USDA’s Equity Commission has backed away from an earlier recommendation that USDA consider abolishing its county committees. During a three-day meeting this week, the commission instead adopted some recommendations designed to increase minority representation on the committees, which help deliver farm programs at the local level.
Gone is any suggestion that the committees be abolished.
The commission is trying to improve the committees’ “function and their representation,” said Gary Matteson, executive vice president of young, beginning, small farmer programs and outreach at the Farm Credit Council. Matteson is a member of the commission’s agriculture subcommittee.
“For anybody who’s listening — there’s not a suggestion to eliminate the county committees.”
Thompson plans foreign ownership hearing
The issue of foreign-owned farmland is getting growing attention from congressional Republicans, reflecting concerns they’re hearing from constituents. And House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn Thompson says he wants to hold a hearing in the next couple of months once the Government Accountability Office finishes a report it’s doing.
After the issue started getting attention on cable news last year, Thompson asked the GAO to do its own analysis of data on foreign land acquisitions and determine what impact they could have on food security.
By the way; A bipartisan group of senators and House members have introduced companion versions of a bill that would bar China, Russia, Iran and North Korea from buying U.S. farmland or agricultural businesses. The Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security (PASS) Act also includes a provision to add the agriculture secretary as a standing member of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS. There is separate standalone legislation to add USDA to CFIUS.
House Ag launch waiting on Democrats
Thompson on Thursday named the House Ag’s six subcommittee chairs. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., will be the committee’s vice chair and also will chair the subcommittee that oversees commodity programs and crop insurance.
Thompson is waiting to formally start the committee’s business until Democrats fill three remaining seats. Those positions are expected to be filled by Democrats who need waivers to get on the Ag Committee while retaining other committee assignments.  

Looking ahead: The committee will kick off its farm bill work with a listening session at World Ag Expo in Tulare, California, on Feb. 14. Additional hearings will be scheduled after that.
Republicans try to sink WOTUS rule 
Republicans in the House and Senate have introduced resolutions to overturn the Biden administration’s “waters of the U.S.” rule through the Congressional Review Act.
Forty-eight senators and 152 House members signed on to separate resolutions of disapproval, which would have to clear both chambers before going to the White House, where they would likely be vetoed by President Biden. Then, in order to invalidate the rule, the House and Senate would have to override that veto with two-thirds majorities. That won’t happen, but the WOTUS votes could put some Democrats on the spot.
By the way: Indiana GOP Sen. Mike Braun told reporters to expect Republicans to use the Congressional Review Act on additional issues. He’s backing the WOTUS repeal effort and is pushing a separate resolution targeting new Securities and Exchange Commission regulations.
“I think it is going to be a tool that gets used more often, simply due to the fact that we're in a peculiar place politically,” he said.

House appropriator: FDA could do more
A senior Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee that writes FDA’s budget says he is welcoming Commissioner Robert Califf’s proposed reforms to the agency’s management of food programs.
But Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, agreed that the agency may have to do more. “I think it’s very likely that we’ll want to push this a little bit further,” she said on this week’s Agri-PulseNewsmakers.
Newsmakers will be available today at

Mexico committing to more US corn for 2023-24 marketing year
Mexico’s livestock industry continues to buy more U.S. corn that hasn’t yet been planted and would be shipped during the 2023-24 marketing year. Mexico is currently planning to ban genetically modified corn in January 2024.
Only two countries – Mexico and Japan – have committed to buy U.S. corn for delivery in 2023-24, and Mexican purchases are far larger, according to the latest USDA weekly trade data. Mexican buyers have purchased about 1.1 million metric tons of U.S. corn for 2023-24 and the Japanese have purchased 283,500 tons.
Farmers: IPEF is good, but the US needs traditional FTA’s
The umbrella group Farmers for Free Trade brought in representatives of the U.S. dairy, meat, grain and specialty crop sectors to Washington this week to meet with lawmakers and their staff in the Senate and House to stress the need for the U.S. to begin negotiating new tariff-lowering trade agreements.
There is potential for the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework to help farmers in overseas markets, says Farmers for Free Trade Executive Director Brian Kuehl. But he doesn’t consider IPEF a free trade agreement, and he says his members need deals that do away with tariffs that advantage U.S. competitors. The 14-nation IPEF now being negotiated does not address tariff barriers and would not need congressional ratification.
The visiting delegation is scheduled to meet today with USDA Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis Taylor.
Old bill faces new politics as Fischer reintroduces price discovery measure
Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and three of her colleagues have reintroduced legislation that would mandate minimum levels of cash trading in cattle.  The Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act made it through the Senate Ag Committee last year but never got a vote on the Senate floor.
Tanner Beymer with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which opposes the bill, thinks the measure has run out of momentum. Lawmakers have “a lot more on their plates,” he said.
But Lia Biondo of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, which supports the bill, still sees reason for hope. She says the split control of Congress will require bipartisan work.
By the way: The White House Office of Management and Budget has finalized its review of USDA’s proposed rule to define a “product of the U.S.” for labeling purposes.
She said it. “Some of the issues of the recent past have shown us that we haven't been doing our job, and they haven't been doing their job.” – House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee member Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, saying lawmakers share blame with FDA for its management failures. The subcommittee writes FDA’s annual spending bill.

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