President Joe Biden will personally appeal this week to the key senator holding up the administration’s massive spending package, and the long-awaited nominee to run the Food and Drug Administration gets a hearing in the Senate.
Biden’s hopes of getting the Senate to pass the Build Back Better bill before Christmas suffered a fresh blow Friday when there was more bad news for Biden on the inflation front: According to the Consumer Price Index for November, prices have risen by 6.8% over the past year, the highest rate for a 12-month period since 1982. Higher grocery prices, which have risen 6.4% over the past year, are helping fuel inflation.
Biden meets early this week with Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who has repeatedly said he’s concerned that the roughly $2 trillion spending bill could worsen inflation. Without Manchin’s support, the bill can’t pass the 50-50 Senate.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would tell Manchin that “what we need to do now is think about what we’re going to do about rising costs, and what is our plan to address rising costs.”
Biden himself conceded to reporters that “inflation is affecting people’s lives” but he said that the Build Build Better bill would reduce costs for child care and health care.
Last week, Manchin was reiterating his concern about inflation ahead of the CPI release.
“I don't know how you control inflation when the first year of spending is going to be quite large,” Manchin said of the BBB bill. “And that's an awful lot more of federal dollars going into a time when we have uncertainty and inflation now.”
On Friday, the Congressional Budget Office released a cost estimate for the Agriculture Committee’s section of the bill; the panel added more than $2 billion in funding for conservation technical assistance to the House-passed bill as well as more additional research spending.
CBO says the ag provisions would authorize $94.4 billion in spending but estimates that only $89.4 billion of that would be spent over the 10-year window allowed by the legislation, which is moving under the budget reconciliation process.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a confirmation hearing Tuesday for Robert Califf as commissioner of the FDA, which regulates the safety of most of the food supply. Califf, a cardiologist, served as commissioner in the final year of the Obama administration.
Califf is expected to be questioned about concerns in the food industry about the agency’s accountability and transparency.
“FDA’s food standards have become more complex and onerous, the FDA’s response times on pending rules and petitions has increased, and promises to streamline rulemaking have not been kept,” said Michael Dykes, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association.
“The dairy industry has waited 40 years for an updated yogurt standard of identity only to be deeply disappointed by FDA’s recent final rule. Timelines expressed in decades do not benefit anyone. Dr. Califf has a second chance to change the agency for the better by leading an FDA that is built around integrity, transparency, and food modernization,” Dykes said.
The yogurt rule was first proposed in 2009 but not finalized until this year. IDFA said the final rule was too restrictive and didn't recognize industry innovations.
Ahead of Califf’s hearing, FDA issued a plan to improve the speed and effectiveness of investigations into food-borne disease outbreaks. The plan includes digitizing the process of tracing foods to their source.
FDA also recently proposed to have growers of leafy greens and other fruits and vegetables conduct “comprehensive assessments” of pre-harvest agricultural water. The rules would replace the current requirement in FDA's 2015 Produce Safety Rule for microbial water quality testing.
Trade policy also will get some focus on Tuesday when a senior Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, California’s Jim Costa, will join representatives of leading agriculture groups in an online discussion of U.S. export competitiveness.
The roundtable sponsored by the advocacy group Farmers for Free Trade also will include University of Nebraska economist John Beghin as well as Manuel Sanchez, China director for the U.S. Grains Council; Erin Borror, an economist with the U.S. Meat Export Federation, and Robert Chesler, CEO of the United Dairymen of Arizona.
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):
Monday, Dec. 13
Tuesday, Dec. 14
10 a.m. - Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the nomination of Robert Califf to be commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, G50 Dirksen.
Wednesday, Dec. 15
Thursday, Dec. 16
8:30 a.m. - USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
Friday, Dec. 17
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