EPA Administrator Michael Regan faces the House Agriculture Committee this week, while the GOP-controlled House takes a largely symbolic vote to overturn President Joe Biden’s veto of a measure that would scrap the administration’s “waters of the U.S.” rule.
There also will be several House and Senate hearings related to the farm bill as lawmakers return from their two-week Easter recess.
Meanwhile, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is on a week-long trip to Asia, where he will be in Vietnam for meetings on trade and food security issues before heading to the G7 agriculture ministers’ meeting in Japan.
House Ag has little oversight authority over EPA, although the committee handles reauthorization of pesticide registration fees, but Regan agreed to testify before the GOP-controlled committee anyway. He’s likely to be grilled on Wednesday by Republicans about the WOTUS rule as well as biofuel policy and the agency’s many moves to restrict or ban various pesticides, including atrazine.
Among the biofuel issues likely to come up are the EPA’s proposed biomass-based diesel mandates for 2023, 2024 and 2025, and the agency’s decision to delay until 2024 a summer-time waiver for E15 sales in the Midwest. There is bipartisan pressure on Regan to allow summertime sales of E15 this year and to increase mandates for biodiesel and renewable diesel. A leading ethanol industry group, Growth Energy, recently filed suit against EPA for giving small refineries different ways of meeting their Renewable Fuel Standard obligations.
EPA also has come under fire from biofuel producers for its proposed tailpipe emissions standards that EPA projects will lead to a wholesale switch to sales of electric vehicles.
Ahead of Regan’s hearing, the House is scheduled to vote Tuesday to override Biden’s veto of a Congressional Review Act resolution that would strike down the administration’s WOTUS rule, which would have expanded the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act by comparison to a version the Trump administration issued in 2020.
The House approved the resolution, 227-198, well short of the two-thirds margin needed to override Biden's veto. The Senate approved the measure, 53-43.
In any event, the Biden rule’s ultimate fate is likely to be decided in the courts. Federal judges have stayed the rule in 26 states, and the Supreme Court is due to issue a decision in coming weeks in a related case that could force the Biden administration to rewrite the rule.
Regan told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in March that the administration “threaded a very good needle” with the WOTUS rule, but he conceded that the Supreme Court ruling “will have some impact on the rule.”
FDA, SEC chiefs and Labor nominee face questioning
Regan is one of several administration officials facing lawmakers this week. Others include FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, who will testify Wednesday before the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, which writes his agency’s annual budget, and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler. On Tuesday, Gensler is likely to be grilled by Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee about the SEC’s proposal to require corporations to disclose greenhouse gas emissions in their supply chains.
A senior member of Financial Services and a former House Ag chairman, Frank Lucas of Oklahoma,,has been leading a congressional effort to protect agriculture from the SEC rule. Gensler stressed at a recent House Appropriations hearing that the proposal was still in flux.
Also on the Hill this week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will consider the nomination of California Labor Secretary Julie Su to be the new U.S. secretary of labor, replacing the departed Marty Walsh.
A leading advocacy group for farmworkers, Farmworker Justice, has said it “strongly supports” Su’s nomination. Su “will be able to maximize the impact the DOL can have in addressing economic inequality and racial injustice,” the group said.
The United Farm Workers tweeted in support of Su's nomination: "Julie Su will be an incredible Labor Secretary. Let’s get it done."
Subcommittees of the House and Senate Ag committees will both have farm bill-related hearings this week. A House Ag subcommittee will look at animal disease prevention issues, while Senate Ag subcommittees will hold hearings on conservation programs and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Vilsack looks to tighten Vietnam trade ties
While in Hanoi from Monday through Wednesday, Vilsack will meet with Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính, Ag Minister Lê Minh Hoan and Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Hồng Diên as well as “private sector trade partners who support U.S. agricultural imports,” USDA said. He’ll also deliver a speech about USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities initiative to students at Vietnam’s Foreign Trade University.
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During the G7 meeting in Japan, Vilsack will “once again stand with democratic partners to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and calling attention to the interrelationship among food and nutrition security, climate, sustainable productivity growth, innovation and trade,” USDA said.
USDA's undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, Alexis Taylor, is leading a trade mission in the Netherlands this week. She has scheduled a conference call on Wednesday to brief news media on the trip. She will be joined on the call by California Secretary of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross, Maine Ag Commissioner Amanda Beal, Mississippi Ag Commissioner Andy Gipson and North Dakota Ag Commissioner Doug Goehring.
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):
Monday, April 17
National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association annual legislative conference, through Wednesday, Marriott Marquis.
National Association of Farm Broadcasting annual Washington Watch, through Wednesday, Holiday Inn Capitol.
4 p.m. – USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Tuesday, April 18
10 a.m. – House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on animal disease prevention and response, 1300 Longworth.
10 a.m. – House Financial Services Committee hearing with Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler, 2128 Rayburn.
10 a.m. – House State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with USAID Administrator Samantha Power, 2359 Rayburn.
10 a.m. – Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the U.S. Forest Service, 366 Dirksen.
10:30 a.m. – House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on resolutions of disapproval for rules related to regulation of endangered species, 1334 Longworth.
2 p.m. – American Enterprise Institute forum, “Conservation and Agricultural Research and Development: Pathways to Efficient and Effective Climate Policy,” 1789 Massachusetts Avenue NW.
2 p.m. – House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing, “Countering China’s Trade and Investment Agenda: Opportunities for American Leadership,” 1100 Longworth.
2:30 p.m. – Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, “Cleaner Vehicles: Good for Consumers and Public Health,” 406 Dirksen.
Wednesday, April 19
10 a.m. – House Agriculture Committee hearing with EPA Administrator Michael Regan, 1300 Longworth.
10 a.m. – House Natural Resources Committee hearing with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, 1324 Longworth.
10 a.m. – Senate State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with USAID Administrator Samantha Power, 138 Dirksen.
Noon – Senate Agriculture subcommittee hearing on SNAP and the farm bill, 328A Russell.
2:30 p.m. – Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, 124 Dirksen.
Thursday, April 20
8:30 a.m. – USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
10 a.m. – Senate Agriculture subcommittee hearing on farm bill conservation programs, 328A Russell.
10 a.m. – Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the nomination of Julie Su to be secretary of labor, 430 Dirksen.
Friday, April 21
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