Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who insists he’s optimistic about a farm economy rebound this year, faces a pair of congressional hearings this week where he is certain to face further grilling about trade prospects and future of the Market Facilitation Program. 

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt will be among other members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet called to Capitol Hill this week for annual hearings on budget and policy issues. 

On Tuesday, Perdue will face the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, where he is likely to face particularly tough questions from majority Democrats about his handling of the MFP and the cuts he is carrying out to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. 

On Thursday, Perdue will testify before the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. 

In testimony before the House Agriculture Committee last week, Perdue insisted that farmers shouldn't expect a third round of MFP this year because of the likelihood of a surge in exports, and he denied strenuously that the 2019 MFP was designed to favor southern growers, an allegation that members of the House Appropriations subcommittee made in an earlier hearing with USDA’s inspector general. Perdue said there "was no predetermined regional demographic or sector bias. ... The complaints about regional bias are just unfounded." 

Subcommittee member Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat who is seeking to chair the full Appropriations Committee in the next Congress, charged that there is already “waste, fraud and abuse” in the program. 

Perdue also will headline the School Nutrition Association's annual legislative conference. SNA, which represents school nutrition directors, has welcomed Perdue's move to provide some relief from requirements imposed by school meal rules the Obama administration implemented under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. 

In comments filed with USDA on the department's most recent proposal, the group said the changes "not only minimize costs, but provide school nutrition professionals with more time and resources to spend in the cafeteria, interacting with students, hosting taste tests, planning nutrition education initiatives and improving menus and operations."

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Agricultural biotechnology also will get a focus this week in D.C. On Tuesday, a partnership between the Farm Foundation, FMI, the Food Industry Association, American Seed Trade Association, American Farm Bureau Federation and Michigan State University will release results of research into consumer attitudes toward gene editing and their willingness to pay for gene-modified products.

On Thursday, the Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on the future of biotechnology and regulatory issues. 

Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., told Agri-Pulse that the hearing would focus in particular on “just where we are from a producer’s standpoint” on using biotechnology to address disease resistance and other issues. 

Tuesday is another critical day in the presidential race. Democrats will vote in six states, Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota and Washington. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is falling behind former Vice President Joe Biden in national polls, needs to pick up his momentum and is putting an emphasis on a win in Michigan.

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

Monday, March 9

School Nutrition Association legislative action conference, through Tuesday, Marriott Marquis. 

Livestock Marketing Association Fly-in, through Tuesday

American Sheep Industry Association Fly-in, through Wednesday

Tuesday, March 10

9 a.m. — Farm Foundation forum, “Consumer Attitudes about Gene Editing,”  National Press Club.

10 a.m. — House Agriculture subcommittee hearing, “U.S. Agricultural Trade: Stakeholder Perspectives, 1300 Longworth 

10 a.m. — House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, 2362-A Rayburn.

10 a.m. — House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, 1324 Longworth.

10 a.m. — Senate Financial Services Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Federal Communications Commission, 562 Dirksen.

10 a.m. — Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, 366 Dirksen. 

Noon — USDA releases monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates and Crop Production report

2 p.m. — House Energy-Water Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation, 2362-B Rayburn.

Wednesday, March 11

National Food Policy Conference, through Thursday, Renaissance DC Downtown Hotel. 

9:30 a.m. — House Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Interior Secretary Bernhardt, 2362-B Rayburn.

10 a.m. — Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee meeting to consider the Access Broadband Act, 253 Russell. 

10 a.m. — Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on Douglas Benevento to be deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, 406 Dirksen.

2:30 p.m. — Senate Energy-Water Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation, 138 Dirksen.

Thursday, March 12

10 a.m. — Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on biotech developments and regulations, 328A Russell.

10:30 a.m. — Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Agriculture Secretary Perdue, 138 Dirksen.

Friday, March 13

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