Washington, D.C. Update

June 10, 2022

This week, President Biden announced his intent to nominate Doug McKalip as the Chief Agricultural Negotiator for the US Trade Representative. He currently serves as Senior Advisor to US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack on issues related to trade, national security, and animal and plant health regulations. In March, the previous nominee, Elaine Trevino, withdrew her name from consideration for the role.

Last week, USDA released the Drought Resilience Interagency Working Group’s summary report. The report highlights accomplishments, including the formalization of new drought-related interagency Memorandums of Agreement (MOAs), coordinated water supply operations, financial assistance, drought roundtables, listening sessions, and webinars. The report also highlights the investments, through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, being made for drought-related projects. The full report can be read here.

Congress is still slowly working through the appropriations process for FY 2023. The House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees held their hearings to discuss USDA’s budget request. Throughout both hearings, Members highlighted the need for increased investment in climate resilience, support for rural economies, aid to disadvantaged farmers, funding to address food insecurity, inflation, and global food chain concerns.

Throughout the month of April, the House Appropriations Committee collected requests from members for the 2023 fiscal year. The Senate Appropriations Committee, which is typically slightly behind the House, wrapped up its member request submission process last month, officially closing out the submission process in both chambers.

The House Appropriations Committee will begin the committee markup process this month. Subcommittees will plan to markup their bills June 13 – June 22, with full committee markups scheduled for June 22 – June 30.

Additionally, the Senate Agriculture Committee announced its next field hearing to discuss the upcoming farm bill. The hearing will be on June 17th in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The House Agriculture Committee held an additional hearing on Title I Commodities and Title XI Crop Insurance. While the committees are gathering information for the 2023 Farm Bill, the 2022 elections will shape party priorities and, ultimately, the final bill.

With several state’s primary elections complete, Blue Dog losses are raising concerns about the Democratic party’s ability to compete politically if it continues to move left. Both Rep. Kurt Schrader (OR) and Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (GA) lost their primaries to more progressive challengers, and several others face competitive races in November. The Blue Dog Coalition, comprised of centrist Democrats in support of bipartisanship and fiscal constraint, is considered crucial to holding the House majority.

Finally, Secretary Vilsack announced the USDA’s plan to transform food systems in the United States by targeting four basic elements: production, processing, distribution/aggregation, and market development. The main goals of the transformation are to sustainably grow food with a net zero carbon emission, raise rural incomes, create resilience across supply chains, and ensure food and equity for all. This transformation effort will be funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the USDA Budget, and the Commodity Credit Corporation. The webcast may be seen here. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Stabenow (D-MI) issued a statement in support of the initiative here, while House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Thompson expressed much concern about the initiative in his statement here.

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