President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the administration’s chief agricultural negotiator is expected to get committee approval this week as lawmakers start wrapping up their pre-election to-do list.
The biggest piece of unfinished business is to avoid a government shutdown when fiscal 2023 begins Oct. 1. Lawmakers have until Sept. 30 to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government funded into FY23. The CR is expected to run until after the Nov. 8 mid-term elections, likely into December. Democrats and Republicans have yet to even agree on spending levels for FY23.
Biden's trade nominee, Doug McKalip, is expected to be approved easily by the Senate Finance Committee on Monday.
Committee Republicans largely used McKalip's confirmation hearing in July to sharply criticize the Biden trade agenda and didn’t fault his qualifications for a job considered pivotal for the ag sector. Republicans instead pressed their complaints about the administration's lack of interest in negotiating new tariff-cutting trade agreements.
McKalip has served a variety of roles in the Agriculture Department, most recently as an adviser for trade, national security, animal and plant health regulations and other issues.
He also has been a senior adviser at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; before that, he worked on rural affairs at the White House Domestic Policy Council as well as filled several USDA positions such as legislative and public affairs director for Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Also on Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on legislation that would permanently bar the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from livestock. Such a prohibition has been included in annual appropriations bills for the agency, but Congress has to renew the provision annually.
South Dakota Farm Bureau President Scott VanderWal, who will testify at the hearing, told Agri-Pulse he “will emphasize the fact that farmers and ranchers have been working for decades to feed the population while at the same time always looking for better ways to do things.”
Because of industry innovation, greenhouse gas emissions have “decreased significantly in almost every commodity,” he said.
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Senate GOP Whip John Thune of South Dakota, who introduced the Livestock Regulatory Protection Act with Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, will be a witness at the hearing.
Groups supporting the bill include the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, American Sheep Industry Association, National Bison Association, and Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative.
Also on Wednesday, a House Education and Labor subcommittee will hold a hearing on dangers to child farmworkers.
Democratic subcommittee members plan to highlight the “exclusion of child farmworkers from workplace protections that apply to child workers in all other industries under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” according to a Democratic aide.
The hearing also will draw attention to a bill sponsored by retiring Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., that would raise the minimum age to 18 for hazardous farm work and 14 or other ag jobs. Under current law, children as young as 12 can work unlimited hours with parental permission.
USDA, meanwhile, will release on Wednesday its annual report on hunger in the United States, providing data on food-insecure populations in 2021. The report issued a year ago found that more children experienced food insecurity in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, even though the overall rate of food-insecure households in the U.S. remained at 10.5% of the population that year.
A household is considered food insecure if it has "difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members because of a lack of resources.”
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):
Monday, Sept. 5
Tuesday, Sept. 6
4 p.m. - USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Wednesday, Sept. 7
9 a.m. - USDA releases Household Food Security in the United States in 2021 report.
10 a.m. - Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on various bills, including the Livestock Regulatory Protection Act, 406 Dirksen.
10 a.m. - Senate Finance Committee meeting to consider the nomination of Doug McKalip to be chief agricutlural trade negotiator, 215 Dirksen.
Noon - House Education and Labor subcommittee online hearing, “Children at Risk: Examining Workplace Protections for Child Farmworkers.”
Noon - Resources for the Future webinar, “Sparking Solutions: The Fuels Management Challenge and Opportunity.”
Thursday, Sept. 8
8:30 a.m. — USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
Friday, Sept. 9
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