U.S. negotiators head to China this week to resume face-to-face trade talks, and the Senate is expected to consider a long-stalled disaster aid bill amid demands to expand it to include assistance for losses from the Midwest flooding.
Also this week, a committee of scientific advisers assigned to develop recommendations for revising the federal dietary guidelines will hold its first meeting on Thursday and Friday at USDA.
The 20-member panel, which has expanded by six from the committee that developed the 2015 guidelines, is expected to debate the merits of plant-based and low-carbohydrate diets.
The White House announced Saturday that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will be in Beijing starting Thursday to continue the trade negotiations. Then, a Chinese delegation led by Vice Premier Liu He will be in Washington to continue the talks starting April 3, the White House said.
There have been mixed signals in recent days about the state of the negotiations. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told The Financial Times last week that Chinese attitudes appeared to have hardened. “There doesn’t seem to be as much aggressive passion for curing some of these things as we would like to see,” Perdue said.
President Donald Trump last week said he wants to leave the tariffs on imports of Chinese goods even if a deal is reached to make sure China lives up to whatever promises it makes.
Meanwhile, a Senate procedural vote on a disaster aid bill could come as soon as Tuesday, but it’s not yet clear what will be in the legislation. Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., has yet to release a draft.
A House-passed supplemental appropriations bill that stalled in the Senate would authorize $3 billion in assistance for agricultural losses, primarily due to hurricane damage to crops in the Southeast last fall. Perdue said this week that assistance also should be included for the recent Midwest flooding because USDA disaster assistance programs were unlikely to be sufficient.
In Nebraska alone, Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts has said that flooding damages could exceed $1 billion, including $449 million in damages to roads and infrastructure, $440 million in crop losses, and $400 million in livestock losses. In a letter to President Trump on Friday, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said damages in her state were estimated at $1.6 billion. "The devastation caused by the flooding is incomprehensible," Ernst wrote.
President Trump has approved emergency disaster declarations in Nebraska and Iowa.
Also this week, both the House and Senate will hold hearings on a plan agreed to by seven western states to manage the Colorado River. The plan allows for voluntary reductions in water usage to prevent the federal government from having to impose limits under a 2007 order.
The river basin has been experiencing historic drought conditions since 2000. The Lake Mead and Lake Powell reservoirs are at their lowest levels since Lake Powell began filling in the 1960s. The river provides water to 40 million people and 5.5 million acres of agriculture.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans this week plan to force a floor debate on the Green New Deal resolution, which calls for zeroing out U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The resolution’s progressive sponsors see the GOP decision to put the resolution up for a vote as a cynical ploy to avoid addressing the climate issue. Democrats are widely expected to vote “present.”
The resolution doesn’t propose any controls on agricultural emissions but calls for the government to work “collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible, including by supporting family farming; by investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health; and by building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food.”
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:
Monday, March 25
Noon — Heritage Foundation forum, “Horror Stories of EPA and Corps Overreach under the Clean Water Act,” 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE.
Tuesday, March 26
Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco rehears arguments en banc on whether EPA should have to cancel the registration of the widely used insecticide chlorpyrifos.
10 a.m. — House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing, “Trade and Labor: Creating and Enforcing Rules to Benefit American Workers,” 1100 Longworth.
10:30 a.m. — House Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Interior Department, 2008 Rayburn.
Wednesday, March 27
9:45 a.m. — House Energy-Water Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation, 2362-A Rayburn.
10 a.m. — House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee hearing, “EPA’s IRIS Program: Reviewing its Progress and Roadblocks Ahead,” 2318 Rayburn.
10:30 a.m. — House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Customs and Border Protection, 2008 Rayburn.
11 a.m. — House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on USDA’s plan to relocate the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture, 2358-A Rayburn.
2 p.m. — American Enterprise Institute forum, “Does Brexit Matter?” 1789 Massachusetts Ave. NW.
2:30 p.m. — Senate Financial Services Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and Securities Exchange Commission.
2:30 p.m. — Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on the Colorado River drought contingency plan, 366 Dirksen.
Thursday, March 28
Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee meeting, through Friday, USDA Jefferson auditorium.
8:30 a.m. — Resources for the Future forum, “Putting a Price on Carbon,” with Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., 1400 16th St. NW.
8:30 a.m. — USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
10 a.m. — House Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Forest Service, 2008 Rayburn.
10 a.m. — House Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing on the Colorado River drought contingency plan, 1324 Longworth.
10 a.m. — Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the nomination of David Bernardt to be Secretary of the Interior, 366 Dirksen.
10:30 a.m. — Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, 138 Dirksen.
Friday, March 29
Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee meeting.
Noon — Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies forum, “Disaster Strikes Again: Agriculture Resiliency in the Face of Climate Shocks,” 1740 Massachusetts Ave. NW.
Noon — USDA releases Prospective Plantings report.
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