Democrats on the House Ag Committee are warning House Speaker Kevin McCarthy that additional GOP attempts to tighten SNAP eligibility could “jeopardize” passage of a farm bill. 

A letter to McCarthy, led by House Ag ranking member David Scott, calls on the speaker honor by supporting the bill that ultimately comes out of the committee. The Democrats say the failure to pass the initial House versions of the 2014 and 2018 farm bills “caused a great deal of anxiety in rural America.” That could happen again this year as a result of "partisan SNAP politics," the Democrats say.

“The continued threat of making additional changes to SNAP eligibility or benefits is not helpful and even undermines Chairman [Glenn] Thompson as he works with his Democratic and Republican membership to bring a bipartisan farm bill out of the Agriculture Committee,” the lawmakers write.

Keep in mind: The debt ceiling agreement that McCarthy reached with President Biden in May increased the maximum age for SNAP work requirements to 54, but added exemptions for the homeless, veterans and young adults who have left the foster care system.

Don’t miss: House Ag Committee Republican Kat Cammack, R-Fla., warned the sugar industry Monday that there’s likely to be a wide-open amendment process on the House floor. If so, that could open the bill to just the kind of proposals the Democrats are worried about. Read our report on her remarks here.

Corn progress improves slightly

USDA is reporting some slight improvement in the U.S. corn crop. Some 57% of the crop is rated in good to excellent condition, up from 55% last week, according to USDA’s weekly Crop Progress report

Likewise, 54% of the soybean crop is in good to excellent condition this week, compared to 52% last week. 

States seek to force EPA action on year-round E15

The attorneys general of Iowa and Nebraska are suing EPA to force it to finalize action on a request from eight governors to allow year-round sales of E15. EPA proposed regulations in March that would allow summer-time sales of E15 next year in the Midwest states. 

Ethanol groups say time is needed to ensure investments and coordination can be made ahead of next summer. “We have strongly encouraged EPA to finalize the rule before the end of this summer, and we’re hopeful that the action taken by Iowa and Nebraska will help break the logjam and cause EPA to complete the process as soon as possible,” says Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper.

Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor adds, “Last summer, American families found savings ranging from 16 cents to nearly a dollar per gallon by filling up with E15. Studies have also shown that E15 not only saves money at the pump; it delivers immediate benefits in the fight against particulate matter, carbon monoxide and smog-forming pollutants.”

USDA puts $30M into modernizing school meal facilities

New funding from USDA could help rural schools upgrade kitchens and improve the quality of their food.

Deputy Ag Secretary Xochitl Torres Small on Monday announced a partnership between Action for Healthy Kids and USDA’s Health Meals Incentive Program that will allow 264 school districts across 44 states to receive as much as $150,000 each to modernize meal operations. USDA is putting $30 million into the initiative. 

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Why it could matter: The funding will help a small rural school district in Texas offer a new hot meal option as well as add refrigeration for fresh fruit and vegetables, and a steam table. 

“Our goals are to make the meal more attractive to students, to engage students in the menu planning and even tasting of different meals, and then feature more agricultural products,” says David Edison, superintendent of the Aquilla, Texas, school district.

School districts will begin implementing their projects during the coming school year.

AMS looking for Grain Inspection Advisory Committee members

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service needs new members for its Grain Inspection Advisory Committee. AMS is asking for nominations for the 15-member committee, which meets at least once a year to advise the agency on programs and services it delivers under the U.S. Grain Standards Act.

The form to apply is here. More information on the committee is here.

Protein powder company fined for air, wastewater discharges

A protein powder manufacturer has agreed to pay a $2.9 million fine for air and wastewater discharges at its Delhi, New York, manufacturing facility and spend another $1.4 million to reduce its discharges of heated water to the Delaware River. Half of the fine will go to New York state. 

FrieslandCampina Ingredients North America failed to get its air permit modified when it installed a new emissions unit in 2013, which resulted in the plant emitting “excessive” amounts of toluene, DOJ said.

“This settlement will result in a 95% reduction of toluene emissions into the air, as well as significant reductions in discharges of pollutants into the West Branch of the Delaware River, which is a drinking water source,” EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia says.

They said it. “Our nation’s hungry and those who grow their food deserve a bipartisan farm bill to address their needs.” House Ag Democrats in the letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

Noah Wicks, Jacqui Fatka and Steve Davies contributed to this report.