The Senate Agriculture Committee plans a few farm bill hearings before the end of the year with an eye toward trying to get a new bill enacted as soon as 2023.

Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., declined to discuss details of the hearings, but she told a food policy conference Wednesday they would involve different farm bill titles. The committee has little time to get much done this year, since the Senate isn’t scheduled to be back for votes until the lame duck session that starts in mid-November.

Stabenow has so far had a pair of listening sessions on farm bill issues, one in Michigan and the other in Arkansas, home state of the committee’s senior Republican, John Boozman.

Stabenow: No going back

Speaking at the Consumer Federation of America meeting, Stabenow made clear that she will resist any efforts by House Republicans to roll back SNAP benefits, which USDA increased sharply due to a provision she got in the 2018 farm bill.

In fact, Stabenow said she wants to include incentives in the SNAP program for low-income people to buy fruits and vegetables nationwide, including in grocery stores.

She credited the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, known as GusNIP, with increasing fruit and vegetable consumption. “That kind of incentive we are anxious to continue to expand,” she said.

Bottom line: Stabenow said that passing the next farm bill will require the “broadest coalition possible,” including support from environmental groups as well as urban interests.

“We're not going to go backwards,” she said. “But we're going to need your help to make sure we don’t. What we need to do is to build on the things that we know are right.”

By the way: It’s not a farm bill issue, but Stabenow made a pitch for legislation that would authorize the test of medically tailored meals in the traditional Medicare program. Medically tailored meals already are a staple of Medicare Advantage plans, and are being tested in some state Medicaid programs.

“I’m very supportive of us moving forward in that area,” said Stabenow, who chairs the Senate Finance subcommittee that oversees the federal health care programs.

Scoop: 4-H unveils plan to strengthen workforce, expand programs

The National 4-H Council is announcing plans today to invest $10 million in strengthening the youth development organization’s volunteer and staff workforce and enhance youth programming.

The decision comes after the council received a landmark $50 million unrestricted gift from writer and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott in February - the largest single gift in the organization’s 120-year history.

CEO Jennifer Sirangelo says her board, along with Cooperative Extension and land-grant university leaders, took about six months to discuss and prioritize how this portion of the gift would be invested, with the remainder preserved for programs and activities over the longer-term.

“The pandemic has shown that America’s youth need more support than ever to be successful,” she told Agri-Pulse. The initial investment will help attract and retain more top leadership talent, expand the youth development academy, and expand in-person youth experiences – among other things that she will detail on her blog today.

Lawsuit demands EPA require more pesticide data

Four environmental groups are suing the Environmental Protection Agency to force it to require.
testing and data on pesticide formulations and tank mixes, not just active ingredients.

The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco federal court, cites a petition that the Center for Food Safety filed in 2017 urging EPA to require testing data covering “all synergistic effects and potential unreasonable effects on the environment.”  EPA hasn’t responded to the petition.

CFS filed the lawsuit along with Californians for Pesticide Reform, the Center for Environmental Health, and Pesticide Action Network of North America.

Most consumers dont know what ‘regenerative’ means,

A new survey by the Purdue Center for Food Demand Analysis and Sustainability indicates that consumers aren’t sure what “regenerative” means in the context of food and agriculture. Only 38% of the 1,200 Americans surveyed said they knew what it means to be “regenerative.”

When asked to identify which of 13 terms they most associated with “regenerative,” most respondents chose “sustainable.” “No-till” was the term chosen the least.

“Based on our results, ‘regenerative seems to be synonymous with ‘sustainable’ in the minds of many consumers,” said Purdue economist Jayson Lusk.

Railworker unions continue voting on tentative agreement

Another railworkers union is voting on an administration-brokered tentative agreement with Class I freight railroads, as negotiations continue in an effort to head off a strike.

Members of the National Council of Firemen and Oilers were given until 10 a.m. Eastern today to vote. Earlier this week, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division rejected, by a 56%-43% margin, the tentative agreement, which contains a 24% wage increase from 2020 through 2024. Availability of sick leave, however, remains an issue.  

Four smaller unions have ratified the agreement, and six more, including the two largest, representing engineers and conductors, have yet to vote.

He said it. “There's a reason why the 'F' in FDA comes first and that has been a topic of a lot of discussion this year. And I want to emphasize that we are focused on food during my tenure this time around.” FDA Administrator Robert Califf, addressing criticism that the agency hasn’t paid enough attention to food regulation. Califf’s first stint at FDA came during the end of the Obama administration.

Questions, comments, tips? Email