Agri-Pulse is hosting a webinar next Monday, May 15, on the status of the next farm bill with John Newton, chief economist for the Senate Ag Committee's minority staff, and Jacqlyn Schneider, a former top Democratic staffer on the panel. The discussion will cover a wide variety of issues, including the latest farm program cost projections from the Congressional Budget Office. Agri-Pulse Executive Editor Philip Brasher will moderate the discussion. Sign up here.

Debt ceiling talks continue Friday
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters he.“didn’t see any new movement" at a meeting with President Biden and congressional leaders on Tuesday on the debt ceiling.  But Biden said later that he would be meeting with congressional leaders again on Friday, and that there would be staff discussions in the interim. Biden also left the door open to clawing back unused pandemic funding.
McCarthy continued to emphasize the need for expanded work requirements for SNAP and other programs “to help our supply chains get stronger.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., stressed that the clean debt ceiling increase Biden wants can’t pass the Senate.

House Ag moving precision ag bill
The House Agriculture Committee is set to advance a bill on Thursday that would require USDA to set voluntary interconnectivity standards and guidelines for precision agriculture technology. The standards would “promote economies of scale and ease the burden of the adoption of precision agriculture,” according to the bill sponsored by Rep. Donald Davis, D-N.C.
USDA would have two years to develop the standards in consultation with the Federal Communications Commission, the Commerce Department and industry stakeholders.
Take note: A second bill the committee is moving this week, the Beagle Brigade Act, would establish a National Detector Dog Training Center for training the dogs that are deployed to catch products at ports and airports that may harbor plant and animal pests and diseases. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga. A companion bill is pending in the Senate Ag Committee.

Canada ag minister backs US on GM spat with Mexico

Canada is so far taking an “observer” role as the U.S. confronts Mexico over its ban on genetically modified white corn, but Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau tells Agri-Pulse she’s backing the U.S. argument that Mexico doesn’t have science on its side.

“It’s not a matter of how (food) has been produced,” she said in an interview Tuesday. “It’s a matter of what the result is. And when our scientists agree that it’s safe, then there should not be trade barriers.”

There is also the issue of a potential domino effect, with other countries attempting to copy Mexico’s unscientific trade barriers, said Bibeau, who added, “Where will it end?”

Check out the weekly Agri-Pulse newsletter for more on how the U.S. is preparing for a formal challenge to the Mexican ban. We also have a report on the AIM for Climate summit and stories on issues facing farm bill writers.  

Lawmakers press for WTO dispute on India’s ag subsidies

The U.S. has twice filed counter notifications with the World Trade Organization to demonstrate that India is vastly under-reporting its subsidies for wheat and rice production, and now House members are urging the U.S. Trade Representative to officially challenge the Indian policy. 

“India has disregarded WTO commitments for at least a decade, leading to entrenched policies and an increasingly justified perception that the rules will not be enforced,” Reps. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., Tracey Mann, R-Kans., and 16 other members wrote in a letter to USTR Katherine Tai and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Meanwhile, these policies have global spillover that degrade market opportunities for farmers in the United States and other countries that comply with the WTO agriculture rules.”

Australia, Canada, Paraguay, Thailand, and Ukraine backed the second U.S. counter notification on India.

Elanco eyes 2024 launch for methane reducer

Elanco CEO Jeff Simmons says the company remains confident that it will get FDA approval in the first half of next year for its methane-reducing feed supplement for cattle, known as Bovaer. During the company’s quarterly earnings call, Simmons said the company intends to launch that and some other products within two to four months of getting government approval. 

Elanco says the product, developed by the Dutch company Royal DSM, can reduce methane emissions by 30% in dairy cows and even more in beef cattle. 

Consumer group: Too little info on dietary advisers

The Center for Science in the Public Interest says the government is providing too little Information about potential conflicts of interest among members of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. 

The departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services released a list of potential conflicts late last month, but since the list covers the entire committee and not individual members, “that effectively obscures which members have which ties, and does not provide the public with the information it deserves,” CSPI said. No dollar figures are included for grants, contracts or other forms of compensation. 

Take note: The committee meets today to discuss how to tackle the scientific questions the departments have presented to it.

Frozen food sector looks to qualify for nutrition funds

A bipartisan bill introduced in the House would make frozen fruits and vegetables eligible for the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, known as GusNIP. The program is currently limited to fresh produce. 

Don’t miss a beat! It’s easy to sign up for a FREE month of Agri-Pulse news! For the latest on what’s happening in Washington, D.C. and around the country in agriculture, just click here.

“We’ve seen great success from GusNIP, but more needs to be done to ensure this program is accessible in areas with less access to fresh food,” said Jasmine Crockett, a Texas Democrat who is co-sponsoring the Supporting All Healthy Options When Purchasing Produce, or SHOPP, Act, with Mark Alford, R-Mo. GusNIP participants who spend $1 on fresh fruits and veggies get an additional $1 to spend on those products.

The American Frozen Food Institute says eight out of 10 SNAP-eligible households surveyed in 2022 agreed that frozen fruits and vegetables make it easier to eat more produce and prevent food waste. 

Tariffs could bring higher costs for canned foods

Proposed tariffs up to 300% on tinplate steel imports will increase the cost of canned foods and products by up to 58 cents per product, according to research conducted by The Juday Group and released by the Consumer Brands Association.

Consumer Brands is urging the Department of Commerce and International Trade Commission to deny a petition submitted by steel conglomerate Cleveland-Cliffs to impose tariffs of up to 300% on imported tinplate steel from eight countries (Canada, China, Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, UK). Because tinplate is used in hundreds of canned goods – everything from soup to shaving cream – Consumer Brands said in a release “imposing the requested tariffs would raise production costs for U.S. can manufacturers and trigger price hikes for every consumer, as supported by the research.”

She said it: “Meeting the commitments of the Paris accord requires prioritizing the food and agriculture system transformation at the same level as the energy transition. We’ve got to stop saying that it's the energy transition first. They need to be on an equal footing.” – Ertharin Cousin, founder and CEO, Food Systems for the Future, and a former executive director of the UN World Food Program. 

Bill Tomson, Jacqui Fatka and Steve Davies contributed to this report.