Washington Week Ahead: Farm bill, WOTUS get lawmakers’ focus

The Senate Agriculture Committee will turn its focus to farm bill conservation and forestry programs this week, while House Republicans put the spotlight on the Biden administration’s “waters of the U.S.” rule and other regulatory issues.

The Senate Ag hearing on Wednesday comes as four major conservation programs are getting a historic infusion of $18 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act to promote the adoption of climate-related farming practices.

The hearing is likely to include questions on the IRA funding and the administration’s focus on adapting to climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Some committee members are expected to press for more flexibility to address local and non-climate concerns.

Terry Cosby, chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, will testify at the hearing along with Zach Ducheneaux, administrator of the Farm Service Agency, and Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. Ducheneaux oversees the Conservation Reserve Program, which currently has 23 million acres enrolled. NRCS manages working-lands programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Stewardship Program.

It will be the committee’s fourth farm bill hearing of the year; the three previous meetings covered nutrition policy, commodity programs and crop insurance, and trade issues. Committee hearings held in late 2022 focused on research and rural development programs.

The House Agriculture Committee, now under GOP control for the first time in four years, holds its first official hearing of the year on Tuesday, when the panel will bring in industry groups for a wide-ranging discussion of production costs and farmers’ regulatory concerns.

The testimony on input costs could help the committee build a case for raising commodity program reference prices. The regulatory issues that will be aired at the hearing almost certainly will include the WOTUS rule, which is the subject of multiple lawsuits. The hearing witnesses will not be announced until Monday, but the National Chicken Council said its president, Mike Brown, will be included.

Elsewhere on the WOTUS front, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will meet Wednesday to …


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