January 24, 2023
Republican Steering Committee selects members of the House Committee on Agriculture for the 118th Congress
On Monday, Jan. 16, the House Republican Steering Committee selected the Republican members to serve on the House Agriculture Committee for the 118th Congress. The returning members selected to serve on the Committee include Rep. Glenn "GT" Thompson (PA-15) - Chairman, Rep. Austin Scott (GA-08), Rep. Scott DesJarlais (TN-04), Rep. Doug LaMalfa (CA-01), Rep. David Rouzer (NC-07), Rep. Trent Kelly (MS-01), Rep. Don Bacon (NE-02), Rep. Dusty Johnson (SD-At Large), Rep. Jim Baird (IN-04), Rep. Tracey Mann (KS-01), Rep. Mary Miller (IL-15), Rep. Barry Moore (AL-02), Rep. Kat Cammack (FL-03), and Rep. Brad Finstad (MN-01).
The new members selected to serve on the Committee include Rep. Frank Lukas (OK-03), Rep. John Rose (TN-06), Rep. Ronny Jackson (TX-13), Rep. Mark Alford (MO-04), Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR-05), Rep. Monica Da La Cruz (TX-15), Rep. John Duarte (CA-13), Rep. Nick Langworthy (NY-23), Rep. Max Miller (OH-07), Rep. Marc Molinaro (NY-19), Rep. Zach Nunn (IA-03), and Rep. Derrick Van Orden (WI-03).
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 also confirmed 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.
Taylor previously served as the Director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, where she oversaw policy directives for Oregon's 38 agricultural programs and its 500 employees. She was sworn into her office on Dec. 29, 2022. Prior to his confirmation, McKalip served in positions at both the White House and the USDA and has most recently worked as a senior advisor to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. McKalip was sworn into his office on Jan. 9, 2023.
EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers release new rule defining WOTUS
On Dec. 30, the Environmental Protection Agency 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 maintains longstanding exemptions for farming activities but also 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 depending on the outcome of the Supreme Court's current case on WOTUS, Sackett v. EPA. Among the changes made in the new rule are:
- Allows for streams and wetlands that meet either the "significant nexus" test former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy created in Rapanos v. United States or the conservative majority's "relatively permanent" standard to fall under the scope of the law.
- Reverses the Trump administration's vast retraction of authority over "ephemeral" streams that flow only in response to precipitation.
- Restores protections to millions of acres of wetlands that fell outside of federal jurisdiction under the Trump rule, both because of the change to ephemeral streams and because of changes in which wetlands get protected.
- Expands a set of categorical exclusions from those the agency initially proposed, including for wetlands that were converted to cropland before 1985, ditches carved wholly in dry land that don't carry relatively permanent flow, and artificial lakes and ponds.
Senator Stabenow to retire at the end of term
On Jan. 5, 2023, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) announced that she would not seek reelection in 2024. In a statement released by her office, Senator Stabenow went on to say, "When my term ends, I intend to begin a new chapter in my life that includes to serve our State outside of elected office while spending precious time with my amazing 96-year-old mom and my wonderful family."
Senator Stabenow currently serves as the Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and also chairs the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. Senator Stabenow's official date of retirement will be Jan. 5, 2025.