WASHINGTON, April 23, 2017 - Sonny Perdue finally takes the reins of the Agriculture Department this week, and farm groups will get a meeting with President Trump to talk about their concerns.
The White House meeting is planned for Tuesday afternoon, hours after Perdue is scheduled to be sworn in as secretary of agriculture, sources say.
Also this week, farmers will be eagerly watching Capitol Hill for a congressional budget agreement that could provide aid to cotton and dairy producers. The government will shut down at midnight Friday unless Congress approves a budget deal this week to fund operations through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. If the negotiations can’t be finished in time, a short-term continuing resolution will be needed to keep the government running.
The Senate is scheduled to vote at 5:30 p.m. Monday to confirm Perdue, and the former Georgia governor is expected to receive support from a sizable number of Democrats.
Perdue would then be sworn in Tuesday morning before addressing USDA employees in the atrium of the department’s Whitten building.
The White House roundtable meeting with farmers is expected to focus at least in part on trade issues and the farm bill, according to two sources familiar with the plans. The president is also expected to sign an executive order dealing with ag-related issues.
The White House agriculture adviser, Ray Starling, is speaking to members of the North American Agricultural Journalists on Monday. NAAJ, which is holding its annual meeting this week, will hear from the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House Agriculture committees on Tuesday.
President Trump, who completes his first 100 days in office on Saturday, is trying to avert a government shutdown this week while also showing progress on major initiatives such as health care and government reform.
Although the continuing resolution that is currently funding the government expires Friday, Trump expressed confidence that there would be no government shutdown. “I think we’re in good shape,” Trump told reporters at the end of last week.
Cotton and dairy producers have been lobbying Congress to include provisions in the budget deal to make cotton seed eligible for the Price Loss Coverage program and make some improvements in dairy’s Margin Protection Program. International aid organizations and their allies also have been urging Congress not to make cuts in food aid being pushed by Trump.
The overall agreement has been tied up in a larger fight between the White House and Senate Democrats over funding for Trump’s proposed border wall.
White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney reiterated on Fox News Sunday that the border wall funding is a priority for Trump, but when asked whether the president would reject any budget deal that lacks money for the wall, Mulvaney said, “We don’t know yet. … We are asking for our priorities, and, importantly, we are offering to give Democrats some of their priorities as well.”
But Democrats have rejected what Trump is offering them: a dollar in continued Affordable Care Act subsidies for every new dollar in funding for the wall.
“The White House gambit to hold hostage health care for millions of Americans, in order to force American taxpayers to foot the bill for a wall that the President said would be paid for by Mexico is a complete non-starter,” said Matt House, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
With his100th day looming, Trump also has announced that he will release a tax reform plan on Wednesday. He told The Associated Press that he would propose a “massive tax cut” for individuals and businesses.
Mulvaney said Sunday that the plan would not be a detailed legislative proposal and that it hadn’t been decided yet whether it should be revenue neutral. The plan will lay out ideas for tax reform that “we like and that we don’t like,” Mulvaney said.
Wednesday also is the deadline to provide comments to the Food and Drug Administration on the definition of “healthy” on food labels. In a blog post last week, the director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Susan Mayne, noted that the agency received very different perspectives on the term at a public meeting in March.
“If we were looking for an easy answer and widespread agreement on the definition of healthy, we didn’t find it there! The range of opinions we heard underscores just how complex the process of revising the definition will be,” Mayne wrote.
FDA, meanwhile, still doesn’t have a new commissioner in place. Wednesday morning, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will vote on Trump’s nominee for the post, Scott Gottlieb.
Here’s a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:
Monday, April 24
North American Agricultural Journalists annual meeting, through Tuesday.
9:30 a.m. - Oral arguments before D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in Americans for Clean Energy vs. EPA, a challenge to implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard.
4 p.m. - USDA releases Crop Progress report.
5:30 p.m. - Senate votes on the confirmation of Sonny Perdue to be secretary of agriculture.
Tuesday, April 25
NAAJ annual meeting.
9 a.m. - USDA releases monthly Food Price Outlook.
Wednesday, April 26
Deadline for commenting to the Food and Drug Administration on the definition of “healthy.”
9 a.m. - Farm Foundation forum on the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement, National Press Club.
9: 30 a.m. - Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee business meeting to consider the nomination of Scott Gottlieb to be commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, 430 Dirksen.
10 a.m. - House Financial Services Committee hearing on draft legislation repealing some Dodd-Frank regulations on banks and other institutions, 2128 Rayburn.
10 a.m. - House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing, “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: The State of Railroad, Pipeline, and Hazardous Materials Safety Regulations and Opportunities for Reform,” 2167 Rayburn.
10 a.m. - Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on the technical, scientific and legal basis of the “waters of the United States” rule, 406 Dirksen.
Thursday, April 27
President Mauricio Macri of Argentina visits President Trump at the White House.
8:30 a.m. - USDA releases the Weekly Export Sales report.
10 a.m. - USDA’s Plant Variety Protection Board meeting, USDA South Building, Room 3543.
2 p.m. - Kevin Folta, chairman of the horticultural sciences department at the University of Florida, speaks on “Earn Trust Before Facts Can Flow,” at event sponsored by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology and Syngenta, in cooperation with The World Bank. Event followed by award to Folta of 2016 Borlaug CAST Communication Award. The World Bank, 701 18th St. NW.
6 p.m. - President Macri speaks on the commercial relationship between the United States and Argentina, at event sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Four Seasons Hotel, 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.
Friday, April 28
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