There are some significant developments with the Senate and House Ag Committees as they gear up to write a new farm bill this year.
House Ag: Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson is reorganizing his six subcommittees, and he’s added a 28th Republican member, Randy Feenstra of Iowa. Feenstra won a seat on Ways and Means this year, so he had to get a waiver to stay on Ag as well. Thompson tells Agri-Pulse Republicans needed a 28th member, because Democrats wanted to have 24.
Democrats are expected to approve their Ag Committee roster today. Some new members have started announcing their selection, including first-termers Nikki Budzinski of Illinois and Andrea Salinas of Oregon.
As for those new subcommittees: Forestry will get its own panel, and nutrition programs will now fall under the subcommittee that oversees specialty crop programs and international food aid. Livestock, dairy and poultry will be grouped under a single subcommittee, as well. Livestock issues had been grouped with foreign agriculture. Read our report here.
“With all the domestic issues livestock producers currently face, it makes sense for us to have those conversations without getting tied up in foreign affairs,” a cattle industry source says.
Senate Ag: Democrats will have a 12-11 majority on the committee, and they’ve added two new members, Peter Welch of Vermont and John Fetterman of Pennsylvania. The committee was split 11-11 in the last Congress.
No. 2 opens up at USDA
Deputy Agriculture Secretary Jewel Bronaugh is leaving the department. Bronaugh, who’s the first person of color in the job, says her resignation will give her more time with her family. Bronaugh didn’t give a date for her exit, only saying that she be will leaving “in coming weeks.”
One of her highest profile roles has been as co-chair of USDA’s Equity Commission, which hasn’t finished its work yet. She’ll participate in a commission meeting next week.
The top Democrat on the House Ag Committee and its first Black chairman, David Scott of Georgia, says Bronaugh “uplifted American agriculture and our rural communities, something she has long done throughout her career.”
Key senators demand Biden wield a heavier USMCA
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and top Republican Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, are putting new pressure on the Biden administration to make better use of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to force its North American trade partners to live up to their commitments under the deal.
Canada still has not sufficiently changed its tariff rate quotas for U.S. dairy imports despite two official U.S. complaints and Mexico is threatening to ban genetically modified corn. U.S. corn farmers are calling for a dispute and Biden Administration officials have said they are considering it.
“Congress approved USMCA with large bipartisan majorities, in no small part because the deal included strong rules and the mechanisms necessary to enforce those rules,” Wyden and Crapo write in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai. “Three years later, it is disappointing that Canada and Mexico have failed to come into full compliance with the Agreement — and, in some cases, have flouted their obligations.”
By the way: Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., says in this week’s Agri-Pulse Newsmakers interview that the Biden administration needs to take action against Mexico, if it doesn’t back down on its biotech corn ban: “There should be retribution if they're going to take actions on our agriculture products. And by the way, we've already negotiated all this through the USMCA.”
Bacon also talks about prospects for the farm bill in the GOP-controlled House. Newsmakers will be available today at Agri-Pulse.com.
Hemp sector angry with FDA move
The hemp industry reacted quickly and negatively to FDA’s announcement Thursday that it can’t figure out how to regulate CBD in food additives and dietary supplements.
Instead of calling for a “new regulatory pathway” for CBD, FDA should be using its available legal authorities, says the U.S. Hemp Roundtable’s general counsel, Jonathan Miller. Those include using FDA’s existing authority over foods and dietary supplements under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
The impact on the potential for animal feed containing hemp seed meal isn’t clear yet. FDA has had an application for use in poultry feed since early 2021.
Phosphate mine approval flawed, judge finds
The Bureau of Land Management failed to properly consider the impact on greater sage-grouse and their habitat when approving a phosphate mine in Idaho, a federal judge says.
BLM approved the use of about 1,600 acres for the mine in 2019. Environmental groups including the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project sued in 2021.
The mine is under development by a Bayer subsidiary, P4, which also has a mine near the new location that produces phosphate for use in glyphosate.
Although U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill found BLM violated two federal laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, he hasn’t ruled on how the violations can be remedied.
California plan would reduce or eliminate key pesticides
California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration has released a plan for eliminating or significantly reducing the use of controversial pesticides by 2050 in that state. The report is the work of a stakeholder-led task force and details actions targeting pesticides that pose the greatest threats to the environment and low-income populations.
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Casey Creamer, president and CEO of California Citrus Mutual, was part of the task force and says his growers support the vision. “It's never going to put all the issues to bed. It's a good document, and agriculture's going to have to stay engaged,” he says.
Where have the oranges gone?
Global orange production dropped to just 47.5 million tons for the 2022-23 marketing year, and the continued spiral in Florida is part of the reason, according to USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
“U.S. production is forecast to drop 697,000 tons to 2.5 million, the lowest level in over 56 years,” says FAS in the report. “Yields continue to decline in Florida due to fruit drop caused by citrus greening and high winds from hurricanes.”
California, which produces oranges primarily for direct consumption, now produces more than twice as much as Florida. Unlike California, most of Florida’s oranges go into juice.
Take note: South Africa, which got good growing weather, will produce about 1.7 million tons of oranges for 2022-23, a 3% increase from the previous year. The country is also expected to boost tangerine production by 6% to about 670,000 tons and then break its record for exports. And Americans really like South African tangerines, says FAS.
He said it. “We’ve got some great aggies on Ways and Means, but it'd be nice to have somebody who's actually on the committee and on the Ag Committee.” – House Ag Committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson on Rep. Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa, getting a waiver to serve on Ag as well as Ways and Means, which oversees tax and trade policy.
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