Republican Sen. Kelly Leoffler, who took office on Monday, will replace fellow Georgian David Perdue on the Senate Agriculture Committee in a step that will assure a strong Southern bloc on the panel. The committee oversees the farm program, although its top issue this year may be re-authorization of child nutrition programs, headlined by WIC and school lunch, that cost $30 billion a year.
The Trump administration is siding with Big Oil despite announcing a plan to increase ethanol consumption, farm state senators told the No. 2 USDA official on Thursday. “That’s a president that has chosen oil companies over family farmers,” said one of the critics, Democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
The USDA will hold its first “general” signup for the land-idling Conservation Reserve Program under the 2018 farm bill in early December, and “we expect to enroll a large number of acres,” said Deputy Agriculture Secretary Steve Censky on Thursday.
President Trump is creating instability in the farm sector with his periodic threats to withdraw from NAFTA, said the senior Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee. Also at an Agriculture hearing on Wednesday, farm groups called for speedy passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which has been put in doubt by the opening of an impeachment inquiry in the House.
The 2018 farm bill legalized the production of industrial hemp and farmers are clearly interested in a potential new cash crop, but many obstacles must be overcome before the industry can take root, said lawmakers and federal regulators on Thursday.
With the USDA on the cusp of moving two research agencies to Kansas City, a senior official said on Thursday that massive staff turnover — so far, 250 employees have declined to leave Washington — is par for the course for cross-country relocations. Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow offered a different take: “This is not a relocation. It’s a demolition.”
Half a dozen farm-state senators urged Trump trade officials on Thursday to speedily resolve the Sino-U.S. trade war that is compounding hard times on the farm. Senate Agriculture chairman Pat Roberts brushed aside assurances of a rosy future when trade deals are completed. “Some farmers aren’t going to make it,” he said.
According to Capitol Hill lore, the surest way to get a senator's attention is to shout, "Mr. President!" And the best spot to shout it this year would be a meeting of the Senate Agriculture Committee, where three of its 20 members, Democrats Michael Bennet, Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar, are running for president.
After warning against saddling small schools with big-city regulations, Senate Agriculture chairman Pat Roberts said on Wednesday that Congress could act swiftly on the overdue renewal of child nutrition programs. The programs, headlined by school lunch and WIC, cost $30 billion a year.
Senate Finance Committee chairman Chuck Grassley has lots of company in considering limits on the president’s power to impose tariffs on national security grounds. In the coming weeks, Grassley expects to introduce a bipartisan bill to reform these so-called Section 232 tariffs.