The Trump administration seeks to calm farmers’ fears about the escalating trade dispute with China, even as corn and soybean growers hope the crisis will at least quash White House consideration of intervening in the biofuel credit market.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is expected to join Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in a White House meeting Monday about the biofuels market, the first such meeting the president has been involved in since March 1, when he proposed a temporary cap on prices for Renewable Identification Numbers, the credits used to track refiner compliance with the Renewable Fuel Standard.
RFS supporters are using farmers’ alarm over the U.S.-China trade dispute to press the president to scrap any further discussion of intervening in the market on the behalf of refiners and instead issue a vapor-pressure waiver that would allow year-round sales of E15.
Perdue, meanwhile, will likely be pressed to defend the president’s trade policy when he appears Wednesday morning before the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. USDA is considering using its authority under the Commodity Credit Corp. to provide assistance to producers who could be hurt by Chinese retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports.
At the administration’s request, the fiscal 2018 omnibus spending bill enacted in March lifted a funding restriction on USDA’s use of CCC funds for payments to distressed producers, a congressional source said.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a CNBC interview on Friday that the administration would "protect our farmers. The president instructed Secretary Perdue to work with the rest of the Cabinet to protect our farmers from unfair targeting."
In an op-ed published Friday by the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader as Perdue was finishing up his latest farm-state tour, Perdue pledged that Trump wouldn’t forget the needs of rural America.
“During each trip, all across the country, we hear about the same issues time after time: trade and the economy, the workforce and burdensome regulations. Trump and his entire administration have heard these concerns and are working tirelessly on your behalf,” Perdue wrote.
Meanwhile, House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway could release his draft farm bill later this week in advance of committee action the week of April 16. However, the bill’s ultimate fate remains in question amid a partisan impasse over major changes the GOP measure would make to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
In an Agri-Pulse Open Mic interview, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee said he expects Conaway to push the bill through committee without GOP support but questioned whether the measure could pass the full House.
Minnesota's Collin Peterson also expressed concern that the full House would adopt amendments attacking farm programs, including crop insurance and sugar, because of Democratic anger over the bill’s treatment of SNAP. The bill would increase the number of SNAP recipients subject to work requirements and tighten eligibility rules and reduce assistance to people whose benefits are linked to government heating assistance.
“I would be very surprised if they can pass it without our help, and I would say we run the risk of some very bad amendments getting adopted,” Peterson said.
Conaway has said he hopes that committee Democrats will oppose amendments targeting crop insurance or commodity programs even if those lawmakers ultimately vote against the bill itself.
Peterson and Conaway were not in contact during the two-week congressional recess, but Peterson indicated he may offer some counter-proposals on the nutrition title.
Here’s a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:
Monday, April 9
President Trump expected to meet Agriculture Secretary Perdue and EPA Administrator Pruitt to discuss the biofuels market.
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association annual legislative conference, through Tuesday, Hyatt Regency Washington.
North American Agricultural Journalists annual meeting, through Tuesday, Cosmos Club.
Tuesday, April 10
Farm Foundation forum, through Wednesday,” Economic Returns to Rural Infrastructure Investments,” National Press Club.
9 a.m. Deputy Agriculture Secretary Steve Censky delivers keynote address at Farm Foundation forum.
10 a.m. - Capitol Hill Summit on Health Costs of Hunger and Policy Solutions, 121 Cannon.
10 a.m. - Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, “Cooperative Federalism Under the Clean Air Act: State Perspectives,” 406 Dirksen.
11 a.m. - National Academy of Sciences releases “A Review of the Citrus Greening Research and Development Efforts Supported by the Citrus Research and Development Foundation: Fighting a Ravaging Disease.”
Wednesday, April 11
10 a.m. - House Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, 2007 Rayburn.
10 a.m. - Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing on nominees to the Surface Transportation Board, 253 Russell.
10:30 a.m. - Senate Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, 138 Dirksen.
2:30 p.m. - Senate Energy-Water Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Energy Secretary Rick Perry, 138 Dirksen.
2:30 p.m. - Senate Finance Committee hearing on trade and China, 215 Dirksen.
2:30 p.m. - Senate Commerce-Science-Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, 192 Dirksen.
Thursday, April 12
10 a.m. - House Budget Committee hearing on the new CBO baseline, 1334 Longworth.
10 a.m. - House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with officials from the Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 2359 Rayburn.
10 a.m. - House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, “Investments in our Health Workforce and Rural Communities,” 2358-C Rayburn.
10 a.m. - House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the effects of tariff increases, 1100 Longworth.
10 a.m. - Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, 124 Dirksen.
2 p.m. - House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on the Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the power marketing administrations, 1324 Longworth.
Friday, April 13
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