WASHINGTON, July 23, 2017 - The House takes up a package of appropriations bills this week that includes provisions to speed the repeal of the Obama-era “waters of the United States” rule and slash spending on next-generation biofuels.


GOP leaders struggling to make progress on their spending bills for fiscal 2018, which starts Oct. 1, have decided to combine bills that include funding for the Department of Energy and the Army Corps of Engineers as well as the Defense Department.


Republicans on both sides of the Hill are eager to show progress on major issues. The effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is hanging by a thread in the Senate, while a 2018 budget resolution critical to enacting tax reform appears to be short of votes in the House. The budget resolution, which is critical to GOP hopes to enact tax reform, would require $10 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.


The House’s combined appropriations bill, the Make America Secure Appropriations Act, includes a provision that would authorize the Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency to bypass the notice-and-comment procedures that is required by the Administrative Procedure Act to withdraw the WOTUS rule.


The Energy portion of the bill would gut several clean energy projects. The bill would effectively kill a joint project between DOE, the Agriculture Department and Navy to reduce the cost of military biofuels.


The legislation also would slash spending for DOE’s Bioenergy Technology Office from $224.6 million this year to $27 million in 2018.The office funds public-private partnerships aimed at commercializing biofuels made from non-food sources of biomass.


The appropriations package, which also includes construction and maintenance funding for ports and inland waterways, would provide the Corps of Engineers with $6.2 billion in fiscal 2018,  $1.2 billion more than President Trump requested and a $120 million increase over FY17. However, the Corps’ construction account would get $1.7 billion, $179 million below this year but $677 million more than Trump requested.


Also this week, the Senate Agriculture Committee holds a major hearing on commodity programs and crop insurance and a confirmation hearing for three nominees to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.


Tuesday’s farm bill hearing will include testimony from 10 farmers from different regions of the country and also representatives of the crop insurance and banking sectors and major farm organizations.


The CFTC nominees include two Republicans, former Agriculture Committee aide Dawn DeBerry Stump and Brian Quintenz, a former House GOP adviser; and one Democrat, Russ Behnam, an adviser to Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the ranking Democrat on the Agriculture Committee.  The five-seat CFTC currently has three vacancies.


Stump, who has a degree from Texas Tech University in agricultural economics, spent four years on the Agriculture Committee staff, where she worked on futures regulation and the 2008 farm bill. Stump, who now has her own consulting firm, represented the committee during negotiations on the Dodd-Frank law enacted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. 


Quintenz was originally nominated by President Obama but never received a Senate vote. During his earlier confirmation hearing, he promised the committee that he would get out of Washington and meet with producers regularly.


“I don’t think you get a better sense of their businesses and their pressure and their costs than you do by actually going there and being on the ground with them,” Quintenz said, citing his experience as a congressional aide.


The House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday on the potential impact on agriculture of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.


“As the administration prepares to renegotiate NAFTA, agriculture needs to keep its foot on the gas to ensure their interests are known and reflected in the agreement,” said House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas.


“The administration has already outlined key objectives for ag, such as expanding market opportunities and tightening enforcement, and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about opportunities to achieve the best deal possible for American agriculture.”


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


Monday, July 24


8:30 a.m. - Liam Fox MP, the United Kingdom’s secretary of state for international trade, speaks on the future of British trade policy, American Enterprise Institute, 1789 Massachusetts Ave. NW.


Noon - Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., speaks at the National Press Club. Agri-Pulse Senior Editor Philip Brasher will be one of a handful of journalists sitting at the head table and offering questions during the event.


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


Tuesday, July 25


8:30 a.m. - Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, “Commodities, Credit, and Crop Insurance: Perspectives on Risk Management Tools and Trends for the 2018 Farm Bill,” 106 Dirksen.


9 a.m. - USDA releases monthly Food Price Outlook.


10 a.m. - House Science, Space and Technology subcommittees hearing, “Examining Advancements in Biofuels: Balancing Federal Research and Market Innovation,” 2318 Rayburn.


10 a.m. - Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee hearing on clean energy technology, 406 Dirksen.


11 a.m. - Senate Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee markup of fiscal 2018 spending bill, 192 Dirksen.


2:30 p.m. - Senate Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee markup of FY18 spending bill, 192 Dirksen.


Wednesday, July 26


10 a.m. - House Agriculture Committee hearing on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, 1300 Longworth.


Thursday, July 27


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


9:30 a.m. - Senate Agriculture confirmation hearing for three nominees to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, 328A Russell.


10:30 a.m. - Senate Appropriations Committee markup of the Transportation-HUD and CJS bills, 106 Dirksen.


Friday, July 28




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