On Monday the House Agriculture Committee approved their approximately $90 billion agriculture-related portion of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package.  The agriculture package will be part of President Biden’s Build Back Better plan and was approved on a partisan vote of 27-24.  The legislation was approved despite missing approximately $28 billion in conservation spending, which Chairman Scott, D-GA indicated would be added to the reconciliation package before it is considered on the House floor.

The bill was debated for 9 hours the previous Friday and all amendments to the bill were defeated.  Republicans’ opposition focused on the level of spending in the bill and its priorities.  The provisions in the bill are generally intended to address climate change with rural development also included.  The bill will provide the following:

  • $7.75 billion in investments in agricultural research and infrastructure.
  • $18 billion in rural investments for clean water and renewable energy, and to support investment in renewable biofuels infrastructure.
  • $40 billion in investments in forestry programs.

The path forward on the legislation is unclear.  Speaker Pelosi has scheduled the bill to be considered before the end of the month.  Moderate Democrats in the House have expressed concern about the amount of spending in the bill and some of its tax provisions, such as those related to inheritance tax stepped-up basis.  The Ways and Means Committee completed their markup of the bill, and it remains to be seen if their efforts to address the issue were totally successful.  Of course, in the Senate, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has expressed strong opposition to a $3.5 trillion spending bill and has expressed his strong desire to slow the process to determine if past spending bills were successful and how much current spending is needed.

NOMINATIONS

This week President Biden announced several nominations which are of special interest to agriculture.  On the agriculture commodity business side, he nominated the following individuals to serve a Commissioners of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission:

  • Rostin Behnam, Nominee for Chair and Commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission
  • Kristin Johnson, Nominee for Commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission
  • Christy Goldsmith Romero, Nominee for Commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission

Rostin Behnam joined the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in 2017 as a Commissioner, and since January 2021 has served as the Acting Chairman. During his tenure, Behnam has fostered public and private partnerships to ensure that the derivatives markets operate transparently and fairly and innovate responsibly while addressing new and emergent risks. Behnam prioritizes safeguarding customer protections, examining potential systemic market risk, and engaging in public dialog on globally significant issues such as climate-related financial market risk, interest rate benchmark reform, diversity, equity, and inclusion in the financial markets, and the rise of retail participation in emerging markets.

In 2019, Behnam spearheaded the establishment of the CFTC’s Market Risk Advisory Committee’s Climate-Related Market Risk Subcommittee. He requested the September 2020 report Managing Climate Risk in the U.S. Financial System, the first-of-its-kind effort from a U.S. government entity. Behnam previously served as senior counsel to U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, practiced law in New York City, and worked at the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General within the Bureau of Securities. Behnam earned an A.B. from Georgetown University and a J.D. from the Syracuse University College of Law.

 Kristin N. Johnson is the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law at Emory University School of Law. She works on financial markets risk management law and policy with specialization in the regulation of complex financial products including the origination, distribution, and secondary market trading, clearing, and settlement of securities and derivatives.  She has lectured at law schools throughout the United States and published on financial markets regulation. She is an elected member of the American Law Institute, an American Bar Foundation Fellow, and Chair-Elect of the Securities Regulation Section of the Association of American Law Schools. Before joining Emory, Kristin served as an Associate Dean and McGlinchey Stafford Professor of Law at Tulane University Law School.

Prior to her academic appointments, Kristin practiced law firm in New York City advising domestic and international clients on diverse financial transactions. After attending the University of Michigan Law School where she served as an editor of the Michigan Law Review, she clerked for the Honorable Joseph A. Greenaway, Jr. of the District Court of New Jersey, elevated to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. She is a graduate of the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

Christy Goldsmith Romero is the Special Inspector General for the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP).  Ms. Goldsmith Romero was nominated as Special Inspector General by President Barack Obama on February 1, 2012 and confirmed by the United States Senate on March 29, 2012.  In that role, she leads an independent office conducting investigations and audits of federal programs created in response to the financial crisis.  Since 2019, Ms. Goldsmith Romero has also served as an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center and University of Virginia Law School, teaching courses in securities regulation, cryptocurrency regulation, and federal oversight.

Ms. Goldsmith Romero previously served in various roles at SIGTARP, and at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  She served as counsel to SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro and Chairman Christopher Cox, and as an attorney in the SEC Division of Enforcement.  Prior to joining the SEC, Ms. Goldsmith Romero was a litigator at the law firms of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; Snell & Wilmer; and Jenner & Block. She also served a federal judicial clerkship. Ms. Goldsmith Romero earned a B.S. in business from Old Dominion University and a J.D. from Brigham Young University Law School.

On the agricultural trade side, President Biden announced that Elaine Trevino, would be the nominee for Chief Agricultural Negotiator at the United States Trade Representative

Elaine Trevino is the President of the Almond Alliance of California (AAC), a member-based trade association that advocates on regulatory and legislative issues in areas of international trade, food safety, water quality and availability, crop protection, air quality, worker safety, supply chain and feed quality. As the leader of an organization that advocates for California’s leading agricultural export, Elaine understands tariff and nontariff barriers to trade and the importance of maintaining America’s strong trade agreements and global positioning. Elaine has worked on advocating for funding for COVID-19 relief, addressing retaliatory tariffs, climate smart farming, public private partnerships for opening new markets and strengthening existing markets and addressing technical sanitary and phytosanitary barriers. Elaine works at the local and federal levels on addressing port congestion, supply chain disruptions and excessive costs.

Elaine served as a Deputy Secretary at the California Department of Food and Agriculture for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Governor Gray Davis.  She was responsible for the oversight of the international export and trade programs, specialty crop block grant funding, division of marketing services, plant health and pest prevention and the statewide county fair network. Elaine serves on USDA’s Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee (APAC).  Born and raised in the Central Valley of California, Elaine has a long history of community service and has a great respect for agriculture and the value of the industry to the overall economy. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of California Berkeley and attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government. Elaine and her family currently reside in Sacramento, California.

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