Vilsack to consider Stabenow, Boozman CCC request

After Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., ranking member on the committee, asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to consider using the Commodity Credit Corporation to increase spending for trade promotion programs and international food, a spokesman said Vilsack would consider the idea.
In a letter sent to Vilsack last week but made public Wednesday, Stabenow and Boozman said, “As Congress works toward reauthorizing critical programs in the farm bill, we continue to hear from organizations representing the vast majority of U.S. agriculture about the need to strengthen trade opportunities, increase revenue streams, and help producers grow and thrive in a global economy. Farm bill trade promotion programs help address these needs and build new markets. We believe that resources available under the CCC can support similar efforts to open access to markets and promote American-grown products abroad.”
They added, “There is also bipartisan support for critical U.S. Department of Agriculture international food assistance programs.”
A Vilsack spokesperson told The Hagstrom Report late Wednesday, “The issues that Sens. Stabenow and Boozman raise with respect to trade and food aid are concerns we share at USDA. As international commodities markets are increasingly impacted by disruptions like COVID-19, a changing climate, and global food insecurity in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine, USDA’s market development and promotion, and aid programs are more important than ever. USDA will look carefully at our authorities under the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act and the remaining availability of funds this fiscal year to determine if we have the funds and the ability to be responsive while fulfilling other statutory requirements of the CCC.”
The National Corn Growers Association and USA Rice immediately praised Stabenow and Boozman for making the request, although USA Rice was cautious about it.
“Cultivating new foreign markets is one of NCGA’s top priorities,” said NCGA President Tom Haag. “So, we are deeply appreciative of Sens. Boozman and Stabenow for taking the lead on this issue. Both senators have proven time and time again that they are staunch advocates of corn growers.”
NCGA added, “The letter provided a roadmap to USDA on how to fund market development programs and explore opportunities to advance food assistance initiatives.”USA Rice noted that the farm bill includes “programs that are critical to the U.S. rice industry such as the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program, and the Food for Peace, Food for Progress, and the McGovern-Dole Food for Education programs.”
USA Rice President and CEO Betsy Ward said that, while her group supports the effort to increase funding for promotion and food, “it is temporary and should not replace program changes that are needed for longer-term certainty in the farm bill.”Ward continued: “Congress must find solutions to increase funding for MAP and FMD and keep the commodity-based food in the international food aid programs as the next farm bill is negotiated. Even more important is that Congress ensures the rice farmer’s safety net – the Price Loss Coverage program – is meaningfully reformed through an increased rice reference price to ensure that rice farmers are able to stay in business so there is a product to promote and food to feed the hungry.”
In July, Ward pointed out, the government of India banned exports of some types of rice which directly impacted millions throughout Africa and Asia, raising global prices and exacerbating the global food shortage.
Ward concluded, “The U.S. is now harvesting the 2023 rice crop, creating a situation where our supply can really help alleviate some of the global hunger crisis.”
Stabenow and Boozman made the request as the Agriculture Department projected that U.S. food imports would exceed exports in fiscal year 2024.
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