Lawmakers are staring at yet another government funding deadline with little sign of progress on a deal for fiscal 2022 spending, while ag groups await the Biden administration’s launch of its signature initiative for developing markets for low-carbon agricultural commodities.
Congress has kept the government operating at FY21 levels since Oct. 1 under a pair of continuing resolutions, the latest of which expires Feb. 18. Congress either has to pass its FY22 spending legislation by then or pass another temporary CR to avert a partial government shutdown.
More than government funding is at stake: Legal authority for USDA’s livestock reporting system would expire Feb. 18 if not extended by a new CR, as well as an increase in fruit and vegetable allotments for participants in the Women, Infants and Children nutrition assistance program.
Democratic and Republican negotiators have yet to agree on top-line spending limits for fiscal 2022, much less other details of the funding legislation.
“We have to get a deal,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters Friday, saying that leaving the government funded at FY21 levels was putting national security at risk. Asked if Republicans were negotiating in “good faith,” she replied, “We’re having our conversations.”
But with the House due to be out of session the week of Feb. 14, Pelosi may have no choice but to agree to another short-term CR. The House could consider a three-week extension of government funding as soon as Tuesday, Roll Call reported, citing sources.
The Biden administration’s climate-smart commodities initiative won’t need funding approval from Congress; Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is planning to use about $1 billion from the department’s Commodity Credit Corp. account to fund a series of projects that are aimed at measuring the impact of climate-related agriculture practices on greenhouse gas emissions with the ultimate goal of making the commodities marketable as low-carbon.
The use of cover crops and no-till agriculture in the production of corn, for example, could lower the greenhouse gas emissions of ethanol and help it qualify for California’s low carbon fuel standard and similar programs. The projects also could help farmers qualify for ag carbon credits.
USDA hasn’t publicly announced the launch date for the program, but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is giving a speech on Monday that a stakeholder advisory says will be an update on “USDA’s plan to support climate-smart commodities.”
Robert Bonnie, USDA’s undersecretary for farm production and conservation, told media at last week's Cattle Industry Convention that the projects will help shape the next farm bill as well as demonstrate how commodities can be marketed as climate-smart.
“Our hope is that folks will come forward with projects that they will organize (and then) look for opportunities that they can take advantage of in the market,” he said.
Bonnie is likely to be asked about the initiative at a House Agriculture subcommittee hearing Tuesday where he will testify on farm bill programs.
Also this week, Monday is the deadline for public comment on the Biden administration’s plan to return to the pre-2015 definition of “waters of the United States,” those areas regulated under the Clean Water Act.
The Supreme Court is currently considering a lawsuit over the government’s CWA jurisdiction, and 50 Republicans submitted a letter appealing to the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to drop the plan to rewrite the WOTUS rule.
“Proceeding with the rulemaking at this time, despite the pending litigation and potentially influential ruling, will only deepen uncertainty within the regulated community,” the senators’ letter says.
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):
Monday, Feb. 7
Deadline for submitting public comments on the Biden administration’s plan to redefine the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.
Tuesday, Feb. 8
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives annual meeting, through Thursday, Scottsdale, Ariz.
10 a.m. — House Agriculture subcommittee hearing with Robert Bonnie, USDA undersecretary for farm production and conservation, 1300 Longworth.
Wednesday, Feb. 9
10 a.m. — Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, “Examining Digital Assets: Risks, Regulation, and Innovation,” 106 Dirksen.
10 a.m. — Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on implementation of the Great American Outdoors Act, 366 Dirksen.
10:30 a.m. — House Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth hearing, “Connecting Americans to Prosperity: How Infrastructure can Bolster Inclusive Economic Growth,” 2167 Rayburn.
Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau annual meeting, Feb. 9-11, Indian Wells, California.
Thursday, Feb. 10
8:30 a.m. — USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
8:30 a.m. — Bureau of Labor Statistics releases monthly Consumer Price Index.
Friday, Feb. 11
National Cotton Council annual meeting, though Sunday, Houston.
For more news, go to: www.Agri-Pulse.com.