President Joe Biden will release his fiscal 2023 budget on Monday, just six months before the new budget year begins, while Senate leaders search for a way to quickly pass a bill aimed at relieving port bottlenecks. 

In the Senate Finance Committee, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai will answer questions about Biden’s trade policy at a hearing on Thursday. Tai last week downplayed the importance of new trade agreements, calling them a “20th century tool.”

Also on Thursday, USDA will provide the first survey-based data on what farmers are likely to plant this spring with the release of the annual Prospective Plantings report. U.S. production of grain and oilseeds is especially critical this year with the crisis in Ukraine. 

The release of the president’s annual budget request, which lays out his priorities for “discretionary” spending programs whose spending is set by annual appropriations bills, allows lawmakers to move forward with the development of spending legislation for the coming fiscal year. 

Congress didn’t finish work on the FY22 spending legislation until March 10. The Agriculture portion of the FY22 bill that funds USDA, the Food and Drug Administration and Commodity Futures Trading Commission totaled $25.1 billion, an increase of 6% above FY21.

The White House has kept most details of its FY23 plan under wraps, but Republicans are likely to immediately criticize Biden's proposed defense budget, which would reportedly provide a 4% increase, less than the rate of inflation over the past year.

No White House budget “since I've been in Congress, which is more than y’all have lived here on earth, has ever been adopted. It’s a starting point,” the Senate Appropriations Committee’s top Republican, Richard Shelby of Alabama, told reporters last week. 

Shelby wouldn’t comment directly on the defense request, but he said Russian President Vladimir Putin “has created a more dangerous world than we thought of six months ago.”

Meanwhile, the Ocean Shipping Reform Act could see expedited movement as a stand-alone measure as soon as this week, according to Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D. Thune told Agri-Pulse the bill was being “hotlined,” a process of surveying senators to see what objections they may have to moving the legislation

Assuming the bill can’t pass by unanimous consent, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., could still move the bill relatively quickly via a time agreement that would limit the amount of time spent on amendments, said Thune, who is the bill’s lead GOP sponsor. 

Thune said the House would likely approve the bill without changes once it passes the Senate. 

The House version is notably more prescriptive than the Senate’s, but both seek to end the practice of ships leaving port empty and leaving American ag exports on the docks.

The Senate will also have a busy week continuing to work through procedural hurdles on sprawling legislation to increase American competitiveness with China. The bill is inching toward a conference committee with the House.

Schumer wants to swap out the text of the House-passed America COMPETES Act with the language from the Senate-passed U.S. Innovation and Competition Act and pass it. The amended legislation would then be sent back to the House, which would have to accept the Senate legislation or send the bill to a conference committee to negotiate a compromise version. 

The House COMPETES bill, while similar in some respects to the Senate’s USICA, has significant differences. Notably, the House included OSRA in the package, whereas the Senate did not. The House bill also includes adjustments to the Generalized System of Preferences and Trade Adjustment Assistance programs. GSP expired last year and TAA will expire later this year.

In the House, COMPETES passed along partisan lines with a 222-210 vote. USICA passed with a bipartisan majority in the Senate with a 68-32 vote. 

Meanwhile, the House Agriculture Committee this week will continue its preparation for the next farm bill with a hearing on horticulture and urban agriculture. Previous hearings have focused on the commodity and conservation programs and what the USDA can do to address climate change

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

Monday, March 28

Organic Week in Washington, through Wednesday, InterContinental at the Wharf. 

1:30 p.m. — The Brookings Institution holds a webinar on the future of regulation at the Supreme Court. 

Tuesday, March 29

9 a.m. — Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will speak at the Heritage Foundation on Russia’s war with Ukraine and China’s threat to the U.S. 

10 a.m. — House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with USDA’s inspector general.

10 a.m. — House Agriculture subcommittee hearing, “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: Horticulture and Urban Agriculture,” 1300 Longworth.

10 a.m. — The American Enterprise Institute hosts an event on the past, present and future of U.S.-China relations.

10 a.m. — The Environmental Law Institute holds a webinar on the use of data analytics in environmental compliance and enforcement. 

Wednesday, March 30

1 p.m. — Resources for the Future will host an event on using retrospective analysis to improve federal environmental regulations. 

1:45 p.m. — Senate Small Business Committee hearing, “The Supply Chain Crisis and the Implications for Small Businesses,” 215 Dirksen.

Thursday, March 31

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

10 a.m. — House Agriculture hearing on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, 1300 Longworth.

10 a.m. — The Washington International Trade Association will hold an event on the new sanctions on Russia and what they mean for the multilateral trading system.

10:30 a.m. — House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing, “Connecting America: Oversight of the FCC,” 2123 Rayburn.

Noon — USDA releases annual Prospective Plantings and quarterly Grain Stocks reports. 

Friday, April 1

9:30 a.m. — House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis hearing, “America’s Natural Solutions: The Climate Benefits of Investing in Healthy Ecosystems,” HVC-210.

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