The debt limit agreement between President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has one more step to go before heading to the White House. The Republican-controlled House overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan Fiscal Responsibility Act on Wednesday night, 314-117

In a twist of irony, the bill wound up with more Democratic than Republican votes, though a majority of both parties voted for it.

The Senate is expected to give final approval to the bill by this weekend.

Take note: Ahead of the House vote, Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said the Biden-McCarthy deal should put the issue of SNAP work requirements to rest. “We’ve got a lot of other work to do in the farm bill, a lot of other important things that we need to be focused on. But this has been litigated and has been addressed by Congress,” Stabenow said.

But, but, but: Wednesday night, House Ag Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson wasn’t ruling out revisiting the new work requirement exemptions during the farm bill. The bill exempts veterans, homeless people and young adults aging out of the foster care system.

“I certainly respect the senator and I think we’ve accomplished some decent things,” Thompson told Agri-Pulse after the House vote. “But, honestly, we may want to revisit those three categories that were defined out to make sure that they have access to the full range of benefits that the White House excluded them from."

Ossoff told to get to work on farm labor legislation

Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff has been tabbed to take the Senate lead on farm workforce legislation for his party by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman and Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

"Senator Ossoff, you're in charge of this, my friend, from this point, to talk about the next step,” Durbin said at a committee hearing Wednesday. Durbin added his expectation for Ossoff and Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., to meet with Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet, who led an effort last year to get workforce legislation through the Senate.

Durbin said he wanted the three “to talk about a practical step to move towards some bipartisan hearing or markup in this committee so we can get this issue moving. 

“We have got to get off dead center and do something. And I think we're the only committee that can on the Senate side. And I'm looking to you for inspiration and leadership. I know you'll deliver," he told the first-term senator.

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The chances of getting a bill through Congress are slim, but Ossoff and Tillis have already focused on labor issues by introducing a bill to freeze the Adverse Effect Wage Rate at 2022 levels and asking for Durbin to hold the hearing.

Read more from Agri-Pulse’s Jacqui Fatka.

Higher ‘cost of carry’ hitting grain elevators hard, CoBank says

Grain elevators may have to lower their local grain bids to manage the increasingly higher “cost of carry,” CoBank says in a new report.

That storage cost has rocketed to record highs “due to rising interest rates, high commodity prices, and increasing costs for labor, insurance, transportation and energy,” CoBank said in a release announcing a new report, “Rising Cost of Carry Will Force Cooperative Grain Elevators to Lower Bids, Widen Basis.”

The report says the interest-related cost of carry in the 2023-24 crop year will rise 21% for corn, 42% for soybeans and 50% for all-wheat, year-over-year. “Each of those costs is estimated to be the highest on record,” CoBank said.

AAFCO opposes federalized pet food regulatory system 

The Association of American Feed Control Officials, an independent organization guiding state and federal feed regulators, is opposing a proposal from the Pet Food Institute to transfer pet food regulation to the federal level, saying it would “offer pet manufacturers a loophole to avoid state inspections, sampling and the oversight of marketing claims.”

PFI wants a new center at FDA dedicated to dog and cat food approvals to avoid the patchwork of state regulations. Currently, state regulators and industry stakeholders work with AAFCO to create an approved list of ingredient definitions, label standards and laboratory standards. 

But in a statement issued Wednesday, AAFCO Executive Director Austin Therrell said a federal system “will significantly decrease the number of qualified inspectors in the marketplace and reduce the regulatory oversight of pet food and pet food ingredients.” 

“In addition, prohibiting state-led inspections at manufacturing facilities across the country would eliminate the routine collection of tens of thousands of samples for potential contaminants or adulterants, which may dangerously impact animal health and reduce consumer confidence in the marketplace,” he said.

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Southern ag economists launch analysis site

Ag economists from universities across the South, including Texas A&M and the University of Arkansas, are formally launching a website to track the region’s farm economy and provide analysis of agriculture and food policy. Southern Ag Today features short peer-reviewed articles on various issues. 

Topics follow a set schedule and include crop marketing, livestock marketing, farm management, agricultural policy, trade, and agricultural law.

“We are not chasing the latest headline. The goal is to provide timely, thoughtful analysis beyond merely reporting on the news, but there is flexibility to weigh in on pressing issues, especially as the farm bill reauthorization heats up,” said Bart Fischer, co-director of Texas A&M’s Agricultural and Food Policy Center and a former top aide to the House Agriculture Committee.

Keep in mind: Southern ag economics often gets less media attention than Midwest farm issues, but southern concerns have long figured large in farm bill debates and will again this year.  

Read our report here on the coming debate over the farm bill commodity title.

He said it: “CBO could be wrong, but around here CBO is God, and it takes 60 votes to overrule God. So I guess you have to believe them even if they’re wrong.” – Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provisions in the debt limit deal.