President Joe Biden delivers his state of the union message this week amid a world crisis that is further clouding his political agenda while congressional appropriators face a March 11 deadline for finalizing their 2022 spending legislation five months into the fiscal year. 

Also this week, USDA’s Equity Commission will hold its first meeting on Monday to start analyzing how the department’s programs and policies perpetuate or worsen racial, economic, health and social disparities. 

The commission, which is charged with developing recommendations for the Biden administration, will be led by Deputy Agriculture Secretary Jewel Bronaugh and Arturo Rodriguez, former president of the United Farm Workers

And in a case with implications for rural power rates and the government’s environmental regulatory authority more broadly, the Supreme Court will hear arguments Monday in a challenge to EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. 

An analysis by ClearView Energy Partners says the case "has become a key vehicle in political efforts to push back on the Biden Administration’s broad, 'whole-of-government' decarbonization agenda."

The House Agriculture Committee, meanwhile, continues its preparations for the next farm bill by holding a hearing Tuesday for farm commodity groups to express their concerns and priorities. Top USDA officials, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, have been the witnesses at the first three hearings. 

Biden's climate agenda dominated much of the discussion during hearings earlier this month with the administrators of the Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service, and with Robert Bonnie, the undersecretary for farm production and conservation

The Senate Agriculture Committee is expected to start its farm bill hearings in the spring,

Meanwhile, leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee have less than two weeks to reach an agreement on a governmentwide, omnibus spending bill to fund the government through the rest of fiscal 2022, which began Oct. 1. Congress has passed three successive continuing resolutions to keep the government operating at FY11 levels. The latest CR expires March 11. 

The CRs also have temporarily extended authority to operate USDA's livestock price reporting system and a sharp increase in assistance for participants in the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program to buy fruits and vegetables

Both Biden and congressional Democrats will have a lot at stake Tuesday night when he gives his first state of the union message with the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a backdrop. In a remark Friday illustrative of how the crisis was affecting Biden, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said it was too soon to say how the speech would "address a developing conflict." 

Biden's job approval rating remains mired at just above 40%, according to the website FiveThirtyEight’s average of polls. 

Biden’s signature spending plan, the Build Back Better bill, is stalled in the Senate and there has been no sign of any significant negotiations to save even a portion of it. The bill’s $555 billion in climate measures include about $80 billion for agriculture and forestry spending. 

Democrats also hold a relatively narrow lead in generic-ballot polling, which could suggest a strong GOP showing in the midterm elections. Democrats currently lead polls by an average of 43.8% to 41.1%, virtually the same margin they led by before the 2010 election in which they lost control of the House, according to FiveThirtyEight. A Fox News poll released Friday had Republicans with a four-point advantage, 49% to 45%.

The Senate Ag Committee continues work this week on pending nominations. On Wednesday, the committee will consider four nominees to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission: Christy Goldsmith Romero, Kristin Johnson, Summer Kristine Mersinger and Caroline Pham.

CFTC normally has five members but currently has only two, Chairman Rostin Behnam and Dawn Stump, a Republican and former Senate Agriculture Committee aide whose term ends in April. 

Stump didn’t seek a new, five-year term, so confirmation of the four nominees would restore the commission to five members after she leaves. 

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

Sunday, Feb. 27

International Sweetener Colloquium meeting through Tuesday, Tucson. Agri-Pulse Editor Sara Wyant speaks on March 1.

Monday, Feb. 28

National Farmers Union annual meeting, through Tuesday, Denver.

11:30 a.m. — USDA Equity Commission meeting.

Tuesday, March 1

Noon — House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on farm bill commodity programs, 1300 Longworth. 

9 p.m. — President Joe Biden delivers his state of the union address to Congress.

Wednesday, March 2

10 a.m. — House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing, “ From gray to green: Advancing the science of nature-based infrastructure.”

10 a.m. — Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on pending nominations to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, 216 Hart. 

10 a.m. — Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure law, 106 Dirksen.

11 a.m. — Agri-Pulse webinar: “Driven by Data: Innovation in Crop Insurance and Conservation.”

Thursday, March 3

8 a.m. — World Resources Institute webinar: “What Does Cropland Expansion Mean for People and the Planet?”

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

Friday, March 4

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