WASHINGTON, June 23, 2014 – With House and Senate action on a USDA spending bill in limbo, many agricultural stakeholders will be focusing on trade issues this week, with Congressional hearings scheduled on reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank and on using trade rules to level the playing field for U.S. exporters.
In addition, Ireland’s agriculture minister, Simon Coveney, will be visiting Washington as part of a four-day trade and investment mission to the U.S. The Washington leg will include meetings with Deputy Agriculture Secretary Krysta Harden, as well as key negotiators in the next set of negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP).
Before departing, Coveney referred to his meeting in Ireland last week with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, noting that his country had been given a “firm indication” that, subject to a U.S. audit in the near future, Irish beef could be in U.S. retail stores later this year. Restrictions were placed on the product in 1997 due to the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis in Europe. Since then, however, Ireland has been classified as a country of “controlled risk” for BSE, or mad cow disease, by the World Organization for Animal Health. Coveney has said that U.S. consumers, particularly those of Irish heritage, would be “a very interesting market” for Ireland’s grass-fed beef.
Before leaving, Coveney also spoke of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations, saying there is now a “sense of momentum” behind the talks, which are aimed at forging a free trade deal between the EU and the U.S. “I feel strongly that a balanced agreement can benefit both sides,” Coveney said.
Coveney’s visit will involve 16 meetings in three U.S. cities. The mission will take in meetings with major multinational investors and potential investors in Ireland and with what Irish officials called “a major U.S. premium retail outlet,” with trade in high quality Irish food products on the agenda.
Meanwhile, Congressional action on a USDA spending bill remains up in the air. The Senate last week began consideration of a so-called “minibus” fiscal year 2015 spending package that included funding for agriculture, as well as transportation, housing and urban development and commerce, justice and science. But Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled the measure after Republicans rejected his plan to require at least 60 votes to pass amendments. It’s not clear when the bill will be brought back to the floor. The House may resume consideration of its appropriations bill at some point after the July 4 recess, which ends on July 8.
Congress will also be taking a close look at the immigration situation, with three House hearings scheduled to examine the recent influx of undocumented children crossing the Mexican border into the U.S.
The following is a list of some of this week’s tentative events on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in the Washington area:
Monday, June 23
USDA will announce additional resources, policy adjustments and other enhanced services for America’s beginning farmers and ranchers. Deputy Agriculture Secretary Krysta Harden will officially make the announcement at the inaugural meeting of the reconvened Beginning Farmer and Rancher Advisory Committee at the University of California, Davis.
12 p.m. The House meets at noon for morning hour and 2:00 p.m. for legislative business. Votes will be postponed until 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, June 24
10 a.m. The House Homeland Security Committee holds a hearing entitled, “Dangerous Passage: The Growing Problem of Unaccompanied Children Crossing the Border.” 311 Cannon.
10 a.m. The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power holds a hearing entitled, “New Federal Schemes to Soak Up Water Authority: Impacts on States, Water Users, Recreation and Jobs.” 1324 Longworth.
Wednesday, June 25
10 a.m. The House Agriculture Committee Subcommittee on Livestock, Rural Development and Credit holds a hearing to review the availability of credit in rural America. 1300 Longworth.
10 a.m. The House Appropriations Committee meets to markup the fiscal year 2015 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill. 2359 Rayburn.
10 a.m. The House Financial Services Committee holds a hearing to examine the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. The hearing is subtitled, “Corporate Necessity or Corporate Welfare?” New House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said on Fox News Sunday that he would allow the bank to expire in September. His reasoning: ‘Because it’s something that the private sector can be able to do.” 2128 Rayburn.
2 p.m. The Senate Finance Committee holds a hearing entitled “Trade Enforcement: Using Trade Rules to Level the Playing Field for U.S. Companies and Workers.” 215 Dirksen.
2 p.m. The House Foreign Affairs Committee holds a hearing entitled, “Children Migrating from Central America, a Humanitarian Crisis.” 2255 Rayburn.
2 p.m. House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing entitled, “An Administration Made Disaster: The South Texas Border Surge of Unaccompanied Alien Minors.” 2142 Rayburn.
2 p.m. The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation holds an oversight hearing on “Increasing Carbon Soil Sequestration on Public Lands.” 1324 Longworth.
Thursday, June 26
The Congressional Hunger Center on Thursday evening will honor five individuals for their leadership in fighting hunger. The honorees are Agriculture Secretary Vilsack; Deborah Frank, MD, the founder of the Children’s Health Watch at the Boston Medical Center; Jo Ann Emerson, former Republican congresswoman from Missouri; Shane Murphy Goldsmith, an alumna of CHC’s National Hunger Fellows Program and the president and CEO of the Liberty Hill Foundation; and Damiana Astudillo, another veteran of the Hunger Fellows Program and an associate director at the Millenium Challenge Corporation.
Friday, June 27
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