McCarthy still pushing work requirements as debt talks progress

 Congressional leaders are sounding some notes of optimism after a second meeting with President Biden over the debt ceiling. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy welcomed Biden’s decision to appoint administration officials to lead the negotiations from his side. “I think we set the stage to carry on further conversations,” McCarthy said.

 Biden said it was a “good productive meeting.” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., described the discussion as “open and honest but very cordial.”

 Take note: McCarthy, R-Calif., continues to make the case for including in any deal tougher work requirements for welfare programs. The question is which ones he’s targeting at this point: SNAP, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Medicaid. McCarthy wouldn’t say when asked by a reporter. “I’m not going to negotiate with all of you,” McCarthy said.

 Ahead of the meeting, the top Democrat on the House Ag Committee, David Scott of Georgia, denounced McCarthy’s push for tougher work requirements. "Speaker McCarthy has shown his debt limit ‘plan’ has no heart. And, he is using food for hungry Americans as a bargaining chip,” Scott said in a statement. 

 Keep in mind: Should the work requirement issue get disposed of in the debt ceiling talks, it could potentially take the issue off the table in the farm bill. “If we can deal with work requirements as a part of the debt ceiling. I think that is excellent news for the farm bill,” Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., told reporters.

 Keeping the heat on feral swine

 A bipartisan Senate bill would make permanent a pilot program created by the 2018 farm bill to control feral swine. The 2018 bill provided $75 million for the Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program, with the money split evenly between the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. 

 Feral hog populations are “becoming more and more of a problem,” Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., told Agri-Pulse. “We’re losing a huge percentage of crops all around the South."

 Tuberville is cosponsoring the bill with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas; Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M.; and Raphael Warnock, D-Ga. All but Cornyn are members of the Senate Ag Committee. 

 Warnock says the bill “will empower Georgia counties to continue to protect agriculture, property, and even people from this invasive species.”

 USDA plugs in to Ukrainian grain export data

 Want to know just how much Ukrainian corn and wheat is going to specific destinations across the globe? USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service has constructed an interactive “dashboard” to show just how effective the Black Sea Grain Initiative has been

“By looking at the …  dashboard, it becomes very clear how big an impact Russia’s war has on food security in countries in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, as many countries in these regions import a significant portion of their grains and oilseeds from Ukraine and Russia,” says USDA’s undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, Alexis Taylor.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative has come under fire lately amid threats from Russia. Moscow contends Western obstacles continue to hamper Russian fertilizer exports.

FWS head seeks more funding for consultations

 Echoing a familiar theme from administration officials at Capitol Hill budget hearings, Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams told the Environment and Public Works Committee Tuesday that the agency needs more money.

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 In particular, a $50 million increase for planning and consultation activities would support another 225 employees and allow the service to perform nearly 300 more formal interagency consultations, she said. 

 The service has been struggling to comply with court decisions requiring that it evaluate the impacts of pesticides on threatened and endangered species. That subject did not come up specifically.

 LaMalfa wants ‘fire in the belly’ from USFS chief

 The chairman of the House Agriculture subcommittee that oversees the Forest Service used a hearing Tuesday to express deep frustration with Forest Service Chief Randy Moore and his agency’s work in managing and preventing wildfires and protecting forests.

 “We need fire in the belly, sir. We need passion about this, because we can’t keep doing the bureaucratic shuffle on this,” said Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif.  

 In LaMalfa’s own district, he’s seen two fires that burned approximately 1 million acres each, devastating their communities. “We must dramatically increase active management and speed up the pace and scale of forest restoration on tens of millions of acres of federal and non-federal land,” LaMalfa said.

 Moore defended the agency’s actions and said prior to the bipartisan infrastructure bill and Inflation Reduction Act, the Forest Service’s budget had declined over the last 20 years. Moore said he understands more vegetation needs to come off the landscape. 

 On tap today: Another House Ag subcommittee is hosting a hearing to focus on issues in animal agriculture. The hearing will include representatives from beef, pork, turkey and the sheep producers as well as Bryan Burnsvice president and associate general counsel of the North American Meat Institute, which represents processors. 

 He said it. “When we get done with these negotiations, America’s economy is going to be stronger.” – House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on the debt ceiling talks.

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