No matter what happens in November, it won’t be easy for congressional Republicans to block the Biden administration’s regulatory agenda. But Senate Republicans do have some ability to block or delay nominations, a source of clout that will be significantly enhanced if the GOP wins control of the chamber in the mid-term elections. 

“We have some influence and some leverage points there,” Senate GOP Whip John Thune, R-S.D., said at an event sponsored by Punchbowl News on Tuesday.

One area that Republicans will target is the administration’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including a plan by the Securities and Exchange Commission to force companies to track and disclose emissions from their supply chains.

“There are small lenders in places like South Dakota really worried about what this is going to mean,” Thune said, suggesting methane emissions from cattle could be used to prevent producers from getting loans.

Manchin backs Labor Wage and Hour Division nominee

Sen. Joe Manchin said he will support the Biden administration’s choice to head the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, which oversees the H-2A farmworker program, a positive sign for the second nominee for the position.

The West Virginia Democrat, along with Arizona Dems Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, had voted against the previous nominee, David Weil. The new pick is WHD Principal Deputy Administrator Jessica Looman.

Manchin’s remarks came at an International Franchise Association Conference, according to a Bloomberg report. IFA had strongly opposed Weil.

Thompson: NRCS’s technical service provider program is 'broken’

House Ag Committee Ranking Member Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., said Tuesday that the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Technical Service Provider Program is “broken.”

Thompson, speaking at a Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee hearing, said Congress needs to look at ways to improve the program so it has enough technical capacity on the ground. The program makes conservation technical experts available to help farmers with projects.

Take note: Michael Crowder, president of the National Association of Conservation Districts, said at the hearing that staffing is one issue hindering the program. He did note, however, that NACD has been working with USDA to provide conservation technical assistance grants, which conservation districts can use to hire staff.

Thompson, other House Republicans provide WOTUS input to EPA, Corps

A group of high-ranking House Republicans is urging EPA not to stray beyond “congressional authority” in defining “waters of the U.S.” under the Clean Water Act.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael Conner, 15 ranking members of House committees, including Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson of House Ag, reiterated their call for a halt to any WOTUS rulemaking until after the Supreme Court issues a decision in a CWA case being argued next month.

But they also said EPA should take into account the Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia v. EPA limiting EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gases from coal-fired power plants.
EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers plan to issue a final rule establishing their jurisdiction for WOTUS before the end of the year – after the Supreme Court’s arguments but before the court issues its decision.

FDA review says combination of factors contributed to infant formula shortage

An internal review of the Food and Drug Administration’s response to a whistleblower complaint and its handling of a continuing infant formula shortage found that “no single action [can] explain the events that occurred.”

The report by Steve Solomon, director of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, pointed to “a confluence of systemic vulnerabilities,” including lack of authority to require infant formula manufacturers to tell FDA “when they become aware of a circumstance that could lead to a shortage of these products for U.S. consumers, or to require manufacturers to put in place risk management plans.”

“Simply put, if the FDA is expected to do more, it needs more,” the report said. “As the agency evaluates its workforce needs related to infant formula regulation and oversight, we recommend that it utilize the appropriations process to help secure the authorities and resources needed.”

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One finding: “Inadequate processes and lack of clarity related to whistleblower complaints may have delayed the FDA’s response to those complaints. A complaint sent via mail and other delivery systems by a confidential informant to agency leaders at FDA’s White Oak campus was not delivered to the addressees.”

What now: FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said the agency “has already updated some existing processes and procedures that will allow [it] to respond more quickly during a public health emergency.”

U.S. Global Leadership Coalition takes global food security message to United Nations

It’s United Nations General Assembly week in New York and a coalition of more than 500 American businesses and non-profit organizations has a message for visiting dignitaries from around the globe: global food security is necessary for local stability.

The ad highlights the new USGLC effort Farmers for Prosperity, a network of agribusiness leaders committed to harnessing all American resources to feed the world.”

He said it. “The Biden administration should be doing more to prioritize, trade and develop additional market access, and this position being open for almost 20 months is a disregard for trade from this administration.” - Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, welcoming a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing this week for Alexis Taylor, Biden’s nominee to be USDA undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs.

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