EPA Administrator Michael Regan is likely to face questions on a number of hot-button issues at a hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today. Chief among them: The “waters of the U.S.” rule that went into effect on Monday but is opposed by virtually all major farm groups.
All 49 GOP senators have signed on to a resolution aimed at overturning the rule. They argue EPA should have waited until the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Sackett, a Clean Water Act case. The joint resolution passed the House and is expected to be voted on in the Senate soon. A federal judge, meanwhile, has blocked the rule from taking effect in Texas and Idaho.
By the way: EPW’s membership includes both Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and John Boozman of Arkansas, the top Republican on Senate Ag.
Take note: The White House is proposing to increase EPA’s budget by 19% in fiscal 2024. The agency wants to add 2,400 people to bring its workforce to more than 17,000 nationwide.
Senate panel looking at Indian ag concerns
The concerns of Native American farmers will be getting unusual attention today on Capitol Hill. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee is holding what’s billed as a roundtable discussion on farm bill issues important to Indian producers.
The witnesses will include Trent Kissee, who directs the Division of Ag and Natural Resources for Oklahoma’s Muskogee (Creek) Nation. Kissee, who also oversees a beef cattle operation, participated in a panel discussion at this week’s Agri-Pulse Ag and Food Policy Summit.
“Access to land is a huge obstacle in Indian country,” Kissee said, noting the problem with fractionated land ownership that is a challenge for Native American producers in many regions. Kissee also wants to see an Indian affairs office established at USDA.
This week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter includes a look at a push for major increases in ag research funding in the new farm bill. We also look at the debate over SNAP work requirements.
Vilsack: Youth should be proud to work in ag
Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says today’s youth will “not find an industry that’s more impactful, more significant and more important to this country” than agriculture.
Vilsack shared that sentiment while speaking Tuesday to the young people in the room at a National Ag Day event held at USDA’s headquarters. He also highlighted the new Feeding the Economy report issued by 25 food and agricultural groups. The report says the food and agriculture industries and their suppliers contribute over $8.6 trillion to the U.S. economy. 
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall, who joined Vilsack at the event, said young people should be introduced to the abundance of careers in agriculture for animal care, technology and management. Duvall says, “The good news is the American people trust us.”
Spring has sprung at USDA 
Green thumbs were at work Tuesday in USDA’s People’s Garden, planting spring flowers in the green space adjacent to the department’s Whitten Building headquarters on the National Mall.
USDA’s director of urban agriculture, Brian Guse, says he always has willing volunteers, including USDA employees, to help him in the garden. Vilsack started the first People’s Garden at USDA’s headquarters in 2009 and named it after Abraham Lincoln.
Taylor presides over industry biofuel MOU in Panama
USDA Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis Taylor isn’t just using her time in Panama this week to promote trade deals between U.S. sellers and Central American buyers. She also presided over the signing of a memorandum of understanding on the importance of ethanol by the Industrial Association of Sugar Cane of Panama and U.S. Grains Council.
“This MOU bolsters economic and energy security through both domestic production and strengthening trade ties between our two nations,” said Taylor. “Ethanol blending helps countries meet their climate change goals by boosting the use of renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.”
Ahead today: Taylor will be giving reporters an update on all her activities in Panama City with her delegation of U.S. ag businesses, farm lobbying groups and representatives from state ag departments.
USDA helps chick and egg shippers navigate bird flu hot spots
If you need to get a load of chicks or hatching eggs from the U.S. to a buyer in Canada, it’s gotten a lot more difficult because of bird flu outbreaks, so USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is trying to lend a hand.

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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency doesn’t allow for the transit of live birds or hatching eggs to zones where bird flu has been detected, and because Google Maps is unlikely to take this into account, APHIS says it has a new trade route mapping tool to help shippers navigate the hot spots.
APHIS says the new tool “facilitates exporter access to real-time data when planning such shipments.”
State’s digester permitting scheme upheld 
An administrative law judge in North Carolina, one of the nation’s largest hog producers, has upheld the legality of a general permit issued by the state’s Department of Environmental Quality for construction and operation of anaerobic digesters.
"This is a huge victory for hog farmers who are adopting innovative technologies to protect the environment," said Stewart Leeth, chief sustainability officer for Smithfield Foods. The pork producer says its digesters “produce clean, low-carbon, renewable natural gas (RNG) by capturing methane emissions from hog lagoons.”
The Environmental Justice Community Action Network and Cape Fear River Watch had sued, claiming DEQ should have considered "alternative technologies."
He said it. “Put in what you think are reasonable numbers, and if they're too high, you’ll have to dial them back once a top line comes down.” – Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, arguing that the House and Senate Ag committees shouldn’t wait for a budget agreement before writing a new farm bill. He says spending amounts in the bill could be adjusted once an agreement is reached.
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