The House Agriculture Committee will have plenty of issues to work on in the new Congress, and climate change is expected to be a major topic.
House Ag Chairman David Scott, D-Ga., and ranking member Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., have indicated a strong interest in holding early hearings on climate change, said Paul Bleiberg, senior vice president of government affairs for the National Milk Producers Federation.
National Milk will be working to educate the representatives’ staff and committee members on the importance of that topic and making sure the committee can play a good role in climate legislation, he said during the latest “DairyLivestream” webinar.
The last time Congress seriously considered climate legislation was in 2009. At that time, House and Senate Agriculture Committee Democrats were active in negotiations trying to make some headway, he said.
“So that’s going to be a major topic,” he said.
Another topic for the House Agriculture Committee will be reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act. It doesn’t fall under the committee’s jurisdiction, but Scott and Thompson have been supportive of many of the dairy industry’s priorities as far as securing the gain on lowfat flavored milk and making other progress as well, he said.
“The ag committee has a lot of members that are going to be engaged in this space,” he said.
A third area for the committee is trade. With more people consuming dairy outside the U.S., that becomes more important to the industry, he said.
In addition to working on trade promotion authority, National Milk has been partnering closely with Congress to make sure the U.S. Trade Representative holds Canada’s feet to the fire on its dairy commitments in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, he said.
“We are very optimistic about Katherine Tai, the U.S. Trade Representative nominee. We’re looking forward to working with her and her team, and she’s been a partner for many years on these issues,” he said.
Another major priority is agricultural labor. In December 2019, the House made progress in passing a bipartisan bill called the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. It reformed the H-2A guestworker program so dairy and other year-round industries could use it, and it provided a more stable legal status for the current workforce, he said.
“While that’s an issue for the House Judiciary Committee, then Chairman (Collin) Peterson and some other members of the House Ag Committee were very, very active behind the scenes in helping that bill move forward,” he said.
Many of the members that are champions on that issue serve on the agriculture committee. So surely it’s a space where they will be staying engaged, he said.
And of course, the committee will start on the farm bill after working through some COVID and climate issues, he said.
“From where we sit, we’re going to be wanting to make sure the Dairy Margin Coverage program is working as well as it can. There’s room for improvement around the edges, especially as it relates to the production history calculation,” he said.
National Milk will also be working on the same issues in the Senate.