WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2017 - Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue heads to hurricane-ravaged parts of Florida and Texas this week, while back in Washington   the Senate Agriculture Committee takes the first step to finally provide Perdue with some key help at USDA.

The Senate committee on Tuesday will hold a confirmation hearing for Steve Censky to be deputy agriculture secretary, the position traditionally in charge of day-to-day operations at USDA, and Ted McKinney to be USDA’s first undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural services.

Censky is the longtime CEO of the American Soybean Association. McKinney is state agriculture director for Indiana. The committee has not scheduled a vote on the nominations. Neither is controversial.

Sam Clovis, who was nominated in July as undersecretary for research, economics and education, faces strong opposition from Democrats and was not included in Tuesday’s hearing. The committee staff said that it doesn’t have all of Clovis’ paperwork, although he was nominated at the same time as Censky and McKinney.

Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., will say only that the committee will act on Clovis “in an expeditious fashion, if that is the desire of the secretary and the president.”

Perdue, who toured Irma damage in his home state of Georgia on Friday, will take aerial tours on Monday of farm damage from Clewiston and Orlando, Fla. Losses to Florida’s citrus industry are expected to exceed $1 billion.

Perdue will go to Texas Thursday to tour Harvey damage, of which some of the heaviest was to the Gulf Coast cotton crop. Perdue will then spend Friday with House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas. Perdue had to cancel an appearance at a committee listening session in San Angelo in July to attend a Cabinet session.

Also this week, members of the United Fresh Produce Association will be on Capitol Hill making the case for immigration reform and talking to lawmakers and their staffs about the farm bill.

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., will address United Fresh during its annual Washington policy conference on Tuesday. The industry members will be listening for some reasons to be optimistic that policy makers will address their workforce needs. Priority No. 1 on United Fresh’s list of messages for the Hill visits is this: “Demand a solution to protect loyal farm workers from deportation and secure a new guest worker program!”

The House is out of session this week, and the Senate will break Wednesday, due to Rosh Hashanah, but GOP leaders are preparing to roll out their tax reform plan next week. House Speaker Paul Ryan will be in Menomonee Falls, Wis., on Monday to tour Harley-Davidson’s plant and talk about the importance of tax reform as well as trade policy.

President Trump continues to say that he wants to push the corporate tax rate as low as 15 percent and continues to call for repealing the estate tax.

“There are four principles for tax reform:  Make the tax code simple and fair; cut taxes substantially. It will be the largest tax decrease in the history of our country for the middle class; encourage companies to hire and grow in America,” he said.

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

Monday, Sept. 18

Agriculture Secretary Perdue tours storm damage in Florida.

United Fresh Produce Association annual Washington conference, through Wednesday.

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


Tuesday, Sept. 19

United Fresh Washington conference.

9:30 a.m. - Senate Agriculture Committee confirmation hearing for Steve Censky to be deputy agriculture secretary and Ted McKinney to be undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, 316 Hart.


Wednesday, Sept. 20

United Fresh Washington conference.

10 a.m. - Senate Environment and Public Works Committee confirmation hearing for the nominations of Michael Dourson, Matthew Leopold, David Ross, and William Wehrum to be assistant administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, 406 Dirksen.


Thursday, Sept. 21

Agriculture Secretary Perdue travels to Texas to inspect storm damage.

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

12:30 p.m. - The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) sponsors presentation by Tufts University economist Will Masters, “Nutrition Transitions and Agricultural Transformation in Africa,” 1619 Massachusetts Ave. NW.


Friday, Sept. 22




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