What's next for Senate farm bill
submitted 2 years, 5 months ago by dbalachandran

WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE SENATE FARM BILL: Shortly after the Senate voted to proceed with debate on the farm bill Monday night by a vote of 89-3, Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts told reporters he wants the sweeping agriculture and nutrition legislation to pass before the Fourth of July recess — a sprint that requires ironing out the amendment process, Pro Ag’s Helena Bottemiller Evich, Catherine Boudreau and Liz Crampton report.

The path is expected to be much smoother than it was on the House side, where the GOP conference was divided and Democrats refused to support the bill over new work requirements for food stamp recipients. But Roberts also isn’t taking any chances, and that means he may try to roll several lingering amendments into a manager’s package instead of allowing a large number of issues to erupt on the floor.

Roberts told reporters Monday that no decision has been made on whether to limit amendments. But no matter how the process plays out, a number of senators and interest groups are using this opportunity to push for a long list of changes and additions, ranging from tightening eligibility for farm subsidies to overhauling sugar policy.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told POLITICO on Monday he has assurances he’ll be able to offer his amendment limiting the number of individuals per farm who can receive commodity subsidies; there’s also a big push for checkoff reform from a bipartisan pair of senators, Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). Still other groups are pushing for conservation and animal rights amendments. The list of potential changes to watch is here.

HAPPY TUESDAY, JUNE 26! Welcome to Morning Ag, where your host is feeling inspired by this New Jersey commuter who was so eager to make it on time to his work meeting in Manhattan that he paddleboarded in his suit across the Hudson River! Send your news tips, and extreme commuting stories, to [email protected] or @chaughney. Follow the whole team: @Morning_Ag.

ROBERTS A HARD ‘NO’ ON TRUMP’S REORG PLAN: While we’re here, POLITICO asked Roberts late Monday if he’s had a chance to take a look at the White House reorganization plan, which seeks to move SNAP from USDA to HHS, a mega department that would be renamed the Department of Health and Public Welfare.

“I haven’t looked at it because we’re not going to do it,” he said, followed by a long pause. "Is that succinct enough for you?”

USDA SEEKS FEEDBACK ON PRODUCT OF USA LABELS: The department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is seeking public comment about a proposal to change its 33-year-old regulations that have permitted foreign grass-fed beef producers to use a “Product of U.S.A.” label if their beef passes through a USDA-inspected plant. The deadline to submit is Aug. 17.

What’s the debate? As your host previously reported, the Organization for Competitive Markets and the American Grassfed Association filed the nine-page petition on June 14 asking the groups to make the change and arguing that the world’s largest multinational corporations, which control 80 percent of the U.S. beef market, have been taking advantage of the technicality that allows imported meat and meat products to earn the home-grown label if they pass through a USDA-inspected plant. At the same time, grass-fed beef has become an incredibly lucrative segment of the market for domestic producers. And these multinational producers are cutting into domestic ranchers’ profits.

Feedback so far? Angela Huffman, a spokeswoman for the Organization for Competitive Markets, said early responses to the petition have been positive. “We’ve been hearing pretty strong concerns for a year now where it’s become more and more of a problem for farmers who are trying to market their product with 'Made In The USA' labels with products that have not been produced here,” Huffman said.

HEALTH, FOOD AND THE RECOVERY OF DETROIT — One of the standout speakers at Aspen Ideas/Spotlight Health over the weekend was Devita Davison, executive director of FoodLab Detroit, a membership-based nonprofit that is using food as a way to improve the health of Detroiters — and help rebuild a vibrant, non-auto based economy for Detroit. Davison is frank about what has been accomplished and the enormous amount that still has to be done. But from vegan soul food, to urban farming on vacant lots, to “table to farm” restaurants (where customers dine alongside the plants producing their salads), to shared kitchen space for budding entrepreneurs to cook and sell — she painted a picture of vibrancy, economic development and a spirit of “place and community.” She got the audience so enthralled that someone urged her to run for president.

This whole “Portrait of a Healthy Community” video of the Spotlight session is worth watching — if you’re looking for Davison, fast-forward to minute 39.

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