Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow is planning to hold a committee hearing on foreign land ownership at some point this Congress, though she is still unsure of when, she told reporters Monday.

“We’re so deep in all of the drafting and everything on the farm bill, we’ve got to figure out the timing of it,” the Michigan Democrat said. "But it’s certainly something that both [Senate Ag ranking member John] Boozman and I are interested in."

Several lawmakers, including Stabenow, have proposed bills on foreign farmland ownership that could be offered up as additions to the farm bill. When asked whether a hearing would come before or after the drafting of the farm bill, Stabenow said she wasn’t sure.

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley told reporters Monday he wasn’t aware of any hearings planned on foreign land ownership, though he also said he does not see a hearing being necessary before the introduction of the farm bill. 

“I don’t think there needs to be,” he said of a hearing. "This comes up quite a bit, even in Iowa."

USDA close to getting new No. 2 as Senate sets vote for today

The Senate is moving toward confirmation of Xochitl Torres Small to be the new deputy agriculture secretary and is expected to vote on her nomination at 11:30 a.m.

Aside from a lone senator’s hold preventing her from taking office by voice vote, there has been no controversy around Torres Small. She’s currently USDA’s undersecretary for rural development and senators, returning from their two-week July 4 recess, voted overwhelmingly 79-8 Monday evening to take up her nomination.

If confirmed, Torres Small will replace Jewel Bronaugh, who stepped down from the number-two post earlier this year.

GOP reps use hearing to demand new free trade deals

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo., and others used a field hearing Monday in Kimball, Minn., to press the Biden administration to begin negotiating comprehensive free trade agreements that do away with tariff and non-tariff barriers.

Don Schiefelbein, a cattle rancher and a witness at the hearing hosted on his operation, agreed wholeheartedly the U.S. needs more free trade agreements, pointing to the 2012 pact between the U.S. and South Korea as a prime example.

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“One only needs to look at the Korea agreement to see what good things occur when we engage with trade,” Schiefelbein said in response to a question from Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb. “There was a 40% tariff on beef (and) that phases out over the next three years to zero. Who do you think our number one (importer) of beef is today? Korea. If you put in free trade agreements that work and take away these barriers, great things happen.”

Technical guidelines on GHG emissions, sinks, get comment extension

USDA is extending the comment period until Aug. 9 on a nearly 600-page update to its technical guidelines for measuring greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration in agriculture and forestry. The deadline had been Monday.

The update is significant for several reasons, according to its executive summary. It will enable both landowners and USDA to estimate “entity-scale” emissions and sequestration, and help USDA measure the performance of conservation and renewable energy programs. 

The update also “provides a basis for updating USDA’s GHG flux estimation tools, including COMET-Planner and COMET-Farm,” it said.

Pesticide committee needs members, EPA says

EPA is seeking nominations for a federal advisory committee focusing on the agency’s pesticide program.

Nominees will be chosen to represent environmental, public interest and animal rights groups; farmworker organizations; pesticide industry and trade associations; pesticide user, grower, and commodity groups; federal/state/local and tribal governments; academia; and public health organizations.

EPA asked for nominations by Aug. 10 and said it would appoint new members by the end of the year.

Questions, comments, tips? Email Associate Editor Steve Davies.