Washington Week Ahead: Senate to focus on budget plan; farm bill talks set to continue

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2013 - The Senate is expected this week to begin debate on a two-year budget bill (H.J. Res. 59) that aims to avert another government shutdown in January, as while as provide some sequestration relief to federal agencies.

Also, farm bill discussions are expected to continue among top conferees, said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. Stabenow and other conferees have reported progress from recent meetings, but have offered few details.

The House, last week, approved a one-month farm bill extension (H.R. 3695), by voice vote, to extend the current farm bill through Jan. 31. However, the bill is considered dead in the water in the Senate. The House has left for the year, and the Senate is scheduled to leave on Friday.

The lack of another extension would trigger permanent law, which has caused fears of a large increase in the price of milk, among other concerns. Stabenow has said another short-term extension is not needed, largely because she expects to have a bill done by the end of January.

Together we can feed the Bees"

On the budget bill, the House approved that legislation Thursday, on a 332-94 vote, but Senate leadership has recently grown worried they may not have the votes to approve the bill. Senate Assistant Majority Leader Richard Durbin, D-Ill., told CBS's “Face the Nation” on Sunday that they need eight Republican votes to approve the bill. “We have a handful of Republicans,” Durbin said. “But, the struggle is still on in the Senate.”

The budget bill, authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., seeks to provide $63 billion in temporary sequester relief split evenly between military spending and domestic spending. The bill also aims to provide $85 billion in mandatory savings, and reduce the deficit by $23 billion over the next 10 years. The USDA has remained quiet about how the legislation could affect its sequestration rate, as well as any other possible issues.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will travel to China to participate in the 24th session of the U.S.-China joint commission on commerce and trade. Vilsack will accompany Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman at the event through Friday.

Vilsack said the session is an important venue to work with China on critical trade matters. “America's farmers and ranchers are extremely productive and are ready to build on five years of record U.S. agricultural exports,” Vilsack said.

The week's tentative events include:

Monday, Dec. 16.

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

3:00 p.m. The Senate will convene and proceed to a period of morning business.

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

4:00 p.m. USDA Report: Sugar & Sweeteners Outlook

4:00 p.m. USDA Report: Feed Grains Database

5:30 p.m. The Senate will resume consideration of administration nominations, including Jeh Charles Johnson to serve as Homeland Security Secretary.

Tuesday, Dec. 17.

10:00 a.m. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a business meeting to consider the nominations of Steven Croley to be general counsel of the Energy Department, Christopher Smith to be an assistant secretary of energy, and Esther Kia'aina to be an assistant secretary of the Interior. The meeting will be held in 366 Dirksen.

2:30 p.m. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on the nominations of Rhea Sun Suh to be assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks of the Interior Department, Victoria Baecher Wassmer to be EPA chief financial officer, Roy K.J. Williams to be assistant secretary of commerce for economic development of the Commerce Department, and Thomas A. Burke to be EPA assistant administrator for research and development. The hearing will be held in 406 Dirksen.

3:00 p.m. USDA Report: National Hop Report

4:00 p.m. USDA Report: Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin (WAOB)

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

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

Wednesday, Dec. 18.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will travel to China to participate in the 24th session of the U.S.-China joint commission on commerce and trade. Vilsack will accompany Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman at the event through Friday.

9:00 a.m. Thomas J. Donohue will deliver the Chamber of Commerce annual state of American business address at Chamber headquarters.

3:00 p.m. USDA Report: Announcement of Advanced Prices and Pricing Factors

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

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

Thursday, Dec. 19.

8:30 a.m. USDA Report: U.S. Export Sales

3:00 p.m. USDA Report: Milk Production

3:00 p.m. USDA Report: Livestock Slaughter

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

Friday, Dec. 20.

3:00 p.m. USDA Report: Cattle on Feed

3:00 p.m. USDA Report: Catfish Feed Deliveries

3:00 p.m. USDA Report: Catfish Processing

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

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