A group of House Democrats who are carrying out a review of farm bill programs separate from the House Ag Committee are holding a roundtable today on Capitol Hill. How the Democrats’ task force fits into the process of writing a new farm bill, however, has been a bit of a mystery. 

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., told Agri-Pulse on Wednesday he didn’t know what the group of Democrats planned to do. He said he’s had “no real communications from them.” 

But a Democrat who is on the task force and the Ag Committee, Connecticut Rep. Jahana Hayes, told reporters the task force will craft a report based on what they hear at today’s roundtable and similar events. That report will be combined with a list of farm bill priorities for Democratic lawmakers to rally behind. 

She didn’t say when the task force report would be released, except to say that it would be “soon.”

Take note: While nutrition assistance is a major focus for the task force, the group also is looking at other issues, including “access to capital” and conservation programs, Hayes said. 

“The reason why nutrition was even amplified on this task force is because we saw very clearly that was the area that was under attack in every budget talk we were having,” she said, referring to the GOP push to cut the cost of SNAP and tighten work requirements. 

Another view: Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., told Agri-Pulse there’s no tension between the task force and the minority membership of the Ag Committee, which is led by Rep. David Scott, D-Ga. The purpose of the task force is to broaden “members’ interests in the bill, because it impacts not just rural districts, it impacts suburban and urban districts,” he said. He said the task force’s work also will help Democrats respond to issues more quickly as they come up. 

Today’s roundtable can be viewed here, starting at 3 p.m. EDT.

Lawmakers eye farm bill to boost foreign cold storage

Four House Republicans are introducing a bill today to expand cold storage infrastructure in foreign markets though the farm bill’s Foreign Market Development Program.

The FRIDGE Act, sponsored by Iowa Republican Randy Feenstra, Kansas Republican Tracey Mann and California Democrats Jim Costa and Salud Carbajal, will task the USDA with negotiating contracts to deliver "needs assessments, training, and other technical assistance to enhance infrastructure construction — including cold chain storage — in new and developing foreign markets,” according to a press release. 

The proposal would authorize $1 million annually for infrastructure development. 

UN: No progress on hunger

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says global hunger remained unchanged in 2022 and well above pre-pandemic levels. Some 9.2% of the world population was undernourished last year, compared to 7.9% in 2019. Put another way, 122 million more people faced hunger in 2022 than in 2019. 

The increase is largely due to the pandemic and the impact of the war in Ukraine. 

By the way: There was some improvement last year in Asia and Latin America, but hunger rose in western Asia, the Caribbean and all subregions of Africa, FAO said. 

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Vilsack presses profit possibilities in sustainability

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack continues to make the case that climate-smart farming practices are going to be good for producers’ bottom line. 

At an event Wednesday where he touted the administration’s newly released strategy for measuring and monitoring greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, Vilsack stressed the need for verifiable data to support a variety of conservation practices on ag and forestry operations.

“The goal here is not just to provide sustainable productivity but also to provide a new opportunity for profitability in American agriculture,” he said, so that small and mid-sized producers can benefit – not just large producers who account for the vast amount of farm income.

Vilsack was joined at the Universal Food Forum by White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi. The forum was hosted by Michigan State; Agri-Pulse and CropLife America were Gold sponsors.

USDA sees Brazilian pork exports rising further this year

The Foreign Agricultural Service’s new forecast for world pork exports in calendar year 2023 is virtually unchanged this month at about 115 million metric tons. However, Brazil will be shipping more than expected, according to the July edition of the agency’s Livestock and Poultry: World Markets and Trade.

FAS, citing “robust shipments to China and Hong Kong,” said it has raised its forecast for Brazilian pork exports by 8%, to a total of 1.5 million tons.

Furthermore, Brazil is expected to become an even more competitive pork exporter. “Declining feed prices in Brazil are anticipated to further incentivize production and bolster price competitiveness,” says FAS.

He said it. ‘Believe me, we may fulfill my lowest expectations this time.” – House Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., on the difficulty of moving legislation in this Congress.  

This week, House GOP leaders are struggling to move a bipartisan defense authorization bill without it getting derailed by amendments being pushed by some conservatives.

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