February 17, 2023

In This Issue:

  • NPC to FDA: New “Healthy” Food Labeling Definition Should Include Potatoes
  • Sen. Boozman, Rep. Lucas Introduce Bill Excluding Agriculture from SEC Climate Disclosure Rule
  • NPC Submits Comments on Endangered Species Mitigations to EPA
  • EPA Worker Safety Proposal Would Revert Back to the 2015 Application Exclusion Zone
  • Congressional Budget Office Increases Estimates for Food Assistance Programs
  • Farm Bill Hearing Focuses on Food Assistance Spending
  • USDA Deputy Secretary Nominated
  • NPC Launches 2023 Grower Supporter Campaign

NPC to FDA: New “Healthy” Food Labeling Definition Should Include Potatoes

On Thursday, NPC provided comments in response to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed rulemaking that would update the definition of the nutrient content claim “healthy” included on food labels and marketing. When announced in September, the agency said the rule would ensure consistency with current nutrition science and federal dietary guidance.

In its comments, NPC stated that it supports efforts to empower consumers to make and have access to healthy choices, and noted that versatile, nutrient-rich, and cost-effective potatoes would fall into this “healthy” claim.

NPC states that through the updated proposal, FDA should consider updates to the “healthy” nutrient content claim to increase consumer transparency and help consumers put foods into the context of an overall healthy diet. The council lays out recommendations to consider as FDA updates to the definition of “healthy”:

  • Maintain nutrients-to-encourage as a criteria to meet the “healthy” claim and focus on under-consumed nutrients (e.g., potassium, dietary fiber), as recognized by the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans;
  • Establish thresholds for nutrients to limit (e.g., sodium, added sugar) that are flexible, reasonable, and encourage product innovation;
  • Increase flexibility for the proposed approach to calculating Food Group Equivalents (FGEs) and provide tools for the industry to calculate this metric; and
  • Clarify that just because a food does not meet the voluntary definition of “healthy” does not mean it is “unhealthy.”

“The potato industry continues to provide access to affordable, accessible, better-for-you products in the marketplace. We encourage the agency to consider the proposed changes outline above that could help encourage consumers to increase intake of nutrient-dense vegetables like potatoes,” NPC concludes. The full comments can be found here

Sen. Boozman, Rep. Lucas Introduce Bill Excluding Agriculture from SEC Climate Disclosure Rule

Earlier this week former House Ag Committee Chair (and sitting committee member) Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) re-introduced the Protect Farmers from the SEC Act, H.R.1018, a bill that would prohibit the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from requiring publicly traded companies to disclose the greenhouse gas emissions from farms and ranches in its value chain. Senator John Boozman (R-Okla.) introduced a companion bill in the Senate, S.391

"If finalized in its current form, the SEC’s climate disclosure rule would reach into every corner of U.S. agriculture, all the way down to our family farms,” said Jared Balcom, National Potato Council 2022 President and potato grower from Washington state. “The costs and burdens to comply with this new mandate from a Wall Street regulator would be devastating for rural America. We appreciate Congressman Lucas and Senator Boozman for introducing the Protect Farmers from the SEC Act and supporting American agriculture by opposing this governmental overreach.” 

Specifically, the NPC-supported bill would: 

  • Prohibit the SEC from requiring an issuer of securities to disclose greenhouse gas emissions from upstream and downstream activities in the issuer’s value chain arising from a farm; 
  • Define the production, manufacturing, or harvesting of an agricultural product through the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946, outline upstream and downstream activities, and define greenhouse gases; and, 
  • Remove the SEC’s exemptive authority in relation to this Act. 

Last summer, NPC filed public comments opposing the SEC’s proposed rule. Additionally, during the NPC 2022 Summer Meeting, the Board of Directors formally adopted a new policy position opposing SEC’s proposed rule, stating that this significant government regulatory overreach would severely impact family farms. 

As currently written, the rule would require publicly traded companies to disclose their direct (Scope 1), energy/electricity consumption (Scope 2), and supply chain emissions (Scope 3). As interpreted by many in the agriculture community, the Scope 3 reporting requirements would create a burden on downstream food producers who supply publicly traded processors, restaurants, and retailers. 

Listen to the Eye on Potatoes Podcast episode with Congressman Lucas recorded last fall on the SEC proposed rule here

NPC Submits Comments on Endangered Species Mitigations to EPA

This week the National Potato Council joined the Minor Crop Farmer Alliance (MCFA) on comments to EPA on its “Appendix to the ESA Workplan Update: Proposed Label Language for Public Comment.” The Appendix identifies a series of agricultural practices it intends to incorporate into pesticide labels to mitigate impacts on identified endangered species.

The 17-page document provides overall comments as well as detailed suggestions on best management practices for specialty crop growers. “While MCFA believes that most of the mitigation measures proposed in the Appendix are not applicable to specialty crop production, we appreciate the opportunity to express our concerns and present potential additional approaches for the Agency to consider in its quest of limiting potential impacts of pesticides on non-target species, particularly listed species,” the group writes. 

EPA Worker Safety Proposal Would Revert Back to the 2015 Application Exclusion Zone

Yesterday, EPA announced a proposed regulation that would revert the Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ) back to the 2015 rule that required agricultural employers to keep workers and others out of areas while pesticides are being sprayed. As per the 2015 rule, the AEZ can range from 25 to 100 feet depending on the height of the sprayer and size of droplets.

