WASHINGTON, DC | House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member David Scott released a statement from last Thursday that irked Republicans and hinted at the challenges ahead for legislators on passing a Farm Bill reauthorization quickly next year. In addition, the Republican Committee Chair and his colleagues continue to prioritize improvements to the farmer safety net and continue to insist that conservation funding from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) count toward the Farm Bill budget baseline, a non-starter for Democrats. Further, reports that Republicans believe some Democrats are stalling in the hopes that they’ll retake the House in November is not helping prospects for the collaborative work needed to reauthorize a new Farm Bill in Q1 of CY24. Significant differences also exist among Senate Agriculture Committee members, with Republicans prioritizing farmer-focused programs and Democrats defending the nutrition title and conservation gains made in the IRA.
When the House and Senate return after the holiday break, their first order of business is to avoid a partial government shutdown on January 19th, which includes funding for many agriculture programs. Assuming Congress is able to meet the laddered continuing resolution deadlines (January 19th and February 2nd), that will hopefully free up both chambers to be able to turn their attention to reauthorizing the Farm Bill, which was extended through the end of FY24.
The $428 billion Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Pub. L. 115-334) – more commonly referred to as the 2018 Farm Bill – expired on September 30, 2023. The Farm Bill’s twelve titles provide funding guidelines for a range of food and agriculture programs, including price and income support, crop insurance/disaster assistance, nutrition assistance, conservation, research, rural development and energy. Many Farm Bill programs operate on a calendar year basis so the extension agreed to (through September 30, 2024) provides Congress with time to finalize a full reauthorization, although given the looming Presidential election in 2024, Congress will need to enact a new Farm Bill by August recess, or it will likely wait until after the November elections.
Below is a roundup of recent Congressional developments and upcoming events.
Eye on the Farm Bill will return in the new year. Happy Holidays.
aWEEK OF DECEMBER 18, 2023
n The Senate Committee on Agriculture does not have any scheduled hearings this week.
n The House Committee on Agriculture does not have any scheduled hearings this week.
ICYMI – WEEK OF DECEMBER 11, 2023
House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Laments No Farm Bill by December, As Promised by Speaker Mike Johnson. On December 14, House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member David Scott (D-GA) released a statement where he criticized House Republicans for adjourning from the House without passing a 2023 Farm Bill, asserting that “House Agriculture Committee Democrats stand ready and willing to secure a bipartisan bill that works for America’s farmers, ranchers, foresters, and families.”
Sen. Rick Scott Pens Letter to FDA Expressing Calling for Investigation of High Lead Levels in Consumer Products. Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Robert Califf urging the FDA to investigate the food safety of herbs and spices, like cinnamon, following reports of high levels of lead and heavy metals. High lead or heavy metal levels in spices, such as cinnamon, typically come from three potential sources: either high levels in the soil the product was grown in, potential contamination in the supply chain during processing, or economically motivated tactics such as a producer adding lead chromate to increase the product’s weight. In response, Senator Scott is requesting information regarding the FDA’s existing policies to ensure that heavy metals are not in these common products available to American consumers, and ensuring children have access to proper nutrition.
EPA Seeks Public Input on Proposal to Reduce Water Pollution from Meat and Poultry Processing Facilities. On December 15, the EPA announced proposed regulations that would revise wastewater discharge standards for facilities that process meat and poultry products. The agency’s proposal also seeks comment on more stringent ELGs for these facilities. EPA will be accepting public comment on the proposed regulation for 60 days upon its publication in the Federal Register.