The Week Ahead: July 9-15, 2012

July 8, 2012 10:30 PM
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via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

House farm bill markup | Health care law repeal in House, not Senate | Key USDA reports

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

Both chambers of Congress come back to work after another lengthy recess, this time for July Fourth. Items on the agenda include another House vote on repealing the health care reform law, small business tax legislation, and a July 11 House Ag Committee farm bill markup. The House is not in session Friday, July 13.

The Senate is scheduled to take a vote early in the week on the motion to proceed to the Small Business and Tax Relief Act (S 2237), which would provides tax credits to small firms. The measure would create a 10 percent income tax credit for employers who grow their payroll in 2012, either through new jobs or wage increases. The credit would be capped at $500,000 per employer. The measure also would extend 100 percent bonus depreciation on qualified capital expenditures through 2012 for all employers in an effort to encourage investment. A Republican alternative (HR 9) would give a 20 percent deduction to every small business with fewer than 500 employees but would limit the value of the deduction to 50 percent of W-2 wages.

In the House, lawmakers will take another vote on the repeal of the health care law, after the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional on June 28. The House also will consider legislation dealing with mining licenses (HR 4402).

The House will also take up a bill (HR 4402) to speed development of strategic and critical minerals by limiting the duration of reviews of drilling permits and requiring concurrent, rather than sequential, consideration. While that measure has some Democratic support, environmental groups oppose it.

More green cards. The House also will take up a bill from Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) that would offer additional green cards to foreign graduates of American universities in high-tech fields.

At the top of the agriculture agenda is the scheduled July 11 farm bill markup session in the House Ag Committee – the panel released its proposal last Thursday. Key will be possible amendments dealing with dairy reform, sugar and food stamp funding. Unknown is any timeline for full House floor debate and votes on a farm bill ahead of Nov. 6 elections. Several House Democrats and anti-hunger groups plan to hold a news events Tuesday against a draft farm policy bill that proposes $16 billion in cuts over 10 years for food stamp funding.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the legislation would save $35.1 billion during Fiscal Years 2013 to 2022, or $12 billion more than a Senate-passed farm bill (S 3240). About 45 percent of the House savings would come from cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. Under the House draft language released July 5, automatic eligibility for SNAP would be limited to households receiving cash assistance from the Supplemental Security Income disability program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or state general assistance programs. The change would account for the majority of the SNAP savings. Both the House and the Senate bills would reduce SNAP spending by ending the practice in some states of qualifying households for benefits by sending them nominal checks — some as little as $1 — for heating or cooling costs through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

The House farm bill proposal also contains 10-year cuts of $14 billion to farm programs (the estimated $23.6 billion in savings from changes to commodity programs would be offset by an increase of $9.5 billion in spending on crop insurance, yielding a net savings of $14 billion) and around $6 billion to conservation programs from consolidating 23 conservation programs into 13 and capping the maximum Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres from the current 32 million to 25 million acres by 2017.

Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), ranking member on the House Ag Committee, agreed to the cuts as a pragmatic way of moving forward with legislation important to rural lawmakers. In an interview with The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper, Peterson said much of the food stamp funding cuts would be restored in a conference with the Senate. “I think they were trying to force me to get into a position where we would blow up the bill so they could blame Democrats in the election. That is not going to happen,” he said.

Peterson said he expects Senate Democrats to kill the deepest cut to food stamps, the restriction on categorical eligibility to food stamps, while leaving reforms pertaining to home heating assistance intact. “I talked to [Sen.] Debbie [Stabenow, D-Mich.]. There is no chance,” he said, referring to the Senate Agriculture chairwoman.

Peterson said he has consulted House Minatory Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and does not yet know how they will vote on the bill.  Meanwhile, their offices declined to say, according to The Hill. Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said she was “troubled” by the food stamp cuts. “However,” he added, “it is important for the process to move forward, and we are confident that the deficiencies in the House bill will be corrected in the conference with the Senate.” Hoyer meanwhile is still reviewing the bill and “has strong concerns” on food stamps, his office said.

Pressure from GOP fiscal conservatives may force House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to keep the over $900 billion farm bill from the floor ahead of Nov. 6 elections. Peterson told The Hill that Cantor is in a bind that can only benefit Democrats. If Cantor bows to tea party pressure and does not move a farm bill, GOP candidates in Midwest districts will lose votes, he said. If Cantor moves the farm bill, Peterson added, the eventual product will boost the economy, helping the president.

