House Republicans step up their latest effort to cut domestic, non-defense programs this week as they release the fiscal 2025 spending bill to fund the Agriculture Department and Food and Drug Administration.

Republicans are looking to avoid a repeat of what happened to the FY24 Agriculture spending bill, which failed on the House floor after rural and moderate Republicans balked at supporting the legislation’s deep spending cuts. The bill also included restrictions on the abortion drug mifepristone that made it a non-starter for Democrats even before the funding reductions.  

House Republicans are proposing to reduce non-defense programs by 6% for fiscal 2025, which starts Oct. 1, with some subcommittees getting cut in the range of 10-11%.

The Ag spending bill, which funds USDA, FDA and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, has been allocated $25.8 billion for FY25. That compares to the $26.2 billion appropriated for FY24. The funding amounts don’t include mandatory spending programs, which include commodity programs for farmers, crop insurance, school meals and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.  

The Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee is scheduled to release its FY25 bill on Monday and vote on it on Tuesday.

The subcommittee chairman, Andy Harris of Maryland, has laid the groundwork for another battle over his idea of authorizing a series of pilot projects testing restrictions on the types of products that can be purchased with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. The idea was dropped during negotiations earlier this year over the FY24 spending legislation that included USDA, but Harris convened a subcommittee hearing on the issue in May.

In an opening statement at the hearing, he said SNAP as it operates now “is solely focused on providing calories rather than nutritious food. This subcommittee has a vested interest in ensuring SNAP is delivering on its goals."

Harris also noted that some jurisdictions, including Maine, Minnesota and New York City, have in the past “expressed interest in restricting SNAP purchases of sugary drinks or food. To date, USDA has denied every official request to restrict unhealthy purchases. Establishing a restriction pilot is a proposal worth exploring. Let me be clear - this would not be a program change across the entire country, but limited pilots to test this concept.”

Subcommittee Democrats and grocer representatives at the hearing said that restricting foods for SNAP participants could increase food prices and may not be effective in addressing nutrition.

Also this week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the latest gauge of food costs when it releases on Wednesday the Consumer Price Index for May. The cost of eating at home fell 0.2% in April after being flat in February and March, and was up just 1.1% from April 2023. For 2024, grocery prices are expected to increase just 1.2% well below the 20-year average annual inflation rate of 2.7%.

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Meanwhile this week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will headline the International Fresh Produce Association’s annual Washington conference.

Members of the produce industry will be lobbying lawmakers and their aides to address the cost and availability of farm labor.

“If you don't, grown in America is just one of those things that's going to become a thing of the past,” John Hollay, IFPA’s director on workforce and labor policy, said during a media briefing. 

New research released by IFPA found that the average farmer is unable to fill 21% of their labor needs, and that H-2A visa holders now account for 10-15% of farmworkers.

In the Senate this week, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday will hold a hearing on the Bureau of Land Management with agency Director Tracy Stone-Manning.

In April, the agency finalized a rule that will allow conservation leases on its land by giving land protection and restoration equal footing with grazing, energy development and other long-standing uses of the 245 million acres the agency controls.

Also Thursday, a subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will have a hearing on regulations adopted by the California Air Resources Board that would ban diesel-powered locomotives more than 23 years old starting in 2030, while requiring certain new models to adopt zero-emission engines. Agricultural interests have joined with major railroads to urge EPA to block the regulations from being enforced.

Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):

Monday, June 10

International Fresh Produce Association’s annual Washington conference, through Wednesday, Grand Hyatt Washington.

4 p.m. – USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.

Tuesday, June 11

ReFED Food Waste Solutions Summit, through Thursday, Baltimore.

6 p.m. – House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee meeting to consider its fiscal 2025 spending bill, H-140 Capitol.

Wednesday, June 12

8:30 a.m. – Bureau of Labor Statistics releases Consumer Price Index.

9 a.m. – House Appropriations Committee meeting to consider the FY25 State and Foreign Operations spending bill, 2359 Rayburn.

Noon – USDA releases monthly Crop Production report and monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates.

2:30 p.m. – Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee on various bills, including S.4454, to provide for the establishment of an Operational Flexibility Grazing Management Program on land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management, 366 Dirksen.

2:30 p.m. – Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on various bills, including S. 2908, the Indian Buffalo Management Act, 628 Dirksen.

Thursday, June 13

8:30 a.m. – USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.

9:30 a.m. – Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the Bureau of Land Management, 366 Dirksen.

10 a.m. – Senate Financial Services Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, 138 Dirksen.

2 p.m. – House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee hearing, "Environmentalism Off the Rails: How CARB will Cripple the National Rail Network," 2318 Rayburn.

Friday, June 14

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