Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 7.11

July 11, 2023

Contents

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

What We’re Watching

Congress 

Farm Bill

Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) hosted the first of his Regional Agricultural Roundtables on farm bill priorities on Friday July 7 in Jackson, Mississippi. Congressman Thompson is the Chair of the new Agriculture and Nutrition Task Force, a group that was formed by House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) to push back on Republican proposals around the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and to advance Democrat farm bill priorities. Congressman Thompson has also opened a portal for stakeholders to submit their priorities for the farm bill on his website.

Senate Nominations

The Senate is back in session after Fourth of July recess and kicked off the week with a procedural vote to appoint Xochitl Torres-Small to be the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. Today, the Senate will vote to confirm her nomination. She formerly was a Congresswoman for New Mexico’s second district, and now serves as the Under Secretary for Rural Development.

Reintroduction of Workforce Modernization Act

Representatives Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) have reintroduced the Farm Workforce Modernization Act for the third consecutive Congress. The bill would allow year-round agriculture labor for H-2A workers and would implement a merit-based visa program. Other sponsors include Representatives David Valadao (R-CA), John Duarte (R-CA), Mike Simpson (R-ID), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Henry Cuellar (D-TX), and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).  

Administration

Data on SNAP Error Rate Released

Last week, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) released data on error rates in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for the first time since the pandemic for fiscal year 2022. The error rate has risen sharply to 11.54%, up by a 4.18 percentage point increase from 2019. Most errors are found to be unintentional and can be attributed to household calculation errors or high levels of vacancies at state agencies due to the pandemic.

This could hurt the program in upcoming must-pass legislative vehicles like appropriations legislation and the farm bill as it could facilitate arguments for programmatic cuts and increased surveillance. Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR) made a joint statement saying the error rate is “unacceptable and threatens the integrity of the program” and urged Governors to come up with corrective measures. 

Concentration and Competition in Agribusiness Report

The USDA released their Concentration and Competition in Agribusiness report, which details issues with market concentration in the agribusiness sector. There is a focus on three areas – seeds, meatpacking, and food retail. It also examines consolidation in each industry, and public policies that facilitate competition. The USDA will also host a webinar on the report featuring ERS Agricultural Economist James MacDonald on July 11 at 1:00 PM ET.

Amendments to Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of the Army are developing a rule to amend the final “Revised Definition of ‘Waters of the United States’” rule. The agencies plan to issue a final rule by September 1, 2023.

Meanwhile, agriculture groups asked a federal court in Texas to strike down the waters of the US ruling and establish it as “unlawful.” Their ask is to require the EPA and the Department of the Army to apply the Supreme Court’s decision as the “operative framework” for jurisdictional and permitting decisions until a new rule is put in place. 

Notable News

Upcoming Hearings

July 10

  • 2:30 PM: The House Ways and Means Committee held a field hearing on “Trade in America: Agriculture and Critical Supply Chains” in Kimball, Minnesota.

July 11

  • 10:00 AM: The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a hearing on “Superbugs: The Impact of Antimicrobial Resistance on Modern Medicine.”

July 12

  • 10:00 AM: The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will be holding an Executive Session to consider the nominations for the Federal Communications Commission and the National Transportation Safety Board.
  • 2:00 PM: The House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee on Work and Welfare will hold a hearing on “Where is all the Welfare Money Going? Reclaiming TANF Non-Assistance Dollars to Lift Americans Out of Poverty.”
  • 2:30 PM: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining will hold a hearing examining 16 bills.
  • 5:00 PM: The House Appropriations Committee will hold a Subcommittee Markup of Fiscal Year 2024 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Bill.

July 13

  • 10:00 AM: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Accountability will hold a hearing on “The State Department’s Climate Agenda: A Budget Overview by the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.”
  • 10:00 AM: The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the “Oversight of the Federal Trade Commission.”
  •  2:00 PM: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment will hold a hearing on “Review of Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Request: Agency Perspectives (Part II).”

July 14

  • 9:00 AM: The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on “How Mandates Like ESG Distort Markets and Drive Up Costs for Insurance and Housing.”

The rest of the week’s hearings 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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