A bipartisan group of lawmakers are introducing legislation today to ensure the government keeps using U.S. commodities to provide food aid around the world. About half the funds for the Food for Peace program are currently used to purchase and deliver U.S. farm goods.

Reps. Tracey Mann, R-Kan., Rick Crawford, R-Ark., John Garamendi, D-Calif., and Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., don’t want to see that level fall, so they’re introducing the American Farmers Feed the World Act of 2023 to restrict the U.S. Agency for International Development’s ability to provide cash assistance or buy foreign-produced commodities in lieu of U.S. products.

The bill would protect at least half the program’s budget for buying and delivering American-grown commodities.

Take note: Food for Peace is included in the farm bill’s trade title.

Thompson: GAO report needed before considering restricting foreign land ownership

Growing lawmaker concerns over foreign ownership of agricultural land have spawned a number of bills proposing to restrict purchases by foreign investors. But House Ag Committee Chairman Glenn Thompson believes more information on the extent and impacts of foreign investment is needed before Congress acts. 

Thompson, R-Pa., was one of 130 lawmakers who sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office last October asking for "review of foreign investment in U.S. farmland and its impact on national security, trade, and food security as well as U.S. government efforts to monitor these acquisitions.” 

He told Agri-Pulse he wants to see the results of the report before he considers including any foreign land ownership measures in the farm bill. "I don’t like to address things emotionally, and it seems that a lot of people are doing that as they’re introducing bills,” Thompson said. "So, I’m waiting for this data and then we will have a hearing.”

Take note: Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow introduced a new bill with Joni Ernst Tuesday that would add USDA to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. and require the panel to review foreign entities’ land purchases or leases that exceed $5 million or 320 acres of land. 

Stabenow told Agri-Pulse Wednesday that she sees the farm bill as one possible vehicle for the measure. 

“There’s also a separate bipartisan effort that Sen. Schumer has convened specifically looking at China and competition with China, so it’s a possibility that we could do something there also. So we’ll see,” Stabenow said.

Wyden, Crapo ask Biden to press Modi on India’s ag trade barriers

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Washington to visit the White House, and two senators are asking President Joe Biden to confront him over Indian tariff and non-tariff barriers that have long frustrated U.S. farm groups and lawmakers.

“The United States and India share a close partnership, grounded in shared democratic values and strong people-to-people ties,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Ranking Member Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, say in a letter to Biden. “At the same time, while Indian businesses continue to benefit from access to the U.S. market, India maintains numerous trade and investment barriers that harm U.S. producers across many sectors of our economy, including agriculture, manufacturing, and services.”

The senators highlighted Indian barriers to U.S. apples, blueberries, cherries, chickpeas, lentils, potatoes, wheat and dairy products.

Take note: U.S. apple exports to India dropped by 80% in 2018 after the country raised overall tariffs on the fruit to 70%.

Key Republicans press administration on WOTUS

What’s up with WOTUS? In a nutshell, that’s the question put to EPA Administrator Michael Regan and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael L. Connor, in a letter from House and Senate Republican committee leaders Wednesday.

Despite the Supreme Court’s resounding rebuke of the “significant nexus” test underpinning the agencies’ definition of “waters of the U.S.,” EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have not directed their employees to implement the ruling, the lawmakers say.

EPA is appealing court rulings that have prevented implementation of the rule in 26 states.

“We are concerned that the administration is now delaying implementation of the ruling,” says the letter from Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., and Reps. Sam Graves, R-Mo., and David Rouzer, R-N.C.

Workforce panel co-chair eyes targeted H-2A reforms

Rep. Rick Crawford, who’s the new co-chair of a 14-member working group assigned to recommend reforms to the H-2A visa program, tells Agri-Pulse it’s important that any changes be tailored to the varying needs of farmers that rely on imported labor. 

He says the House Ag Committee working group will “try to adopt a customizable, scalable approach” that fits the needs of each ag sector. “We have to make sure that that source of labor is managed efficiently, effectively, and not with a one-size-fits-all approach,” he said. 

What’s next: The working group, split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, will start work after the July 4 recess. The group has six months to develop its recommendations. 

GOP looks to stop SEC disclosure rule

House Republicans are trying to use the fiscal 2024 appropriations process to block the Securities and Exchange Commission’s plan to require corporations to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions. 

The FY24 Financial Services bill that a House Appropriations subcommittee will consider today also would slash funding for the Federal Trade Commission, which is helping lead the administration’s crackdown on corporate market power. The agency would be funded at $376.5 million, $213.5 million below the president’s request. 

Also on tap: The Senate Appropriations Committee today will debate its FY24 Agriculture bill, which would fund USDA and FDA. 

He said it. “With all due respect, administrator, we'd like to talk about STEAM here, not STEM. We put an “A” in it, and the obvious “A” is agriculture,” – Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson at Wednesday’s signing of an MOU meant to encourage young people to pursue careers in STEM and agriculture. 

Bill Tomson, Steve Davies, Noah Wicks, Jana Rose Schleis and Hannah Pagel contributed to this report.