What’s ahead for Washington this week – National Ag Week

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, March 14 – The 37th annual National Ag Day kicks off this Thursday with a breakfast address by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. This morning meeting with the Secretary, lunch on Capitol Hill, then a gala pork dinner back at USDA, with House Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson and Senate Ag Committee Chair Blanche Lincoln, are all part of  National Ag Week events around the country organized by the Agriculture Council of America (ACA) to remind the public of how vital agriculture is as the reliable supplier of food, feed, fiber and bio-fuels.

Another reminder of agriculture’s central role in American life comes from the Secretary’s crowded schedule this week. First, on Monday Vilsack delivers the keynote address at the National Farmers Union 108th Anniversary Convention in Rapid City, SD. On Tuesday, he’s back in Washington to address the National League of Cities 2010 Congressional City Conference – and then deliver the keynote address at Newsweek’s Executive Forum on Childhood Obesity. On Wednesday, Vilsack will attend the 66th Annual Radio & Television Correspondent’s Dinner. Thursday, the Secretary will host the many farm organizations in town for National Ag Day and National Ag Week.

Unexpectedly, after his quick day trip to Ohio Monday to promote healthcare, President Obama will also be in Washington all this week – lobbying hard to sign up more House and Senate votes for his healthcare legislation. He’d planned to head out on his trade-promoting trip to Asia Thursday. But along with many other things like climate change and financial reform legislation sidetracked by the battles over healthcare, the President’s departure was postponed until Sunday. The House vote on the Senate healthcare bill – to be amended later with a corrective “reconciliation” bill if the House approves the Senate bill – is expected Friday or Saturday. So the President should be free to leave for Asia on Sunday, leaving behind either a major victory or a major defeat.

Making the healthcare vote even more critical for Obama and the Democrats, the general expectation is that a healthcare victory would provide momentum for passing other key bills including financial reform, an immigration bill, and an energy/climate bill. A healthcare defeat, on the other hand, could lead to dispirited Democrats, emboldened Republican opposition, and a deadlocked Congress unable to pass any legislation this year.

On Monday, Senate Banking Committee Chair Chris Dodd (D-CT) plans to unveil his long-awaited, hard-fought financial reform bill. He’d hoped to present a bipartisan bill but is instead offering his own bill. Dodd’s decision to go it alone prompted Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) who was working with Dodd on a bipartisan bill to express surprise since “we were on the five yard line.” A rumored major reason for Dodd’s abandoning hope of a bipartisan bill was failure to reach agreement on how to handle the derivatives market, with Democrats insisting on tight regulatory control and Republicans worried about driving lucrative derivatives trading overseas to unregulated markets.

Congressional hearings this week include:

Wednesday, March 17

  • Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on FY 2011 budget request for the U.S. Forest Service. With FS Chief Tom Tidwell
  • Senate Environment & Public Works Committee hearing on “the Government Accountability Office’s Investigation of EPA’s Efforts to Protect Children’s Health”

Thursday, March 18

  • House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on FY2011 Budget for USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, with Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition & Consumer Services Kevin Concannon,
  • Senate Environment & Public Works Committee hearing on “Mobility and Congestion in Urban and Rural America”

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reports:

  • Monday, March 15, Turkey Hatchery, Aquaculture Data, Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook
  • Tuesday, March 16, Weather-Crop Summary
  • Wednesday March 17, Broiler Hatchery
  • Thursday, March 18, Catfish Processing, Milk Production, Meat Price Spreads, Oil Crops Yearbook Data tables
  • Friday, March 19, Dairy Products Prices, Cattle on Feed, Peanut Prices, Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook, Wheat Data, Feed Grains Database

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