Washington Week Ahead: All eyes focused on possible farm bill conference

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2014 - Official Washington welcomes you back.

This could be the week agricultural stakeholders have been waiting a long time for as the farm bill principals are expected to release a firm framework for long-term legislation. While a conference meeting has not been officially scheduled, sources and reports have indicated conferees are likely to meet this week, perhaps as early as Thursday.

The agriculture sector remains anxious to hear solutions from lawmakers about the several differences between the Senate and the House farm bills, including over the commodity title, dairy policy, nutrition, crop insurance, and conservation compliance, among other things. The answers may be coming soon.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he expects the farm bill to be completed by the end of the month. However, a protracted battle over an extension of unemployment insurance benefits (UI) is likely to suck up much of the month's legislative calendar, at least in the Senate. A procedural vote on that extension is scheduled for later today.

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President Obama said Saturday that UI benefits should top the congressional agenda. “Denying families that security is just plain cruel,” Obama said.

There has been talk that a UI extension could be paid for with savings from the farm bill. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., floated the idea recently. Van Hollen has said House Democrats should not support the farm bill unless Republicans use the savings for a UI extension.

During a conference call on Sunday, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said a UI extension should not require an offset. “We look at pay-fors, but it's better without,” Schumer said. When asked about the idea of using farm bill savings, Schumer said he would not rule out any kind of offset.

No public events are scheduled this week for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Deputy Agriculture Secretary Krysta Harden. USDA is releasing a large number of agency reports on Friday.

Notably, Thomas J. Donohue, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, will deliver the chamber's annual state of American business address on Wednesday.

The week's tentative events include:

Monday, Jan. 6.

2:00 p.m. The Senate will convene and resume consideration of a legislation (S. 1845) to extend unemployment insurance benefits.

3:00 p.m. The Senate will proceed to an executive session to consider the nomination of Janet Yellen to serve as chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

5:30 p.m. The Senate will vote on confirmation of the Yellen nomination. Then, the Senate will resume a legislative session and vote on a motion to proceed to the unemployment insurance extension.

Tuesday, Jan. 7.

2:00 p.m. The House will meet for pro forma business and recess immediately with any votes postponed until 6:30 p.m.

4:00 p.m. USDA Report: Latest U.S. Agricultural Trade Data

Wednesday, Jan. 8.

9:30 a.m. Thomas J. Donohue, president and chief executive officer of the Chamber of Commerce will deliver the chamber's annual state of American business address at chamber headquarters at 1615 H Street, NW, Washington, D.C.

10:00 a.m. The House will meet for morning hour debate.

10:00 a.m. USDA Report: Livestock & Meat International Trade Data

12:00 p.m. The House will meet for legislative business to consider bills under suspension of the rules.

3:00 p.m. USDA Report: Broiler Hatchery

3:00 p.m. USDA Report: National Dairy Products Sales Report

4:00 p.m. USDA Report: U.S. Agricultural Trade Data Update

Thursday, Jan. 9.

8:30 a.m. USDA Report: Weekly Export Sales

10:00 a.m. The House will meet for morning hour debate.

12:00 p.m. The House will meet for legislative business.

Friday, Jan. 10.

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

12:00 p.m. USDA Report: Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin

12:00 p.m. USDA Report: WASDE

12:00 p.m. USDA Report: Winter Wheat Seedings

12:00 p.m. USDA Report: Rice Stocks

12:00 p.m. USDA Report: Grain Stocks

12:00 p.m. USDA Report: Crop Production - Ann

12:00 p.m. USDA Report: Crop Production

12:00 p.m. USDA Report: Cotton Ginnings

12:15 p.m. USDA Report: World Agricultural Productions

12:15 p.m. USDA Report: Oilseeds: World Markets and Trade

12:15 p.m. USDA Report: Grains: World Markets and Trade

12:15 p.m. USDA Report: Cotton: World Markets and Trade

3:00 p.m. USDA Report: Peanut Prices

4:00 p.m. USDA Report: Season-Average Price Forecasts

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