Omnibus appropriations package includes assistance for rice producers
On December 29, President Biden signed into law an omnibus funding package for the fiscal year 2023. Included in this package was $250 million in assistance for rice farmers to offset the impacts of high input costs and relatively small increases in the market price for rice. This provision, championed by the Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR), will be delivered as a one-time payment. The amount producers receive will be a function of a payment rate set by the Secretary of Agriculture, individual APH or area yield for 2022, and certified rice acres for 2022 (both planted and prevented from being planted). For rice acreage where prevent planting indemnities were paid for 2022, impacted acres will be eligible for 55% of the payment. If those acres were replanted to a different insured crop, impacted acres will be eligible for 35% of the payment. There will be a payment limit of $250,000 if 75% or more of a producer’s adjusted gross income is derived from farming and $125,000 if less than 75% of a producer’s adjusted gross income is derived from farming. The full text of the omnibus package can be found here. The section on assistance for rice producers begins on page 3977.
Jason Smith elected Chairman of Ways & Means Committee
On January 12, Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) was elected Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee for the 118th Congress. Rep. Smith represents the rice-producing district in the southeastern corner of Missouri. He has served on the Ways & Means Committee since the 114th Congress.
Sen. Stabenow announces upcoming retirement
On January 5, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) announced that she would not seek reelection in 2024. Sen. Stabenow currently serves as the Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and also Chairs the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. Sen. Stabenow’s official date of retirement will be January 5, 2025.
EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers release new rule defining WOTUS
On December 30, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers announced the final “Revised Definition of ‘Waters of the United States’” rule which will be effective 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. The new rule defining “waters of the United States” or WOTUS, under the Clean Water Act, trims back an exclusion for prior converted cropland that had been in the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule. Although the new rule has been released, it may be short-lived pending the outcome of the Supreme Court’s current case on WOTUS, Sackett v. EPA.
Alexis Taylor and Doug McKalip confirmed by Senate for top agriculture trade posts
In the final hours of the 117th Congress, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Alexis Taylor to be the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, and Doug McKalip to serve as Chief Ag Negotiator within the Office of the United States Trade Representative. The Biden Administration originally announced its intent to nominate Taylor and McKalip in early 2022, and their confirmation comes after months of agricultural industry concern over the Administration filling top agricultural trade roles.