Aug 9, 2021Climate-smart ag investments called for in infrastructure act
The Senate recently unveiled an updated version of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the bipartisan infrastructure package negotiated between the White House and a bipartisan group of Senators.
In response, the National Potato Council and a coalition of 12 agricultural and conservation organizations sent a letter to Congressional leadership supporting the bill’s significant new funding for climate-smart agricultural practices that can help farmers to build on their environmental stewardship leadership.
The group wrote: “Farmers and ranchers tend with great care to their natural resources while taking a proactive approach to the long-term sustainability of their land and water. Currently, USDA conservation financial incentives and technical assistance provide producers with voluntary, incentive-based assistance to carry out multiple stewardship practices on their operations. Programs also support partnerships between farmers and conservation groups to improve natural resources in targeted areas. However, more can be done to emphasize innovative approaches that can yield meaningful environmental benefits, including manure and feed management or carbon benefits in the case of soil health.”
While the organizations also voiced their support for the bill’s increased rural broadband investments, they reiterated their significant concerns regarding multiple tax policies that have been put forth as potential offsets for infrastructure legislation. “Specifically, we urge Congress not to alter or eliminate long-standing provisions that support future new and multi-generational family farms. As discussions on offsets continue, it is critical to avoid an approach that would undermine the future of farming in the United States,” they wrote. The full letter can be found here.
In a related effort, the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance (FACA), of which the National Potato Council (NPC) is a member, sent a letter to House and Senate leadership in support of a budget reconciliation package that “offers a significant opportunity to increase funding for voluntary, incentive- and science-based climate and conservation programs.” However, the group cautioned that “the package must also protect existing farm bill programs and do no harm through tax changes that threaten the economic sustainability and resilience of multi-generational family farms, working forests and lands and the entire food supply chain.” That letter can be found here.
Tai reiterates commitment to fresh access to Mexico
During an Aug. 5 roundtable between Ambassador Katherine Tai from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and agriculture stakeholder from Washington state, including the Washington State Potato Commission, Ambassador Tai reiterated her top priority to ensure U.S. products reach new markets while holding our trading partners accountable for their commitments.
In a readout from that meeting, Ambassador Tai highlighted the Administration’s actions to advocate for the agriculture industry, including visiting with her counterpart in Mexico to emphasize “the importance of Mexico taking the final steps to expand access for fresh U.S. potatoes throughout Mexico.”
“The potato industry greatly appreciates Ambassador Tai’s continued focus on opening this vital market to U.S. fresh exports. The history of this dispute clearly shows that this type of determination will be necessary in maintaining market access into the future,” said Jared Balcom, NPC Vice President of Trade Affairs.
The full readout is available here.
Potato priorities advance in Senate funding bill
Following last week’s passage of the FY22 Agriculture Appropriations Bill by the House, the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday favorably reported out their version of the bill, which includes an increase in NIFA Potato Breeding Special Research Grants to $3 million from the House’s $2.75 million.
Noting that the NIFA program was initially zeroed out in the President’s proposed budget, NPC VP of Legislative Affairs RJ Andrus said, “The National Potato Council and the entire U.S. potato industry appreciates Committee Members Senators Murray (D-Washington), Collins (R-Maine) and Hoeven (R-North Dakota) for their support of our priority issues and for pushing for more resources for our industry. Given the solid return on investment from NIFA’s potato breeding research program and the demands placed upon it due to phytosanitary challenges facing the potato industry, we welcome this additional funding and will work to ensure the increase remains intact when the bill makes it to a Conference Committee.”
The Committee-passed measure also contains language present in the House bill that would block restrictions on potatoes’ participation in the school breakfast program and other funding measures supported by the industry. The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
Food labeling rule introduced
Last week, several Democrats reintroduced a new bill in both chambers of Congress that seeks a comprehensive update to food labeling laws. The bill, called the “Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2021,” is supported by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and Environmental Working Group (EWG).
The stated purpose of the bill is supposedly to provide clear information to allow consumers to make healthier, more informed purchasing decisions. However, the proponents of the bill are activist organizations that have championed misinformation to consumers such as the “Dirty Dozen” list that has served to steer consumers away from consuming fruits and vegetables. USDA has taken the responsible step of calling out the misinformation in that list and instead encouraged consumption of fruits and vegetables.
The bill contains several elements such as standardized front-of-pack labels that include warnings or symbols that rank foods according to its overall “healthfulness.”
— National Potato Council