Weekly Food and Agriculture Update – 9.5

September 5, 2023

Contents

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

What We’re Watching

Congress 

Appropriations

This week, the Senate is back in session, with the House returning on September 12. As both chambers resume, they will be up against a tight September 30 deadline to pass all 12 appropriations bills or a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government funded and avoid a shutdown. As it stands, the Senate hasn’t passed any appropriations bills, and the House has only passed the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.

The appropriations process will be the main focus for the remainder of September, which will limit time for consideration of other must-pass legislative vehicles, namely the Farm Bill.  

Last week, the White House sent a list of anomalies to Congress, which is a list of spending the White House is requesting in a stopgap measure to keep the government funded. Some anomalies include: 

  • $501 million for the Commodity Assistance Program, including $390 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program 
  • $1.4 billion for the Women Infants and Children nutrition program (WIC) 
  • Power to waive the limit on premium pay for wildland firefighters and to fund wildland fire suppression 
  • $3.7 million for the Executive Office of the President to continue work to prepare for and respond to pandemics and other biological threats 

This will preview what could be up for debate when Congressional leaders negotiate spending levels and priorities.  

Following the release of the anomalies, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter calling on the Senate to pass bipartisan appropriations legislation when they return from recess. The letter also lists a number of other legislative priorities for the rest of 2023, including artificial intelligence, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, protecting cannabis banking, aiding Ukraine, domestic disaster relief, online safety, and transportation.  

Farm Bill

Currently, House Agriculture Committee leadership is working to introduce farm bill text once they return from recess, with Committee Chairman GT Thompson (R-PA) looking for ways to pass the legislation in a bipartisan manner. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) signaled that while Congress is unlikely to pass a bill by the September 30th deadline, they are working to pass the legislation before the end of the calendar year. Also of note, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who is on the Agriculture Committee, told the Kentucky Farm Bureau that a Farm Bill will not happen this September.  

Given the focus on farm bill moving this fall, there has been renewed efforts to signal both support and opposition for the Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act. The bill was introduced by Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS) and Representative Ashley Hinson (R-IA) to remove state laws that would have an effect on other states’ agricultural practices. Members in the House and in the Senate have written letters to Agriculture Committee leadership urging them not to include the EATS Act in the 2023 Farm Bill. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) led the House letter, which received over 150 signatures.  The Senate letter was led by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Cory Booker (D-NJ)  and signed by 30 Senators. 

House Agricultural Working Group Survey 

The House Agriculture Committee has formed an Agricultural Labor Working Group to focus on workforce issues within the industry and write a report with specific policy recommendations on how to alleviate them.  

Last week, the Agricultural Labor Working Group released a survey open to stakeholders on agricultural workforce issues. Responses will be compiled and used in drafting the recommendations report.  A recommended submission deadline of September 29th will ensure input is considered before the report is due. You can submit your survey responses here. 

Advancing Research on Agricultural Climate Impacts Act of 2023 

Representative Eric Sorensen (D-IL-17) introduced the Advancing Research on Agricultural Climate Impacts Act of 2023, which aims to invest in innovative technologies that will allow USDA to quantify carbon capture by farmers and ranchers. The goals of the legislation are similar to the goals outlined in USDA’s July announcement regarding investments to improve measurement, monitoring, reporting, and verification of greenhouse gas emissions. Senators Tina Smith (D, MN) and Todd Young (R, IN) introduced the Senate companion bill in July. 

Administration

Deputy Commissioner of the Human Foods Program Announced 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has named Jim Jones as first Deputy Commissioner of the proposed Human Foods Program. Jim Jones has prior experience in the US Environmental Protection Agency, where he led on issues related to chemical safety and sustainability and worked to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act. He was also on the Reagan-Udall Foundation’s Independent Expert Panel for Foods, which submitted a report evaluating the FDA’s Human Foods Program in 2022. The Human Foods Program (HFP) will oversee food safety, chemical safety, innovative food products, agricultural technologies, and nutrition initiatives to reduce diet-related disease and improve health outcomes.  

WOTUS Final Rule Released 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced their final rule amending the 2023 definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS), following the Supreme Court ruling in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency. Using authority under the Administrative Procedures Act, the EPA published the new rule without opportunity for public comment. The new rule narrows the scope of the previous ruling by removing the significant nexus test from consideration and clarifying that protected wetlands must have a continuous surface connection to navigable waterways. You can see the full rule here.

The agencies are set to host a public webinar on September 12 to provide updates regarding the new ruling, as well as listening sessions this fall with co-regulators and stakeholders. In response to backlash, US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made a statement in support of the rule, saying it “gives producers the predictability and stability they have been seeking” and that the agency is working to “respond to concerns that were top of mind by farmers.”  

DOL Releases New Overtime Pay Regulations  

The Department of Labor released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking altering the overtime pay regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The proposal is set to increase the minimum salary threshold to $55,068, up from the current $35,568 with automatic increases to the threshold. The threshold will be updated every 3 years and tied to the 35th percentile of weekly earnings of full-time non hourly workers in the lowest-wage Census Region. There is a 60-day comment period for feedback.  

Biofuels 

The U.S. Treasury Department is expected to release guidance as soon as September on Section 40B sustainable aviation fuel tax credits, following provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act. The Treasury is set to make the final decision on the standard used to measure the carbon intensity of fuel types able to qualify for the credits and has been urged by biofuel and airline industry groups to follow the DOE Argonne GREET model. 

Notable News

ICYMI: Watch Torrey Advisory Group’s Tara Smith discuss farm bill timeline, crop insurance, reference prices, and supporting small farmers on Agri-Pulse Newsmakers!

Upcoming Hearings

September 7 

  • 10:00 AM: The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is holding a hearing on “Implementing the IIJA: Perspectives on the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act, Part II.”  

Staff Updates

heath 4

Torrey Advisory Group (TAG) is proud to welcome Health Brandt to the policy team!

Heath joins the team as policy coordinator, where he will provide policy research, communications, and administrative support for the team.

Prior to this new role, Heath served as TAG’s intern and most recently as an intern for the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.  A Missouri native, Heath is a Senior at the University of Missouri majoring in agricultural communications.

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, Heath Brandt, 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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