Washington Week Ahead: Focus on Highway Trust Fund

By Daniel Enoch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, July 7, 2014 - There may be lots of talk on Capitol Hill this week, but not necessarily legislative action, on a highway trust fund bill. Agricultural stakeholders are especially interested in how an amendment offered by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn., may fare.

The amendment calls for a 9 cent per gallon increase in the barge fuel tax, which provides funds to improve the nation's inland waterways, which carry much of the nation's agricultural production to ports for export. The Iowa Corn Growers Association has issued a Call-to-Action to its members to contact lawmakers to show their support. Other agricultural organizations as well as the Waterways Council Inc. and the shipping industry back the amendment.

In an op-ed last week, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, urged immediate action on the transportation bill, saying that a delay would mean postponed highway projects and higher unemployment. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, in a weekly call with reporters last week, said he expected action on the measure soon, but not necessarily this week.

Meanwhile, various House and Senate committees have scheduled hearings on biotechnology, the surge of immigrants on the southern border, the EPA's “Waters of the U.S.” proposal, and the new Farm Bill's policies on commodities and crop insurance. The House is also scheduled to consider H.R. 4923 - the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.

Lets Talk Food

U.S. officials will also be working to get more American farm goods into foreign markets. They'll be in Ottawa, where trade negotiators continue their attempt to forge the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. The sessions, which do not include trade ministers, began July 3 and continue through July 12. Deputy Agriculture Secretary Krysta Harden will be in China as part of the U.S. delegation to the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. During the trip Harden will meet with Chinese importers of U.S. agricultural products and visit facilities that handle American products, including a soybean crushing facility and a denim factory.

Following is a list of some of this week's tentative agriculture-related events on Capitol Hill and elsewhere:

Monday, July 7

The Senate returns after the July 4th weekend.

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

Tuesday, July 8

10 a.m. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee holds a hearing on “the Role of Regulation in shaping Equity Market Structure and Electronic Trading.” 538 Dirksen.

2 p.m. The House returns and will meet at noon for morning hour and 2:00 p.m. for legislative business. Votes will be postponed until 6:30 p.m.

Legislation considered under suspension of the rules includes H.R. 1528 - the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act, which would allow veterinarians to transport and dispense controlled substances in the usual course of veterinary practice outside of their registered locations.

 

Wednesday, July 9

The American Soybean Association holds its ninth annual Legislative Forum at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Washington, D.C., focusing on EPA decisions on the Renewable Fuel Standard, the EPA's proposed water rules, as well as GMO labeling, nutrition and transportation issues. In addition, Dr. Michael Jacobson, executive director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, will be interviewed by Agri-Pulse editor Sara Wyant on the FDA's proposal to revoke the Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) status for partially hydrogenated oils and biotech issues. For a full description of the program, click here.

10 a.m. The House meets for morning hour, and at noon meets for legislative business. Among legislation that may be considered is H.R. 4923 - the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which, among other things, provides $5.5 billion in funding for the Army Corps of Engineers. Some $2.3 billion is earmarked for navigation projects and studies, including $1.1 billion from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to help advance American competitiveness and export ability. The measure also would prohibit any changes to federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.

10 a.m. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture holds a hearing on “Societal Benefits of Biotechnology.” 1300 Longworth.

10 a.m. Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee holds a heading entitled, “Challenges at the Border: Examining the Causes, Consequences, and Responses to the Rise in Apprehensions at the Southern Border.” 342 Dirksen.

10 a.m. House Appropriations Interior and Environment Subcommittee meets to markup FY 2015 appropriations bill for Interior, Environment and related agencies. 308 B Rayburn.

10 a.m. House Budget Committee releases progress report on “War on Poverty: Working with Families in Need.” 210 Cannon.

10 a.m. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology holds a hearing entitled, “Navigating the Clean Water Act: Is Water Wet?” Listed as a witness is Robert Perciasepe, deputy EPA administrator. 2318 Rayburn.

3 p.m. USDA releases Broiler Hatchery report.

 

Thursday, July 10

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy travels to Missouri to speak to the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City on the EPA's proposed rules defining waters of the United States (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

9:30 a.m. House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management holds a hearing on “Implementing the Agricultural Act of 2014: Commodity Policy and Crop Insurance.” 1300 Longworth.

10 a.m. The House will meet for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business.

10 a.m. House Small Business Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access holds a hearing entitled, “Cash Accounting: A Simpler Method for Small Firms.” Witnesses include Sarah Windham, senior tax manager, Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP, testifying on behalf of the South Carolina Farm Bureau. 2360 Rayburn.

2 p.m. House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency holds a hearing on the “Implications for Border Security of President Obama's Executive Proclamation Designating the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks a National Monument.” Invited witnesses include Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council and Todd Garrison, sheriff of Dona Ana County, New Mexico. 311 Cannon.


2:30 p.m. Senate Appropriations Committee holds a hearing to review the President's Supplementary Request for Unaccompanied Children. Witnesses include Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and State Department Counselor Thomas Shannon Jr. 106 Dirksen.

 

Friday, July 11

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will visit a Summer Food Service Program site at Hamilton Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore, and talk to reporters afterward.

9 a.m. The House will meet for legislative business. Last votes expected no later than 3:00 p.m.

9:15 a.m. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy holds a hearing on “Constitutional Considerations: States vs. Federal Environmental Policy Implementation.” 2123 Rayburn.

 

12 p.m. USDA releases monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) and monthly Crop Production reports. Report on Peanut Prices is also being released.

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