House Republicans are keeping the heat on Securities and Exchange Chairman Gary Gensler over the agency’s climate disclosure plan. A proposed rule that the SEC released more than a year ago would require public companies to track and disclose the greenhouse gas emissions in their supply chains.

“The rule’s unnecessary information requirements will subject companies to public scrutiny, investor pressure and increased regulatory burden,” Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, said during a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Tuesday.

Gensler said companies have said the plan would bring some consistency to what they are already doing. Democrats repeatedly came to Gensler’s defense.

“Big Oil is fighting to get rid of Scope 3 emissions disclosure from the SEC’s proposed rule, because in a world without transparency, they can greatly misrepresent their exposure to climate risks, and rake in billions of dollars,” said Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass. Emissions that occur in a corporation’s supply chain, such as those associated with the crops used to produce a food company’s ingredients, are known as Scope 3.

What’s next: The SEC is expected to soon release a modified version of the rule. 

Regan to revisit familiar issue – WOTUS – at House Ag today

EPA Administrator Michael Regan is expected to field questions on the waters of the U.S. rule, pesticide regulation under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act and biofuels at a House Agriculture Committee hearing today, a House committee staffer said Tuesday.

Regan’s appearance will be the first in seven years by an EPA administrator. But just as Gina McCarthy did in 2016, Regan will be explaining the agency’s rationale for a new rule defining WOTUS under the Clean Water Act. 

In his case, he’ll have to explain – again – why EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers went ahead with their rule even though the Supreme Court was in the middle of considering the scope of wetlands regulation in the Sackett case. He has previously said that it didn’t make sense to wait.

WOTUS won’t be the only thing on lawmakers’ minds. Regan will also likely face questions about proposed restrictions on the herbicide atrazine and other crop protection chemicals. Attendance by the 54 members of the committee is expected to be robust.

In related news: The House voted a second time in favor of a joint resolution to overturn the WOTUS rule. But the 227-196 vote was 63 votes shy of the 290 needed to override.

Food industry executives on Capitol Hill today

Dozens of executives from food retailers, wholesalers and product suppliers who comprise the FMI – The Food Industry Association Government Relations Committee are on Capitol Hill meeting with lawmakers today to discuss farm bill reauthorization and food safety regulations as well as other industry concerns.

FMI Chief Public Policy Officer Jennifer Hatcher said they will be telling lawmakers that their members of all sizes support reauthorization of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. They also will “advocate for the continued safety and efficiency of the most abundant food system in the world.”

Yesterday, FMI revealed a survey which found that grocery shoppers continue to be concerned about rising food prices, with 68% of shoppers reporting they’re spending more on groceries than one year ago. Only 32% of shoppers in February cut back on the total items purchased to deal with those higher costs, down from 41% in October. 

“To address higher prices, shoppers are visiting more stores and seeking deals to stretch their dollars but are now less likely to cut back on the number of items purchased compared to six months or a year ago,” said Leslie G. Sarasin, president and CEO of FMI. “This is an opportunity for our industry to continue connecting with shoppers on food-inflation-mitigating solutions.” 

Rep. Adrian Smith calls for TPA, new free trade agreements

The U.S. needs to do more to counter China’s rising global influence with new, congressionally approved, free trade agreements in order to “show we are a reliable and attractive alternative for nations around the world,” Nebraska Rep. Adrian Smith, chairman of the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, said Tuesday during a hearing on Capitol Hill.

The Biden administration and Congress let trade promotion authority legislation expire, but Smith says that can be fixed. TPA legislation allows the president to submit a trade agreement to Capitol Hill for an up-or-down vote without the threat of Congress amending it.

 “Crafting a Trade Promotion Authority bill to put Congress in the driver’s seat, reauthorizing critical trade programs aimed at increasing American competitiveness, and continuing efforts to add consequences for China’s trade practices are all things we can and should pursue right now,” Smith said. 

A spokeswoman for Smith told Agri-Pulse that the lawmaker “is currently exploring a range of legislative options to ensure the U.S. leads on trade. This includes examining what a modernized TPA could entail.” 

Why it matters: American farmers need to diversify markets and rely less on China to import soybeans, corn, dairy, beef and many other commodities, but they need the Biden administration to negotiate new tariff-cutting free trade agreements to do so, said Nebraska Farm Bureau President Mark McHargue at the Tuesday hearing. 

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Ukraine grain inspections stopped again

Vessels carrying grain from Ukraine’s Odesa ports are again bottlenecked after a halt in inspections that are needed to allow the ships through the Bosporus Strait. It’s the second time this month that the Black Sea Grain Initiative has ground to a halt.

“There haven’t been inspections in two days,” said United Nations spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said Tuesday.

Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov blamed Russian inspectors at the Joint Coordination Center for blocking the inspections.

NRCS partners with American Society of Agronomy for TSP certification

The Agriculture Department is allowing conservation specialists certified through the American Society of Agronomy and the International Certified Crop Adviser programs to become certified Technical Service Providers under a new agreement. 

TSPs are private sector conservation exports that can help perform duties normally done by USDA staff, like writing management plans and implementing practices. The American Society of Agronomy said in a release that the agreement will help increase the number of TSPs to meet the increasing conservation practice workload the agency will see in the next couple of years.

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