In 2016, Congress will have a lot on its schedule, especially in the area of agriculture. The first issues that Congress will probably address first are ones that were not completed last year, including School Nutrition Reauthorization, preemption or GMO labeling, and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) reauthorization.
Congress completed the fiscal year 2016 appropriations a few short weeks ago, but members are already looking to begin the process again for 2017. Leaders in both the House of Representatives and the Senate have expressed the desire to complete the appropriations process through regular order. This involves the appropriations committees drafting and both houses passing each of the twelve appropriations bills individually rather than passing a last-minute omnibus bill, which has happened for the past several years. Congress is already ahead of schedule since they included budget allocations for fiscal year 2017 the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which passed this fall.
Other items that Congress will consider are dietary guidelines, the new Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the current state of the cotton market. Additionally, the House Agriculture Committee will likely continue its review of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and food aid programs. The agriculture committees in both houses will probably cover issues including wildfire funding and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labeling of natural food. The administration is asking for public comment on what the definition of “natural food” should be and whether or not it should be defined at all.
The House and Senate Agriculture Committees will continue to conduct oversight on federal programs. Committee members will likely be thinking about the 2018 farm bill and could meet with interested groups on what they would like to see in the upcoming legislation.
Since this is an election year for the entire House of Representatives, one third of the Senate, and the presidency, Congress will not have a lot of time to get these things finished. Primaries and party conventions will both affect the Congressional calendar.
Federal agencies also have a busy schedule for the beginning of this year. The final rules for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) are expected early this year. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will also announce which Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) proposals will receive funding.
This post was written using information provided by 9b Group.