Senators are trying to find an agreement on a new Ukraine supplemental spending bill by the end of this week, while Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and other cabinet members head to Capitol Hill for questioning about their spending plans.
Also this week, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers on Monday will hold the first of a series of roundtables to gather input on the Biden administration’s plans to do another write of a new “waters of the U.S.” rule redefining the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden will visit a farm in Kankakee, Illinois, to draw attention to the impact that the war in Ukraine is having on food prices. Earlier in the day, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will provide the latest update on inflation with release of the Consumer Price Index, indicating what prices did in April. Supermarket prices rose 1.5% in March and were up 10% over the year earlier.
The Ukraine supplemental could have implications for agriculture. The White House asked for $500 million to increase U.S. agricultural production, including crop insurance incentives for double cropping winter wheat and soybeans and a temporary increase in marketing loan assistance rates.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said the Senate is trying to reach an agreement by the end of this week on the supplemental.
“We hope certainly to have agreement sometime next week, and then [Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer] will have to decide when it comes to the floor,” Stabenow said last week.
But senators have been tepid in their reception of the White House proposal, particularly over whether it would actually increase production levels of U.S. farmers.
The top Republican on the Agriculture Committee, John Boozman of Arkansas, told Agri-Pulse he’d rather explore alternatives to what the White House is offering, such as cropping land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program.
“We really don't feel like that it (the president’s proposal) would make any difference,” Boozman said. “So, we're very much into trying to find some ways that would actually incentivize increased production.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, also cast doubt on whether the provisions would have a tangible effect unless it included incentivizing farmers to take land out of conservation for cropping, but said he would “consider” the proposal.
Stabenow said she’s working with Boozman and others to figure out “how [it] would work and what the impact would be.”
“I’m supportive of doing that, but we’ve got to figure out how you would actually make it work,” Stabenow said of the spending.
The White House request also included $100 million for the Food for Progress program, through which U.S. ag commodities are purchased and then sold for cash to fund projects that improve agricultural production in needy countries. Another $20 million is earmarked for the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust, which also funds purchases of U.S. commodities.
School nutrition directors are pushing lawmakers to also include an extension of school nutrition waivers issued at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that among other things allowed schools to offer free meals to all students, regardless of their families' ability to pay for them.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blocked the waiver extensions from being included in the fiscal 2022 funding legislation enacted in March, but Stabenow is trying again to get them included in the Ukraine supplemental, Roll Call reported Friday.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday will appear before the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee to testify on the fiscal 2023 budget request for USDA, and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Wednesday and Thursday will appear back-to-back at appropriations hearings in the Senate and the House.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will appear before the House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday.
On Wednesday U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power will appear twice, first with the House State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee and again before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Power is almost certain to be questioned about the impact of the Ukraine water on global food security, and the Senate State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee will have a hearing Wednesday afternoon specifically focused on the food crisis. David Beasley, executive director of the UN World Food Program, will be among the witnesses at that hearing.
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):
Monday, May 9
10:30 p.m. — EPA and Army Corps of Engineers host a virtual Midwest regional roundtable on revisions to the waters of the U.S. rule.
4 p.m. — USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Tuesday, May 10
10 a.m. — Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, 124 Dirksen.
10 a.m. - USDA Equity Commission meeting.
1 p.m. — House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Wednesday, May 11
President Joe Biden travels to a farm in Kankakee, Illinois, to discuss the impact of the war in Ukraine on food supplies and prices.
8:30 a.m. — Bureau of Labor Statistics releases monthly Consumer Price Index.
9 a.m. — Farm Foundation online forum, “Farm, Food, and the Policies and Practices Behind America’s Dietary Health.”
10 a.m. — House State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power.
10 a.m. - USDA Equity Commission meeting.
2 p.m. — Senate Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. 192 Dirksen.
2 p.m. — House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Customs and Border Patrol with Commissioner Chris Magnus.
2 p.m. - Senate State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, "The Global Food Security and COVID-19 Crises: U.S. Response and Policy Options," 192 Dirksen.
2:30 p.m. — Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing with U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power.
Thursday, May 12
8:30 a.m. — USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
9:30 a.m. — House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on fiscal 2023 budget request for the Commerce Department with Secretary Gina Raimondo.
10 a.m. — House Agriculture Committee hearing on the FTX proposal to clear swaps trades.
1 p.m. — Bipartisan Policy Center webinar on the future of the World Trade Organization.
Friday, May 13
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