President Joe Biden will propose new tax increases with his fiscal 2024 budget this week, while the Republican-controlled House will force a vote on killing the administration’s new rule that expands the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.
Biden is jockeying for political position in a clash with House Republicans over the debt ceiling by offering tax increases as the way to reduce the deficit. The FY24 budget, which will be released Thursday, will be dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled House, but the proposal will give congressional Democrats a message to rally around in the budget fight with Republicans.
Biden told House Democrats at their policy retreat in Baltimore last week that he wants to clarify the parties’ respective positions on federal priorities and the deficit.
Biden said he told House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., that once the House GOP proposes its own budget “we should sit down” and discuss their differences. “It would be interesting to see what they want to cut and what their numbers add up to,” Biden said.
The top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, told Agri-Pulse he wants to see Biden propose spending cuts. He and other Republicans blame Democratic spending bills over the past two years for driving inflation.
“So that means that he's got to spend less. Secondly, Congress should not be counterproductive to his Federal Reserve fighting inflation. So that means that we should be spending less than the rate of inflation,” Grassley said. Raises taxes, as Biden wants to do, would just lead to increased spending, Grassley said.
Biden’s proposed FY23 budget, which included a 20% minimum tax on very wealthy individuals, would have increased funding for USDA by 9%.
The partisan maneuvering will continue on Friday when Republicans are scheduled to force a vote on a resolution of disapproval for the administration’s “waters of the U.S. rule,” which redefines wetlands, ephemeral streams and other areas that fall under federal jurisdiction.
Biden is almost certain to veto the measure if it gets to his desk, but the WOTUS rule is widely unpopular in farm country. The ultimate fate of the rule depends less on the congressional debate and more on an upcoming Supreme Court ruling in a Clean Water Act case involving the protection of wetlands.
Rob Larew, president of the National Farmers Union, a group that frequently aligns with Democratic policy priorities, told the House Agriculture Committee last week that “confusing regulations and court decisions regarding the definitions of waters of the U.S. have made it difficult to comply with the Clean Water Act.”
“Clean, safe water is an essential natural resource that we work hard to protect,” he added. “Regulators shouldn’t make it so difficult for farmers to accomplish this.”
Meanwhile in Congress this week, the House Agriculture Committee will hold a subcommittee hearing Wednesday on the farm bill forestry title, and then put a focus on commodity market volatility in a full committee hearing on Thursday.
On March 15, committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson will lead a farm bill listening session in Waco, Texas.
The Senate Agriculture Committee, which last week wrapped a series of hearings on farm bill titles, will turn its focus this week to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. CFTC Chairman Rostin Behnam will be the lone witness at Wednesday's hearing.
Vilsack planning 'major announcements' at NFU meeting
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will be in San Francisco Monday to speak to members of NFU at their annual meeting. According to a USDA, Vilsack will "announce significant new resources to increase available financing for independent meat and poultry processors, alleviate supply chain bottlenecks, and create opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs in rural communities."
He'll also "make major announcements on USDA’s efforts to promote competition and enhance innovation, protect consumers and producers, and increase economic opportunity in rural communities," USDA said.
While he's in the Bay Area, Vilsack will make a side trip to Contra Costa County to visit a local school, where he will discuss the Biden administration’s efforts to improve school meals. Vilsack will be joined by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, wife of Gov. Gavin Newsom; California State Supt. Tony Thurmond, and Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif.
Last month, USDA proposed to restrict the sugar content of school meals, while tightening sodium limits and increasing whole grains requirements.
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At the same time Vilsack is in California, school nutrition directors from around the country will be in Washington for the School Nutrition Association’s annual legislative action conference. A key message of the group will be that USDA and Congress should leave the existing nutrition standards alone. “Persistent supply chain and labor challenges leave schools unable to meet additional rules,” according to an SNA statement.
Farmers, activists plan climate rally
As many as 1,000 farmers, workers and activists are expected in Washington this week to urge lawmakers to use the farm bill to advance policies that address climate change. The event will include a rally Tuesday at Freedom Plaza, followed by a march to Capitol Hill.
The attendees will head back to the Capitol on Wednesday to lobby lawmakers and their aides.
Some 30 delegations representing 39 states are expected to attend the three-day event, which starts Monday, said Laura Zaks, a spokeswoman for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
“While the past year has seen significant investments to incentivize climate-friendly agriculture, necessary on-the-ground change requires further policy transformation,” according to an NSAC description of the Rally for Resilience.
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EST):
Monday, March 6
Farmers for Climate Action: Rally for Resilience, through Wednesday.
National Farmers Union annual meeting, through Tuesday, San Francisco.
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association annual meeting, through Wednesday, Nashville.
School Nutrition Association legislative action conference, through Tuesday, JW Marriott.
Noon – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks at NFU annual meeting, livestreamed.
Tuesday, March 7
11 a.m. – Rally for Resilience, Freedom Plaza, followed by march to Capitol Hill.
Wednesday, March 8
10 a.m. – House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on the farm bill forestry title, 1300 Longworth.
10 a.m. - Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, 106 Dirksen.
10 a.m. – Senate Budget Committee hearing, “A Burning Issue: The Economic Costs of Wildfire,” 608 Dirksen.
Noon – USDA releases the monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates and the monthly Crop Production report.
Thursday, March 9
White House releases President Joe Biden’s fiscal 2024 budget proposal.
Commodity Classic, through Sunday, Orlando
8:30 a.m. – USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
10 a.m. – House Agriculture Committee hearing, “Rising Risks: Managing Volatility in Global Commodity Derivatives Markets,” 1300 Longworth.
10 a.m. – House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with USDA’s Office of Inspector General, 2362-A Rayburn.
1 p.m. – USDA Economic Research Service webinar, “Precision Agriculture in the Digital Era: Recent Adoption on U.S. Farms.”
Friday, March 10
9a.m. - House Ways and Means Committee hearing with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on the president's FY24 budget request, 1100 Longworth.
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