The House Agriculture Committee launches an in-depth examination of farm bill programs this week, starting with a hearing on conservation spending, and the full House will debate a competitiveness bill that seeks to bolster trade remedies and address trade with developing countries.

The America COMPETES Act would increase the benefits available under the Trade Adjustment Assistance to Farmers to make the program more attractive to producers harmed by foreign trade, and the Generalized System of Preferences program would be renewed with new environmental and labor requirements. GSP provides duty-free treatment to exports from qualified poor countries. 

And one of many provisions in the bill directed at China seeks to make it harder for foreign exporters to evade U.S. antidumping duties. 

“Strengthening our supply chains and combatting China’s trade practices that distort the global market are bipartisan priorities, and I know members on both sides of the aisle want to ensure American workers, manufacturers, and farmers have all the tools they need to succeed in the world economy," said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass.

Meanwhile, the fate of a key cattle market reform proposal is at stake as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association meets in Houston for its annual convention. At issue is whether NCBA will throw its support behind requirements for cash purchasing of cattle by meatpackers.

The House and Senate are back in session this week with lawmakers staring at a Feb. 18 deadline to either agree on a much-delayed government funding bill for fiscal 2022 or else pass another short-term extension that would keep spending at FY21 levels.  

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., warned colleagues on Friday that they could be called back into session the week ahead of the funding deadline. Without a funding agreement or another temporary extension, the government would partially shut down on Feb. 19.

Democratic leaders and the White House also are under pressure to find some agreement on a pared-down version of President Joe Biden's $1.7 trillion Build Back Better bill that can pass the Senate. At stake are $90 billion in agriculture and nutrition spending as well as new tax incentives for biofuels.

The chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, called on the Senate last week to pass a new version of the legislation by March 1, when Biden is scheduled to make his state of the union address.

“This is both achievable and necessary. There is agreement among Senate Democrats on significant parts of this bill: climate action, the care economy, taking on Big Pharma’s price gouging, and lowering health care costs,” said Jayapal.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., insisted during an appearance in San Francisco on Friday that there is no timetable for passing a compromise bill.

“That is an aspiration that they have,” Pelosi said of the progressives’ March 1 deadline. “We will pass the bill when we have the votes to pass the bill."

The House Agriculture Committee will be holding farm bill listening sessions throughout the country this year as well as hearings in Washington, said Rep. Cheri Bustos, the Illinois Democrat who chairs the Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management.

“I am full of questions for people who farm for a living to make sure that the policy that will impact their families and their livelihoods, that we’re getting that right in the 2023 farm bill,” Bustos said in an interview for Agri-Pulse’s Washington Week in Review.

The Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry kicks off the schedule with a hearing on Wednesday on conservation programs, which would be substantially expanded under the BBB bill.

A House Ag subcommittee is set to gather the next day to explore sustainability in the livestock sector.

NCBA’s debate over possible cash trading requirements takes special importance following the American Farm Bureau Federation’s announced opposition to the cash trade mandates in a bipartisan bill led by Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

If NCBA also opts to come out against the cash trade requirements, the opposition of two of the biggest ag policy players in Washington could leave the market reforms in serious jeopardy.  

While nothing will be official until NCBA’s board of directors meets Thursday, the organization’s subcommittee studying the issue is set to gather Wednesday; NCBA already has policy on the books opposing marketing mandates, so a change to that position would represent a stunning reversal from a group known for its wariness of government intervention in the marketplace. 

The ongoing supply chain crisis also will get a focus this week. On Monday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and President Biden’s ports envoy, John Porcari, will be discussing the issue at a webinar sponsored by Agri-Pulse.

Other speakers will include Reps. John Garamendi, D-Calif., and Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., co-sponsors of the House-passed Ocean Shipping Reform Act, as well as Andrew Hwang of the Port of Oakland and John Eisen of the American Trucking Association.

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

Monday, Jan. 31

1 p.m. — Agri-Pulse webinar, “Digging into the Ag Export Supply Chain Crisis and How to Fix It,” National Press Club.

Tuesday, Feb. 1

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association annual Cattle Industry Convention, Houston.

10:15 a.m. — Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing on the nominations of Shalanda Young to be director of the Office of Management and Budget and Nani Coloretti to be deputy director, 342 Dirksen.

2:30 p.m. — Senate Budget Committee hearing on the Young and Coloretti nominations, 216 Hart.

2:30 p.m. — Senate Commerce-Science-Justice Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Commerce Department’s implementation of broadband funding in the bipartisan infrastructure bill, 192 Dirksen.

Wednesday, Feb. 2

10 a.m. — House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on farm bill conservation programs.

Thursday, Feb. 3

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

10 a.m. — House Agriculture subcommittee hearing, “Sustainability in the Livestock Sector: Environmental Gain and Economic Viability.”

Friday, Feb. 4

Spencer Chase contributed to this report. 

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