Agricultural policy experts discuss hot topics as 118th Congress convenes | News

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SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO—American Farm Bureau Federation’s policy team is tracking agricultural priorities and expectations since the 118th Congress has commenced in Washington. Agriculturalists from across the nation heard emerging industry-specific legislative highlights on trade, nutrition, water quality and more at the recent AFBF Convention in Puerto Rico.


With 82 new members of Congress, advocating for agriculture is especially crucial in 2023, said Virginia Farm Bureau Federation President Wayne F. Pryor. 


“It starts at the grassroots level,” he said. “We rely on our members to be engaged with Farm Bureau in the policy process and communicate concerns with their congressional representatives.”


Farmers faced challenges in 2022 related to supply chain disruptions and elevated input costs, so addressing ongoing volatility ahead of the 2023 Farm Bill is the most pressing legislative item for the 118th Congress, said Andrew Walmsley, senior director of AFBF government affairs.


“Thankfully we’ve seen an uptick in commodity prices, but also record-high input costs,” he said. Those costs are likely to outpace commodity prices for the foreseeable future.


However, Farm Bureau has maintained good relationships in the White House, Walmsley added. Plus, the new Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy is a friend of agriculture.


“He was on the agriculture committee and was critically important in moving farm policy legislation forward over the years,” he said.


David Salmonsen, senior director of AFBF government affairs, said this new Congress must work with the Biden administration on trade agreements that benefit U.S. agriculture. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement was a good start in 2020.

“Just because you sign a trade agreement doesn’t actually mean you solve all the issues forevermore,” Salmonsen said.


Looking ahead, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity partnership is meant to improve economic relationships, standards and trade among the 13 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.


“But it doesn’t include market access or get at lowering a lot of tariff barriers,” Salmonsen noted.


Nutrition takes the largest percentage of farm bill funding. Dustin Sherer, AFBF government affairs director, said he expects Congress to focus on work requirements for able-bodied, dependent-free adults within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and a winding down of pandemic-related nutrition programs.


On top of poorly defined regulations, the most recent Waters of the U.S. rule-making is bad for landowners, said Courtney Briggs, senior director of government affairs.


“It greatly expands the federal government’s reach over private property, regulating low spots or ditches on farmland as jurisdictional waters,” she explained.


The U.S. Supreme Court will soon consider a case-by-case determination to assert that jurisdiction.


“With this court, we expect their decision will go a long way toward reigning in the federal agencies,” Briggs said. “Our problems certainly won’t be solved with one Supreme Court decision. But it can provide the clarity we need.”



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