The Biden administration’s “waters of the U.S.” rule will be front and center this week. The House is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a resolution of disapproval that President Biden vetoed April 6. Biden’s veto is certain to stand. The House only approved the resolution, 227-198, well short of the two-thirds margin needed to overcome the president’s opposition.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan is likely to be questioned about the WOTUS rule on Wednesday when he makes a rare appearance before the House Ag Committee. 

Keep in mind: The real action on the WOTUS rule is coming in the courts. Judges have stayed the measure in 26 states, while we await a Supreme Court decision that Regan has conceded could force the administration to modify the rule. WOTUS defines the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. The administration’s version is more expansive than one it replaced that was crafted by the Trump administration. 

Also this week: FDA Commissioner Robert Califf and the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Gary Gensler, will be on Capitol Hill this week. Republicans are certain to grill Gensler about a proposed rule that would require public companies to track and disclose the greenhouse gas emissions in their supply chains. At a recent hearing, Gensler suggested the rule could be changed significantly before it is finalized.  

For more on this week’s D.C. agenda, read our Washington Week Ahead. 

Dietary guidelines committee meeting next month

The federal Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee will hold its second meeting May 10, the Department of Health and Human Services and USDA announced Friday. 

The meeting will be open to the public through a livestream. The committee is focusing in particular on equity issues as it develops the scientific report underpinning the 2025-2030 guidelines for a healthy diet. 

The committee “will meet to discuss their prioritization of the scientific questions proposed by the departments,” a Federal Register notice published Friday said.

EPA to consult with wildlife agencies on endangered species impacts of RFS 

EPA has agreed to engage in endangered species consultation with federal wildlife agencies over the impacts of the Renewable Fuel Standard “set rule” for the 2023-2025 program years. 

In exchange, the Center for Biological Diversity agreed to dismiss its challenge to EPA’s lack of consultation, required under the Endangered Species Act, of the 2020-2022 annual rule. 

The consent decree settling CBD’s challenge, filed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, will be posted online today.

“If either the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service issues a biological opinion in connection with this ESA consultation, EPA would also agree to issue a determination addressing any conservation recommendations, terms and conditions of any incidental take statement, and/or reasonable and prudent alternatives within the time frames set forth in that biological opinion,” according to the Federal Register notice announcing the settlement. A 30-day public comment period is scheduled.

Agritech companies ask Congress for analysis of financing gaps, barriers to development of agricultural technologies

The National Grange, the Breakthrough Institute and 29 agritech companies, startups and nonprofits are asking the Senate and House Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittees to consider ways to expand manufacturing capacity for new agricultural technologies.

The parties, in a letter to the leaders of both subcommittees, asked for report language in this year’s appropriations bill directing the Agriculture Department to "analyze financing gaps that present barriers to emerging agricultural innovations, technologies, and industries.” 

The letters’ signers say the Agriculture Department’s loan programs do not currently help startups or other businesses developing or manufacturing agricultural technologies. 

Vilsack in Vietnam before G7 summit in Tokyo

USDA Chief Tom Vilsack arrives in Hanoi, Vietnam, today where he’ll meet with Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính and members of his cabinet, for a two-day stay in the country that some U.S. ag groups say could be a much bigger importer of commodities like U.S. wheat, beef and pork if it lowered non-tariff barriers. 

The U.S. supplies about 10% of Vietnam’s wheat imports, but that could be much higher if the country eases sanitary and phytosanitary restrictions. 

After Vietnam, it will be on to Tokyo for Vilsack. That’s where the G7 Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting will be held from Friday through Sunday.

“In addition to taking part in the ministerial, the secretary will deliver the closing keynote at a climate-focused side event, highlighting the United States’ farmer-focused, voluntary, incentive-based approach to climate change adaptation and mitigation,” USDA said in a statement.  

Are consumers willing to eat a cookie made of crickets?

You may wrinkle your nose up at the thought of a chocolate chip cookie containing cricket protein. However, USDA-funded research conducted by Louisiana State University found that if a person sees a positive facial emotional expression upon eating a cookie with cricket protein, they may be more willing to try it or even purchase insect-containing foods. 

After just reading a text description of the cricket cookie, participants saw a 94% to 98% willingness to try it. After a negative video it dropped to 15%. (A positive video, however, dropped willingness to try to 87%.)  

The study confirmed that other people’s negative facial expressions “strongly and negatively” impacted participants’ willingness to try the cookies.

Insects are not commonly eaten in Western countries but could be seen as a new protein source. The researchers found that encouraging positive emotional stimuli may help increase acceptance of insect-containing food. 

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