Washington Week Ahead: Focus on Waters of the U.S.

By Daniel Enoch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Sept. 8, 2014 - Congress returns from its August recess this week with House Republicans taking direct aim at several environmental proposals, including the EPA's controversial plan to clarify just what waters it has jurisdiction over under the Clean Water Act.

A bill that would prohibit the agency from implementing its plan -- H.R. 5078, Waters of the U.S. Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014 - will be considered by the House Rules Committee on Monday and later in the week by the full GOP-controlled House. While the vote may be helpful to some red-state lawmakers in the upcoming mid-term elections, the legislation probably won't go anywhere in the Senate, where Democrats remain in power, at least for now. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) says the bill could be taken up anytime after Tuesday.

Additionally, the House Natural Resources Committee is traveling to Pennsylvania's state capital of Harrisburg today for a field hearing on the “likely negative effects” on farming and other activities of listing the Northern Long-Eared bat on the endangered list under the Endangered Species Act. The bat is one of hundreds of species included in Interior Department's settlements with two groups that require listing decisions by 2016.

“It is vital that a decision of this magnitude be based on actual data, not settlement deadlines, and that it includes input from landowners and stakeholders not only from Pennsylvania, but from the rest of the two-thirds of the U.S. that would be impacted,” Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said.

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Meanwhile, the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on the nation's rail freight service and how congestion problems and railcar shortages are hurting agriculture and other industries.  The problems have been especially acute in the northern Midwest where farmers are dealing with railcar shortages as they try to get another bumper corn crop to domestic and overseas markets. .

Here's a list of some of the agriculture-related events taking place this week in the U.S. capital and elsewhere:

Monday, Sept. 8

Congress returns from August recess. House will meet at 2:00 p.m. for legislative business. Votes will be postponed until 6:30 p.m. The Senate convenes at 2 p.m. and will be in a period of morning business until 5:30 p.m.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman will meet with Karl De Gucht, EU Commissioner for Trade, in Washington. Closed press.

United Fresh Public Policy Conference opens and runs through Thursday, Hyatt Regency Hotel, Washington. To see a schedule of events, click here.

8 a.m. National Farmers Union legislative briefing, Jefferson Auditorium at USDA headquarters. The event is part of NFU's annual Fly-In.

10 a.m. House Natural Resources Committee holds a field hearing in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on possible negative effects of listing Northern Long- Eared Bat on endangered species list. 

11:30 a.m. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack meets with President Obama and Vice President Biden at the White House. The subject of the meeting was not announced.

1 p.m. Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife holds a field hearing entitled “Examining the Strategy for Achieving the Goals of the new Voluntary Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement.” The hearing will be held at the Maryland State Capitol in Annapolis.

2:45 p.m. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will hold a conference call to make a major announcement on conservation funding to help landowners protect and restore key farmlands, grasslands and wetlands across the nation.

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

5 p.m. House Rules Committee will meet to consider H.R. 5078-Waters of the U.S. Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014. The bill would prohibit EPA or the Army Corps of Engineers from adopting or implementing its proposed rule clarifying the waters of the U.S. that fall under its jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. H312.

Tuesday, Sept. 9

Acting Deputy USTR Wendy Cutler and Chief Agriculture Negotiator Darci Vetter open two days of meetings with Japanese Ambassador Hiroshi Oe and Director General Makoto Osawa, director general of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, regarding Trans Pacific Partnership market access issues focusing on agriculture, in Tokyo.

USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden will host a Google+ hangout, “What the Farm Bill Means for New Farmers.”  She will be joined by Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Administrator Anne Alonzo, Farm and Foreign Agriculture Service Deputy Under Secretary Karis Gutter and Natural Resources Conservation Service Assistant Chief Kirk Hanlin.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, speaks to a breakfast meeting of United Fresh during the group's Public Policy Conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Washington.

10 a.m. House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit holds a hearing entitled “Surface Transportation Infrastructure Projects: Case Studies of the Federal Environmental Review Permitting Process.” 2167 Rayburn.

10 a.m. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions holds a hearing on the nomination of Sharon Block to serve as a member of the National Labor Relations Board. 430 Dirksen.

Wednesday, Sept. 10

USTR Froman will meet with Bob Stallman, president of American Farm Bureau Federation, in Washington. Closed press.

9 a.m. Weed Society Summit on herbicide resistant weeds hosted by Weed Science Society of America, at National Academy of Science, Washington.

9:30 a.m. House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation holds a hearing on the status of the Merchant Marine. 2167 Rayburn.

10 a.m. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry holds a hearing to review the U.S. Forest Service's proposed groundwater directive. 1300 Longworth.

10 a.m. Senate Agriculture Committee holds a hearing on the nomination of  Lisa Afua Serwah Mensah, of Maryland, to be Under Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development. 328A Russell.

2:30 p.m. Senate Commerce Committee hearing on “Freight Rail Service: Improving the Performance of America's Rail System.” The hearing will focus on rail service issues throughout the country, including congestion and locomotive and railcar shortages. Stakeholders will discuss the impacts of rail service issues on various industries and the economy. 253Russell.

3 p.m. USDA releases weekly Broiler Hatchery report.

Thursday, Sept. 11

Washington marks the 13th anniversary of Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

12 p.m. USDA releases monthly Crop Production report and World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE). A report on Cotton Ginnings is also being released.

Friday, Sept. 12

USDA Deputy Secretary Harden will deliver remarks at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture's (NASDA) annual meeting in Burlington, Vermont. She will also tour the Intervale Community Farm in Burlington, Vermont, where she will announce USDA funding to help rural communities coordinate regional economic development.

3 p.m. USDA releases report on Peanut Prices.

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