Missouri GOP Rep. Jason Smith has won the coveted chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee, which writes tax laws and oversees trade policy. Smith was selected by the GOP steering committee for the post, beating out Adrian Smith of Nebraska and Vern Buchanan of Florida.
In a statement, Smith indicated the committee will prioritize countering China’s economic influence.
The committee will seek to use both trade policy and the tax code “to re-shore and strengthen our supply chains, where products and services vital to our national security are made here at home using American labor, as well as craft policies that help America achieve food and medical security rather than dependence on nations like China,” Smith said.
Vilsack: PFAS poses broad challenge to farmers
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is in Puerto Rico to tour the island’s agriculture after an appearance at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting in San Juan.
Vilsack told reporters that contamination from PFAS chemicals could pose a broad challenge to farmers but that it’s too early to ascertain the extent of the problem.
“This is not a circumstance where we're just dealing with a small group of farmers in one or two states. This is a situation where you have to understand what thresholds you're fixing, to determine whether or not you’ve got an issue,” he said. "Those thresholds haven't been fixed yet. … and that’s not just up to us. It’s up to a variety of other federal agencies, including the EPA.”
Speaking of EPA: Vilsack was asked about the input he provided to EPA Administrator Michael Regan ahead of releasing the administration’s new “waters of the U.S.” rule. Vilsack said Regan heeded his advice and “did a significant amount of outreach” before finalizing the rule.
“There were changes made in an effort to try to respond to concerns that they heard,” Vilsack said.
He acknowledged the rule may not be the final word on the issue, noting a pending Supreme Court decision that could force the administration to revise the regulations. “This is the beginning of the process. The court case may or may not have an impact. We'll just have to see,” he said.
Read our full coverage of Vilsack at Agri-Pulse.com.
Food retailers continue to get larger
Consumers continue to shift their food purchases away from traditional supermarkets to larger food retailers, such a national chains and nontraditional food retailers, according to a new report from the Economic Research Service.
Over the last 30 years, market concentration in the food sector has increased steadily, mostly due to the increased presence of national and regional retailers, ERS said. Food retailing markets in rural and small non-metro counties are “considerably more concentrated than food retailing markets in metro and large non-metro counties,” the report said.
In 1990, 80% of the share of retail food spending occurred at traditional supermarkets, but that dropped to 62% in 2012. In 2019, supermarkets were the most common food retail venue, with 67% of retail food sales.
Supercenters and mass merchandisers such as Walmart and Costco have expanded their food offerings and now account for a third of all food sales, ERS said. Discount and dollar stores make up 10% of those sales.
EPA public hearing focuses on biofuel blending targets
Representatives of the ethanol and oil industries will speak at an EPA public hearing that kicks off today to gather input on the agency’s proposed blending targets through 2025.
The first panel features Emily Skor of Growth Energy, Glenn Johnston of the Advanced Biofuels Association, Geoff Cooper of the Renewable Fuels Association, Patrick Kelly of American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, Prentiss Searles of American Petroleum Institute, and Matthew Haynie of POET.
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The hearing is scheduled from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday and 9-3 Tuesday.
EPA’s proposal would increase the amount of biofuels that must be blended with gasoline and diesel over the next three years, but the levels are still lower than what biodiesel producers and others say are needed.
NASDA leaders head to Vietnam on trade mission
The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture is using some of the funds provided by USDA’s Emerging Markets Program for a trade mission to Vietnam to “explore trading opportunities and educate Vietnamese agricultural, government and business leaders on American agriculture and markets,” the group said.
The delegation that includes NASDA CEO Ted McKinney, Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael Scuse, Texas Department of Agriculture Assistant Commissioner Dan Hunter and American Feed Industry Association President & CEO Constance Cullman, left on Monday and is expected to return Friday.
“NASDA is excited to embark on this mission to foster relationships in Vietnam, carry the federal government’s messages and bring alive from a state-local level the value and quality of U.S. agricultural products,” McKinney said.
He said it: “American farmers feed our families, power our economy. When you thrive, America thrives.” President Joe Biden, in a recorded video message to Farm Bureau members that briefly summarized administration initiatives to address supply chain disruptions, high input costs, climate change and other concerns.
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