Regan is scheduled to hold a producer roundtable at a farm north of Des Moines, where conversations will likely center around renewable fuels, livestock production, and water quality. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Iowa Ag Secretary Mike Naig have been invited to join Regan. He’s also expected to visit a Superfund hazardous waste site on the south side of the city.
Democrats focus on ag labor exemptions
Agriculture’s exemption from federal wage and overtime standards is getting attention through the racial equity lens.
The exemption doesn’t appear to be under serious threat this year from legislative action.
But today, a House Education and Labor subcommittee is holding a hearing with this title: “From Excluded to Essential: Tracing the Racist Exclusion of Farmworkers, Domestic Workers, and Tipped Workers from the Fair Labor Standards Act.” The witnesses will include a representative of the United Farm Workers.
Paul DeCamp, a former administrator of the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division during the George W. Bush administration, says he’ll tell the House panel that ending the exemption would increase farm labor costs and "place American farmers at a competitive disadvantage relative to non-U.S. farmers whose workforces are not subject to overtime costs."
Keep in mind: An immigration bill that was introduced in February in line with President Biden’s policy proposals would eliminate the ag exemption for all but family members.
Top Dem: Tax writers must keep ag in mind
Farm groups are raising alarms about President Biden’s tax proposals on inherited assets. But Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., says in this week’s Agri-Pulse Open Mic interview that the tax policy debate is far from over and that lawmakers need to take into account the impact any proposals would have on agriculture.
“We have made concessions in the past when it came to federal estate taxes. I think we ought to be looking at the reality of the impact of any tax changes on families and the plans they've made over generations,” he said.
Keep in mind: The president wants to start taxing all capital gains at death with a $1 million-per-person exclusion, plus an exemption for family farms as long as they stay in operation.
In our Agri-Pulse Washington Week in Review interview, agricultural tax specialist Paul Neiffer stresses that even with the exemption there could still be a heavy tax bill for the heirs to pay when any farm property is sold.
EPA filling out science advisers
Today’s the deadline for nominations to EPA’s Science Advisory Board, which the agency is revamping to continue to allow membership by researchers who have received EPA grants.
A federal court last year said that EPA did not provide a “reasoned explanation” for its 2017 restriction on that class of members, and EPA did not appeal. SAB members can serve on standing committees that include the Agricultural Science Committee and Climate Science Committee.
Dairy groups applaud USTR critique of EU food name protections
The National Milk Producers Federation, U.S. Dairy Export Council and Consortium for Common Food Names vigorously applauded the first Special 301 Report on intellectual property and trade to be released by the Biden administration because it slammed the European Union’s efforts to protect the usage of names like asiago cheese.
These protection efforts – called geographic indications in Europe – “adversely impact access for U.S. and other producers in the EU market and other markets by granting protection to terms that are considered in those markets to be the common name for products,” says the new edition of the annual report.
“Last year over 170 members of Congress urged an expansion of the trade toolkit the U.S. deploys to deal with geographical indications that block the use of common food names,” said Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. “It’s time to put that into practice and secure affirmative protections for the key common terms on which U.S. cheesemakers and other food producers rely.”
Bustos says she won’t run again in 2022
Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos, who represents a heavily agricultural northwestern Illinois district that stretches south from Peoria north to Rockford, will not seek re-election next year, she announced.
“I feel it’s time for a new voice,” Bustos said in a video posted on Twitter, noting that by the end of 2022, it will have been a decade since she came to Congress. Bustos has been a member of the House Agriculture Committee since she started serving in 2013 and is now chair of the Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management.
The congresswoman headed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2019-20. In the 2020 election, Bustos won re-election in the closest of her five races. Her district voted for former President Donald Trump while the Democrats overall lost 13 seats, narrowing their majority.
Senators seek placing an inspector general at USTR
Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey says the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is the only cabinet-level agency without an inspector general – a watchdog to investigate suspect activities – so he and other senators are seeking to install one.
Menendez, along with fellow Democrats Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, have joined Republicans John Cornyn of Texas and of Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania on a bill that calls for an inspector general in order to “provide independent oversight and increase transparency and accountability at the agency.”
“The U.S. Trade Representative is responsible for developing and coordinating the implementation of U.S. international trade policy with far-reaching consequences for American workers, businesses and civil society – and as such, Americans deserve honest and transparent trade policy that prioritizes the economic interests of the country and cracks down on waste, fraud, and abuse,” Menendez said in a statement.
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