Lawmakers are back on Capitol Hill today as congressional leaders and President Joe Biden look to nail down the votes to pass the agreement the White House reached with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy over the weekend.

The House Rules Committee is scheduled to meet this afternoon to prepare the bill for floor debate on Wednesday. The Senate will then have until the weekend to get the measure to the White House, given Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s Monday deadline for avoiding default.

Keep in mind: Beyond the debt limit increase and the spending limits in the bill, one of the most significant parts of the agreement is the compromise on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program work requirements. Republicans won a phased-in hike to the age limit for the work rules from 49 to 54. But Biden secured new exemptions from the work requirements for veterans, people who are homeless, and young adults moving out of the foster care system. 

Why it matters for the farm bill: Dealing with the work requirements in the debt limit negotiations could well put that issue to rest, at least for this Congress. 

Read our full report on the bill and the SNAP provisions here.

DOJ backs settlements with poultry processors prohibiting salary sharing

The Justice Department used a court filing to reiterate its belief that a settlement with poultry processors will prevent the companies from conspiring to share salary information. 

In a Federal Register notice published today, the department said it has officially responded to comments on the proposed agreements with Cargill, Wayne Farms and Sanderson, and with consultants Webber, Meng, Sahl and Company. 

“The United States believes the proposed final judgments demonstrate to companies both inside and outside the poultry industry that anticompetitive information-sharing risks significant legal consequences, and the broad scope of the monitor contained in the proposed final judgments provides protection against anticompetitive information-sharing in contexts other than poultry processing compensation,” DOJ said in the court filing.

Judge allows continued use of fire retardants in national forests

The Forest Service can continue using fire retardants while it pursues a Clean Water Act permit, a federal court ruled last week.

Although he ruled that unpermitted discharges of retardant into waters of the U.S. are a violation of the CWA, U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen noted that the Forest Service is pursuing a permit from EPA and the 47 states that have authority to issue discharge permits.

“Our farmers and ranchers face severe threats from wildfires that can occur in national forests and spread to agricultural lands, and they rely on state and federal agencies to use every tool possible to fight these fires,” said Jamie Johansson, president of California Farm Bureau. “Continuing the use of aerial fire retardants will save the lives of livestock, preserve grazing operations, and protect our rural agricultural communities from peril.”

New York senators ask USDA for aid after grapes, apples hit by spring frost

Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are asking the Agriculture Department for help after grape and apple growers were hit with a spring frost.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the New York Democrats said grapevines and trees began to bud amid high April temperatures only to be damaged earlier this week by frost. Initial reports, they said, estimate growers will face 20% to 50% crop losses. 

The Senators asked the Agriculture Department to “provide any and all assistance available" to growers and declare a disaster if requested by the state. They also asked Vilsack to consider using the Tree Assistance Program for growers who lost vines or fruit trees due to the frost.

Second-crop corn harvest begins in Brazil

Harvesting of Brazil’s second-crop corn harvest – known as the safrinha - has begun in the Center-South state of Mato Grosso, according to the consulting firm AgRural. The safrinha, planted after the soy harvest, is now the country’s largest corn crop.

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Early data show harvest has reached just under 1% complete, according to AgRural, which recently raised its production forecast this year for all three of Brazil’s corn crops to 127.4 million metric tons. That’s up from a previous forecast of 125.1 million tons.

USDA, in its latest World Agricultural and Supply Demand Estimates report, is predicting Brazil will produce 129 million tons of corn for the 2023-24 marketing year.

Food insecurity in Sudan threatens crises in neighboring regions

The military conflict in Sudan is causing a hunger crisis in the country, and the United Nations says it’s concerned that the economic impacts of war – together with weather – will worsen acute food insecurity in neighboring countries.  

The UN is warning of the development of 18 “hunger hotspots” in 22 countries in a new report. Qu Dongyu, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization, stressed in a statement that the international community needs to do more to strengthen farming in those countries.

“We need to provide immediate time-sensitive agricultural interventions to pull people from the brink of hunger, help them rebuild their lives, and provide long-term solutions to address the root causes of food insecurity,” Qu said. “Investing in disaster risk reduction in the agriculture sector can unlock significant resilience dividends and must be scaled up.” 

He said it: "I think he negotiated with me in good faith. He kept his word. … He did what he said he would do. I have no idea if he has the votes. I expect he does, or I don't think he would have made the agreement." – President Joe Biden, speaking to reporters about the debt ceiling deal and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy Sunday after the deal was announced.