Washington Week Ahead: Republicans to move budget; Vilsack, McCarthy meet NFU

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, March 15, 2015 -Republicans start moving long-term budget plans this week that will lay out deep, if largely symbolic, proposals to reduce the deficit and set the stage for the appropriations process that the GOP will use to attack President Obama's regulatory agenda.

The budget resolutions that are to be voted out of the House and Senate Budget committees, starting Wednesday, will lay out long-term priorities for the GOP and set spending limits for fiscal 2016 that appropriators need to know to writetheir annual spending bills.

Republicans are planning to write provisions into the appropriations bills attacking a variety of regulations, including a proposed rule re-defining the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

The appropriations process will “allow us to get at the regulatory overkill,” Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said in an interview with Agri-Pulse.

The budget resolutions also are likely to direct the House and Senate Agriculture committees and other panels to propose long-term spending cuts, which would have to be enacted through a process known as reconciliation, but President Obama would almost certainly veto such legislation.

A budget resolution is “important to send a message,” but it won't be easy to pass in the Senate, Roberts said.  “I don't expect any Democrat to vote for it, and we'll be fortunate to have 51 vote for it on our side.”

Democrats are likely to criticize both the long-term cuts but also press Republicans to end the automatic annual spending cuts known as sequestration. “We have to be able to invest in research and technology,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. “We have to be able to invest in our power grid, our roads, our bridges, our waterways.”

Lets Talk Food

Sequestration has required USDA to make cuts across a range of programs, with major exceptions for nutrition programs, crop insurance and the Conservation Reserve Program.

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National Agriculture Day is this week, too. The  slate of eventsbegins Tuesday with Agri-Pulse's Kickoff Event, a panel discussion on agricultural innovation and federal policy. The panelists include Illinois Republican Rodney Davis, the chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research, and David Fischhoff, chief scientist for Climate Corp.


Wednesday's events will include an exhibit of photographs of women in agriculture -- taken by Marji Guyler-Alaniz, president and founder of FarmHer -and culminates Wednesday evening with a dinner at USDA.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will be in Wichita, Kansas, Monday to talk to the National Farmers Union, which is holding its annual convention this week. McCarthy will have to make a case for the proposed Clean Water Act rule, which defines what streams, ditches and ponds can be regulated as “waters of the United States” (WOTUS).

The Farmers Union was initially supportive of the rule when it was announced a year ago but subsequently began to raise concerns.

Vilsack will be making some announcements that Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden and Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Anne Alonzo will discuss in a media conference call later in the day.

Vilsack will be back on Capitol Hill Tuesday morning to testify before the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. If his appearance before the counterpart House subcommittee is any indication, Vilsack is likely to be pressed to keep the 2015 dietary guidelines narrowly focused on nutritional issues.

The chairman of the Senate panel, Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and 29 other senators wrote Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell last week, urging them to discard the recommendation of an advisory committee to factor environmental sustainability into the guidelines.

The dietary guidelines also are likely to be a topic of discussion across the Hill in the House subcommittee Tuesday morning when it holds a hearing on USDA's nutrition programs. The witnesses will include Kevin Concannon, USDA's undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, and Angela Tagtow, director of USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, the agency that leads the development of the guidelines.

On Thursday, the International Trade Commission will vote on findings from its review of the U.S.-Mexico suspension agreements in antidumping case brought by American sugar producers.

Here's a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:

Monday, March 16

All day - National Farmers Union annual convention in Wichita, Kansas. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy speak in the morning.

9 a.m. - Food and Drug Administration holds a public meeting on regulation of combination-drug medicated feeds, Rockville, Maryland.


Tuesday, March 17

9:30 a.m. - House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on surface transportation reauthorization, with state and local officials, 2167 Rayburn.

10 a.m. - House Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Fish and Wildlife Service, B-308 Rayburn.

10 a.m. - House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on USDA nutrition programs, 2362-A Rayburn.

10 a.m. - House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on EPA's proposed rule for carbon emissions from power plants, 2123 Rayburn.

10 a.m.  - House Science, Space and Technology hearing on EPA's proposed ozone standards, 2318 Rayburn.

10 a.m. - Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Vilsack, 192 Dirksen.

10 a.m. - Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing on border security, 342 Dirksen.

2 p.m. - House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, 1300 Longworth.

2:30 p.m. - House Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the U.S. Agency for International Development, H-140 Capitol.

3:30 p.m. - Agri-Pulse's Ag Day Kickoff Event, panel discussion on Farm to Fork Politics: Unleashing Innovation in Agriculture,” 902 Hart.

5 p.m. - Agri-Pulse customer appreciation reception, 902 Hart.

Wednesday, March 18

House and Senate Budget committees expected to hold markups on budget resolutions.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman will talk about the status of trade negotiations to business leaders at a meeting organized by Business Forward.

8:30 a.m. - National Agriculture Day bagel breakfast, 328A Russell.

9 a.m. - House Interior-Environment Appropriations hearing for public and outside witnesses, B-308 Rayburn.

10 a.m. - House Agriculture Committee hearing on the importance of trade to U.S. agriculture, 1300 Longworth.

10 a.m. - House Agriculture Appropriations hearing on USDA's rural development programs, 2362-A Rayburn.

10 a.m. - House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing on the impact of the estate tax on farms and family businesses, B-308 Rayburn.

10 a.m. - Senate Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Forest Service, 124 Dirksen.

10 a.m. - Ag Day, FarmHer Exhibit, photographs of women in agriculture, USDA.

10:30 a.m. - House Transportation and Infrastructure hearing on EPA priorities, 2167 Rayburn.

11:30 a.m. - Ag Day, Mix & Mingle luncheon, Cannon Caucus Room.

2:30 p.m. - Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee oversight hearing for the Federal Communications Commission, with the FCC commissioners, 253 Russell.

5 p.m. - Ag Day, Celebration of Agriculture Dinner, (registration required) USDA-Whitten Building

Thursday, March 19

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

9:30 a.m. - House Natural Resources Committee hearing on the missions and spending priorities of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 1334 Longworth.

10 a.m. - House Agriculture Appropriations hearing on farm and foreign agriculture programs, 2362-A Rayburn.

11 a.m. - House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on the FCC, 2123 Rayburn.

11 a.m. - International Trade Commission meeting to vote on review of U.S.-Mexico sugar suspension agreements,500 E St. SW

Friday, March 20

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