Lawmakers are holding a flurry of hearings this week ahead of the two-week Easter recess, and Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack will be at three of them. Vilsack testifies before the House Ag Committee on Tuesday and then will appear before the Senate and House Appropriations subcommittees on Wednesday and Thursday.
FDA also will face scrutiny this week, first with a House Oversight Committee hearing on the infant formula crisis on Thursday. Then, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf will face the House Ag Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday.
We’ll be watching to see how the appropriators say about Califf’s plan to reform the agency’s oversight of human food. Last year, Califf told the subcommittee FDA lacked “consistent leadership and the right resources.” Critics say his reorganization plan doesn’t go far enough.
For more on this week’s D.C. agenda, read our Washington Week Ahead.
USDA eases food inflation forecast
USDA economists have lowered their forecast of food inflation for this year. Supermarket prices are still expected to be 7.8% higher in 2023, but that’s down from February’s forecast of 8.6%.
The new forecast includes lower inflation estimates for dairy products, cereal and bakery products, eggs, fats and oils and fruits and vegetables.
USDA reports big week for US corn export sales and shipments
The USDA logged a marketing year high for both corn export sales and exports from March 10-16, according to the latest weekly data published by the Foreign Agricultural Service.
Foreign buyers contracted to purchase about 3.1 million metric tons of U.S. corn for the seven-day period for delivery in the 2022-23 marketing year. Most of the corn – about 2.2 million tons – was purchased by Chinese buyers, says FAS.
The U.S. shipped roughly 1.4 million tons to buyers during the week – also a marketing year high. The top three importing countries are Mexico, Japan and China.
Biden asked to intervene in West Coast port labor negotiations
Over 100 agriculture and business groups are urging the White House to intervene in the ongoing West Coast port labor negotiations between dockworkers and port facilities owners.
It has been over eight months since members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union began working without a labor contract, and more than 10 months since negotiations started with the Pacific Maritime Association.
“It is imperative that the administration work with the parties to quickly reach a new agreement and ensure there is no disruption to port operations and cargo fluidity,” the groups wrote in a letter. “Significant cargo flows have shifted away from the West Coast ports because of the uncertainty related to the labor negotiations.”
The groups also asked the administration to appoint a new administration point person because of the recent departure of former Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh.
Follow-up to White House nutrition conference celebrates efforts
Since September, when the White House held its hunger and nutrition conference, organizations that made commitments in conjunction with it have reported serving over 9.4 million meals and raising nearly $40 million, Susan Rice, the head of the administration’s Domestic Policy Council, said Friday.
Rice also highlighted more than 60 public and private organizations’ commitments totaling more than $8 billion to meet the White House’s goals.

The setting was an event at the White House Friday, which was livestreamed and attended by a few dozen people including Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, who said, “No matter how good the government programs can be, we really do need the private sector.”
Alex DiNovo, president and chief operating officer at DNO Produce, told Agri-Pulse the “atmosphere was electric” at the event with enthusiasm about the actions made in the nutrition and hunger space since September.
FCC adding 1.04 million serviceable locations to broadband maps
The Federal Communications Commission’s broadband map has seen a net increase of 1.04 million locations where fixed broadband could be installed, due to challenges submitted to the agency’s previous map draft, according to FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel.

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The agency has added a total of 2.94 million serviceable locations and removed 1.92 million non-serviceable locations to the old maps after finding flaws in the location data that internet providers submitted to the agency.
Rosenworcel said the agency is “on track” to release its new maps later this spring. 
Chapter 12 farm bankruptcies down in 2022
Chapter 12 farm bankruptcies fell nearly 39% from 2021 to 169 last year, the American Farm Bureau Federation said in an analysis.
The number was the lowest since Chapter 12 became permanent in in the law in 2005 and came three years after the third-highest number of filings – 595 in 2019.
The biggest decrease was in the Midwest, which had 47 filings, down from 144 in 2021. In four of the eight regions, however, there were increases. The West, with California and Nevada, had 11 filings in 2022, up from nine in 2021, and the Northwest – Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington – saw 11 filings in 2022, up from 10 in 2021.
APHIS proposing to allow beef exports from Paraguay
The Animal and Plant Health Inspection is proposing to allow the import of fresh beef from Paraguay after concluding the country has an adequate system in place to address foot-and-mouth disease.
APHIS concluded that the overall risk of importing chilled or frozen beef is low and that Paraguay “has the infrastructure and emergency response capabilities needed to effectively report, contain, and eradicate FMD in the event of an outbreak and to do so in a timely manner,” the agency said in its proposal, published today. The comment period will run until May 26.
Paraguay is the world’s eighth largest beef exporter, according to the International Trade Administration.
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