Washington Week Ahead: Time running out for biotech deal

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, June 19, 2016 - Lawmakers are down to their last week to reach a deal to stop the first GMO labeling requirements from taking effect in Vermont on July 1. 

Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan continued negotiating into the weekend, but an industry source said that they still hadn't reached a final deal as of Sunday afternoon.

Roberts and Stabenow have been trying to cut a deal on national GMO disclosure standards that could garner the 60 votes to move it though the Senate. House members leave town Friday for their July 4 break, and they would need to approve a Senate deal before they go. 

Should Stabenow and Roberts reach a deal, it may not be easy for opponents to mobilize opposition to it, given that the Senate's attention, and the public's, is focused on the gun control debate in the aftermath of the June 12 mass shootings in Orlando, Fla. The Senate has votes scheduled Monday evening on rival GOP and Democratic proposals for restricting access to assault-style rifles. 

Meanwhile, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, returns to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to testify before the House Science, Space and Technology. She's likely to be questioned about a range of issues, but her appearance comes as the Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, has been questioning the agency's review of the safety of the herbicide glyphosate. 

Earlier this month, Smith wrote McCarthy demanding interviews with four agency officials about EPA's role in the World Health Organization's deliberations over the safety of glyphosate. 

Smith said he was concerned about the  integrity of the process that the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer used in making its decision that the herbicide could cause cancer. Smith said he wanted to know what influence EPA had on the IARC deliberations.

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In May, Smith wrote McCarthy questioning why the agency posted - and then removed - a study that said glyphosate was unlikely to cause cancer. The report was labeled as “final” and contained the signatures of thirteen members of EPA's Cancer Assessment Review Committee. 

Also on Wednesday, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee will look into the EPA's proposed biofuel usage mandates for 2017 under the Renewable Fuel Standard. The witness list will include the president of the Renewable Fuels Association, Bob Dinneen, who has challenged the EPA's policy of using its waiver authority to set the annual requirements lower than the statutory levels.

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Dinneen told Agri-Pulse that he would remind the subcommittee “about all of the success provided by the RFS over the years - lower carbon emissions from transportation fuels, competition at the pump and lower consumer prices, dramatic reductions in imported petroleum, increased farm income and reduced farm program costs, technology innovation and efficiency in ethanol production, including the launch of commercial scale cellulosic ethanol.” 

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

Monday, June 20

SelectUSA Investment Summit, through Tuesday, Washington Hilton

8 a.m. - U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Merit E. Janow, dean of the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Council on Foreign Relations, New York. Livestream available.

4 p.m. - USDA releases Crop Progress report. 

4:40 p.m. - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks to the SelectUSA SummitWashington Hilton.

Tuesday, June 21

SelectUSA Investment Summit.

Acting Deputy Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse participates in a Business Forward conference call to discuss Cuban agriculture.

10:30 a.m. - Center for American Progress forum, “The National Security Implications of Climate Change and Food Security,” 1333 H St. NW.

11 a.m. - Agricultural trade negotiator Darci Vetter moderates discussion of prospects for food and agriculture processing, SelectUSA Investment Summit. 

1 p.m. - Food and Drug Administration webinar on sodium reduction guidance.

1 p.m. - Froman speaks to the SelectUSA Investment Summit.

2:30 p.m. - Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on the Bureau of Land Management's Planning 2.0 initiative, 366 Dirksen.

4 p.m. - Friends of the Earth hosts webinar, “Can Organic Feed the World?”  

Wednesday, June 22

10 a.m. - House Agriculture Committee hearing, “Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: Evaluating Effectiveness and Outcomes in Nutrition Education,” 1300 Longworth.

10 a.m. - House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard, 2123 Rayburn.

10 a.m. - House Natural Resources Committee hearing on the role of the National Environmental Policy Act in the permitting process, 1324 Longworth.

10:30 a.m. - House Appropriations Committee markup of the fiscal 2017 Homeland Security bill, 2359 Rayburn.

1 p.m. - House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, 2318 Rayburn. 

2:30 p.m. - House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on BLM's Wild Horse & Burro Program, 1334 Longworth.

2:30 p.m. - Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee hearing on bills affecting implementation of national standards for ground-level ozone, 406 Dirksen. 

Thursday, June 23

Vilsack announces National Drought Resilience Partnership expansion, Denver. 

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

10 a.m. - House Agriculture subcommittee hearing, “Big Data and Agriculture: Innovation in the Air,” 1300 Longworth.

10 a.m. - Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the Wildfire Budgeting, Response and Forest Management Act of 2016, 366 Dirksen.

2 p.m. - House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on the Public Lands Service Corps Act, 1324 Longworth.

Friday,  June 24

Vilsack discusses opioid abuse with Surgeon General Vivek Murthy at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Aspen, Colo.

9 a.m. - USDA releases monthly Food Price Outlook.

3 p.m. - USDA releases Quarterly Hogs and Pigs and Cattle on Feed reports. 

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