President Donald Trump releases a fiscal 2020 budget that will push yet again for deep cuts in USDA’s budget to help offset higher defense spending, while House Democrats will set the stage for revising expired biofuel tax incentives.
Meanwhile, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will be back on Capitol Hill this week, this time to appear before the Senate Finance Committee, where he is likely to be pressed about the administration’s ongoing trade disputes, including the U.S.-China negotiations, as well as Trump’s push to reform the World Trade Organization’s dispute resolution process.
Lighthizer's appearance comes amid reports that the administration may miss its target of having a trade deal between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping ready by later this month.
Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., made clear in an interview ahead of the Trump budget’s release on Monday that the proposal would meet the same fate as other presidential budgets that have continually called for slashing crop insurance and other farm programs.
“How many times have I seen a president’s budget come over the transom, and my staff says, ‘Oh my God.’ … Then we pick up the budget and throw it over the transom and do our own budget,” he said.
“We don’t need to be going back in with the budget rewriting the farm bill.”
Deputy Budget Director Russ Vought has said the overall budget would will propose “one of the largest spending reductions in history” in non-defense spending, although reports indicate the federal budget would still be balanced for 15 years.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told reporters recently that the proposed budget for his department would be “conservative” despite his pushback with the White House. He complained that the administration continues to push spending cuts that are sure to be “totally disregarded” by Congress. Proposing cuts so deep that they have no realistic chance of ever passing Congress limits the administration's negotiating ability, he says.
On Tuesday afternoon, the House Ways and Means Committee holds a hearing on expired temporary tax incentives, including the $1-a-gallon biodiesel tax credit and other tax credits for cellulosic biofuels and alternative fueling infrastructure, including ethanol blender pumps.
Legislation introduced by Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and ranking Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon would revive those and 26 other expired measures and extend them through this year. However, the Constitution requires that an extenders bill must originate in the House.
Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., told Agri-Pulse that he intends to move an extenders measure but is looking at including some other tax measures, including provisions to expand retirement savings.
“I want and believe we have to get (an extenders bill) done, but I also want to do some other things that I’m interested in. … I have no inherent hostility disagreement with many of the agricultural issues,” he added, referring to the biofuel credits.
National Ag Day will also be celebrated this week, starting with a Capitol reception on Wednesday and counting with a forum on Thursday at the National Press Club. Deputy Agriculture Secretary Steve Censky will be the keynote speaker at the forum and will moderate a panel on young farmers.
Ted McKinney, USDA’s undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural services, will take part in a panel on trade issues with representatives of the American Farm Bureau Federation and the pork and oilseed sectors.
The Ag Day events will conclude on March 18 at the Press Club with the annual Agri-Pulse Ag and Food Policy Summit, which will focus this year on policy challenges facing agriculture over the next two decades.
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:
Monday, March 11
White House releases fiscal 2020 budget proposal.
Noon — Council for Agricultural Science and Technology seminar on commentary, “Enabling Open-source Data Networks in Public Agricultural Research,” 1300 Longworth. Additional sessions at 2:30 p.m. at 328A Russell, and 4:30 p.m. at The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, 1307 New York Ave. NW.
Tuesday, March 12
9:30 a.m. — International Food Policy Research Institute co-sponsors forum, “Reducing Food Loss and Waste — Making it Personal,” Embassy of Denmark.
10 a.m. — House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on the policies and priorities of the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and power marketing administrations, 1324 Longworth.
10 a.m. — House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee hearing, “Engineering Our Way to a Sustainable Bioeconomy,” 2318 Rayburn.
10 a.m. — House Small Business subcommittee hearing on the Small Business Administration’s State Trade Expansion Program, 2360 Rayburn.
10:15 a.m. — Senate Finance Committee hearing with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, 215 Dirksen.
12:30 p.m. — Inter-American Dialogue forum on energy policy in Argentina with Energy Secretary Gustavo Lopetegui, 1155 15th St NW, Suite 800.
2 p.m. — House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on the state of wildlife, 1324 Longworth.
2 p.m. — House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing on tax extenders, 1100 Longworth.
2:30 p.m. — House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with the USDA’s inspector general, 2362-A Rayburn.
2:30 p.m. — Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing on rural broadband, 216 Hart.
Wednesday, March 13
10 a.m. — House Natural Resources Committee hearing, “Forgotten Voices: The Inadequate Review and Improper Alteration of Our National Monuments,” 1324 Longworth.
10 a.m. — Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on the nomination of Heath Tarbert to chair the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, 328-A Russell.
10 a.m. — USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service webinar on industrial hemp and implementation of the 2018 farm bill.
10:15 a.m. — Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, “A New Approach for an Era of U.S.-China Competition,” 419 Dirksen.
11:30 a.m. — House Small Business Committee hearing, “Flipping the Switch on Rural Digital Entrepreneurship," 2360 Rayburn.
2 p.m. — USDA Food and Nutrition Service webinar on implementation of the 2018 farm bill.
5:30 p.m. — Celebration of National Ag Day, Capitol Visitor Center SVC200.
Thursday, March 14
Consumer Federation of America National Food Policy Conference, through Friday, Renaissance Washington Downtown Hotel.
8:30 a.m. — USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
9 a.m. — House Ways and Means hearing with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, 1100 Longworth.
1 p.m. — National Ag Day forum with Deputy Agriculture Secretary Steve Censky as featured speaker, National Press Club.
1:30 p.m. — Senate Finance hearing with Mnuchin, 215 Dirksen.
2 p.m. — USDA Rural Development holds webinar on farm bill implementation.
Friday, March 15
Consumer Federation of America National Food Policy Conference.
For more news, go to: www.Agri-Pulse.com