Washington Week Ahead: Senate Ag mulls market reforms, STB hears railroad woes | 2022-04-24
The Senate Agriculture Committee holds a long-awaited hearing this week on a bill to mandate more traded exchanges in livestock markets, then the panel kicks off its preparation for the next farm bill with an on-the-ground hearing Friday in Michigan, the president’s home state. Debbie Stabenow.
As Congress returns from its two-week Easter recess this week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and a parade of other senior administration will testify before House owners who begin work on their fiscal year 2023 spending bills. The Surface Transportation Board, meanwhile, is holding hearings on concerns about railroad delays that continue to plague the food and agriculture sector.
The Livestock Price Discovery and Transparency Act, which will be the subject of Tuesday’s Senate hearing, has broad support on the 22-member panel, with nine Democrats and eight Republicans as co- sponsors. A pair of GOP committee members — Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Chuck Grassley of Iowa — are among the four main sponsors of the measure.
But the committee’s top Republican, John Boozman, R-Ark., is skeptical of the bill, and his fate in the Senate is not yet certain. The bill would need at least ten Republican votes to pass the full Senate, assuming all 50 Democrats support it.
“I’m confident we have bipartisan votes to get it out and through the Senate,” Grassley said. He said Stabenow assured him that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer would introduce the bill.
Economists say the bill would largely affect livestock marketing in the Southern Plains, and Texas and Oklahoma are not represented on the committee.
If the measure passes the Senate, the bill will head to the House for approval. The House Ag Committee is holding its own livestock markets hearing this week, where the CEOs of the “big four” meatpacking companies will testify.
Friday’s hearing on the farm bill will be held at Michigan State University in East Lansing. The committee is expected to hold a similar hearing later in Arkansas, the home state of ranking committee member John Boozman.
The hearing comes after several months of hearings on the House Agriculture Committee’s farm bill that will continue Wednesday with a hearing on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Congress must draft a new farm bill in 2023.
Vilsack will testify before the House Farm Appropriations Subcommittee on Thursday, and Haaland is scheduled to answer questions from the Homeland and Environmental Appropriations Subcommittee the same day. FDA Commissioner Robert Califf appears before the agriculture panel on Wednesday. EPA Administrator Michael Regan will testify before the Interior-Environment panel on Friday.
Forest Service Chief Randy Moore appears before the Interior-Environment panel on Wednesday.
The most spirited hearing of all may come on Wednesday when Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies before the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees his department’s budget. Mayorkas is under fire from Republicans for the administration’s handling of immigrants crossing the southern border.
The plenum, meanwhile, is expected to vote this week on the Prevention and Treatment of Malnutrition Worldwide Act, which would authorize the Agency for International Development to coordinate efforts to prevent and treat malnutrition. and would require USAID to coordinate with other federal agencies.
USAID launched a global nutrition coordination plan in December that is meant to guide the agency’s work with USDA and other departments through 2026.
The Surface Transportation Board will hold the railroad hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday, with witnesses including representatives from farmer groups, the six Class I railroads and Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Jewel Bronaugh.
Last week, 33 agriculture and food industry groups that are members of the Farm Transportation Task Force called on the council to take several steps to address delays and reduce fares.
“While several factors contribute to these carriers’ rail service challenges, we consistently hear that significant reductions in the number of train crews and other personnel have severely hampered the rail carriers’ ability to maintain their previous service levels. , to overcome the typical daily problems. day-to-day issues that affect rail service plans and to meet changes in rail freight demand,” the groups said in a letter to council.
According to the USDA, grain train speeds are down 6% from a year ago, while grain origin dwell times are up 22%. The number of grain cars that have not moved for more than 48 hours increased 32% year over year, and the number of unfilled shipper orders for empty cars increased 101%.
Also this week, Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., will headline a Agri Pulse webinar sponsored by Pivot Bio, “Scaling innovation for climate action: The road map.” Other speakers will include Pivot Bio CEO Karsten Temme; Pipa Elias, associate environmental program director at the Walton Family Foundation; and Patty Mann of Mann Farms.
Here’s a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):
Monday April 25
Annual Meeting of North American Farm Journalists, through Tuesday, Arlington, Va.
4 p.m. – USDA releases weekly crop progress report.
tuesday 26 april
9:30 a.m. – Surface Transportation Board hearing on agricultural rail transportation issues.
10 a.m. – Senate Agriculture Committee hearing to consider the Livestock Price Discovery and Transparency Act of 2022 and the Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act of 2022.
Wednesday April 27
9:30 a.m. – STB continues rail transportation hearing.
10 a.m. – House Farm Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with FDA Commissioner Robert Califf.
10 a.m. – House Agriculture Committee hearing on price discrepancies, transparency and alleged unfair practices in livestock markets. 1300 Longworth.
10 a.m. – House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, 2359 Rayburn.
2 p.m. – Agri Pulse webinar, “Scaling Innovation for Climate Action: The Roadmap”.
2 p.m. – House Domestic and Environmental Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Forest Service Chief Randy Moore.
2:30 p.m. – House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Army Corps of Engineers and Office of Reclamation, 2362-B Rayburn.
Thursday April 28
8:30 a.m. – USDA releases weekly export sales report.
9 a.m. — House Domestic and Environmental Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
10 a.m. – House Agriculture Committee hearing on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, 1300 Longworth.
10 a.m. – House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Noon – Resources for the Future webinar on managing high energy costs for US consumers.
friday april 29
9:00 a.m. – Home Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with EPA Administrator Michael Regan.
10 a.m. – Senate Agriculture Committee Farm Bill Hearing, “Growing Jobs and Economic Opportunity: 2023 Farm Bill Perspectives from Michigan,” Michigan State University STEM Teaching and Learning Facility.
For more news, visit: www.Agri-Pulse.com.