WASHINGTON, April 10, 2016 - Lawmakers look to get an early start this week on moving the annual spending bills, including legislation to fund USDA and FDA, and also will take long-awaited action on futures regulation and international agriculture development.

The Senate Agriculture Committee will finally take up a reauthorization bill for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, 10 months after the House passed its version of the legislation. Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts is offering concessions in a draft bill in hopes of getting some Democratic support for the measure.

The House, which is back this week following its two-week Easter recess, will take a historic step by voting on the Global Food Security Act, which would provide the  first statutory authorization for the Obama’s $1-billion-a-year Feed the Future initiative. The bill has been languishing for nearly a year since it emerged from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The Senate, meanwhile, will continue work on a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill. Representatives of the biofuel industry are still hoping Senate leaders will agree to attach extensions of tax benefits that expire at the end of the year.

The measures include the $1-a-gallon tax credit for biodiesel and a $1.01 credit for cellulosic biofuels. “This may very well be the only chance for an extension this year,” said Ben Evans of the National Biodiesel Board.

The fiscal 2017 appropriations bills are likely to dominate lawmakers’ attention in both chambers over the coming weeks with Congress facing an abbreviated calendar ahead of the presidential nominating conventions in July.

The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee will vote Wednesday on its bill that funds USDA, FDA and the CFTC. The Energy-Water spending bill, which funds Army Corps of Engineers spending bill is set for approval the same day by subcommittees in both the House and Senate.

The big question for the appropriations process is how many of the spending bills reach the House and Senate floor and, if they do, how many amendments will be allowed?

Farm groups have been concerned that there will be attempts to cut crop insurance and other programs. Last month, 254 groups representing a broad agriculture, conservation, and nutrition interests signed a letter, arguing that lawmakers shouldn't touch any of the titles in the 2014 farm bill.

It’s “critical that we not open up what was a finely tuned, balanced (farm) bill, and have folks decide to come in and pick and choose individual things they like or don’t like,” the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Debbie Stabenow, said at a Consumer Federation of America conference last week.

Stabenow will be closely watched as her committee debates the CFTC reauthorization bill on Thursday. A source familiar with the draft bill says that Roberts has omitted several contentious provisions that were in a bill that the House passed last year, including a requirement that the CFTC analyze the costs and benefits of all new rules.

However, the source said the bill wouldn’t provide increased funding for the commission, which has been a key demand of Stabenow’s. She told Agri-Pulse last week that a funding boost for the agency was “critical from my standpoint.”

Roberts said last week he was trying to make the bill “acceptable” to Democrats. “There’s all sorts of things that we could do, that we would like to do, but we also know that we have to get it done.”

The Feed the Future bill (HR 1567) that the House is scheduled to consider Tuesday would authorize the program for only one year, but it could be easily extended by the next Congress and would ensure that the initiative lives beyond the Obama presidency. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a two-year authorization of Feed the Future last month.

Feed the Future, which is designed to improve food production and nutrition in 19 target countries, was first developed during the George W. Bush administration, but the spending has never been formally authorized by law. The initiative has been compared to Bush’s widely effective anti-AIDS plan known as PEPFAR.

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The House and Senate bills would both establish objectives and requirements for Feed the Future as well as mandate detailed reporting on its impact.

Also this week, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau, and CropLife America, which represents the pesticide industry, both have major meetings in Washington.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, who will be speaking to the NCBA legislative conference on Wednesday, plans to talk up the Trans-Pacific Partnership at a time when the trade deal is coming under constant criticism from Donald Trump and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the presidential campaign.

Despite that criticism, Froman expressed confidence at the Export-Import Bank conference on Friday that Congress would approve the TPP this year. USTR is working with lawmakers to draw up the necessary legislation in preparation, he said.

Here’s a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:

Monday, April 11

National 4-H conference, through Thursday, National 4-H Conference Center. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks to group Monday.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman is in London for TTIP negotiations with EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom

4 p.m. - USDA releases Crop Progress report.

Tuesday, April 12

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association legislative conference, through Thursday, Hyatt Regency.

The Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau hosts their legislative summit.

9 a.m. - National Academy of Sciences Roundtable on Obesity Solutions: “The Role of Business in Multi-Sector Obesity Solutions: Working Together for Positive Change,” 2102 Constitution Ave. NW.

10:30 a.m. - Senate Financial Services Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with CFTC Chairman Timothy Assad and Mary Jo White, chairwoman of the Securities Exchange Commission, 138 Dirksen.

11:15 a.m. - Vilsack speaks to The Atlantic’s Summit on Mental Health and Addiction, 1777 F St. NW.

2:30 p.m. - House Agriculture subcommittee hearing for 4-H member presentation, “The importance of agriculture in the United States,” 1300 Longworth.

2:30 p.m. - Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee hearing on “American Small Businesses’ Perspectives on Environmental Protection Agency Regulatory Actions,” 406 Dirksen.

Wednesday, April 13

CropLife America spring conference, though Thursday, Renaissance Capital View Hotel, Arlington, Va.

American Coalition for Ethanol annual fly-in, through Thursday.

NCBA conference.

Froman speaks to NCBA and the National Council of Textile Organizations.

10 a.m. - House Agriculture Committee hearing on “Energy and the Rural Economy: The Impacts of Oil and Gas Production, 1300 Longworth.

10:15 a.m. - House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on the Ozone Standards Implementation Act (HR 4775), 2322 Rayburn.

1 p.m. - House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on “Empowering States and Western Water Users through Regulatory and Administrative Reform,” 1334 Longworth.

1:30 p.m. - House Energy-Water Appropriations Subcommittee markup of fiscal 2017 bill for the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies, 2362-B Rayburn.

2:30 p.m. - Senate Energy-Water Appropriations Subcommittee markup of its FY17 bill, 124 Dirksen.

4 p.m. - House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee markup of FY17 bill for USDA FDA and CFTC, 2362-A Rayburn.

Thursday, April 14

CropLife America conference.

NCBA conference.

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

10 a.m. - House Agriculture committee hearing on the rural economy, 1300 Longworth.

10 a.m. - Senate Agriculture Committee markup of CFTC reauthorization bill, 328A Russell.

10:30 a.m. - Senate Appropriations Committee markup of FY17 Energy-Water bill, 106 Dirksen.

2 p.m. - House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing on the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill, 1100 Longworth.

Friday, April 15

Vilsack speaks on rural opportunity at the Clinton Library and Political Institute, Little Rock, Ark.

10 a.m. - House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, speaks to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on tax reform and other issues before his committee, 1615 H St. NW.


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