Congress faces a Friday deadline to pass a massive bill to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, but negotiations were still far from final heading into the weekend. 

The latest of three successive continuing resolutions that have kept the government funded at fiscal 2021 levels expires Friday. If lawmakers can’t get an omnibus FY22 bill to President Joe Biden by the weekend, they’ll have to pass yet another stopgap spending measure or else the government will partially shut down starting next weekend. 

Complicating hopes for a deal this week is a White House request to add $22 billion in COVID aid to the legislation in addition to supplemental funding for Ukraine. Republicans balked at adding pandemic relief to the package, with some saying they needed to see an accounting for what had already been spent. 

As lawmakers left town last week, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., told reporters the omnibus “negotiations are literally in about 1,000 pieces. No one piece will make or break it.”

He insisted he was still optimistic about meeting the Friday deadline. “I definitely want to and expect to,” he said. 

A long-time GOP member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Roy Blunt of Missouri, said he doubted COVID aid could make it into the bill. The Ukraine funding “probably has more energy at this moment,” he said. 

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, Senate Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., has said she would try to get a vote by the panel on the Senate’s Ocean Shipping Reform Act as soon as this week. While the bill doesn’t go as far as a House-passed measure, it is intended to rein in shipping rates and ease port bottlenecks that have snagged agricultural products and other exports. 

The House included its version in a sweeping international competitiveness bill passed in February. Cantwell said she wants to move the Senate measure as a standalone bill, so it’s clear where the Senate stands on the issue. 

It won’t be easy getting the bill on the floor. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, registered opposition to the Senate bill at a hearing last week, saying the measure could worsen bottlenecks because of the provisions intended to prod carriers to take exports. 

The House Agriculture Committee on Tuesday will continue its examination of farm bill programs with a subcommittee hearing on USDA rural development programs. Last week, the full committee held a 3½ hour hearing on commodity programs

The Ukraine crisis is looming over everything lawmakers do, and the turmoil it’s causing in the grain and fertilizer markets is certain to dominate discussions as grain and oilseed producers, as well as farm equipment manufacturers, hold their annual Commodity Classic in New Orleans. 

Prices for wheat and other commodities have been soaring in recent days, but farmers faced with skyrocketing prices could see even more cost increases due to Russia’s decision to suspend fertilizer exports

The National Corn Growers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, American Soybean Association and National Sorghum Producers will separately debate policy positions during the meeting, but NAWG President Chandler Goule told Agri-Pulse in a Newsmakers interview that the groups would put off deciding their positions on the next farm bill until this summer. Goule said that would give the groups time to gauge the thinking of other ag groups and leaders of the House and Senate Ag Committees

Time is running out for farmers to make their election of farm bill commodity programs this year — Price Loss Coverage and Agriculture Risk Coverage — and to sign up for $5-an-acre payments available to farmers who planted cover crops and have crop insurance. The enrollment deadline for the commodity programs and cover crop payments is March 15. 

As of last Thursday, about 67% of farmers expected to sign up for commodity programs had done so, said Farm Service Agency Administrator Zach Ducheneaux. 

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

Monday, March 7

School Nutrition Association annual legislative action conference, through Tuesday, J.W. Marriott. 

Tuesday, March 8

10 a.m.  — House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on rural development programs in the farm bill, 1300 Longworth.

10 a.m. — House Financial Services Committee hearing, “The Inflation Equation: Corporate Profiteering, Supply Chain Bottlenecks, and COVID-19,” 2128 Rayburn.

10 a.m. — House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing, “Federal Climate Adaptation and Resilience for the 21st Century,”

10:15 a.m. — House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on electric vehicles, 2123 Rayburn.

Wednesday, March 9

9:30 a.m. — House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis hearing, “Confronting Climate Impacts: Federal Strategies for Equitable Adaptation and Resilience,” 210 Cannon.

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

Thursday, March 10

Commodity Classic through Saturday, New Orleans. 

8 a.m. — World Resources Institute webinar: “Food Systems and Biodiversity: Protecting Nature and Producing Nutritious Food in a Changing Climate.”

8:30 a.m. — Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the monthly Consumer Price Index

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

Friday, March 11

General signup deadline for the Conservation Reserve Program. 

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