Legislative Watch: EPA sees largest reduction; SEC removes farmers from climate disclosure rule; Congress lays out plans to fix farm labor issues.

Eric Bohl

March 8, 2024

4 Min Read
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After a stalemate lasting nearly half a year, Congress agreed to a compromise bill funding USDA, FDA and numerous other agencies. The $460 billion overall package incorporates spending for six of the 12 annual appropriations bills required to fund the government. The remaining six bills face a deadline of March 22.

According to the Republican majority staff on the House Appropriations Committee, the final package represents “the first overall cut to non-defense, non-VA spending in almost a decade.” Over a 10-year budget window, it would reduce federal spending by more than $200 billion. One of the largest reductions in spending is at EPA, which will see a 9.6% cut from last fiscal year.

The bill also strengthens oversight of foreign purchases of U.S. farmland, an issue of strong bipartisan concern in recent months. The Secretary of Agriculture will be made a member of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the agency overseeing foreign purchases. An additional $3.5 million will be dedicated to improving reporting and oversight.

The final agreement passed the House by a vote of 339-85 on Wednesday. The Senate will vote on the bill Friday and President Biden is expected to sign it into law before the midnight deadline.

SEC removes farmers from climate disclosure rule

After receiving enormous pushback from the agriculture community, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced Wednesday that it would change its original proposed rule for climate-related disclosures. The new rules, passed by the commission on a 3-2 vote, will require publicly traded companies to list their Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions, but Scope 3 emissions will be exempt.

Scope 1 and 2 encompass direct carbon emissions from the company itself and those resulting from energy used by the company. Scope 3 covers a vastly larger set of actors, including all emissions up and down the supply chain. Under the original proposal, farm groups warned that farmers and ranchers would have to quantify and report all greenhouse gas emissions from their on-farm actions. This would be both a record-keeping nightmare and incredibly difficult as a practical matter. Farmers also raised privacy concerns regarding the intrusiveness of potential disclosures.

In response to the announcement, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Chief Counsel Mary-Thomas Hart said, “Cattle producers have a track record of sustainability and conservation, and EPA data confirms that beef cattle are responsible for just 2% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. With industry-wide emissions data already available from the EPA and the USDA Life Cycle Assessments, forcing individual farms and ranches to calculate and report emissions creates a costly and unnecessary burden.”

With the final rule in place, Scope 3 emissions will not be required in disclosures by the SEC. However, the state of California passed a law in October that would require these supply chain emissions to be disclosed by any company doing business in California. Several groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have filed lawsuits challenging California’s law.

Congress lays out plans to fix farm labor issues

A group of 14 members of the House Agriculture Committee have released a final report with recommendations for how to alleviate shortages in farm labor. The bipartisan Agricultural Labor Working Group was chaired by Reps. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) and Don Davis (D-N.C.).

The report contains 15 recommendations that received unanimous support from the seven Republicans and seven Democrats in the group. These include changes to the H-2A visa program such as streamlining application processes, setting rules for working in the heat and opening the program to year-round industries such as dairy. An additional six proposals received majority support from the panel, such as establishing an H-2A pilot program and reforming the Adverse Effect Wage Rate calculation.

Upon issuing the report, Crawford said, “It’s no secret in the agriculture community that the H-2A program is too complex and has failed to provide our agricultural producers with a dependable workforce during busy times of the year. After months of roundtables, meetings and surveys we have developed a final report with comprehensive, bipartisan policy reforms that better serve our nation’s agriculture sector. … The fact that our working group was able to agree on so many significant reforms is a testament to how widespread the H-2A program’s problems are and how quickly they need to be addressed. Now, we have to keep working with the committees of jurisdiction to make sure they implement our recommendations.”

About the Author(s)

Eric Bohl

Eric Bohl is an agricultural policy leader with extensive experience on Capitol Hill. He served six years as Chief of Staff to Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO) and Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), and previously served as Legislative Director to Rep. Hartzler. During that time, he led her work on the House Agriculture Committee and was influential in efforts to craft the 2014 Farm Bill, as well as handling environmental, energy, transportation and infrastructure, and agricultural trade issues.

Eric’s experience starts at the ground level. His family has deep roots in both animal and row-crop farming going back several generations. This understanding of the unique challenges real farmers face brings valuable perspective to help solve clients’ needs. His midwestern values also allow him to build meaningful relationships with people on both sides of the political aisle and find common-sense solutions that transcend partisan lines.

This approach has continued to be the cornerstone of Eric’s career in grassroots advocacy. He served more than five years as Director of Public Affairs and Advocacy for Missouri Farm Bureau. He was a senior member of the organization’s legislative team and led communications and coalition advocacy efforts, including on the 2018 Farm Bill. His writings on agriculture and rural policy have been published in newspapers across the nation. He serves as First Vice President of the St. Louis Agribusiness Club and is a board member of the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City, two of the nation’s largest and strongest organizations supporting agribusinesses.

Before his career in public policy, Eric was a practicing attorney for nearly five years, focusing on real estate and agricultural law, commercial transactions, and commercial litigation. Eric earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Missouri, graduating from both programs with honors, and served as the Managing Editor of the Missouri Law Review.

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