The Trump administration resumes negotiations with China this week in pursuit of an elusive trade deal, while Congress returns from its two-week Easter recess with a long to-do list that includes a disaster aid bill that is stalled in the Senate.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will be in Beijing for a new round of negotiations that start on Tuesday. Vice Premier Liu He is leading the talks for China and will head a Chinese delegation that will be in Washington for negotiations starting on May 8.
According to the White House, the talks this week will cover agricultural issues as well as “intellectual property, forced technology transfer, non-tariff barriers, services, purchases, and enforcement.”
At a rally Saturday night in Green Bay, Wis., President Donald Trump said of the negotiations, "We're very close to making a deal with China, but who knows?"
Trump and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue continue an effort to build support for the proposed U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement, an updated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Perdue had stops in North Dakota on Saturday and will be in Iowa Monday to visit Vermeer Corp., a manufacturer of agricultural and industrial equipment in Pella, and Corteva Agriscience facilities in Johnston.
In Green Bay, Trump called on Congress to approve the USMCA quickly "because it's going to be fantastic for everybody in this room, and especially manufacturers and farmers, and people aren't going to be firing people and moving their plants to other countries."
Trump said the U.S. dairy industry would be one of the most significant beneficiaries of the deal. Canada agreed to increases for U.S. access to its tightly controlled domestic market through new tariff rate quotas for milk, cheese, cream, skim milk powder, butter, ice cream, whey and other dairy products. Canada also pledged to eliminate its Class 7 dairy pricing system, which U.S. producers say flooded the international market with skim milk powder.
On Capitol Hill, the congressional agenda includes moving appropriations bills for the new fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. But the top item on lawmakers’ to-do-list for many in agriculture is passage of a disaster bill to cover damage from last year’s hurricanes and wildfires as well as the flooding this year in the Midwest.
The Senate has been unable to pass the bill because of an ongoing dispute over aid to Puerto Rico. Just ahead of the recess, House Democrats introduced a revised version of a disaster aid bill that passed the chamber in January. The new version would authorize aid to farmers along the Missouri River whose stored corn and soybeans were inundated by the March flooding.
In an interview last week with the Iowa Agribusiness Radio Network, Iowa GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds pressed the Democratic presidential candidates who are members for the Senate to support the GOP disaster bill.
The candidates “talk a lot about empowering” rural Iowa when they are campaigning in the state, she said. “You can’t come through this state and talk about that and go back to Washington, D.C., and vote no on disaster funding. They need to follow through with what they say when they are in the state.”
Meanwhile, the biodiesel industry is lobbying to get the House Ways and Means Committee to take up a bill that would resurrect a series of lapsed tax incentives, including the $1-a-gallon tax credit for biodiesel.
To draw attention to the issue, the National Biodiesel Board will host a press conference at the Capitol Wednesday with Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and several other lawmakers, including Reps. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, and Cheri Bustos, D-Ill.
Starting this week, House Democratic leaders are preparing to force debates on a series of bills that they plan to campaign on in 2020. On Monday, the House Rules Committee will prepare a bill for floor debate that would require President Trump to develop a plan to meet the Obama administration’s commitments under the Paris climate agreement.
The Climate Action Now Act, as the bill is called, has little chance of passing the GOP-controlled Senate, but the measure will allow Democrats to go on record in support for the Paris agreement without having to endorse specific measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Other Democratic priorities in the coming weeks, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., include the disaster aid bill as well as a measure legalizing Dreamers, the immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children, and legislation that would protect the Affordable Care Act.
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:
Monday, April 29
Comments due to EPA on proposed E15 waiver, RIN market reforms.
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association annual legislative conference, through Tuesday. Capitol Hill Hyatt Regency.
4 p.m. — USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
5 p.m. — House Rules Committee considers floor rule for the Climate Action Now Act, H-313 Capitol.
Tuesday, April 30
All day — 10th China Business Conference, through Wednesday, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 1615 H Street NW.
10 a.m. — House Agriculture Committee hearing on the dairy sector, 1300 Longworth.
10 a.m. — House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing, “Public Lands and our Clean Energy Future,” 1334 Longworth.
10 a.m. — House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on the reorganization of the Interior Department, 1324 Longworth.
2:30 p.m. — Senate State-Foreign Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on USAID, 138 Dirksen.
Wednesday, May 1
9:30 a.m. — National Biodiesel Board rally for extension of biodiesel tax incentive, U.S. Capitol east front.
10 a.m. — House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, 1300 Longworth.
Thursday, May 2
8:30 a.m. — USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
10 a.m. — Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing to consider nominees to be solicitor and inspector general of the Interior Department, 366 Dirksen.
10 a.m. — Senate Energy-Water Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Labor Department, 124 Dirksen.
Friday, May 3
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