The future of the farm bill remains up in the air with the House back in session after its long summer recess.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson told reporters Tuesday evening that the new GOP impeachment inquiry into President Biden shouldn’t have any impact on the timing for a farm bill. But he said the House will have to reach a resolution on funding the government after Oct. 1 before he can ask the GOP leadership for floor time for a farm bill.

Take note: Thompson has yet to resolve key issues within the commodity title and said the Ag Committee is still trying to find money to address farm group demands “related to reference prices or, quite frankly, base acres.”

Thompson’s statement indicates the issue of adding base acres to the commodity programs is still alive. 

Senator signals possible checkoff debate

The Senate has teed up a debate over a package of spending bills that includes fiscal 2024 funding for USDA and FDA. Senators could debate a wide range of amendments, some of which have already been filed.

One proposed by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, would impose new requirements and restrictions on commodity checkoff programs. Among other things, the amendment would require periodic audits by USDA’s inspector general. Another Lee amendment targets lending for socially disadvantaged farmers and would ban the use of race for loan eligibility. 

Senate leaders will decide later what amendments get votes. The Senate voted 85-12 Tuesday to bring the spending package up for debate. 

H-2A workers would get more protection under DOL proposal

A wide-ranging proposal would give foreign farmworkers in the H-2A program more protection from potential employer abuses, the Labor Department says.

The proposal would require employers “to provide a copy of all agreements with any agent or recruiter the employer engages in recruiting prospective H-2A workers “ whether the agent is in the U.S. or abroad. Employers also would have to “identify and disclose the name and location of anyone soliciting H-2A workers on their behalf.”

Other parts of the proposal would require seat belts for workers when traveling to and from their place of employment, clarify when a worker can be fired "for cause,” and “make wages more predictable … by making new wage rates applicable immediately upon their publication in the Federal Register rather than weeks later,” the department said.

In addition, employers who want to hire H-2A workers would have to provide a certification to the department “that the employer will bargain in good faith over the terms of a proposed labor neutrality agreement with a requesting labor organization” or explain why it won’t.

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Bonnie: USDA has enough staff to handle this year’s IRA authorization

The Agriculture Department will be able to handle the $850 million in Inflation Reduction Act conservation funding it’s authorized to spend this year after hiring additional Natural Resources Conservation Service staff.

That’s according to Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation Robert Bonnie, who said the agency has hired 300 people over the last three months to handle the work demands from the IRA funding. Bonnie said the agency has ramped up hiring for more, but warned that the agency’s hiring efforts would be set back by a government shutdown.

“If it’s even two, three weeks, that’s going to create challenges,” Bonnie told Agri-Pulse at the NASDA annual meeting on Tuesday.

Polling finds voters support ethanol policy

Six out of 10 voters have a favorable opinion of ethanol, according to a new survey from the polling firm Morning Consult and released by the Renewable Fuels Association. An estimated two-thirds of the 2,013 registered voters asked in the online survey earlier this month support the Renewable Fuel Standard, with 19% offering no opinion and 14% opposed to the RFS. This is the highest percentage of support since RFA began conducting the surveys in 2016, RFA says. 

RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper says the polling “shows strong support for important legislative proposals that are currently pending in the House and Senate.” 

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Specifically, nearly two-thirds support the Flex Fuel Fairness Act which would encourage automakers to expand the production of flex fuel vehicles that can run on E85. The survey found that six out of 10 voters support the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act which would allow permanent E15 sales year-round, and the same number of those surveyed support the Next Generation Fuels Act which would establish a high-octane, low-carbon fuel standard.

Senate Democrats seek $8.5M for urban ag

Nine Democratic senators led by Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow have filed an amendment to add $8.5 million in funding for urban agriculture to the spending bill for USDA.

“Neither the Senate nor House agriculture appropriations bills included dedicated funding for the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production,” Stabenow’s office said in a news release.

Her amendment is cosponsored by Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Dick Durbin of  Illinois, Dianne Feinstein of California, John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and Jacky Rosen of Nevada.

Urban ag got $9 million for fiscal 2023. The Biden administration sought $14 million for fiscal 2024.

Philip Brasher, Steve Davies, Jacqui Fatka and Noah Wicks contributed to this report. Questions, comments, tips? Email