What’s ahead for Washington this week: Debate continues over taxes, more regulation and energy

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, July 25 – The debate continues to build over which of the Bush tax cuts, if any, should be continued while the U.S. economy struggles to recover. You can expect to see Republicans and conservative Democrats who call for continuing all the Bush tax cuts squaring off versus the White House and main-stream Democrats who want to renew the tax cuts except for individuals earning over $200,000 and families earning over $250,000 a year.

Meanwhile U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul told a Kentucky Farm Bureau “Measure the Candidate Meeting” last week that farmers need to be freed from EPA & USDA “overreach.” This week, that potential federal overreach will be up for discussion in several congressional hearings. One sign of possible overreach is that it's not an ag committee but instead the House Oversight & Government Reform Subcommittee which will consider whether so-called “Superweeds” could be “an Outgrowth of USDA Biotech Policy.” The members plan to “evaluate USDA biotechnology regulatory policy, with particular respect to genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant crops and the environmental impact of the evolution of herbicide-resistant weeds.” Count on others echoing would-be-senator Rand Paul in charging that farmers should decide what to grow in their fields, not federal bureaucrats or environmentalists.

Dealing with another case of potential overreach, the House Agriculture Committee will be marking up H.R. 5509, the bipartisan Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization and Improvement Act just when Rand Paul and other Republicans are charging that the feds are going overboard in telling Chesapeake Bay watershed farmers how to manage their fields and their poultry operations.

On the energy side, there's good news for cap-&-trade opponents like both Dr. Rand Paul and Kentucky AG Jack Conway, the Democrat running against Paul to replace the retiring Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY). This week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is expected to introduce long-awaited legislation which will cover energy issues without including a dreaded cap on carbon emissions. Unless the environmentalists' frenzied last-moment lobbying forces changes, Reid's “energy-only” bill will include new safeguards to deal with offshore oil production, retrofitting diesel trucks and other vehicles to run on natural gas, home energy savings provisions, and funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund – but no price on carbon.

Immigration will also be in the spotlight this week thanks to a showdown in Arizona, with tough new stop-&-question rules due to take effect Thursday unless a federal lawsuit derails Arizona's implementation plans. Either way, expect heated discussion of what to do about an estimated 11 million illegal aliens – and about the farm sector's well-documented need for reliable, knowledgable workers, with or without papers.

Congressional hearings this week include:

Tuesday, July 27

  • Joint Economic Committee hearing on promoting a clean energy economy.

  • House Appropriations Committee markup of the Agriculture Subcommittee's FY2011 Bill.

  • House Ways & Means Subcommittee hearing on Enhancing the U.S.-EU Trade Relationship, focused on regulatory standards, the World Trade Organizations’ (WTO) Doha Round of international trade negotiations, and promoting economic collaboration.

  • House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing on Climate Change Finance: Providing Assistance for Vulnerable Countries.

Wednesday, July 28

  • House Agriculture Subcommittee hearing To review quality control systems in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

  • House Agriculture Committee Business Meeting To consider H.R. 5509, the Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization and Improvement Act; H.R. 3519, the Veterinarian Services Investment Act; legislation reauthorizing mandatory price reporting and other pending business.

  • House Oversight & Government Reform Subcommittee hearing on “Are Superweeds an Outgrowth of USDA Biotech Policy?” to “evaluate USDA biotechnology regulatory policy, with particular respect to genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant crops and the environmental impact of the evolution of herbicide-resistant weeds.”

  • Senate Rules Committee hearing on Examining the Filibuster: Legislative Proposals to Change Senate Procedures.

Thursday, July 29

  • Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pension's Committee hearing on The State of the American Child: The Impact of Federal Policies on Children.

USDA’s Economic Research Service & National Agricultural Statistics Service reports:

  • Monday, July 26, Monthly Milk Cost of Production, Poultry Slaughter, Crop Progress

  • Tuesday, July 27, Weather-Crop Summary

  • Wednesday July 28, Agricultural Chemical Usage - Fruits, Broiler Hatchery

  • Friday, July 30, Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook, Dairy Products Prices, Agricultural Prices, Egg Products, Peanut Prices, Peanut Stocks and Processing

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