Two leading Republicans have jumped into the race for House speaker, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the current House majority leader, and Jim Jordan of Ohio, the House Judiciary Committee chairman.

The two have fairly long records on ag issues, most recently in the debate over the fiscal year 2024 USDA spending bill. Both demonstrated a willingness to vote for deeper cuts in agencies and programs, even though the proposals were opposed by the large majority of House members. 

Scalise and Jordan voted to scrap funding for Food for Peace, USDA’s flagship food aid program.  

The two men also voted to slash spending for the Natural Resources Conservation Service to its FY16 level and roll back the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which funds research at land-grant universities, to its FY19 level.

Take note: Jordan, a former chair of the House Freedom Caucus, did split with some hardline conservatives and voted against an amendment targeting commodity checkoff programs. Jordan supported an amendment to bar USDA from requiring electronic IDs for cattle. Scalise didn’t cast a vote on either issue; he has missed several votes recently as he undergoes cancer treatment.

By the way: Jordan voted against the final version of the 2018 farm bill, which passed the House 369-47. Scalise voted for the legislation. Both men voted against the 2008 and 2014 farm bills.

USTR prepares for next round of IPEF negotiations

U.S. negotiators from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative will be heading to Kuala Lumpur this month for the next round of Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity talks.  The trade pillar of the proposed 14-country deal contains a section on agriculture and that will be just one of the focal points for negotiation during the 10 days of talks that begin Oct. 15.

U.S. farm groups are generally supportive of IPEF, but they also remain unsatisfied because negotiations do not include efforts to bring down foreign tariffs on American ag exports.

Some of the biggest U.S. farm groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, U.S. Dairy Export Council and American Soybean Association, united in July to express their concerns about IPEF and demand new free trade agreements in a letter to USTR Katherine Tai.

“While the agriculture community views IPEF as an opportunity to advance U.S. trade policy, we also believe that it is not a wholly sufficient avenue to ensure the U.S agriculture industry’s competitiveness and continued growth in the region.” the groups said at the time.

GAP report release draws hundreds at D.C. launch event

Nearly 150 people gathered at the National Press Club and another 300 virtually for the release yesterday of the annual Global Agricultural Productivity report, which said the world is consistently failing to produce enough food with the same or fewer resources – defined as total factor productivity.

To feed nearly 10 billion people by 2050, “The assumption of needing to double agricultural production from 2010 to 2050 is still valid,” the report’s executive summary said.

The event was co-sponsored by the GAP Initiative, Sustainable Productivity Growth Coalition and USDA. It featured a panel of global experts and producers to offer insight into the relationship between productivity, sustainability and climate change; accelerating productivity growth by identifying examples of what works; and scaling up solutions and implications of policy, partnerships and research priorities.

Also: Alexis Taylor, USDA’s undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, told the audience the upcoming United Nations COP28 would have “a stronger focus on agricultural and food systems than previous COPs.”

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Taylor cited a 2021 report in Nature showing that since 1961, ag productivity is down 21% because of human-caused climate change. “That is equivalent to seven years of loss farm productivity advances,” she said.

Read our story on the report at

US Customs seizes edible bird nests at Tulsa port

The shipment was labeled as “jewelry,” but that’s not what customs officials in Tulsa, Oklahoma, discovered in boxes shipped from Asia. Instead, they found edible bird nests that were immediately seized because of the risk of spreading highly pathogenic avian influenza and Newcastle disease.

Edible bird nests – made of saliva from swiftlet birds – are a delicacy in Asia, but you can’t ship them legally to the U.S.

Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists “protect our nation’s ag industry and the economy and way of life of the American people,” said CBP Tulsa Port Director Al Coates in a statement. “These efforts are critical in preventing the outbreak of deadly diseases in the United States, which could result in health and economic calamity.”

Webinar focuses on food traceability challenges, opportunities

Food traceability is the subject of a webinar hosted today by the Council for Agricultural Science & Technology (CAST) and Institute of Food Technologists.

The discussion will focus on the CAST/IFT paper, “Food Traceability: Current Status and Future Opportunities,” now available on the CAST website. Cornell University Professor Emeritus Robert Gravani will be presenting.

The webinar will be held from 1-2 p.m. ET.

She said it: “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that as much as 30% of current agricultural land worldwide could become unsuitable for farming by the end of the century. That is not a distant future.” – Alexis Taylor, Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, at the release of the Global Agricultural Productivity report Wednesday.

Philip Brasher, Jacqui Fatka, Hannah Pagel and Bill Tomson contributed to this report.