For the Week Ending April 23, 2021

April 23, 2021

SENATE AG COMMITTEE APPROVES BILL ENCOURAGING PARTICIPATION IN CARBON CREDIT OFFSET MARKET
The Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday approved a bipartisan bill that encourages farmer participation in the carbon credit offset markets. The Growing Climate Solutions Act, introduced earlier in the week by Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), would create a certification program at USDA to solve technical entry barriers that prevent farmer and forest landowner participation in carbon credit markets. USDA’s certification program would provide transparency, legitimacy and informal endorsement of third-party verifiers and technical service providers that help private landowners generate carbon credits through a variety of agriculture and forestry-related practices. The bill would also create an advisory council comprised of agriculture experts, scientists, producers and others, to ensure the certification program remains relevant and credible. NPPC is among numerous groups in support of the bill —just as it backed the legislation last year—and believes it will ensure U.S. pork producers and others in agriculture receive credit for current and future contributions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. NPPC looks forward to working with the full Senate to help secure the bill’s passage.

IRS OUTLINES EMPLOYER TAX CREDIT FOR VACCINE PTO EFFORT
On Wednesday, the IRS outlined its plan to provide employers with a paid tax credit (PTO) to offset paid sick time that employees can use to get the COVID-19 vaccine or recover from potential side effects. The credit would be available to all businesses – including tax exempt organizations – with fewer than 500 employees. Additionally, the IRS noted that self-employed individuals may be eligible for similar tax credits. Businesses claiming the credit will do so by reporting the amount paid for sick and family medical leave on their quarterly tax filing, with the amount deducted from payroll tax liability. Employers whose credit exceeds their liability will receive a refund. This is effectively an extension of the use eligibility of emergency paid sick leave (EPSL) and emergency paid family medical leave (EPFML), authorized under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act passed last year. For details regarding the tax rebate, click here. For details regarding EPSL and EPFML details, click here

EPA ADMINISTRATOR: NO INTENTION OF RETURNING TO OBAMA WOTUS RULE
In comments before a House Appropriations Subcommittee budget hearing on Wednesday, EPA Administrator Michael Regan pledged not to return to the Obama administration’s definition of the U.S. Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. “We don’t have any intention of going back to the original Obama Waters of the U.S. verbatim,” Regan said. In remarks to Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), Regan said the agency plans to have “a stakeholder engagement process” with agriculture and environmental groups to craft the WOTUS rule in a balanced way. “We’ve learned lessons from both [versions of the rule], we’ve seen complexities in both and we’ve determined that both rules did not necessarily listen to the will of the people,” Regan added. Under the Obama administration in 2015, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a new WOTUS rule that gave EPA broad jurisdiction over U.S. waters to include upstream waters and intermittent and ephemeral streams. The WOTUS rule was immediately challenged in court and subject to several preliminary injunctions. The Trump administration repealed the 2015 rule in 2019 and in June 2020, replaced it with the new Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR). NPPC supports the NWPR and has actively served in a leadership role in the litigation involving the 2015 WOTUS rule, as well as challenges to the NWPR. 

USDA SEEKING COMMENT ON IMPROVING AGRICULTURE SUPPLY CHAIN 
USDA is seeking comments on ways to improve and re-imagine the supply chains for the production, processing and distribution of agricultural commodities and food products. The comments are in response to a Feb. 24 executive order from President Biden, undertaking a 100-day review of the U.S. food and agriculture supply chain. “Such supply chains are needed to address conditions that can reduce critical processing and infrastructure capacity and the availability and integrity of critical goods, products, and services. Identifying food system supply chain-bottlenecks and vulnerabilities also may provide valuable insights into the competitive and fair markets landscape, effects on local and regional producers and processors, and equitable access to food and economic opportunity across diverse communities,” USDA explained. The agency is also seeking comments on how to target pandemic-related stimulus relief programs that addresses food supply chain resiliency. NPPC plans to submit comments, which are due by May 21. For more information, visit here

WHITE HOUSE NOMINATES TRADE, AG OFFICIALS
Late last week, the White House announced several more nominations, including two trade and one agriculture officials. On Friday, President Biden announced the nominations of Sarah Bianchi and Jayme White to be deputies to USTR Katherine Tai. Bianchi has spent nearly a decade in government roles in economic and domestic policy, including in the Office of the Vice President, the White House Domestic Policy Council, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.  White has spent two decades on Capitol Hill, and has served in the U.S. Senate since 2009, including as the chief trade advisor for the Senate Finance Committee since 2014. Additionally, President Biden nominated Robert Bonnie to be USDA under secretary for farm production and conservation. He is currently the deputy chief of staff and senior climate advisor at USDA. He served as the undersecretary for natural resources and environment during the second term of the Obama administration, and in the first term, he served as senior advisor to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack for environment and climate change. 

USDA’S FAS HIGHLIGHTS U.S. PORK EXPORT SALES DATA ERROR
On Thursday, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) included a note in its weekly U.S. pork export sales data highlighting data error from last year. “Due to an error in exporter(s) reporting, exports of 54,476 MT of pork were not reported properly in marketing year 2020,” FAS explained. “To correct marketing year 2021 figures, a cancelation of 54,476 MT has been reported this week to remove the portion that should have been reported in 2020,” the agency noted. NPPC will continue to work with FAS on how to better report these corrections so it does not affect the U.S. pork market. A copy of the FAS note is available here.