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Government Relations & Washington Update

Fate of Build Back Better Package Uncertain
On December 19th, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) issued a statement detailing his opposition to the current version of the Build Back Better legislation.  The announcement came after months of back and forth discussions with the White House and deals a significant blow to the prospects of the Build Back Better package.  With the Senate evenly split, Democrats would need all 50 of their members to support the bill, along with the vote of the Vice President, to approve the legislation.  Democratic leaders in the Senate and President Biden have indicated that they intend to continue pursuing the legislation in the new year.  The House narrowly passed the legislation by a party-line vote of 220 to 212.  The package would invest approximately $1.75 trillion in a wide range of federal programs, including approximately $2 billion for agricultural research.  Agricultural research investments include $1 billion for research infrastructure at minority service institutions and approximately $1 billion across a variety of REE programs and agencies to support research, extension and education related to climate change.

Senate Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY) has indicated that he intends to continue pushing for a vote on Build Back Better early in 2022.  Changes to the package are possible to address Sen. Manchin’s concerns to gain his support.  If the overall size of the bill is decreased, the amount dedicated to agricultural programs could be reduced as a result.

Congress Begins Preparations for Next Farm Bill
The House and Senate Agriculture Committees have both indicated that they would like to begin the process for the next Farm Bill in 2022.  While no hearings have been scheduled yet, the committees could begin that process in the next several weeks.  Given the uncertainty of the Build Back Better legislation, some Democrats are looking to the Farm Bill for ways to advance their climate change priorities.  In addition to climate, risk management and disaster assistance are expected to get a lot of attention.  The 2022 midterm elections add some complexity as to how the Farm Bill process will play out, particularly if one or both chambers shift from Democratic to Republican control.  This uncertainty may limit how much progress the committees can make until the results of the election are known.  Regardless, expect both committees to begin conducting hearings to get the 2023 Farm Bill process underway.

Senate Agriculture Committee Postpones Consideration of Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young
On December 9th, the Senate Agriculture Committee was scheduled to vote on the nomination of Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young for Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics.  However, the meeting was postponed due to ceremonies related to the passing of former Senator Bob Dole.  Further complicating the schedule was ongoing negotiations related to the Build Back Better package.

As Under Secretary for REE, Dr. Jacobs-Young would be responsible for leading the Mission Area including ARS, the Economic Research Service (ERS), National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  It is expected that the committee will return to consideration of her nomination in early 2022.