Negotiations on budget caps and an increase in the federal debt ceiling are going down to the wire as lawmakers seek to nail down a deal with President Donald Trump that the House can vote on this week before starting its August recess. 

The administration has been warning that the debt ceiling could be reached by September, and lawmakers also are seeking to avert deep automatic spending cuts required by the 2011 Budget Control Act if Congress can’t agree on higher funding limits. 

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., declined to say what the spending caps would be for fiscal 2020 and 2021 under the deal being discussed, but he indicated spending would be increased over FY19 levels.  “If we get there (to an agreement) we will be improved form the standpoint of funding for national security and other programs, and we’ll have some certainty,” he said. 

According to Roll Call, the White House has been seeking $150 billion in cuts to mandatory programs as part of the deal to raise limits on discretionary spending, the type that is under the control of the congressional appropriations committees. Mandatory programs include everything from Medicare and Social Security to commodity programs and child nutrition in which spending levels are controlled by laws that Congress has enacted. 

The Senate is in session for the next two weeks, but then both chambers will be out of town until the week of Sept. 9.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration will continue to woo House Democrats to support the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement in hopes of winning congressional approval later this year of the pact, a top priority of U.S. farm groups. 

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is expected to hold another weekly meeting this week with a small group of Democrats House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed to negotiate with the administration on the behalf of her caucus. 

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., said the group pressed Lighthizer last week for specifics on how he would address their concerns with the agreement. Neal said Democrats have given Lighthizer “constructive proposals” for addressing three of the four main issue areas: drug pricing, labor, and the environment.

On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence will head to Iowa to promote USMCA by visiting a company in the Des Moines area that makes micro-molding for high-tech uses.

Also this week, the Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a potentially wide-ranging hearing Thursday on industrial hemp policy, the first such hearing since Congress legalized hemp production nationwide in the 2018 farm bill. 

The hearing will feature key officials at EPA and FDA as well as USDA’s general counsel, Stephen Vaden, and Greg Ibach, USDA’s undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs. 

Erica Stark, executive director of the National Hemp Association, said she will focus on the development of compliance testing requirements at USDA. She will “emphasize that we need to protect farmers and create an even playing field across the country to eliminate the possibility of what tests legal in one state being illegal in another.”

USDA is gearing up to roll out regulations for regulating hemp production, while FDA is considering whether to allow the hemp product, CBD, to be used as a food ingredient and dietary supplement.

The witnesses will include Amy Abernethy, FDA’s principal deputy commissioner of food and drugs, who is leading FDA’s work on CBD and hemp. FDA closed a public comment period on the CBD issue last Tuesday. 

Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:

Monday, July 22

9:15 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies forum, “Transatlantic Choices: Cooperation or Conflict,” 1616 Rhode Island Ave.

4 p.m. — USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report. 

Tuesday, July 23

9 a.m. — Farm Foundation forum, “The New Biotechnology Regulatory Regime,” National Press Club. 

10 a.m. — Senate Banking Committee hearing, “Challenges for Cannabis and Banking: Outside Perspectives,” 538 Dirksen.

2:30 p.m. — Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on antitrust enforcement, 226 Dirksen.

Wednesday, July 24

10 a.m.- House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing, “Building America’s Clean Future: Pathways to Decarbonize the Economy,” 2123 Rayburn.

Thursday, July 25

9 a.m. — USDA releases monthly Food Price Outlook.

9:30 a.m. — Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on hemp production, 328A Russell.

10 a.m. — House Small Business subcommittee hearing, “Supporting the Next Generation of Agricultural Businesses,” 2360 Rayburn.

Friday, July 26

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