November 17, 2022
Sen. Stabenow discusses her role on the Senate Ag Committee, as well as farm labor legislation
In an interview with Politico, Senator Stabenow (D-MI), the current Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, gave a variety of details about the upcoming Congressional calendar, as well as her plans for the future. During the discussion, Sen. Stabenow mentioned that she plans to stay as Committee Chairwoman for the upcoming farm bill negotiations, stating that “This is probably one of the biggest things that Congress will get done in the next two years.”. Questions around the current status of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act also came up during the interview, with Sen. Stabenow affirming her support for the bill, but explaining that it will be a heavy lift for agriculture groups to pass the bill out of the Senate. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act was passed the House earlier in the 117th Congress (March 2021) but has not been take up in the Senate.
APHIS and CBP publish latest Joint Agency Strategic Plan
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced the release of the 2022-2026 Joint Agency Strategic Plan for their shared Agricultural Quarantine Inspection (AQI) program. The AQI program plays a vital role in protecting domestic agriculture, including specialty crops, and the environment by preventing the introduction and spread of potentially devastating plant pests and animal and plant diseases. Under a 2003 Memorandum of Agreement, APHIS and CBP work together at the nation’s borders and ports of entry to intercept and exclude any foreign agricultural pests that could impact U.S. agriculture, trade, and commerce. In this joint mission, the strategic plan will guide program activities and set the program’s focus for the next five years. The three main goals of the strategic plan include 1) Applying risk-based approaches to identify and target high-risk pathways and aligning resources, 2) Enhancing program management and infrastructure, and 3) Strengthening partnerships and enhancing outreach efforts with trade entities to advance compliance.
2022 Midterm Election Analysis:
While some elections remain undecided – looking at you California – Republicans have met the 218-seat threshold necessary and have regained control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 2018. This will end four years of Democratic congressional control in Washington and usher in an era of divided government. Democrats overperformed expectations, holding on to several competitive seats and losing the majority by a narrower margin than expected (likely 3-5 seats).
As a result, House Republicans will control the drafting and hearings associated with the next Farm Bill (current Farm Bill expires on Sept. 30, 2023) and appropriations bills (e.g., Ag Appropriations, which includes Floriculture & Nursery Research Initiative). In recent years, Democrats have put significant support and investment in climate change research and mitigation programs. We anticipate that much, but not all, of the funds appropriated for these purposes will be reprogrammed for more traditional agriculture programs. In addition, we could see the Republican-led house try to limit the spending authority of USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), which the Biden Administration has used to fund the agency’s Climate-Smart Agriculture Initiative, to the tune of nearly $3 Billion, and some programs that have been focused on what the administration has identified as “underserved communities.”
As Republicans take control of the House, Ranking Member Kay Granger (R-TX) and Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) will exchange roles as Chair and Ranking Member of the full House Appropriations Committee. Leadership on the House Ag-FDA Subcommittee will also flip, with Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) potentially becoming Chair. However, the Republican selection process does not necessarily ensure his chairmanship, and with several other current ranking members term-limited, we could see a wholesale shuffle of gavels. Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA) will likely serve as Ranking Member of the Ag-FDA Subcommittee.
On the Senate side, with Senator Catherine Cortez Masto’s (D-NV) unexpected win, the Democrats are assured to maintain their majority in the Senate, in spite of the December 6th Senate runoff in Georgia. The current Chair, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), has stated that she will remain on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and, with his victory in Arkansas, Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) will remain as Ranking Member on the Committee.
Sen. Stabenow’s leadership of the 2023 Farm Bill in the Senate will mean a likely emphasis on incentives for conservation practices, rural development, and broadband. Maintaining additional climate-related funding will also be a priority, along with protecting nutrition programs. Historically, Sen. Stabenow has also been supportive of farm bill specialty crop programs. IFPA will continue to work through the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance to draft and advocate for specialty crop priorities during the upcoming Farm Bill. Expect significant disagreements regarding some spending priorities between Agriculture Committee Chair, GT Thompson, in the Republican-controlled House and Chairwoman Stabenow.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) are both retiring. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is expected to give up her position as Chair of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions to become Chair of the full Senate Appropriations Committee and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) will serve as Ranking Member. Retirements on the full Committee will trigger movement on the Ag-FDA Subcommittee, but Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) will likely remain as Chair and Ranking Member, respectively.
Now that the elections are behind us (mostly), Congress will need to address funding the government, which is currently running under a continuing resolution (CR) that expires on December 16th. It is likely the differences between most of the House and Senate appropriations bills, including agriculture, will be worked out either just before the current CR deadline or following a short extension of the CR, paving a path to a significant increase in funding for the Floriculture & Nursery Research Initiative (FNRI). We will also be looking to this lame duck period to encourage Congress to take up achieve final passage of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and will be assessing those opportunities following the Thanksgiving break.