Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow has a warning for House Republicans who are looking to slash spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Cut SNAP, she says, and the rest of the farm bill will be pared back, too.
Stabenow delivered the warning in her opening statement at Thursday’s committee hearing with Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack. Stabenow said “threats we are hearing from some in the House in favor of reckless and indiscriminate mandatory budget cuts will result in cuts to all farm bill programs. We cannot go backward at a time when our farmers and families need us most.”
Why it matters: Her warning puts farm groups on notice, too. Earlier this week, some 400 farm groups appealed to the Senate and House Budget committees to ensure farm bill funding for a range of concerns, including commodity program price supports. Almost simultaneously, a group of House Republicans proposed a major expansion of SNAP work requirements.
Stabenow’s clear message: That SNAP proposal would doom any chance of shoring up commodity programs.
By the way: Vilsack, who defended his department’s update of the Thrifty Food Plan, which increased the monthly benefit for SNAP recipients, became animated when asked by a reporter whether the White House would agree to expand work requirements in SNAP as part of a compromise on raising the debt ceiling. TFP is an assessment of eating costs that’s used as a basis for SNAP benefits.
“In addition to all of the important work that it does for families, (SNAP) also helps to subsidize low-wage companies and businesses,” Vilsack said. “So when people talk to me about work requirements … my question is, if you're truly interested in that, are you also taking a look at the wage levels?”
On the debt ceiling issue, he said President Biden “has been pretty clear, there is no negotiation on the debt limit.”
Read more about the hearing at
Don’t forget: Vilsack will speak Monday at the annual Agri-Pulse Ag and Food Policy Summit in Washington. You’ll also hear from leaders of the House and Senate Ag Committees as well as a range of experts debating the future of ag and food policy.

SNAP ban crosses racial lines, says Senate Ag Democrat
One of two Black Democrats on the Senate Ag Committee is calling for ending a ban on providing SNAP benefits to people who have been convicted of felony drug offenses. In an interview for Agri-Pulse Newsmakers, Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., says the ban leads to higher recidivism rates and affects people of all races who are trying to rebuild their lives.
“Whether we're talking about urban people in some of our inner cities, people of color or poor white people in rural communities who are dealing with the opioid epidemic, we know more now than we did four years ago about addiction and how it works. And we can do better than that,” Warnock said.
Newsmakers will be available today at
NOAA offers mixed forecast on drought
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expects drought to improve across California and much of the West this spring after “abnormally wet” conditions in the region this winter.
Exceptional and extreme drought has been wiped out in California and the surrounding Great Basin for the first time since 2020, the agency says. Conditions in the northern and Central plains are also expected to improve, due to spring moisture.
Take note: The southern Plains are not off the hook, with drought expected to persist through the spring and even develop in parts of New Mexico. Parts of the Northwest and northern Rockies may also see continuation of drought, NOAA says. 
US-Kenya to continue trade talks in April
U.S. trade negotiators will be heading to Kenya next month to resume talks between the two countries over a trade pact that aimed at strengthening ties between the two countries. Agricultural policy is number one on the list of topics for the negotiations. But Kenya already addressed the biggest non-tariff barrier when it ended its ban on growing and importing genetically modified crops in October.
Kenyan tariffs on U.S. ag commodities are still a major challenge, but it’s unclear if they will be addressed in the talks. U.S. rice exports face a 35% ad valorem tariff in Kenya.

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A senior administration official who talked to reporters when the U.S. and Kenya announced plans last July for a Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership, said there were no plans to address tariffs, but he stressed that could change.
UN: World coca production on record pace to meet rising cocaine demand
Farmers around the world growing coca – the plant that cocaine is made from – increased production by 35% in 2021, according to the first-ever report on cocaine by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC). While most demand for the drug has historically come from the Americas and Europe, the UN agency says it is concerned about rising consumption in Africa and Asia.
Farmers in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia harvested coca on more than 300,000 hectares (about 740,000 acres) for the first time in 2021, according to the new UN data.
“The surge in the global cocaine supply should put all of us on high alert,” Ghada Waly, executive director of the UN’s Office of Drugs and Crime. “The potential for the cocaine market to expand in Africa and Asia is a dangerous reality.”
He said it. “Just one piece of advice about the secretary of HUD: I found out the hard way, never bring her vegan food.” – Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., referring to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge at a Senate Ag Committee.
Booker is a vegan. Fudge apparently is not.
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