Washington Week Ahead: Lawmakers hurry to avert government shutdown

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2014 - Lawmakers are hurrying to wrap up work on spending legislation before the temporary measure that is currently funding the government expires on Thursday.

Appropriators have been working the final details of an omnibus spending bill that would fund most of the government through the rest of fiscal 2015. House members are designing what they call a “cromnibus,” because it would include a continuing resolution that would only partially extend funding for the Department of Homeland Security.

The Senate, meanwhile, has yet to act on a House-passed bill to reinstate of a series of tax breaks, including the biodiesel tax credit and Section 179 small business expensing provision.

House and Senate appropriators have been negotiating a number of key items important to the agriculture and food sectors, including some possible relief to school districts that are having trouble meeting the Department of Agriculture's new whole-grains requirements for meals. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said last week that the final bill would offer some kind of flexibility to schools but he wouldn't go into detail.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on Friday that Democrats were concerned about several “very destructive” policy riders in the bill, singling out the nutrition issue for one. The riders show “a big distinction in who cares about the nutrition of our children, the clean water for our families.” But when pressed by reporters she said that none of the riders was a deal breaker.

Hoeven also indicated that the final bill is likely to override a USDA decision this year to bar low-income women from using their WIC benefits to buy white potatoes.

Lets Talk Food

The California drought also will get some attention this week. The House will vote as soon as Tuesday on another drought-relief bill for the state. Although it's scaled back from the version that Republicans pushed through the House earlier this year, H.R. 5781 doesn't appear to have any future in the Senate because of its impact on environmental protections. Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., worked on the bill with his GOP colleagues, but the state's Democratic senators were not part of the negotiations.

Agricultural biotechnology will be front and center in Washington on Wednesday. A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee holds a hearing on Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo's industry-backed bill, H.R. 4432, that's intended to block states from imposing labeling requirements on foods containing genetically engineered ingredients. The witnesses will include at least one official from the Food and Drug Administration.

FDA staff members also will be across town Wednesday morning at the National Research Council, which will hold a public meeting on the future prospects for genetically engineered crops. The speakers will include FDA, USDA and EPA staff as well as industry representatives.

Here's a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:  If you'd like the latest Washington news in your inbox every day, Sign up NOW for a four-week FREE trial subscription

Monday, Dec. 8

A Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) officials' meeting will take place in Washington from Dec. 8-12, according to Canadian officials. USTR Ambassador Froman and Secretary Vilsack will host the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee (APAC)/Agricultural Technical Advisory Committees (ATAC) Winter Plenary.

4 p.m. USDA releases U.S. Agricultural Trade Data Update.

Tuesday, Dec. 9

10 a.m. Commodity Futures Trading Commission's agricultural advisory committee meets. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will brief the panel on the state of the agricultural economy.1155 21st St. NW

12:15 p.m. International Food Policy Research Institute launches new report on country-level progress toward reducing malnutrition. Event will be webcast.

Wednesday, Dec. 10

10 a.m. Senate Agriculture Committee holds a hearing, “The Commodity Futures Trading Commission: Effective Enforcement and the Future of Derivatives Regulation.” The panel will examine CFTC's recent activities, the resources the commission needs to do its job, and how the CFTC plans to complete its responsibilities under the Dodd-Frank Act. 328A Russell.

10 a.m. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee holds a hearing on drones, called “U.S. Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Integration, Oversight, and Competitiveness.” The witnesses will include representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration, Government Accountability Office, and the Department of Transportation's inspector general. 2167 Rayburn

10:15 a.m. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing titled “Examining FDA's Role in the Regulation of Genetically Modified Food Ingredients.” The panel will discuss H.R. 4432, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, and hear from the FDA and interested stakeholders about FDA's current review process for food ingredients. It will also discuss the role that foods with genetically modified ingredients play in the U.S. food supply and economy. 2123 Rayburn.

 

10:30 a.m. The National Research Council holds an open meeting on "Genetically Engineered Crops: Past Experience and Future Prospects. An NRC panel will hear from scientists using novel genetic engineering (GE) techniques to introduce new traits into crops and listen to staff from USDA, EPA, and FDA describe their agencies' experience in overseeing GE crop regulation. The committee will also hear from representatives of companies that produce GE seeds for commodities (corn, soy, cotton, canola) about a range of issues. An agenda may be found here. At the National Academy of Sciences in Washington.

 

12 p.m. USDA releases monthly WASDE and Crop Production reports plus a report on Cotton Ginnings.

1 p.m. EPA's Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee holds Pollinator Workshop Meeting. 2777 S. Crystal Dr., Arlington

3 p.m. USDA releases Broiler Hatchery report.

4 p.m. USDA releases Season-Average Price Forecasts and Aquaculture Data.

Thursday, Dec. 11

All day: Farm Journal Forum. The speakers will include Vilsack, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, Darci Vetter, chief agriculture negotiator for the U.S. trade representative, and Mike Stern, COO of The Climate Corp. Sara Wyant, president and editor of Agri-Pulse, will moderate a discussion, “Packing Political Punch.” Loews Madison Hotel

8:30 a.m. USDA releases Weekly Export Sales.

10 a.m. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee holds an oversight hearing on President Obama's executive order for improving the safety of chemical plants. 406 Dirksen.

10 a.m. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power holds a hearing on “The Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975: Are We Positioning America for Success in an Era of Energy Abundance?” 2123 Rayburn

Friday, Dec. 12

1 p.m. USDA releases outlooks for wheat, cotton and wool and oil crops.

3 p.m. USDA releases Potato Stocks and Peanut Prices reports.

4 p.m. USDA releases outlooks for feed and rice.

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