Leaders of the House and Senate Ag committees have reached agreement on a one-year farm bill extension, but its fate hinges on whether Congress can agree on a stopgap spending bill this year.

The extension will ensure that commodity programs can operate normally in 2024 and includes new funding for a series of smaller, expired programs.

But in a joint statement issued Sunday, the chairs and ranking members of the Ag committees stressed that the extension “is in no way a substitute” for passing a new farm bill. They “remain committed to working together to get it done next year.”

The extension is included in a continuing resolution that GOP leaders will try to push through the House this week. The House Rules Committee is scheduled to meet this afternoon to prepare the measure for floor debate. 

The CR will be biggest test so far for new House Speaker Mike Johnson, because it appears the measure will need at least some Democratic support. Some hardline GOP conservatives have denounced the bill because it won’t require immediate cuts in spending. At least one Freedom Caucus member also is angry about the farm bill extension.

New WOTUS lawsuits to be filed today

Two dozen states, along with farm groups, will file amended complaints today in North Dakota and Texas challenging the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers’ recent rule that attempts to comply with the Supreme Court’s Sackett ruling.

Because many farm and other industry groups in North Dakota had already filed a case in Texas, a federal district judge in the North Dakota case limited their involvement to the North Dakota Farm Bureau and Cass County (N.D.) Farm Bureau. But 24 states are the lead plaintiffs. 

In the Southern District of Texas, the American Farm Bureau Federation and other trade associations will file an amended complaint along with the states of Texas and Idaho, according to a scheduling order.

EPA “is continuing to press its luck on what it wants to regulate,” a lawyer for the groups, Tim Bishop, told members of the American Agricultural Law Association on Friday. 

Background: The Biden administration’s January rule is already enjoined in 27 states, but that litigation was paused pending the Sackett decision – issued in May – and then while EPA and the Corps worked on regulations to conform to the court’s ruling, which limits federal jurisdiction over waters using a “continuous surface connection” test.

All questions on the table at FDA stakeholder event

Jim Jones, the Food and Drug Administration’s new deputy commissioner for human foods, will be the featured speaker today on a free webinar hosted by the Alliance for a Stronger FDA.

Jones is just two months into the newly created job overseeing the human foods program at FDA. Alliance Director Steven Grossman says Jones will be asked about ongoing food safety and nutrition initiatives and urged “to discuss his priorities and needs.” 

“Underfunding is of continuing concern, and we expect him to address that, as well,” Grossman says. “The stakeholder community will be impressed with Jim Jones’ command of a broad set of food safety and nutrition issues and programs, even while he is learning more about the FDA’s challenges in human foods.”

The event is scheduled for Monday at 1 p.m. Eastern. You can register for it here.

NCBA maintains objections to US imports of beef from Paraguay

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is preparing a final rule to open the U.S. to imports of fresh beef from Paraguay, but the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says it’s just too dangerous because of the country’s history with foot and mouth disease.

“USDA based their decision to allow beef imports from Paraguay on a deeply flawed risk assessment that uses old data from site visits that were conducted more than nine years ago,” NCBA Executive Director of Government Affairs Kent Bacus said in a statement Friday. “Paraguay has a history of FMD outbreaks, and it is unclear if their inspection system can provide an equivalent level of safety for animal health to prevent a possible FMD outbreak on U.S. soil.”

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But APHIS says it’s confident in its decision. Paraguay hasn’t had an FMD outbreak from regions that export, according to the agency, and the beef “comes from premises where FMD has not been present during the lifetime of any of the animals.”

Cotton replaces poppies on Afghan farmland

Afghanistan seems to be gaining in its effort to stem the heroin trade. Farmers have drastically reduced poppy production after the government banned it this year, switching to cotton, wheat and other crops, according to a new report by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

More than 90% of the poppy fields in historically major growing regions have disappeared. Meanwhile, FAS says cotton production is exploding.

FAS is predicting Afghanistan will produce 500,000 480-pound bales of cotton this year, a 335% increase from last year and a 360% increase over the five-year average. Cotton yields are seen dropping by about 4% from last year, but farmers are planting a lot more. Cotton acreage is expected to reach about 618,000 acres, 355% more than last year.

Recommendations encourage expansion of Food is Medicine interventions

The Bipartisan Policy Center plans to unveil a new report today offering 10 recommendations from its Food is Medicine working group, which includes former Ag Secretaries Dan Glickman and Ann Veneman and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala. FIM interventions include medically-tailored meals and food packages, and produce prescriptions.

The recommendations include actions to spur the training of health care professionals and educate patients and the public about nutrition, as well as engage those in the health sector to encourage the consumption of healthy food.

The report says more data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should be used to better understand the benefits of FIM interventions for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. The lack of consistent insurance coverage and coordination between the health care system and the food sector for the successful delivery of FIM interventions are two current barriers to wider FIM adoption.

Working group members as well as industry stakeholders will participate in a BPC virtual event Tuesday, Nov. 14, at 11 a.m. ET. 

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

Send questions and comments to Associate Editor Steve Davies.