EPA is proposing to reinstate several provisions from the 2015 Worker Protection Standard (WPS) including:

  • Applying the AEZ beyond an establishment’s boundaries and when individuals are within easements (such as easement for utility workers to access telephone lines).
  • Establishing AEZ distances for ground-based spray applications of 25 feet for medium or larger sprays when sprayed from a height greater than 12 inches from the soil surface or planting medium, and 100 feet for fine sprays.

Additionally, EPA is proposing to retain two provisions in the 2020 AEZ rule that the Agency believes are consistent with the intent of the 2015 WPS AEZ requirements and are supported by information available to the Agency to provide more clarity and flexibility for farming families. EPA proposes to retain:

  • A clarification that suspended pesticide applications can resume after people leave the AEZ; and,
  • An “immediate family exemption” that allows only farm owners and the farm owners’ immediate family to remain inside enclosed structures or homes while pesticide applications are made, providing family members flexibility to decide whether to stay on-site during pesticide applications, rather than compelling them to leave even when they feel safe remaining in their own homes.

The proposed rule will be available for public comment for 60 days in docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2022-0133

Congressional Budget Office Increases Estimates for Food Assistance Programs

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) published its baseline funding projections for 2023-2033 on Wednesday. CBO projects a federal budget deficit of $1.4 trillion for 2023, now $0.4 trillion more than it was in May 2022, with the shortfall in 2033 at $2.7 trillion.

Of interest to those following the 2023 Farm Bill negotiations, CBO increased its estimate of outlays for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $8 billion (or 6 percent) for 2023 and by $93 billion (or 8 percent) over the 2023–2033 period for technical reasons – two in particular. First, projected SNAP enrollment is higher than it was in the May 2022 baseline. Second, CBO increased its projections of the cost of the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP) in 2027 and 2032, anticipating that reevaluations of the TFP, which occur every five years, would result in increases in costs. The total for all non-nutrition-related programs is approximately $225 billion. The Overall Budget and Economic Outlook (including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) can be found here. The breakout of select USDA mandatory programs (including commodity policy, conservation, and crop insurance) can be found here.

Farm Bill Hearing Focuses on Food Assistance Spending

The Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing Thursday on the nutrition title of the 2023 Farm Bill. Members heard testimonies from two U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials, Deputy Under Secretary Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Stacy Dean and Administrator Cindy Long.

Members of the committee split along party lines over financial accountability in farm bill nutrition programs. The main point of contention was USDA’s 2021 changes to the Thrifty Food Plan, one of four food plans the USDA develops to estimate the cost of a healthy diet. Republicans pressed Deputy Under Secretary Dean on the reevaluation of the Thrifty Food Plan, arguing that the USDA conducted the reevaluation unilaterally without any congressional input. However, Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) argued that the 2018 Farm Bill directs USDA to reevaluate the program every five years, and although the Trump administration chose not to enact the evaluation, the department was within its rights. Other key discussion items included school meal programs, the SNAP, and overall nutrition funding, as the nutrition title now makes up 82 percent of Farm Bill funding.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA-15) held a Farm Bill listening at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, California on Tuesday. Members heard appeals from California farm groups to expand crop insurance and disaster aid options, as well as increased funding for the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program. Chairman Thompson was joined by Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-20), Rep. David Valadao (R-CA-22), Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA-21), Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA-01), Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC-07), Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA-24), Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-19), Rep. John Rose (R-TN-06), and Rep. John Duarte (R-CA-13). During the hearing, Speaker McCarthy indicated his commitment to pass a Farm Bill this year, stating, "This is the year we do the farm bill."

USDA Deputy Secretary Nominated

Current Under Secretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small was officially nominated to serve as Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Wednesday. Secretary Vilsack praised Under Secretary Torres Small as “an exemplary member of the USDA subcabinet and a dedicated advocate for rural communities.” Upon the conclusion of Deputy Secretary Bronaugh’s service with USDA, Kevin Shea, APHIS Administrator and a career public servant with more than 40 years at USDA will serve as Acting Deputy Secretary.

NPC Launches 2023 Grower Supporter Campaign

NPC’s annual Grower Supporter campaign, launched this week, provides resources to promote and protect the potato industry’s interest in Washington, D.C.

The contributions of our 2022 Grower Supporters were critical. Through the hard work of NPC and our state partners, we were able to open Mexico for fresh potato shipments – a step intended to finally resolve the longest running trade dispute in our industry’s history and in USDA’s as well. We also secured major victories in delivering potato research funding via the appropriations process and pushed back against unscientific limitations on potatoes in U.S. federal feeding programs.

But our work is not done. With a Congress and Administration focused on issues that could impact the ability of potato growers to farm, NPC’s advocacy efforts are more important than ever. In 2023, NPC is focused on top potato industry priorities, such as:

  • Ensuring potatoes retain their rightful place in federal nutrition programs
  • Opposing tax increases on the potato industry
  • Pushing back against overreaching regulations on the agriculture industry like WOTUS and the SEC Climate Rule
  • Investing in potato science and research
  • Supporting ag labor reform provisions that ensure a sustainable workforce
  • Advocating for transportation reforms and infrastructure investments that make it easier to get potatoes to market, both domestically and internationally
  • Finalizing a workable market access agreement with China for chipping potatoes
  • Building on the success of the Japan FTA with new market access
  • Promote U.S. potato industry’s rightful share of the 2023 Farm Bill
  • Ensuring that foreign pests and diseases are not introduced into the U.S. and harm our growers’ ability to produce and market their crop
  • Promoting additional free trade and market access agreements

In order to be successful in 2023, we need the support of our growers. Click here to register your support for NPC and join the 2023 Grower Supporter campaign today to help amplify the potato industry’s voice in Washington, D.C.

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