Senate Democrats are seeking quick confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court this week, while U.S. agriculture and other export-minded sectors are watching what the House does with the Senate-passed Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which is intended to ease port bottlenecks.

President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court nominee will get a vote in the Judiciary Committee on Monday, and she could get a full Senate vote this week ahead of an upcoming two-week congressional recess. 

Jackson, a member of the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia who once upheld mandatory country-of-origin labeling for meat, is certain to be confirmed after Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine announced their support. 

Jackson would replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer. Apart from her ruling on MCOOL, she does not have an extensive history of hearing agriculture cases.

Meanwhile, House sponsors of OSRA have left the door open to negotiating further with the Senate on certain provisions cut from the House bill in the Senate package, but industry groups are signaling there is little appetite for extended negotiations getting in the way of Biden signing it into law. 

In public statements and conversations with Agri-Pulse, House leaders have largely steered clear of specifying sticking points. But in weeks past House negotiators have specified the lack of minimum service standards in the Senate bill as a potential issue and expressed a desire to have them placed back in the package. 

The Senate version is significantly less prescriptive than the House-passed bill. The Senate measure lacks a mandate requiring carriers to take American goods or the imposition of minimum service standard requirements on carriers – both of which are included in the House version. 

But both versions would open the door to a crackdown on ocean carriers as well as give the Federal Maritime Commission a significant boost in authority over ocean carriers. 

A lead House sponsor, South Dakota GOP Rep. Dusty Johnson, told Agri-Pulse last week that House leaders strongly feel certain provisions should be added back in, but stopped short of calling them dealbreakers. 

“Leaders on this bill in the House feel strongly that a couple of provisions in the House version that are not in the Senate version really do need to be reinserted,” Johnson said. “But these are still very similar vehicles, that would have a pretty substantial improvement on the supply chain system long term.”

In the Senate this week, lawmakers are racing to find a deal to provide additional COVID-19 funding left out of the fiscal 2023 omnibus legislation. Republicans are insisting Democrats offset the costs with previously approved dollars gone unspent.

Meanwhile, the House Ag Committee has two farm bill hearings, one on the use of renewable energy in rural areas and another on international trade. 

Also this week, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is releasing a report Monday focusing on mitigation measures, including the potential of the agriculture sector to lower carbon emissions. The report is expected to look at a variety of measures, including costs and benefits of carbon capture and sequestration, which is now being looked at as a strategy to offset emissions from the production of ethanol, with three CCS pipelines proposed in the Midwest.

Agri-Pulse on Thursday will host a webinar, “Rural renaissance: How investments in transmission modernization can drive rural economic development.” Sponsored by the Americans for a Clean Energy Grid, the hour-long session will look at how expanding, integrating and modernizing the North American high-voltage grid can drive rural economic development.

Participating in the webinar are USDA Undersecretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small; Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla.; Rural Utilities Service Administrator Chris McLean; Rob Gramlich, executive director of Americans for a Clean Energy Grid; and Denise Bode, who leads the federal policy practice at Michael Best Strategies. 

USDA’s Farm Service Agency on Monday will begin enrolling landowners in the Grassland Conservation Reserve Program. Farmers can graze, hay, and produce seed on that land held in Grassland CRP under contracts for 10 or 15 years. The deadline for applying for the program is May 13

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

Monday, April 4

10 a.m. — Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, 216 Hart. 

10 a.m. — The American Enterprise Institute webinar with Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and former FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai on how states should use broadband funds in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.  

4 p.m. — USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report. 

Tuesday, April 5

10 a.m. — House Agriculture Committee hearing, “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: Energy-Renewable Energy Opportunities in Rural America,” 1300 Longworth. 

10 a.m. — Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee hearing on the implementation of the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act, 406 Dirksen. 

10 a.m. — Senate Finance Committee hearing on the fiscal 2023 budget for the Department of Health and Human Services, 215 Dirksen. 

2 p.m. — House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the fiscal 2023 budget for HHS, 1100 Longworth. 

Wednesday, April 6

10  a.m. — House Agriculture Committee hearing, “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: International Trade and Food Assistance Programs,” 1300 Longworth. 

10 a.m. — Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on EPA’s FY2023 budget. 

10:30 a.m. — House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee hearing on high oil and gas prices, 2123 Rayburn. 

11 a.m. — USDA releases monthly update on international livestock and meat trade

3 p.m. — USDA releases monthly update on agricultural trade data

Thursday, April 7

UN Food and Agriculture Organization releases its monthly Food Price Index

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

 9 a.m. — House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis hearing on cost-saving climate solutions, 1334 Longworth. 

11 a.m. — Agri-Pulse webinar, “Rural renaissance: How investments in transmission modernization can drive rural economic development/webinar.”

11 a.m. — The Washington International Trade Association webinar on the war in Ukraine and food security. 

1 p.m. — House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on the Russian seafood ban and seafood traceability, 1324 Longworth. 

Friday, April 8

Philip Brasher and Steve Davies contributed to this report. 

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