to the detriment of agricultural producers, which in turn can exacerbate food security challenges.” 

USDA Requests Input on Federal Milk Marketing Order  

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced they will be hosting a pre-hearing information session to gather input on the National Milk Producers Federation petition. The petition requests to amend five provisions of the federal milk marketing order. The information session will be held on June 16. 

Notable News

Upcoming Hearings

Tuesday, June 6th  

  • 10:00 AM: House Ag Committee Hearing: The Future of Digital Assets: Providing Clarity for Digital Asset Spot Markets   
  • 10:15 AM: House Education and Workforce Markup: Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2023 H.R.2813 and other legislation   

Wednesday, June 7th  

  • 10:00 AM: House Ag Committee Hearing: Innovation, Employment, Integrity, and Health: Opportunities for Modernization in Title IV   
  • 10:00 AM: Senate Budget Committee Hearing: Cultivating Stewardship: Examining the Changing Agricultural Landscape   
  • 10:00 AM: Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Subcommittee on Nutrition, Agricultural Research, and Specialty Crops Hearing: Horticulture Title: How the Farm Bill Works for Specialty Crop Producers   
  • 10:00 AM: Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Hearing: Ecosystem Restoration Projects of the US Army Corps of Engineers  

Thursday, June 8th 

  • 10:00 AM: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Hearing: examine the Federal response to escalating wildfires and to evaluate reforms to land management and wildland firefighter recruitment and retention   
  • 10:00 AM: House Agriculture Committee Hearing: Innovation, Employment, Integrity, and Health: Opportunities for Modernization in Title IV  

The rest of the week’s hearing can be found here.  

Contact the Team

Feel free to contact Michael Torrey, Tara Smith, Cassandra Kuball, James Glueck, Barbara Patterson, Katie Naessens, Caroline Snell, Danielle Nelson, Julie McClureAshley Smith, Olivia Lucanie, Perry Harlow, or Tracy Boyle 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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