House Speaker Kevin McCarthy meets with President Joe Biden this week as Republicans push for a deal pairing spending cuts with a debt ceiling increase, while the Congressional Budget Office will release new economic projections that could make it easier – or harder – for lawmakers to write a new farm bill. 

McCarthy goes to the Tuesday meeting armed with a budget-cutting bill, the Limit, Save, Grow Act, that narrowly passed the GOP House April 26 and includes expanded work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, 

McCarthy has the crucial backing of Senate Republicans for his demands. Forty-three GOP senators signed a letter, released Saturday by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah,  saying they won’t allow a bill to move in the Senate that would raise the debt ceiling without “substantive spending and budget reforms.”  The signers include Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the top Republican on the Senate Ag Committee, John Boozman of Arkansas.

"We've lifted the debt ceiling in our proposal, we'll pay our bills and protect the good faith and credit of the United States," House Budget Committee Chairman Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, said on Fox News Sunday. "But we're not going to give any politicians, including the president, a blank check to continue to bankrupt the country."

Biden has refused to negotiate on the debt-ceiling increase. Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, who is a member of the Senate Democratic leadership, has warned that the kind of debt-ceiling deal Republicans want could result in significant cuts to agricultural programs. 

The Balance Control Act that resulted from negotiations between the GOP-controlled House and President Barack Obama in 2011 led to spending cuts in the 2014 farm bill as well as the ongoing budget-sequestration process that has required automatic annual reductions in some farm programs.

“I have serious concerns about the potential of default that's hanging over our heads for all of us who care about this farm bill and agriculture, because I was here in 2011,” Stabenow told representatives of farm groups at a hearing last week. The sequestration cuts “will continue for another eight years, regardless of the current debate, a 5.7% cut every year, right now,” she said.

The Congressional Budget Office on Friday will release detailed new 10-year forecasts for farm programs - and for government spending and revenue overall.  

The new forecast, or baseline, includes projections for commodity markets and will be used in estimating the cost of potential provisions in a new farm bill, including the cost of increasing reference prices in the Price Loss Coverage program. Aides to the Senate and House Ag committees will be analyzing the CBO forecast to see if it increases or reduces the potential cost of farm bill modifications they’re considering.

“It’s either going to make their job harder or easier when you look at your reference prices, etc. There’s a lot at stake here,” said Jessica Schulken, a former Senate aide and a principal with The Russell Group who discussed the issue for Agri-Pulse Newsmakers

She suggested the new baseline could slow down the process of developing a new farm bill process, if the forecast raises the potential cost of modifications. 

Agri-Pulse is hosting a webinar May 15 for a conversation on the CBO baseline and the status of the farm bill process with John Newton, chief economist for the Senate Ag Committee's minority staff, and Jacqlyn Schneider, a former top Democratic staffer on the panel. Agri-Pulse Executive Editor Philip Brasher will moderate the discussion. 

Also this week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will host a summit for the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate, known as AIM for Climate, a multinational effort to promote the role of technology in increasing food production while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The summit, which is intended as preparation for the COP28 international climate conference later this year, will be headlined by former Vice President Al Gore and include agriculture ministers from Canada, Brazil and other countries

The summit, which runs Monday through Wednesday, will “provide a game-changing platform for AIM for Climate partners to raise ambition and amplify their work in climate-smart agriculture and food systems innovation,” according to a summary. “This event will bring together policymakers, industry leaders, producers, civil society groups, and scientists and researchers worldwide to drive rapid and transformative climate action.” 

Vilsack has said he expects the AIM for Climate initiative, which is led by the United States and United Arab Emirates, to ensure that agriculture gets a major focus at COP28, which will be held in the UAE capital, Dubai.

On Capitol Hill this week, the Senate Agriculture Committee holds a confirmation hearing Wednesday for Xochitl Torres Small’s nomination to be deputy agriculture secretary, succeeding Jewel Bronaugh who resigned earlier this year. Torres Small, who is currently USDA’s undersecretary for rural development, should have a relatively easy confirmation process. 

The top Republican on the Senate Ag Committee, John Boozman of Arkansas, doesn’t expect any significant opposition to her but doesn’t rule out the possibility that a senator could delay the nomination for reasons unrelated to her.

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“She understands how Congress works. She's very knowledgeable. She's very smart, and I think is really attuned to getting out and visiting with producers” and addressing concerns about the delayed delivery of USDA assistance, Boozman told Agri-Pulse.

Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):

Monday, May 8

AIM for Climate summit, through Wednesday, J.W. Marriott. 

National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference, Omni Shoreham through Tuesday.

4 p.m. – USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report. 

Tuesday, May 9

Wednesday, May 10

8:30 a.m. – Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the monthly Consumer Price Index

9:30 a.m. – Subcommittees of the House Agriculture and Financial Services committees joint hearing on the regulation of digital asset markets, 1100 Longworth.

10 a.m. – House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing with EPA Administrator Michael Regan, 2123 Rayburn. 

10 a.m. – House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing with state attorneys general on ESG practices, 2154 Rayburn.

10 a.m. – Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on the nomination of Xochitl Torres Small to be deputy secretary of USDA, 328A Russell. 

10:30 a.m. – Senate Budget Committee hearing, “Lessons Learned: Leadership Perspectives and Experience on the National Costs of Climate Change,” 106 Dirksen.

Thursday, May 11

8:30 a.m. – USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.

10 a.m. – House Agriculture subcommittee hearing, “Stakeholder Perspectives on Agricultural Trade,” 1300 Longworth.

2 p.m. – House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing on the infant formula shortage, 2154 Rayburn.

Friday, May 5

USDA releases the monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates and the monthly Crop Production report. 

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