WASHINGTON, March 12, 2017 - President Trump this week will release a proposed budget for fiscal 2018 that is expected to call for deep cuts to agencies throughout the government to pay for a $54 billion increase in defense spending.
According to reports, the proposed cuts could be as high as 37 percent, for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development, while the EPA could be reduced by 25 percent.
The budget, which the White House will release on Thursday, is almost certainly dead on arrival on Capitol Hill, but the recommendations will highlight the stark choices that lawmakers face if they want to increase defense spending without touching entitlement programs and boosting the budget deficit.
Such deep cuts would pose a particular problem for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who says he’s committed to accelerating the approval process for pesticides and other products while also protecting EPA’s water infrastructure funding programs, which account for more than 40 percent of its budget.
One of Trump’s pending cabinet nominees who is important to agriculture will have his confirmation hearing this week, Robert Lighthizer, Trump’s pick for U.S. Trade Representative. Another hearing planned Wednesday for Labor nominee Alexander Acosta has been postponed until March 22.
The farm-state members of the Senate Finance Committee, which includes Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, are certain to press Lighthizer on Tuesday about concerns that Trump’s trade policy could backfire against agricultural exports. Some critics of trade liberalization praised Lighthizer’s nomination because he has a long record as a trade lawyer of pursuing enforcement actions against China on behalf of U.S. companies.
Acosta, a Florida law school dean, is largely unknown to agricultural employers, but they will be counting on him to make it easier for farms and processors to use the H-2A and H-2B guest worker visa programs.
Trade also is likely to be on the agenda Tuesday when German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with Trump in Washington.
Senior administration officials said Friday that the White House has “not formulated a final position” on whether to continue negotiating with the European Union on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
Trump has said he is only interested in negotiating bilateral trade agreements, but one administration official pointedly said that T-TIP could be considered a
The House Agriculture Committee was scheduled on Wednesday to look into the potential impact of tax reform on agriculture and rural America, but the hearing was postponed Monday because of an approaching snowstorm.
Later this year, House Republicans hope to move a sweeping package that would slash corporate and personal taxes and eliminate the federal estate tax by making the corporate tax border adjustable.
“The economics of farming and ranching make agricultural producers particularly sensitive to changes in the tax code,” said House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas. “The panel will discuss how current tax provisions support a vibrant farm sector and offer suggestions for how to address agriculture’s unique challenges going forward.”
Conaway has been urging agricultural groups to hold off on criticizing the House GOP plan.
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The controversial border adjustment in the corporate tax is critical to offsetting the cost of cutting tax rates and making it possible for the legislation under budget reconciliation rules that would exempt the measure from the 60-vote threshold required for moving most bills. A border adjustable tax would apply to income from products sold domestically, whether they were made or grown in the United States or abroad, but not to income from export sales.
Here’s a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:
Monday, March 13
Tuesday, March 14
9 a.m. - Farm Foundation forum on the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement, National Press Club. (Cancelled.)
10 a.m. - Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on ways to improve the U.S. energy infrastructure, 366 Dirksen.
10 a.m. - Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing for Robert Lighthizer to be U.S. Trade Representative, 215 Dirksen.
2:30 p.m. - Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee hearing on improving truck safety, 253 Russell.
Wednesday, March 15
10 a.m. - House Agriculture Committee hearing on agriculture and tax reform, 1300 Longworth. (Postponed until another date to be determined.)
10 a.m. - Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing on unmanned aircraft systems, 106 Dirksen.
10 a.m. - Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on controlling invasive species and promoting wildlife conservation, 406 Dirksen.
1 p.m. - Mexican presidential contender Lopez Obrador speaks at the National Press Club.
1:30 p.m. - Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee confirmation hearing for Alex Acosta to be Labor secretary, 430 Dirksen. (Postponed until March 22.)
Thursday, March 16
10 a.m. - House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on agricultural research, 1300 Longworth.
10 a.m. - House Natural Resources subcommittee oversight hearing, “Identifying Innovative Infrastructure Ideas for the National Park Service and Forest Service,” 1324 Longworth.
10:15 a.m. - House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on rehabilitating drinking water systems, 2322 Rayburn.
2 p.m. - House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on farm bill forestry initiatives, 1300 Longworth.
Friday, March 17
(Updated March 13 with cancellation of House Agriculture hearing and Farm Foundation forum.)
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