WASHINGTON, June 4, 2017 - With Congress returning from a week-long recess, lawmakers this week will push back on President Trump’s proposals to gut international food aid programs.

The House Agriculture Committee will hold its first hearing on food aid programs since the release May 23 of Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget, which proposes to eliminate the $1.7-billion-a-year Food for Peace program as well as the smaller McGovern-Dole international school feeding program.

“The president’s recent budget proposal makes this hearing especially timely, as supporters of these programs will have the opportunity to demonstrate how these programs truly embody an ‘America first’ policy,” said House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway.

Meanwhile, on Monday, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue makes his first international trip, to Toronto, to meet with his Canadian counterpart, Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay, and other officials. The trip comes amid an ongoing dispute about whether Canada’s new Class 7 dairy pricing policy has cut off the market to ultra-filtered U.S. milk.

“The bilateral U.S.-Canada relationship is important to the prosperity of both of our countries and I look forward to strengthening this bond with our neighbors to the north moving forward,” said Perdue. 

While he’s in Toronto, Perdue will head to a downtown restaurant to kick off a two-week-long event showcasing U.S. foods and beverages.

Food for Peace, long the flagship of U.S. food assistance, funds the shipment of U.S. grown and processed commodities to needy regions. Trump’s plan would not only shrink the U.S. role in hunger relief, it would also mean American aid would primarily rely on the use of cash and vouchers, not U.S. commodities.

That was just the scenario that Conaway, R-Texas, feared when lawmakers were debating the Global Food Security Act, which authorized the Emergency Food Security Program, an account operated by the U.S. Agency for International Development to provide aid through vouchers and cash.

Some supporters of EFSP see it as a model for overhauling Food for Peace, but House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., assured Conaway on the House floor last summer that the two programs are intended to operate in parallel.

Committee members are expected to argue at the hearing that eliminating Food for Peace runs counter to Trump’s pledged to put “America first,” a point that the chairman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., made at a hearing May 24 with Perdue.

Elsewhere this week, officials with the Office of Management and Budget will meet on Monday with representatives of the American Farm Bureau Federation and other groups to discuss the EPA’s plan to replace the Obama administration’s “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule that redefines the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. OMB is conducting a federal interagency review of the EPA’s rule-making process.

AFBF asked for the meeting on behalf of the Waters Advocacy Coalition, which represents the construction, manufacturing, housing, real estate, mining and energy sectors as well as agriculture.

OMB met with a coalition of conservation groups, the Clean Water Network, last week and will meet with the National Mining Association and other groups later this week.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt plans to write a more narrowly tailored WOTUS rule along the lines of the late Justice Antonin Scalia's opinion in the Supreme Court's 2006 Rapanos decision.

Outside Washington this week, the first trial begins Monday in a series of lawsuits stemming from China’s 2013 rejection of corn shipments that contained a Syngenta corn variety that wasn’t approved for sale there.

The case, set for trial in a Kansas City, Kan., federal court, is the first of several “test trials” that gauge the strength of the cases and determine whether the parties should settle, according to Kristine Tidgren, assistant director of the Iowa State Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation.

Another legal battle opens up Monday in a South Dakota courtroom, where opening statements are scheduled in the defamation lawsuit Beef Products Inc. has filed against ABC News. The family-owned meat processor claims ABC News' coverage of a widely used processed meat product, which it referred to as "pink slime," hurt the company's bottom line to the tune of $1.9 billion.

On Tuesday in Kansas City, Mo., USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will hold the first of three public meetings on changes proposed in the final days of the Obama administration’s to the agency’s regulations for agricultural biotechnology.

Meanwhile, the House will act this week on legislation that would roll back some of the Dodd-Frank restrictions imposed on banks in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The bill’s provisions include a Dodd-Frank “off ramp:” Banks that maintain a leverage ratio of at least 10 percent could be exempted from a number of restrictions, including the Basel III capital and liquidity standards.

Critics of the rules say they’ve benefitted larger banks to the detriment of smaller institutions.

“This is a jobs bill for Main Street. It will rein in the overreach of Dodd-Frank that has allowed the big banks to get bigger while small businesses have been unable to get the loans they need to succeed,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

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

Monday, June 5

American Agri-Women Legislative Fly-In, thru June 7. Residence Inn, Washington.

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

Tuesday, June 6

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service holds public meeting on proposed changes to its regulations for agricultural biotechnology, in Kansas City, Mo. Webcast available.

Wednesday, June 7

10 a.m. - House Agriculture Committee hearing on international food aid programs, 1300 Longworth.

10 a.m. - House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, 2358-C Rayburn.

Thursday, June 8

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

9:30 a.m. - House Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, 2007 Rayburn.

10 a.m. - House Agriculture subcommittee hearing on SNAP technology and modernization, 1300 Longworth.

10 a.m. - House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Chris Giancarlo, acting chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, 2362-A Rayburn.

10 a.m. - Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, 138 Dirksen.

10 a.m. - Senate Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, 192 Dirksen.

2 p.m. - House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on management of the national forests, 1324 Longworth.

Friday, June 9

8 a.m. - House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection, 2008 Rayburn.

Noon - USDA releases the monthly Crop Production report and World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates.


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