The House ventures into the debate over livestock pricing this week, taking up a bill that would require USDA to compile data on cattle contracts, while congressional Democratic leaders try to find a way to raise the debt ceiling and finalize a Senate deal on their Build Back Better plan.

The House will vote on both an extension of authority for USDA’s livestock price reporting system and on a separate measure sponsored by Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., to create the contract library at USDA.

The bill is backed by several influential ag and beef industry organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, National Farmers Union and the Livestock Marketing Association. A more far-reaching bill introduced in the Senate last month includes the contract library requirement as well as provisions requiring USDA to set regional mandatory minimum thresholds of negotiated trades. 

The House also will vote on a bill that would extend USDA’s price reporting authority through Sept. 30. A continuing resolution that President Joe Biden signed into law on Friday would extend authority for the program until Feb. 18 along with funding the government until that date. The bill could ultimately serve as a vehicle for the contract library measure and other provisions. 

The House also is scheduled to debate a bill called the Ocean Shipping Reform Act that seeks to stop Chinese exporters from paying ocean carriers to return containers empty instead of filling up with U.S. Asian-bound goods. The measure, co-sponsored by Johnson and Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., is backed by more than 100 ag groups and companies. 

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are pushing ahead with trying to finalize changes to the House-passed Build Back Better package of climate and social spending measures.

The Senate’s revised ag provisions, obtained by Agri-Pulse, would increase the bill’s funding for USDA conservation technical assistance by more than $2 billion while also boosting the House bill’s agricultural research funding.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has insisted that he wants to get the bill passed before the end of the year. But Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has indicated that he remains concerned that the bill would worsen inflation, and it’s unclear whether Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., will support quick passage of the legislation.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Agri-Pulse Saturday that Republicans have been talking to Manchin and Sinema as well as Democratic leaders. "The fact that the two of them aren't on board yet is why they haven't called the vote yet. ... If neither Manchin nor Sinema get on board before Christmas there won't be a vote before Christmas," McConnell said. 

Punchbowl reported Friday that Sinema has been privately telling colleagues she doesn’t think the bill will pass until after Christmas.

She was noncommittal when pressed by CNN on her plans. “I personally believe that the best way to create legislation is to be thoughtful and careful so that we're crafting legislation that truly represents the interests that we want to achieve and that creates a benefit and helps people all across Arizona and the country,” she said.

Friday’s release of the Consumer Price Index could have an impact on the politics surrounding the bill. Prices rose 0.9% in October and were up 6.2% over the 12 months.

Meanwhile, Democrats are trying to find a way to pass an increase in the debt ceiling over the opposition of Republicans.

One idea that’s been floated is to tie the debt ceiling increase to a defense authorization bill pending in the Senate, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the measure likely couldn’t pass the House.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., reiterated that Republicans won’t help pass an increase in the debt limit.

“The debt ceiling is coming before us at the same time you want to pass the largest bill in the history of America. … If that’s what the Democrats want to do, it’s their responsibility," he said. 

The Senate could consider a measure this week that would use the Congressional Review Act to strike down the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for private employers. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., needs only a simple majority to pass the Senate, and it has the support of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

The amendment has little chance of passing the Democratic-controlled House, however.

Braun called the mandate a “federal outreach that will wreak havoc on our recovering economy and trample on the rights of millions of Americans.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration suspended work last month on the mandate following a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision staying the rule.

The Senate also this week will take up the nominations of Federal Communications Commission Chairperson Jessica Rosenworcel to a new, 5-year term on the panel and Tucson, Ariz., Police Chief Chris Magnus to be commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The FCC plays a major role in the expansion of rural broadband. Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, recently praised Rosenworcel as “a straight shooter in a town that is predisposed to spin.

“You know when she respectfully disagrees with you, when she sees your point but needs more information or data, and when your policy goals—like connecting all Americans to the internet— align.”

The biofuel industry remains on the lookout for the EPA’s long-delayed release of the annual biofuel usage mandates.

Under the 2007 energy law, EPA was to finalize the renewable volume obligations by Nov. 30 for the following year’s ethanol production and for the biodiesel production the year after that. EPA’s proposed RVOs have been under White House review since August.

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

Monday, Dec. 6

American Seed Trade Association annual CSS and Seed Expo, through Thursday, Chicago.

Tuesday, Dec. 7

10 a.m. — House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on research and development to address PFAS contamination.

10 a.m. — Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee hearing, “Uncharted Waters: Challenges Posed by Ocean Shipping Supply Chains,” 253 Russell.

The Almond Conference kicks off in Sacramento, California.

Wednesday, Dec. 8

10 a.m. — House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on USDA nutrition distribution programs.

Thursday, Dec. 9

8:30 a.m. — USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.

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

Friday, Dec. 10

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