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Congress out again | Focus is on USDA's Outlook Forum
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Congress is out on another recess and will return Feb. 27. USDA will take the focus this week, hosting its annual Outlook Forum on Thursday and Friday (link to forum agenda).
The most market-sensitive item at USDA's confab will be the department's supply and demand projections for key 2012 crops. As usual, many in the trade will disagree with some of the projections, most likely planted acreage and yield projections. The market focus will then quickly return to weather conditions in the US and around the world, and to demand for key commodities.
USDA's Export Sales report will be delayed one day, until Friday, due to Monday's government holiday (Presidents' Day).
More “recess” appointments ahead? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Friday he will urge President Obama to circumvent the Senate and fill high-profile executive branch jobs directly unless Republicans agree to begin moving the stalled nominations by the end of March. A House panel last week questioned the constitutionality of Obama’s recent recess appointments. Republicans have threatened to block nominations after Obama recess-appointed four nominees early this year. “We have a lot of nominations we're going to have to deal with,” Reid said.
The agenda ahead for Congress is well known. What isn't clear is whether congressional leaders from both political parties will either allow time for floor debate on items such as an omnibus farm bill later this year, or whether there are enough votes to pass controversial legislation like the surface transportation bill. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who has never voted for a major highway bill, is trying to find enough votes to get the House version (HR 7) out of that chamber. The Senate also left for the recess without completing its version of the transportation reauthorization package, but Sen. Reid said work on the highway bill (S 1813) will resume Feb. 27. The Senate bill is bogged down over disagreements between Democrats and Republicans over the list of non-germane amendments. Reid said he will cut deals with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that will allow the GOP to bring up many of its own non-transportation priorities for debate after the recess. They include the Keystone XL pipeline, the so-called boiler MACT rule at the Environmental Protection Agency, foreign aid to Egypt, and contraception.
The latest extension of surface transportation programs expires March 31, after which construction funds would lapse unless Congress either passes a final reauthorization bill or approves another extension. Most observers expect another extension.
Other topics to be addressed in Senate. Reid said that debate on cybersecurity (S 2105) and postal reform (S 1789) bills would take place in early March.
March 31 is the date for Congress' next break, the spring recess. The spring recess ends April 16.
Key reports and events on tap this week include:
Monday, Feb. 20
U.S. markets are closed for Presidents' Day. Many other markets are also closed, including Canada, Family Day; and Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela, Carnival.
Europe: The euro group of finance ministers mull whether to approve a second aid package to Greece, which would enable a private debt-swap package.
Tuesday, Feb. 21
Europe: European Union finance ministers meet in Brussels, with the proposed enhanced monitoring of member nations’ budgetary policies at the top of their agenda.
Iran: The UN nuclear agency is scheduled to meet with Iran.
Economic reports: Selected Interest Rates (Federal Reserve).
USDA reports: Export inspections (AMS) | US and Canadian Cattle and Sheep (NASS) | US and Canadian Hogs (NASS) | Catfish Feed Deliveries (NASS) | Catfish Processing (NASS) | Feed Grains Database (ERS) | Wheat Data (ERS).
Wednesday, Feb. 22
GOP debate: Republican presidential hopefuls debate in Mesa, Ariz.
Markets closed in Russia for Defender's Day.
Gates addresses food issue: Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and philanthropist, and Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s president, are among the speakers at the two-day governing council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development in Rome.