Farm groups will be keeping a close eye on the Supreme Court when it kicks off its new term in October.

The justices will hear arguments that month in two cases being closely watched for their implications for the ag industry. In a schedule released Tuesday, the court said it will start its October term with Sackett v. U.S., a case involving two Idaho landowners who challenged EPA jurisdiction over waters on their property.

What’s at stake: The question that will be argued Oct. 3 is whether the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals used the right test to determine whether wetlands are “waters of the U.S.” under the Clean Water Act. The court could use the case to significantly alter the way EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers determine what is or is not a WOTUS.

On Oct. 11, the justices will hear arguments in the challenge to California’s animal housing law, Proposition 12.

What’s at stake: The issue in that case, brought by the National Pork Producers Council and American Farm Bureau Federation, is whether Prop 12 violates what’s known as the “dormant Commerce Clause.” In essence, the issue is whether California can require other states to adopt minimal housing standards for sows that produce pork sold in California.

Take note: The court also is considering whether to take up yet another big ag case, in which Monsanto/Bayer is challenging a 9th Circuit decision upholding a $25 million verdict to a California man who contracted cancer after long-term use of Roundup herbicide.

The justices will discuss the Monsanto petition on Thursday, meaning a decision could come next Monday.

Food fight: Republicans challenge Biden ahead of debate

House Republicans are gearing up for a floor debate on inflation by putting the focus on regulatory barriers that they are contributing to higher food and energy prices.

A letter to Biden led by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the top Republican on the House Ag Committee, Glenn “GT” Thompson, charges that the president “has neglected to take serious action to increase American production.”

Instead, Biden “proposed massive new tax liabilities for farmers,” while imposing a regulatory agenda that “would further limit American farmers’ ability to meet global food demand. America’s agriculture sector is vital to alleviating global food crises,” the letter says. The letter lists a number of requests, including that the administration halt work on its new WOTUS rule.

The context: The House on Thursday will consider a package of seven bills called the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act. The package includes a measure Republicans consider a poison pillbecause it would create a special investigator’s office in USDA’s Packers and Stockyards Division.

Other provisions would allow year-round sales of E15 and provide $700 million to USDA for funding biofuel infrastructure and assisting farmers with nutrient management and precision agriculture.

Every time Americans “go to the gas pump or they go to the grocery store, they are reminded how their costs have gone up, and we need to deal with that. And we are dealing with it,” said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters.

Appropriators earmark fresh broadband spending

The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee today will move its fiscal 2023 spending bill for USDA and FDA. The bill includes $560 million in new funding for rural broadband expansion, plus increases for USDA research and food aid.

FDA would get an increase of $341 million over FY22, including $77 million more for food safety. 

The overall bill would be 8% higher than FY22.

For more on the bill, check out our weekly Agri-Pulse newsletter. We also have the latest on prospects for Ukraine’s agricultural production and look at the impact of late planting on dicamba usage. 

Scott pledges farm bill boost for food banks

House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott, D-Ga., is supporting a request from food banks for $450 million a year in new farm bill funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program, or TEFAP.

Atlanta Community Food Bank President Kyle Waide told the committee Tuesday that food banks are expecting a 40% decline in the amount of food they get through the program in the coming year. TEFAP was dramatically expanded as a result of the trade war and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2018 farm bill increased TEFAP by $105 million over five years.

US dairy exports benefit from collaboration with ocean carrier

There are some signs those port bottlenecks may be easing: According to Michael Dykes, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association, the dairy industry is getting more products loaded on ships for export, thanks to the Port of Los Angeles and the ocean carrier company CMA CGM.

“Across all ports we’ve seen a 53.7% increase in dairy products being in containers in the first 21 weeks of this year (and) a 110% increase at the Port of Los Angeles,” Dykes said during a webinar hosted by Gene Seroka, the port’s executive director.

Ocean carriers are still sending empty containers back to China, and leaving U.S. ag products searching for transportation to foreign buyers. Dykes called on more carriers to work together with the ag sector.

He said it. “I am not a person who's prone to hyperbole, but I can assure you from on the ground that the ominous tenor of recent media reports is warranted. What has been a slow motion train wreck for 20 years, is accelerating, and the moment of reckoning is near.” - John Entsminger, general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, on falling water levels in critical Colorado River reservoirs.

Read our weekly newsletter for more on that issue. 

Steve Davies, Bill Tomson and Amy Mayer contributed to this report.