President Joe Biden is meeting with a group of Democratic and Republican lawmakers today to build support for his giant $2.7 trillion infrastructure package, the American Jobs Plan.
So far, there’s little reason to believe that he’ll win over many, if any, Republicans, especially unless he agrees to scale it back significantly and agrees to pay for it some other way than by increases in corporate taxes.
“I'm hoping we will have some bipartisan support across the board,” Biden said on Friday. “I’ve already spoken to some of my Republican colleagues about dealing with the infrastructure legislation we have up there, as well as other budget items.”
But one of the GOP senators who will be there, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, told ABC News on Sunday that the price tag was “way too high.”
Why it matters: Biden needs to win over Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., if the package is going to pass the Senate through the budget reconciliation process. And Manchin used a Washington Post op-ed last week to warn against over-using the reconciliation process to pass bills on a partisan basis.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., defended the scope of the infrastructure plan during an interview with CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday: “Hopefully the need is so obvious now that Republicans will vote for it. We'll see.”
For more on this week’s policy agenda in D.C., read our Washington Week Ahead.
Biden seeks big shift US spending priorities
Biden on Friday finally released a long-overdue outline of his budget priorities. While it’s only a bare-bones summary of what he’d like to do, one thing is clear: He wants a dramatic shift in spending from defense to domestic priorities. The latter include addressing climate change and beefing up regulatory agencies.
The plan would increase non-defense discretionary spending by nearly 16% while holding defense spending relatively flat. By comparison, the Trump administration proposed cutting domestic spending by 7% last year, notes the consulting firm Michael Best Strategies.
The chairman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., welcomed the proposed spending on climate policy as well as on nutrition assistance, housing, schools and other Biden priorities. “The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare many issues Americans are having and it is Congress’ duty to respond. When we invest in America, we are setting Americans up for success.”
But Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense calls the budget summary a “carnival mirror” – thin on details but fat when it comes to spending.
Read our report on the budget summary and Biden’s spending priorities for USDA and other agencies here.
Biden taps former labor attorney to run OSHA
Biden continues to emphasize union experience as he fills out the leadership at the Department of Labor, announcing his intent to nominate Douglas Parker to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Parker, chief of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health since 2019, was an attorney at the United Mine Workers from 1997-2000 and served in the Mine Safety and Health Administration at Labor for more than five years during the Obama administration.
Take note: Under Parker, Cal/OSHA issued its own emergency temporary standards for COVID-19 specifying workplace conditions, and an executive order directed the Labor Department to consider whether an ETS was necessary.
By the way: Under Biden’s budget, DOL’s worker protection programs would get an increase of $304 million to $2.1 billion.
NRCS Soil Conservationist Robin Amie in South Carolina. (USDA)
NRCS committed to bolstering staff in field offices
The acting chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Terry Crosby, says he’s committed to making sure the agency is adequately staffed in local offices across the country. The agency is currently trying to hire some 1,500 staff members.
“From soil conservationists to technicians, to foresters, to biologists, soil scientists, we’re looking at all of our disciplines,” he told Agri-Pulse.
NRCS employs approximately 11,500 people in its 2,900 offices. Ninety percent work outside the D.C. area.
Corteva moving away from dicamba
Corteva Agriscience is dropping its effort to get a developmental dicamba product approved by EPA.
The “business decision” will allow EPA to focus its resources “on other important agricultural technologies and Corteva to focus its resources on our leading Enlist weed control system,” the company said Friday, confirming a report in DTN Progressive Farmer.
The company expects to increase its market share for the Enlist system from 20% of soybean acres last year to 30% or more this season.
Keep in mind: The decision to move away from dicamba technology allows Corteva to avoid potential surprises in the future as EPA continues to face legal challenges to the drift-prone herbicide from both environmental and commodity groups.
Brazil soybean exports blast off
Brazil’s soybean exports got off to a slow start this year thanks to a delayed harvest, but the Brazilians are already at a record pace for overseas shipments after a very busy March, according to USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service.
Brazil shipped a record 13.5 million metric tons in March – the second month of its current marketing year – beating the record 10.9 million tons in March, last year, and FAS says April may be another record-breaking month for exports.
“With an extensive line-up remaining, the potential for record shipments in April, exceeding last year’s 14.9 million tons, is a possibility,” the agency said.
US beef exports to China surge in 2021
U.S. meat exports continue to be hampered by congestion at West Coast ports, but U.S. beef shipments to China continue to rise at a record pace and Philippine importers are increasingly importing more U.S. pork to make up for damage from African swine fever.
The Chinese imported 16,506 metric tons of U.S. beef worth $124.1 million in the first two months of 2021, according to the latest data compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation. That’s more than 1,000% above the pace of shipments in the same period last year.
U.S. pork exports to the Philippines in January and February together are twice what the U.S. shipped in the two months last year, says USMEF. That pace is expected to increase now that the Philippines is raising its quota for imports and lowering tariff rates.
He said it. "We are willing to negotiate with him on an infrastructure package. And this trillion-dollar number is way too high for me … but negotiation has to be something different from what we had on the rescue plan.” - Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., to ABC News on today’s meeting with Biden about his infrastructure plan.
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