The Washington week ahead: Finish line for the overloaded 111th Congress

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Dec. 12 - If all goes as planned, the 111th Congress will end this Friday. Remarkably, this week may deliver some major last-moment achievements. Betting now favors passage of the compromise tax cuts bill that has liberal Democrats in open revolt . . . while key farm-state legislators are signing aboard since the compromise includes both the more generous 35%/$5 million estate tax deal and continuing tax breaks for ethanol and biodiesel. As well, there should be action on appropriations to fund the federal government and at least serious consideration of the New START nuclear weapons treaty with Russia if the tax bill is passed.

President Obama won't only be watching anxiously to see how much Congress accomplishes this week. On Monday, he and the First Lady will speak at Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Washington where the President will sign the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act into law to bring school meals into the nutritionally correct modern world. Watch the event live Monday at 10:25 AM EST at

Agriculture Sec. Vilsack will be busy too, beginning his week by joining other Cabinet secretaries to witness Obama signing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act into law as part of the government-wide assault on the linked problems of childhood hunger and obesity.

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On Wednesday Secretary Vilsack will participate in the US-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) co-chaired by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. With Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan at this 21st session of the annual trade talks with China, the focus will be on trade issues including agriculture generally and the Doha Development Agenda specifically. Last year's session in China included China's agreements to reopen its market to U.S. pork and to remove barriers blocking American firms from participating in China's growing clean energy market.

On Thursday, Vilsack shifts his focus again, this time to participate in the White House Tribal Conference.

Other key events and meetings this week:

Monday, Dec. 13

  • U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk Kirk meets with National Pork Producers Council leaders in Washington.

  • USDA reports: Livestock and Meat Trade Data, Oil Crops Outlook, Rice Outlook, Cotton and Wool Outlook, U.S. Agricultural Trade Data Update

Tuesday, Dec. 14

  • USDA's Dairy Industry Advisory Committee meets through Thursday to begin shaping its recommendations to Agriculture Sec. Vilsack which are due to be finalized in January.

  • Ambassador Kirk will meet with European Commissioner for Trade Karel DeGucht

  • USDA reports: Wheat Outlook, Feed Outlook, Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook, Aquaculture Data, Weather-Crop Summary

Wednesday, Dec. 15

  • House Agriculture Subcommittee hearing on implementation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act provisions on position limits.

  • House Judiciary Committee hearing on Foreclosed Justice: Causes and Effects of the Foreclosure Crisis

  • USDA reports: Meat Price Spreads, Agricultural Income and Finance Outlook, Broiler Hatchery, Potato Stocks, Turkey Hatchery

Thursday, Dec. 16

  • The Commodity Futures Trading Commission public meeting on Dodd-Frank rulemaking, to consider Position limits for physical commodity derivatives; Confirmation, portfolio reconciliation and portfolio compression requirements for swap dealers and major swap participants; Risk management requirements for derivatives clearing organization; and Core principles and other requirements for swap execution facilities.

  • House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Espionage Act and the Legal and Constitutional Issues Raised by WikiLeaks

  • USDA reports: Vegetables and Melons Outlook

Friday, Dec. 17

  • Ambassador Kirk, joined by Ambassador Sapiro, will attend the Transatlantic Economic Council meeting

  • USDA reports: Dairy Products Prices, Cattle on Feed, Milk Production, National Hop Report, Peanut Prices

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