House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway hopes to finally get his farm bill to the Senate this week, but the outcome hinges on House Republican leaders going forward with plans to debate a pair of competing immigration measures.
Also this week, the EPA is expected to release its proposed biofuel usage targets, or renewable volume obligations (RVOs) for 2019.
The House farm bill was defeated May 18 when a group of conservatives demanded that the House first act on immigration policy. Last week, GOP leaders reached a deal to hold votes this week on a bill negotiated with moderates and a second, favored by conservatives, that was developed by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.
After the last of the immigration votes takes place, GOP leaders plan to ask the House to reconsider the farm bill and then hold a second vote to pass it, Conaway, R-Texas, said last week.
The Senate is expected to debate its version of the bill the week of June 25, sources say. That would allow House and Senate negotiators to begin work on a final version. “That would give us July, August and part of September to get this thing done and ready to go to the president’s desk before it (the 2014 farm bill) expires,” Conaway said.
A White House spokesman said Friday that President Donald Trump would sign either of the two immigration bills, although it isn't clear whether either will pass the House.
The Goodlatte bill, which is considered the least likely to pass, includes provisions to create a new H-2C visa program for farmworkers that would allow farms to import year-around labor. The existing H-2A program is limited to seasonal labor.
The second immigration bill is unlikely to address agriculture, but GOP leaders have committed to allowing a separate vote on a farm labor bill in July. It is not, however, expected to become law.
EPA’s release of its proposed 2019 RVOs will come amid continued industry anger over EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s issuance of small refinery hardship waivers that have effectively reduced ethanol blending requirements.
Pruitt, who met with farmers and biofuel industry leaders last week in Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, told a group of South Dakota farmers that the agency didn't think it had the legal authority to reallocate the gallons that had been waived. Earlier in Kansas, Pruitt said he wanted to change administration policy and issue any waivers before the RVOs are finalized in November each year.
EPA is expected to increase the 2019 RVO for advanced biofuels, which includes biodiesel as well as biomass-derived fuel, but analysts with ClearView Energy Partners warned that the EPA waivers may discourage production by depressing the value of biofuel credits.
“Advanced biofuels supply appears to be growing mainly due to higher domestic biomass-based diesel output. To the degree producers premised growth on higher Renewable Identification Number (RIN) credit price expectations, that new supply might not be sustainable,” the analysts said.
Here’s a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:
Monday, June 18
4 p.m. - USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Tuesday, June 19
10 a.m. - Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee meeting to consider its fiscal 2019 spending bill, 124 Dirksen.
11 a.m. - Senate Financial Services Appropriations Subcommittee meeting to consider its FY19 spending bill, 138 Dirksen.
3 p.m. - Senate State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee meeting to consider its FY19 spending bill, 138 Dirksen.
Wednesday, June 20
9 a.m. - Senate Finance Committee hearing with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Trump administration tariff actions, 215 Dirksen.
10 a.m. - House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on the benefits of tax reform to the energy sector, 2123 Rayburn.
2:30 p.m. - Senate Finance subcommittee hearing on trade and commerce at U.S. ports of entry, 215 Dirksen.
Thursday, June 21
Friday, June 22
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