Lawmakers seek to move their long-awaited farm bill this week, and the Trump administration is set to release a new “waters of the U.S.” rule that would remove ephemeral streams and many wetlands from federal jurisdiction.
The farm bill conference report could be filed as early as Monday and released the following day, a week later than originally planned. Farm bill negotiators said it took longer than expected last week to get the cost estimates and legislative text ironed out.
The bill will preserve the structure of the 2014 farm bill with a variety of enhancements to a variety of programs, including the major commodity programs for row crops and milk, as well as expand the Conservation Reserve Program and provide new funding for fighting animal diseases.
Also on Tuesday, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers are expected to release a proposed WOTUS rule that would redefine the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act more narrowly than a rule issued by the Obama administration in 2015.
According to EPA talking points, the new rule will be “clear and easy to understand” and will help landowners “understand whether a project on his or her property will require a federal permit or not, without spending tens of thousands of dollars on engineering and legal professionals.”
The EPA document also says the rule will eliminate ephemeral streams and most ditches from federal jurisdiction as well as wetlands that aren’t “physically and meaningfully connected to other jurisdictional waters.”
The rule is expected to be challenged in court, but administration officials said they were crafting it in line with the 2006 Rapanos decision written by the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in which the court split 4-1-4. The Obama rule was written to appeal to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was replaced this year by Brett Kavanaugh, who is expected to follow Scalia’s reasoning.
Even as congressional leaders prepare to move the farm bill to President Trump’s desk, they also have to deal with an impasse with Trump over using the pending fiscal 2019 appropriations legislation to pay for extending the U.S.-Mexico border wall. A meeting between the president and congressional leaders was postponed last week because of the death of the late President George H.W. Bush and now is expected to take place Tuesday.
USDA, FDA, EPA and the departments of Interior and Homeland Security are among the departments and agencies that don't have their fiscal 2019 appropriations levels yet and are operating under a continuing resolution at FY18 spending levels. Congress last week passed a new CR that extends the funding until Dec. 21.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., last week called for punting the border wall issue to the next Congress by funding the Homeland Security Department through a CR that would keep funding at existing levels through next Sept. 30. Senate Republicans immediately rejected the idea.
Also this week, the Trump administration takes a formal step toward negotiating a new trade agreement with Japan by holding a public hearing Monday on what the U.S. objectives should be.
The meeting is a part of the public notice and comment process triggered by USTR’s Oct. 16 notification to Congress about the administration’s intent to negotiate an agreement.
On Tuesday, a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing, postponed from last week, on future biofuel policy.
The hearing’s focus will be a discussion draft that Environment Subcommittee chairman Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., introduced the day before Thanksgiving. The bill would replace the current biofuel mandates with a national octane standard and require new motor vehicles to handle ethanol blends up to 20 percent, twice the standard level currently.
The current energy law, enacted in 2007, mandates specific blending levels of biofuels through 2022.
Here’s a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:
Monday, Dec. 10
All day - U.S. Trade Representative holds public hearing on negotiating objectives for a U.S.-Japan trade agreement, U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E Street SW,
Tuesday, Dec. 11
10 a.m. - House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on The 21st Century Transportation Fuels Act - Discussion Draft, 2123 Rayburn.
10 a.m. - Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 226 Dirksen.
2 p.m. - House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing, "RAY BAUM’S Act: A Bipartisan Foundation for Bridging the Digital Divide,” 2322 Rayburn
Wednesday, Dec. 12
10 a.m. - House Education and Workforce Committee hearing, “Mandating a $15 Minimum Wage: Consequences for Workers and Small Businesses,” 2175 Rayburn.
Thursday, Dec. 13
Friday, Dec. 14
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