The Biden administration hosts the first White House conference on hunger and nutrition in more than 50 years to debate a national strategy that officials will unveil ahead of the Wednesday meeting.

The strategy’s goal is to eliminate U.S. hunger and reduce diet-related diseases among Americans by 2030, but the White House has yet to say how the strategy will be implemented and has kept many details of the one-day meeting under wraps.

“We need to mobilize every segment of society … and we want to use every lever at our disposal to make progress,” Rachel Levine, the assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services, said at a briefing Friday.

The conference speakers will include President Joe Biden, White House Domestic Policy Adviser Susan Rice, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Chef José Andrés.

The conference will begin with an overview of the strategy and then feature a series of panel discussions on the strategy and the five conference pillars: Ensuring all Americans can afford the food they need; integrating nutrition and health; making it easier for people to choose healthful foods; improving physical fitness; and expanding nutrition research.

The afternoon session will feature small working groups where conference participants will “identify actions they will take individually and collectively to help achieve the goal of ending hunger and reducing diet-related diseases,” according to the agenda. As of Sunday, the conference website still did not list the members of the morning panels or the names of conference participants who will take part in the working groups.  

A task force formed to advise the conference issued recommendations in August that included a call on the government to require nutrition labeling on the front of food packages, ease SNAP eligibility rules and make school meals free to more students. The task force's 129-page report also recommended abolishing “lowest-bid requirements” for schools that discourage them from buying locally produced foods or considering environmental concerns when purchasing products.

The International Fresh Produce Association was included in a "strategy group" that provided input to the task force, but other agricultural groups have been lobbying for a role in the conference, citing farmers’ role in the food supply chain. Commodity groups are likely to have a stake in whether some of the strategy’s recommendations are adopted: For example, the sugar and dairy sectors oppose mandating front-of-pack labeling.

“Agriculture was a key partner in the 1969 White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health — we again stand ready to work with government and private sector partners to identify and act on steps that can lead to a healthier America in 2030,” groups, including the American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, and USA Rice, said in a letter earlier this month to Biden.

Hill's to-do list includes CR, Global Food Security extension

On Capitol Hill this week, Congress has until Friday to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government fully operating after the new fiscal year begins on Saturday.

Democrats have so far been unable to agree among themselves on whether to include provisions sought by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to accelerate permitting of pipelines and electrical transmission lines. The reforms would benefit fossil fuels as well as renewable power and carbon sequestration projects.

"This is a chance in a lifetime for us to have energy independence, …  making sure we can take care of the American people with lower energy prices, producing more oil, producing more gas. But we have to have permitting reform if you’re going to deliver it," Manchin said on Fox News Sunday.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has insisted on including the permitting reforms in the continuing resolution to honor a deal with Manchin. But the provisions face opposition from progressive Democrats as well as Republicans.

The House, meanwhile, will vote this week on a reauthorization of the Global Food Security Act, which provides direction and funding authorization for the Feed the Future program, which was launched under the Obama administration in 2010 to develop agriculture and food systems in low-income countries.

The law was initially passed in 2016 and was reauthorized in 2018. The bill the House will consider will reauthorize Feed the Future through fiscal 2028. 

The bill also increases the authorized funding level for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Emergency Food Security Program to $3.9 billion a year, starting in FY24. The fund, which is currently authorized at $2.8 billion annually, is heavily used to provide cash assistance and vouchers to address crises around the world. Congress provided supplemental funding for the program this year to respond to the food crisis spawned by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Action set on USDA nominees

Meanwhile, the Senate Agriculture Committee will vote Tuesday on three nominees, including Oregon Agriculture Director Alexis Taylor to be undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs.

The other nominees under consideration are Jose Emilio Esteban, a long-time veteran of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service nominated to be undersecretary for food safety, and Vincent Garfield Logan, nominated to be a board member for the Farm Credit Administration, the oversight agency for the Farm Credit System.

It’s not clear when the three will get a final vote on the Senate floor.

Ag groups have been pushing Senate leaders for a floor vote by this week on the nomination of long-time USDA adviser Doug McKalip to be the chief agricultural trade negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Elsewhere, Agri-Pulse and the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City will host their annual Ag Outlook Forum in Kansas City on Monday.

Speakers and panelists will include USDA’s chief economist, Seth Meyer, as well as Daniel Whitley, administrator of USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service; former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn.; Kip Tom, former U.S. ambassador to the UN food programs; Kanlaya Barr, director of corporate economics for John Deere; Erin Borror, an economist for the U.S. Meat Export Federation; Nate Kauffman, vice president and Omaha branch executive for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City; and Arlan Suderman, chief commodities analyst for StoneX.

Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):

Monday, Sept. 26

Annual Ag Outlook Forum sponsored by Agri-Pulse and the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City.

International Fresh Produce Association annual Washington conference, through Wednesday, Grand Hyatt Washington.

National Association of State Departments of Agriculture annual meeting, through Thursday, Saratoga Springs, NY. 

4 p.m. - USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report. 

Tuesday, Sept. 27

10 a.m. - Farm Foundation webinar on antimicrobial stewardship.

Time to be determined - Senate Agriculture Committee meeting to consider nominations for USDA and the Farm Credit Administration. 

Time to be determined - Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee meeting to consider the nomination of Jessica Looman to be the administrator of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division.

Wednesday, Sept. 28

White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health.

Thursday,  Sept. 29

Reagan-Udall Foundation for the FDA independent expert panel public meeting on FDA's foods programs, through Friday.

8:30 a.m. — USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.

9:30 a.m. - House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on department operations and outreach, 1300 Longworth.

10 a.m. - Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on bills related to various national forests and wildfires, 366 Dirksen.

Friday, Sept. 30

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