As Congress gets ready to start working on a new farm bill, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow is making one thing clear: She won’t consider any cuts to the funding she got in the Inflation Reduction Act for climate-related farming practices.
“We’ll negotiate everything, but I'm not interested in any way in rolling back what farmers want on conservation,” the Michigan Democrat told reporters after the committee’s first farm bill hearing of the year on Wednesday.
“It's one of those situations that's really a win-win, because it's not only about addressing the climate crisis, but farmers want more carbon in the soil, because it's healthier soil. Everybody else agrees, because they don't want it in the atmosphere.”
Senate Ag subcommittees to take bigger role
The top Republican on Senate Ag, John Boozman of Arkansas, says he expects the committee to make more use of subcommittees than it has in recent years. And one of the issues a subcommittee could look into is the concerns around Chinese purchases of U.S. farmland, he says.
Having subcommittees hold hearings will allow the committee to “cover a lot more ground,” said Boozman. As for the issue of foreign-owned farmland, he said he wants to “know how much that truly is affecting the United States.”
By the way: The Republican membership of the Senate Ag Committee isn’t changing this year, but there will be a difference in seating, Agri-Pulse is told.
Sen. Mike Braun, who’s running for governor in Indiana in 2014, is leaving the Appropriations Committee this year, which means he will no longer need a waiver to also be on the Ag Committee. And because he doesn’t need a waiver, he’ll move up in seniority on the Ag Committee. He was dead last in the last Congress.
Senators support ag export promotion programs ahead of farm bill
Republican and Democratic senators came out in strong support of USDA’s ag export promotion programs at Wednesday’s Senate Ag. And lawmakers on both sides of Capitol Hill heralded legislation to double the funding for the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) programs.
Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, all lauded those programs’ ability to help farm groups develop and maintain overseas markets for U.S. ag commodities. Ernst trumpeted the re-introduction of the Cultivating Revitalization by Expanding American Agricultural Trade and Exports Act (CREAATE) in the Senate to double mandatory annual funding of MAP to $400 million and FMD to $69 million. The bill has also been re-introduced in the House
USDA Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis Taylor, a witness at the Wednesday hearing, said there is far more demand for participation in MAP and FMD than there is funding.
Take note: Taylor said she would be interested in working with Klobuchar on efforts to allow farm groups to use funds from the Emerging Markets Program (EMP) in Cuba as part of the next farm bill. Cuba, said Taylor, shows a lot of potential for importing more U.S. farm commodities. Congress opened up only MAP funding for use in Cuba in the previous farm bill.
By the way: The farm bill’s horticulture title was also part of the hearing, although the discussion largely focused on trade issues. Stabenow said she wants to make sure the next farm bill improves the ability of fruit and vegetable growers “to manage risks and market their products.”
Jenny Lester Moffitt, USDA’s undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, stressed the importance of the department’s specialty crop block grant program, which funds research projects and other initiatives to improve the competitiveness of those producers.
Vaccine bank, conservation funding top NCBA farm bill priorities
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association doesn’t want a livestock title in the upcoming farm bill, but the group does have some goals for the rest of the legislation. (A livestock title has long been seen as the vehicle for new regulations on industry practices.)
NCBA’s executive committee finalized three top priorities for 2023 in a meeting Wednesday in New Orleans: funding for a vaccine bank to protect the industry from the impacts of a potential foot-and-mouth disease outbreak; keeping the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and
Conservation Stewardship Program as active management programs with adequate funding; and defending beef producers from concerns tied to the Waters of the U.S. rule, the Endangered Species Act and other regulatory issues.
NCBA’s farm policy committee also added language that calls for restricting Conservation Reserve Program payments to marginal land and allowing grazing as a management practice for buffer strips, headlands and waterways.
By the way: An NCBA subcommittee opted against adopting hardline policy on the thorny issue of foreign farmland ownership over concerns about restricting the business partners ranchers might have in a financial transaction. However, the Property Rights and Environmental Management Committee voted in favor of a resolution to support adding the Ag Secretary to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.
EPA sets conditions for pesticide use 
The Environmental Protection Agency has approved label amendments for four pesticides to protect 28 Pacific salmon and steelhead species listed as endangered or threatened.
The four pesticides — bromoxynil, prometryn, metolachlor and 1,3-D — were found by a 2021 National Marine Fisheries Service biological opinion to result in unintentional harm or killing of individual fish, but did not “jeopardize listed salmon or steelhead species or adversely modify their critical habitats." The agency has issued Endangered Species Protection Bulletins for each of the four pesticides.
Take note: The Center for Biological Diversity applauded the agency for implementing the measures, but said it would have liked for it to also include protections for more 1,000 other species. 
She said it: “I have yet to see feta on a map” -  USDA Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis Taylor, responding to a question by Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., on what USDA is doing to counteract the European Union’s campaign to protect the use of cheese names like Asiago and limit them to products from European producers in specific geographical regions. 
For example, the EU argues that asiago cheese can only made on the Asiago plateau in the Veneto region of Italy. Feta cheese, the EU says, should only apply to cheese made in Greece.