Last week, USRPA visited with Congressional offices alongside other members of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC). USACC scheduled and arranged meetings with House and Senate staff to discuss the positive impact that opening the Cuban market would have on Domestic producers. USRPA joined representatives from the American Soybean Association, CoBank, the International Dairy Foods Association, the National Association of Beverage Importers, the National Association of Wheat Growers, the U.S. Dairy Export Council, and the USA Rice Federation to discuss potential legislation to reduce trade barriers with Cuba and consider strategy for future legislation. Currently, Cuba imports $250 million of rice each year, primarily from Vietnam and Brazil.
On July 27, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced an agreement with Sen. Joe Manchin on H. R. 5376 “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022”. The bill is associated with President Biden’s “Build Back Better” reconciliation framework. The bill would provide $369 billion in climate-related provisions, including $1 billion for conservation technical assistance and $300 million to USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service to measure the impact of agricultural practices on greenhouse gas emissions. It also included $19.9 billion for Title II Farm Bill programs: Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Regional Conservation Partnership Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. Additionally, the bill would provide $500 million for biofuel infrastructure, fund the Rural Energy for America Program and rural electric co-ops, provide $9.7 billion for electric co-ops to use for carbon-capture projects, extend the tax credit for biodiesel through 2024, and creates a new "clean fuels" tax credit for low-carbon biofuels. Cut from deal was a provision that would have provided payments of $25 an acre to farmers that plant cover crops through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. The bill can be found here.
On July 28, the Senate Committee on Finance convened a hearing to consider the nomination of Douglas J. McKalip to be Chief Agricultural Negotiator, with the rank of Ambassador, at the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Senators from both parties voiced approval of Mr. McKalip and agreed that U.S. trade policy must focus on increasing market access and enforcing trade agreements already in place. Democrats voiced approval of the Biden Administration’s overall trade policy and efforts to open new market. Republicans criticized the Administration on its overall handling of trade agreements and frameworks as well as the timeline of President Biden’s nomination of Mr. McKalip. Other issues discussed included enforcement of USMCA for Mexico and Canada, enforcement of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, and the impact of agricultural imports on domestic farmers and producers.
This week, the Senate released its appropriations bills for fiscal year 2023. Total funding across these bills was $1.7 trillion, including $27.02 billion in discretionary funding for USDA and the Food and Drug Administration, $2.3 billion more than what was enacted for fiscal year 2022. The House passed a six-bill package containing the agriculture appropriations bill earlier this month. The Senate bill can be found here.