Washington Week Ahead: Vilsack faces senators amid growing food crisis | 2022-05-20


Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is traveling to Capitol Hill this week to testify before the Senate Agriculture Committee amid growing concerns about the global food supply and soaring costs of fertilizers and other farm inputs.

The Biden administration has struggled to find ways to increase U.S. food production in the face of drought and delayed plantings that are expected to reduce wheat and corn harvests this year.

Ahead of Vilsack’s appearance at the committee on Thursday, the USDA will release another important weekly report on crop progress on Monday. Last week’s report showed just 49% of the 2022 maize harvest had been planted by May 15, compared to an average rate at that time of 67%. Spring wheat planting has also been significantly delayed in North Dakota and Minnesota, while much of the winter wheat crop is in poor condition due to drought conditions.

In most of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, as well as northern parts of Missouri, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, farmers will see their crop insurance coverage reduced if the crop is not sown by this Wednesday.

Vilsack’s testimony also comes as Congress has worked to bolster the supply of formula milk amid a nationwide shortage, passing measures last week to expand access for families buying milk. mothered using the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children run by the USDA.

A spokeswoman for the committee’s top Republican, Arkansas Sen. John Boozman, said Vilsack’s appearance was “long overdue” and the senator “looks forward to asking questions on a wide range of topics.” .

Boozman rejected Biden administration proposals to use a $40 billion extra spending bill in Ukraine to boost U.S. agricultural production through double-cropping incentives and increased marketing loan rates . Boozman said he might be open to some planting incentives if it looks like an increase in U.S. production will be needed.

Lawmakers are also gearing up to draft a new farm bill in the upcoming Congress. The Senate Agriculture Committee held its first hearing on the Farm Bill in April.

Boozman, who is on course to become committee chairman if Republicans take control of the Senate, faces a primary election on Tuesday. He is challenged from the right by Jake Bequette, a former professional football player and Army veteran.

In Georgia, Republicans will decide who will face Ag Committee member Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., who is running for a full term after winning a special election in 2020. Former Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker has the endorsement from former President Donald Trump and a big lead in the polls over an area that includes state agriculture commissioner Gary Black.

In another southern primary, multiple candidates lined up to replace incumbent Senator Richard Shelby, R-Ala. It’s a crowded race, but favorites include Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., and Shelby’s chief of staff, Katie Britt.

Back in Washington, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf will face questions from House lawmakers for the second week in a row.

Congress passed a measure last week to expand the formula brand’s availability under WIC by a broad bipartisan vote in the House and unanimous consent in the Senate.

But a separate measure to fund $28 million for the FDA to increase the supply of infant formula passed the House with a narrow majority and has yet to pass the Senate. Republicans have criticized giving more funding to the FDA, blaming the shortage on the agency’s mismanagement.

A second hearing on the shortage will be held Wednesday before the House Farm Appropriations Subcommittee.

Elsewhere in the Senate, the subcommittee on energy, water and electricity will hold a hearing to review numerous pieces of water legislation. Among them are a measure to provide additional drought preparedness and additional proposals to boost projects in the west.

Additionally, USDA Rural Development Undersecretary Xochitl Torres Small will appear before the Senate Banking Committee to testify about the USDA Rural Housing Service.

Also this week, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers will host an online Midwest-focused roundtable on Monday on the Biden administration’s plan to redefine “United States waters,” which determines the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

The event, one of 10 roundtables the agencies are hosting through June 24, was organized by the Regenerative Agriculture Foundation. At a previous Midwest-focused roundtable on May 9, criticism centered on farming practices that contribute to nutrient pollution.

None of the speakers at this event represented farmer groups, who expressed frustration with the way the roundtables were organized.

Here’s a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):

Monday May 23

3:00 p.m. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers Virtual Roundtable Focused on the Midwest on the “US Waters” Rule.

4:00 p.m. — USDA releases weekly crop progress report.

tuesday 24 may

10:00 a.m. — Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the Forest Service budget. 366 Dirksen.

10:00 am – House Select Committee hearing on the climate crisis, “Climate Smart from Farm to Fork: Building an Affordable and Resilient Food Supply Chain”.

Wednesday May 25

9 a.m. – USDA releases monthly outlook for food prices.

10:00 a.m. — Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on the nomination of Joseph Goffman as deputy administrator of the Air and Radiation Bureau of the EPA, 406 Dirksen.

10 a.m. – House Energy and Commerce Oversight Subcommittee hearing on infant formula supply with FDA Commissioner Robert Califf. 2123 Rayburn.

10 a.m. — Brookings Institute webinar on improving the consumer price index to better gauge inflation.

1:00 p.m. — House Agriculture Subcommittee Hearing, “Supporting Careers in Conservation: Workforce Training, Education and Employment Opportunities.”

2:00 p.m. — House Farm Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the infant formula crisis.

2:00 p.m. – The Congressional Budget Office releases The Fiscal and Economic Outlook: 2022 to 2032.

2:30 p.m. — Hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on State and Foreign Appropriations on the budget of the United States Agency for International Development. 124 Dirksen.

2:30 p.m. — Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on USDA’s Rural Housing Service with Undersecretary of Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small. 538 Dirksen.

3:00 pm – Senate Finance Committee hearing, “Supply Chain Resilience: Reducing Backlogs and Strengthening Long-Term Security”.

3:00 p.m. — Hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Energy and Natural Resources to consider numerous bills.

3:30 p.m. — Daytime hearing of members of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.

Thursday May 26

8:30 a.m. – USDA releases weekly export sales report.

10:00 a.m. – Senate Agriculture Committee hearing with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, 216 Hart.

Friday May 27

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