Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow stunned the nation’s capital with her announcement that she won’t seek re-election in 2024. But the Michigan Democrat plans to serve out the remaining two years of her term, and she notably said in a statement that the next farm bill will be a top priority.
The big question is whether her leverage will be affected by the announcement and what that means for ultimately getting a farm bill enacted.
She’s still in the driver’s seat: House Republicans could be tempted to wait out Stabenow, especially if they think they’ll win control of Congress in 2024. But Republicans have as much, if not more, motivation to pass a new farm bill in this Congress than Stabenow does.
She’s already addressed her major climate policy priorities through the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes a historic increase in conservation, plus new assistance for biofuels and renewable energy. And don’t forget that Thrifty Food Plan provision she included in the 2018 farm bill: Scheduled TFP updates virtually ensure future increases in SNAP benefits unless Republicans scale back the provision.
Keep in mind: Republicans can’t do much about the IRA funding, or address demands from constituents for policy changes and funding increases, unless they pass a new farm bill.
Former House Ag Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., says Stabenow will be focused over the next two years on defending both the IRA funding and Biden administration’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities initiative rom GOP attacks.
Still, an industry lobbyist tells Agri-Pulse he thinks Stabenow will still want to close out her Senate career by putting her stamp on another farm bill. “This is an opportunity for her to do one last thing for various sectors, including for specialty crops,” the lobbyist says.
Thompson: Glad she’s staying around
The incoming House Ag Committee chairman, Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania, says in an interview with Agri-PulseNewsmakers that he doesn’t think Stabenow’s pending retirement will have much effect on the timing of the next farm bill.
“I'm glad she's going to be here as we work hard to be able to complete an on-time and very effective farm bill here in the 118th Congress,” Thompson said. He noted that she worked with him to get his SUSTAINS Act included in the newly enacted omnibus funding package. The SUSTAINS Act is designed to encourage companies and private groups to contribute to conservation projects.
Newsmakers will be available today at and will debut Saturday on RFD-TV.
Day Four: House leadership saga
House Republicans are set to continue their struggle today to elect a House speaker. The House voted 219-213 to adjourn Thursday evening after the 11
th ballot failed to yield a result any different than the ten before.

Alexis Taylor and Theresa Greenfield.jpgAlexis Taylor and USDA's state rural development director in Iowa, Theresa Greenfield, at Taylor's swearing-in last week.


Vilsack, Tai consider biotech response
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack talked this week with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai about the next U.S. response to Mexico’s plan to ban GMO corn.
“I think we are on track to provide a response at some point in time in the near future to Mexico,” Vilsack told reporters Thursday. “Based on our final analysis and their response, we will then take the next steps as appropriate, but we’re not quite there yet.”
By the way: Vilsack finally has an undersecretary for trade on board in Alexis Taylor, who won Senate confirmation in December. Vilsack said Taylor is somebody who “understands and appreciates what needs to get done in order to continue to have solid years of ag exports.”
Vilsack is losing Doug McKalip as a senior adviser as he becomes chief ag negotiator at USTR. McKalip’s “primed to be an extraordinary helper” and “champion for agriculture,” Vilsack said.
US ethanol exports fell in November
U.S. ethanol exports dropped to a three-month low in November to just 81.4 million gallons, according to an analysis by the Renewable Fuels Association. While the November total was only a 3% drop from exports in October, it also represented a much larger 40% decrease from the volume shipped in the same month in the previous year.
November ethanol exports were marked by big swings by major importers, including shipments of 7.8 million gallons to South Korea, a 54% jump from October. U.S. exports to the European Union totaled just 4.6 million gallons, a 33% drop from the previous month.

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Canada remained the top buyer of U.S. ethanol in November for the 20
th consecutive month. Canadian buyers represented 59% of all imports of U.S. ethanol in the month with purchases of 47.9 million gallons.
Record strawberry crop expected this year in California
California farmers, reacting to rising consumer demand, are expected to plant a record 41,570 acres of strawberries this year, according to a 
California Farm Bureau analysis.
“The industry has had great support from the consumer, and it’s responded to that,” says farmer Tom Am Rhein in the CFB report.

Hold off those comments 

People who want to register for the first meeting of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee next month or submit comments online will have to wait a little longer.

The Health and Human Services Department published a notice on Tuesday that it would start taking comments online. But the 
department is publishing a correction in the Federal Register today. The online docket is still being developed, and HHS hasn’t announced the scientific questions to be considered by the committee, or who will serve on the advisory committee. 

The committee’s first meeting is still scheduled for Feb. 9-10. The members are expected to be announced this month.

He said it. “I fully expect knowing Sen. Stabenow that she is going to work as hard as she could possibly work to make sure that we do have a farm bill, notwithstanding whatever challenges may be presented in that process.” – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

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