Washington Week Ahead: Farm bill, appropriations at center stage

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2014 - Negotiations over a long-term farm bill are expected to continue this week while lawmakers also try to nail down an omnibus spending bill for federal departments, including the USDA.

After an uneventful time last week, farm bill conferees will resume work on settling several differences, including a hard fought battle between the North and South on payment limitations.

 "The main reason we didn't have a meeting last Thursday was because we didn't have the payment limit thing done," explained Rep. Collin Peterson, the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, in an interview with Randy Koenen, a broadcaster for the Red River Farm Network on Friday. He said that Senator Chuck Grassley's language to tighten the definition of "actively engaged" for the purposes of farm program payments was used as "one of the selling points in the Senate" and now "they are having a tough time backing off of it.
"What Grassley proposed doesn't affect Iowa much but it affects the South big time. It could take the whole bill down."
In one of the most recent flare-up over the farm bill, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, last week declared that a final conference report will not include supply management provisions for the dairy program, which he has said would amount to market manipulation. The Senate bill includes those provisions, which are heartily supported by House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who argues it would limit over-production. But in that same RRFN interview, Peterson said that the dairy controversy is not between him and Speaker Boehner but between Boehner and the Senate.
"He's not battling me. It's in the Senate bill," Peterson told RRFN, while noting that he, Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Sen. Thad Cochran all support the Senate version of the dairy title and that Chairman Frank Lucas "was for it."
"Now Lucas is waffling. The problem is, for Lucas, is that the three of us are not." To listen to the full RRFN interview, click

here.

Lets Talk Food
Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., told Agri-Pulse Friday he will vote against the conference report if it contains a reported $8.5 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The House bill includes a $40 billion cut to SNAP over 10 years, while the Senate bill sets a $4 billion cut. McGovern said about 50 million SNAP recipients have already dealt with an approximate $11 billion cut with the Nov. 1 end to a temporary benefit from the 2009 stimulus package.

“I think there's a lot more opposition to the SNAP cuts than the leadership appreciates,” McGovern said. “People are saying food prices have not decreased, but their food benefits have decreased.”

While the farm bill could see another quiet week, lawmakers have to focus on appropriations. The current continuing resolution expires Wednesday, and Congress is expected to move a three-day bill to keep the government running. After that, lawmakers seek to tackle an approximate $1 trillion package to last until Sept. 30.
Overall, time is running short to finish a farm bill by the end of the month. Both chambers will be on recess next week. And, the unemployment insurance issue is still on the Senate's front agenda, while it is unclear what the House would do about a possible extension.

Meanwhile, House Republicans will continue their efforts to chip away at the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, during congressional hearings.

Notably, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Daniel M. Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will testify Thursday before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee about the president's climate action plan.

Also, the American Farm Bureau Federation is holding its 95th annual convention, which began Sunday and runs through Wednesday.

The week's tentative events include:

Monday, Jan. 13.

9:30 a.m. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will address the American Farm Bureau Federation in San Antonio as part of its 95th annual convention. Duck Dynasty's Alan Robertson will offer a keynote address.

12:00 p.m. The House will meet for morning hour debate.

2:00 p.m. The House will meet for legislative business with votes postponed until 6:30 p.m.

2:00 p.m. The Senate will convene and resume consideration of the unemployment insurance extension (S. 1845).

5:00 p.m. The Senate will proceed to an executive session to consider a judicial nomination.

5:30 p.m. The Senate will vote on the judicial nomination. Following the vote, the Senate will proceed to a legislative session and hold a procedural vote on the unemployment insurance extension.

Tuesday, Jan. 14.

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

10:00 a.m. The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on “Oversight of the Obama Administration's Questionable Application of Sequestration to the Secure Rural Schools Program and the Costs to States, Local Economies, and Rural School Children” in 1324 Longworth.

10:00 a.m. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing on “Building the Foundation for Surface Transportation Reauthorization” in 2167 Rayburn.

10:30 a.m. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on “Examining Conference and Travel Spending Across the Federal Government” in 342 Dirksen.

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

1:00 p.m. USDA Report: OCS: Oil Crops Outlook

1:00 p.m. USDA Report: WHS: Wheat Outlook

4:00 p.m. USDA Report: Cotton and Wool Outlook Tables: January 2014

4:00 p.m. USDA Report: FDS: Feed Outlook

4:00 p.m. USDA Report: RCS: Rice Outlook

Wednesday, Jan. 15.

9:00 a.m. USDA Report: Feed Grains Database

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

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

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

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

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

4:00 p.m. USDA Report: U.S. Bioenergy Statistics

4:00 p.m. USDA Report: Aquaculture Data

Thursday, Jan. 16.

Vilsack will address the University of Kentucky.

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

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

9:00 a.m. The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will hold a hearing on “Healthcare.gov: Consequences of Stole Identity” in 2318 Rayburn.

9:15 a.m. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on “Review of the President's Climate Action Plan” in 406 Dirksen. Scheduled witnesses include EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Daniel M. Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

9:30 a.m. The House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing on “Seeking Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Answers” in 2123 Rayburn. 

10:00 a.m. The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on “Advancing Congress's Trade Agenda, The Role of Trade Negotiating Authority” in 215 Dirksen. 

1:00 p.m. USDA Report: LDPM: Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook

4:00 p.m. USDA Report: Meat Price Spreads

4:00 p.m. USDA Report: SSSM: Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook

Friday, Jan. 17.

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

 

This story was updated at 1:15 p.m.

 

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