Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 7.18

July 18, 2023

Contents

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

What We’re Watching

Congress 

Farm Bill 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sent a dear colleague letter for the work period leading up to August recess. In the letter, he asked that Senators “institute common-sense farm policy,” and also raised the farm bill in returning remarks after the Fourth of July recess. The letter also outlines a long list of other priorities that the Senate will have to work through, including appropriations, that could potentially draw attention away from farm bill and delay it until 2024.  

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) vocalized that there is a likelihood of an extension on this year’s farm bill since appropriations legislation has been taking center stage at the moment. Meanwhile, Congressman Garret Graves (R-LA) said that House discussions are ongoing, ensuring that all GOP factions are on the same page.  

Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) continues to hold farm bill roundtables on behalf of the new House Agriculture and Nutrition Task Force. Last Thursday, he held a public forum at the Capitol Visitor Center where stakeholders were able to vocalize farm bill priorities. Members that attended the forum were Representatives Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Jim McGovern (D-MA), and Lou Correa (D-CA). Witnesses touched on a variety of topics, including food assistance programs, farmer safety net programs, climate change, racial equity in agriculture, specialty crops, universal school meals, broadband access, and disaster relief.  

Following this roundtable discussion, members of the task force aim to create a report on stakeholder requests and then use the reports to assist in forming Democratic farm bill priorities. There is no specified deadline for the report, but Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (D-CT), who is on the task force, said they will likely focus on nutrition assistance, access to capital, and conservation programs. 

USDA Deputy Secretary Confirmed 

The Senate voted last week with an overwhelming majority to confirm Xochitl Torres-Small as the new Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). She was sworn into the new role this week. Both Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Stabenow (D-MI) and Vice Chair Boozman (R-AR) made statements supporting her confirmation, as well as USDA Secretary Vilsack and other agriculture groups. Before being confirmed as Deputy Secretary, Ms. Torres Small was the Under Secretary of Rural Development, where she focused on bringing broadband to rural communities, and represented New Mexico’s second district. 

Commodity Credit Corporation Legislation Introduced 

Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Roger Marshall (R-KY), and Mike Braun (R-IN) introduced the USDA Spending Accountability Act, which would limit funding disbursed from the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) to only those programs with Congressional authorization. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill could save about $8 billion over ten years. The legislation comes following some concerns around discretionary spending on programs without Congressional input. 

Lawmakers Look to Nutrition Incentives for Food Assistance 

Last week, over 600 organizations spanning across the country wrote a letter to House and Senate Agriculture Committee leadership requesting the expansion of the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP). In addition, Senators Cornyn (R-TX) and Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) introduced the Supporting All Healthy Options When Purchasing Produce (SHOPP) Act, which would expand the GusNIP program to include frozen fruits and vegetables.  

Dairy Innovation 

Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced the Dairy Business Innovation Act of 2023, which would reauthorize Dairy Business Initiatives (DBI) to $36 million instead of the previous reauthorization amount of $20 million. It would also provide technical assistance and grants to farmers and dairy processors, give assistance to businesses investing in product innovation, and would give funding for dairy plant modernization and facility process improvements. The legislation has gotten support from various stakeholders in the dairy.

Administration

USDA Invests in Carbon Measurement and Monitoring 

USDA announced $300 million in funding to improve measurement, monitoring, reporting and verification of greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration in climate-smart agriculture and forestry. This funding announcement is part of a broader announcement regarding the Federal Strategy to Advance Greenhouse Gas Measurement and Monitoring for the Agriculture and Forest Sectors. The Strategy is meant to provide a roadmap for improving measurement, monitoring, reporting, and verification (MMRV) in the agriculture and forest sectors, specifically for croplands, grassland, livestock, and forests. 

There will be a public webinar on July 21, 2023 at 1:00 PM EST and an opportunity for public comment that expires on August 11, 2023.  

Timeline for FDA Reorganization Released

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Chief Operating Officer announced the agency will be looking to finalize their reorganization package to submit to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by this fall, and then implement proposed changes throughout 2024 pending approval. The agency is currently still in its first phase of reorganization, which includes developing new organization charts, new staffing charts, budget tables, and functional statements. 

Notable News

Upcoming Hearings

Tuesday, July 18 

  • 10:00 AM ET: The House Judiciary Committee Judiciary Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet Subcommittee will hold a hearing: “Is There a Right to Repair?”  
  • 10:30 AM ET: The House Appropriations Committee will hold a markup on the “Fiscal Year 2024 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Bill”

Wednesday, July 19 

  • 10:00 AM ET: The House Appropriations Committee will be holding a hearing to consider FY24 Interior-Environment spending bill.  
  • 3:00 PM ET: The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy will hold hearings to examine rural water, focusing on modernizing our community water systems.  

Thursday, July 20 

  • 9:30 AM ET: Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will be holding hearings to examine the Water Resources Development Act, focusing on non-Federal stakeholder views.

The rest of this 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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