By Jon H. Harsch

 © Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Dec. 5 – Congressional leaders say they are likely to end the lame-duck session Friday, Dec. 17.  However, there is still a long list of unfinished business and nothing is expected to move until there is some resolution on how to proceed with extension of the Bush-era tax cuts. Once that’s resolved, it’s possible that a host of other issues will also move forward, including: extending unemployment insurance and tax credits for ethanol and biodiesel, ratifying the START nuclear weapons treaty with Russia, and funding the federal government --- at least through next March.

The list doesn’t stop there. Congress conceivably could consider a defense authorization bill to include repealing “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” the DREAM Act to help illegal aliens' children who either serve in the military or attend college, and take up scores of other less controversial bills before the Lame Duck ends.
At the White House this week, President Obama is expected to sign the just-passed Claims Resolution Act of 2010, awarding $1.2 billion to African American farmers denied USDA loans due to racial discrimination and $3.4 billion to American Indians for unpaid royalties from oil, gas and timber sales.

Also this week, on Wednesday, USDA and the Department of Justice will hold their fifth and final competitiveness workshop, this time focused on “the margins at various levels of the agricultural supply chain.”

After hosting Wednesday's USDA/DOJ workshop, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack heads for Mexico, both a major market for U.S. agriculture and a leader in the global response to climate change. On Thursday, Vilsack will represent the U.S. government at the 16th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun. Then on Friday, he meets with Mexican Secretary of Agriculture Francisco Mayorga in Merida to discuss trade issues such as the still unresolved trucking dispute.

Other key events and meetings this week:

Monday, Dec. 6

  • Fresh from finalizing the Korean FTA, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk meets with the Colombian Ambassador to the United States, Gabriel Silva, to discuss U.S.-Colombia trade relations – raising hopes of also finalizing the pending FTAs with Colombia and Panama.

Tuesday, Dec. 7

  • Weather-Crop Summary

  • Senate Banking Committee hearing on the State of the Credit Union Industry.

  • House may consider H.Res. 1704, to honor the 2,500th anniversary of the Battle of Marathon.

Wednesday, Dec. 8

  • Broiler Hatchery

  • Joint Senate Banking Committee & Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on the Efficiency, Stability, and Integrity of the U.S. Capital Markets, with witnesses including Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chair Gary Gensler and Securities & Exchange Commission Chair Mary Schapiro.

Thursday, Dec. 9

  • Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on the nomination of Ramona Emilia Romero to be USDA General Counsel.

Friday, Dec. 10

  • World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates

  • Latest U.S. Agricultural Trade Data, Season-Average Price Forecasts, Cotton Ginnings, Crop Production, Dairy Products Prices, Peanut Prices

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