The House is back in session today with plans to focus on must-pass bills this summer, with fewer of the political messaging votes that are often typical for an election year.
On Thursday, the House will vote on a bipartisan bill to provide some new flexibility to the popular Paycheck Protection Program, including extending the period that the loan proceeds can be used and still forgiven. The limit is now eight weeks. The bill would extend that to 24 weeks and also remove the requirement that 75% of the money be spent on payroll.
Senators have been considering a shorter extension to 16 weeks. But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters Tuesday he doesn’t expect that issue to be a problem in ultimately enacting the standalone measure.
In the coming weeks, the House agenda will focus on the water resources and surface transportation reauthorization bills as well as the 12 annual appropriations bills, Hoyer says.
By the way: This is the first week that the House will be proxy voting since Democrats pushed through the process to accommodate members who were concerned about traveling back to D.C. Committee votes will continue to be held online.
A number of House Democrats have filed notice of their proxy voting plans. They include senior House Ag Committee member Filemon Vela of Texas, who has granted his proxy to Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego. Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader granted his to fellow Blue Dog Coalition leader Tom O’Halleran of Arizona.
Dems signal willingness to talk on liability
House Democrats are open to negotiations with the Senate Republicans over liability protections for employers, an issue of concern to farms and food processors. The concern is that workers or consumers could sue businesses over getting the virus.
Hoyer noted that an earlier bill provided some liability protection to 3M and that Democrats will “want to make sure that consumers and patients are protected.”
Analysis: Farmers can’t break even without more CFAP
University of Illinois economists say corn and soybean growers won’t come close to breaking even without another round of coronavirus relief payments this year, and growers are likely to see big losses in 2021 if the government doesn’t step in again.
Futures markets are suggesting little recovery in market prices through 2021. Prices for the 2020 and 2021 corn crops are projected to average $3.55 and $3.25 per bushel respectively, according to the Illinois analysis.
USDA on Tuesday began signing up farmers for $16 billion in coronavirus relief payments. The Senate is expected to consider authorizing additional payments as part of another big aid bill in June or July.
For more on that issue, plus the latest on U.S.-China trade and the growth of E15, be sure and read this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter.
China snaps up US soy, more buys expected
The U.S.-China relationship is frayed with criticism and blame for the COVID-19 pandemic flowing from both sides of the Pacific Ocean, but Chinese importers continue to buy U.S. soybeans under government-approved tariff exclusion program.
USDA reported Tuesday another daily sale of U.S. soybeans to China, this time for 258,000 metric tons. Of that total, 60,000 is for delivery this marketing year and 198,000 tons is for delivery in 2020-21, which begins Sept. 1.
U.S. criticism of China reached a new high Sunday, with White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien comparing China’s handling of COVID-19 to how the Soviet Union dealt with the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl. But the latest dispute comes over Hong Kong and China’s latest push to force Hong Kong to adopt new national security legislation that would restrict protests.
O’Brien, speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, called the legislation “a big mistake” and lauded protestors, but Chinese officials are making it clear they don’t appreciate foreign criticism.
Food Box contractor under fire
There’s more bad news for the San Antonio event planner who received a $39 million contract under the Farmers to Families Food Box program.
Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett called for the contract to CRE8AD8 (pronounced “create a date”) to be canceled after the San Antonio Express-News reported that CEO Greg Palomino “has boasted about clients who say they’ve never worked with him, cited unearned professional credentials and touted business affiliations that can’t be verified.”
CRE8AD8 was one of several companies without Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act licenses to be awarded contracts. The Ag Marketing Service’s ePACA portal now shows USDA granted CRE8AD8 a PACA license on May 21. He’s supposed to start delivering food boxes by June 1.
His company’s website had listed USAA, Valero Energy and Fiesta San Antonio as clients, but those names disappeared after the newspaper started asking questions.
Release of diet recommendations delayed
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has delayed the release of its draft report for a second time, this time to a June 17 webcast.
The meeting will include updates on the committee’s draft conclusion statements along with committee deliberations and decisions regarding its draft report.
The DGAC will finalize the report at the meeting and submit it to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue at the end of June. A new public comment period will start around July 15 and the final report will be released by the end of the year.
Biofuel group asks Wheeler to deny SRE petitions
Biofuel advocates are urging Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler to deny requests to waive past ethanol usage requirements.
“Granting petitions for past compliance years would contradict EPA’s longstanding practice of issuing decisions on petitions for small refinery exemptions for a given compliance year prior to the compliance deadline,” says a letter from the Renewable Fuels Association’s president and CEO, Geoff Cooper.
Cooper argues retrospective requests also would undermine EPA’s regulations. The regulations require each small refinery with uninterrupted exemptions identify the prospective hardship it faces. Currently, the EPA has 27 petitions pending for the 2019 compliance year.
He said it. “We've always been thinking that next year is the year we get back to normal, whatever normal is. Well, normal now might be … low $3 corn and low $8 soybeans for a while,” - University of Illinois economist Gary Schnitkey.
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