The House is expected to clear a bill Monday that's aimed at ending port bottlenecks and later pass a package of measures that Democrats claim will help bring food, fertilizer and fuel prices under control.
President Joe Biden is pitching the Senate-passed Ocean Shipping Reform Act as critical to helping bring down inflation, although its main impact on agriculture would be in potentially lowering shipping rates and ensuring more access to container vessels.
Inflation is shaping up to be a major drag for Democrats in the mid-term elections. Speaking at the Port of Los Angeles on Friday, Biden said the foreign-owned ocean carriers that control U.S.-Asia routes have raised rates by as much as 1,000% in one year.
“I'm hopeful the House is going to act soon to crack down on these companies, as I've asked, and lower the cost,” Biden said.
In a conversation with Biden last week, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said he told him farmers have “lost out on more than $25 billion in agricultural exports over the past six months due to ocean shipping constraints. That’s unacceptable.”
The House also will consider the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act, which is made up of seven bills, including a controversial measure that would create a special investigator’s office in USDA’s Packers and Stockyards Division.
Other measures included in the package are intended to allow year-around sales of E15; fund additional biofuel infrastructure; increase payments under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program for nutrient management practices; increase funding for precision agriculture; establish a USDA-run Agricultural and Food System Supply Chain Resilience and Crisis Response Task Force; and authorize loan guarantees for meat and poultry processing expansion;
While GOP House members are lead sponsors of some of those measures, the House Agriculture Committee’s top Republican, Glenn “GT” Thompson, said the legislation would do nothing to address inflation.
"If Democrats were serious about enacting real solutions to address the headwinds Americans are facing, they would stop blaming industry and simply undo the administration’s harmful policies that are stymieing domestic agriculture production and harming our economy,” he said.
The Senate Agriculture Committee is expected to consider its version of the USDA investigator bill next week, along with another measure that would mandate minimum levels of cash trading in the cattle market.
Also this week, the House Appropriations Committee will start moving its spending bills for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. The Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee will vote Wednesday on the fiscal 2023 measure to fund the Agriculture Department, Food and Drug Administration and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The full Appropriations Committee will then debate amendments to the bill on June 23.
The House's FY23 bills are almost certain to be trimmed before they become law, since the House and Senate have yet to agree on overall spending levels for FY23.
Biden has proposed a 9% increase for USDA in FY23, including more money for agricultural research and conservation technical assistance and a new round of funding for rural broadband expansion.
Also this week, the House Agriculture Committee will continue its preparing for writing the next farm bill by holding a hearing Tuesday on nutrition programs other than the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Those include the Emergency Food Assistance Program, or TEFAP, which serves food banks, the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, and the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, a grant program for projects that encourage purchases of fruits and vegetables.
A committee hearing Wednesday will focus on the role of climate-related research programs in "supporting agricultural resiliency."
On Friday, the Senate Ag Committee will hold a farm bill field hearing at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Ark. Arkansas is the home state of the committee's top Republican, John Boozman. During the first hearing in the home state of Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., the Michigan producers who testified offered few in the way of specific suggestions for modifying farm bill programs, reflecting the fact that farm groups have been holding off on developing specific policy proposals.
Friday also is the deadline for filing comments with the Securities and Exchange Commission on its proposed rule that would require publicly trade companies to track and disclose greenhouse gas emissions in their supply chains.
Thirty-two Republican senators are calling on the SEC to withdraw the proposal, saying in a letter that the rule “would place a major reporting burden on the many agricultural producers that provide raw products to the value-chain.”
The rule’s defenders claim the concerns are overstated and that corporations could rely on industry-wide emissions data from agriculture.
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):
Monday, June 13
World Trade Organization 12th Ministerial Conference, through Wednesday, Geneva.
3 p.m. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers hold virtual Southwest-focused roundtable on the “waters of the U.S.” rule.
4 p.m. - USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Tuesday, June 14
10 a.m.. - House Agriculture Committee hearing on non-SNAP nutrition programs in the farm bill, 1300 Longworth.
10 a.m. - Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the Western drought, 366 Dirksen.
Wednesday, June 15
9:30 a.m. - Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, 138 Dirksen.
10 a.m. - House Agriculture Committee hearing, "The Role of Climate Research in Supporting Agricultural Resiliency,” 1300 Longworth.
2:30 p.m. - Brookings Institution webinar, “Reshaping the economic narrative around America’s rural communities.”
2:30 p.m. - House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee meeting to consider its fiscal 2023 spending bill, 2359 Rayburn.
3 p.m. - Senate Finance subcommittee hearing on supply chain resiliency, 215 Dirksen.
Thursday, June 16
8:30 a.m. — USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
9 a.m. - House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee meeting to consider its FY23 spending bill, 2359 Rayburn.
3 p.m. - American Enterprise Institute forum, “Evaluating the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021,” 1789 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
Friday, June 17
Deadline for comments to the Securities and Exchange Commission for its proposed rule on corporate climate change disclosures.
10 a.m. - Senate Agriculture Committee field hearing on the farm bill, Jonesboro, Ark.
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