Ag-related reports of note this week include Monday's Crop Progress report and Wednesday's USDA supply/demand estimates and the Crop Production report, along with Thursday's Export Sales report.

This week's Washington-related agenda: The agenda for congressional committees features hearings on the health care individual mandate; oversight hearings on health care reform; the impact of the Dodd-Frank Act on several industries, the impact of tax reform, alternative fuels and vehicles, a hearing on biodiesel fuel fraud, and the impact of regulations.

Monday, July 9
Congress returns:
With both House and Senate lawmakers returning from their July Fourth recess, the clock starts on legislation to be debated and voted on before the long summer recess begins after close of business Aug. 3.
Euro zone finance ministers meet:
Finance ministers of the euro zone meet in Brussels to discuss the bailout of Spanish banks and the wider debt crisis.
China-EU talks:
Catherine Ashton, EU high representative for foreign affairs, visits China to attend the third round of the China-EU high-level strategic dialogue (until July 10).
Asian ministers meet:
Foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the East Asia Summit group, which includes China, Japan and South Korea, take place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (until July 13).
ECB President Mario Draghi comments on current economic and monetary developments.
Human rights attacks in China:
Subcommittee hearing. House Foreign Affairs — Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights.
Economic reports:
Selected Interest Rates (Federal Reserve) | Consumer Credit.
USDA reports:
Export inspections (AMS) | Crop Progress (NASS) | International Food Security Assessment (ERS).

Tuesday, July 10
EU finance ministers meet: Finance ministers from all EU states assemble in Brussels for the latest monthly meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council, where they aim to make further progress on moves to solve the euro zone sovereign debt crisis.
Financial security summit: The question of how to create more savings and wealth in US households, strengthen middle-class opportunity and improve the economic future is addressed at the Financial Security Summit at the Aspen Institute, Colorado (until July 13).
OECD report on employment: The annual OECD Employment Outlook report is published, offering a view of labor prospects and statistics in member countries.
Russia/WTO entry: Russian lawmakers will vote on the country’s entry to the World Trade Organization.
SNAP (food stamp) cuts: News conference on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamp) cuts. Democratic members of Congress, Feeding America, and Food Research and Action Center. Speakers include Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.); Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.); Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio); Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.); Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.); Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.); Eric Olson, senior vice president for public policy, Feeding America; Jim Weill, president, Food Research and Action Center; Gary Cook, director of church relations, Bread for the World; Matthew Biggs, legislative-political director, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers; Howard Bedlin, vice president of public policy and advocacy, National Council on Aging; Seth Bixby Daugherty, chef instructor, Art Institutes International Minnesota; Mary Pat Raimondi, vice president for strategic policy and partnerships, American Dietetic Association.
Impact of Dodd-Frank Act - Job creators, credit and financial institution customers: Subcommittee hearing. House Financial Services — Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises.
Alternative fuels and vehicles – challenges and opportunities: Subcommittee hearing. House Energy and Commerce — Subcommittee on Energy and Power. Panelists include Joseph Petrowski, CEO, Cumberland Gulf Group; Jack Gerard, president and CEO, American Petroleum Institute; Robert Dinneen, president and CEO, Renewable Fuels Association; Thomas Tanton, executive director and director, Science and Technology Assessment, American Tradition Institute; Michael McAdams, president, Advanced Biofuels Association; Michael Breen, vice president, Truman National Security Project.
Ramifications of health care law decision: Committee hearing. House Ways and Means Committee.
Future of transportation security: Subcommittee hearing. House Homeland Security — Subcommittee on Transportation Security.
Boosting job opportunities through tax overhaul: Committee hearing. Senate Finance Committee.
Impact of Dodd-Frank Act - Financial services competition: Subcommittee hearing. House Judiciary — Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet.
Energy reports: Weekly National Petroleum Report (API).
Economic reports: ICSC-Goldman Store Sales | NFIB Small Business Optimism.

Wednesday, July 11
House farm bill markup:
House Ag Committee.
Federal Reserve:
Federal Reserve will release minutes of its June 19-20 meeting.
Impact of Dodd-Frank Act – Mortgage banking:
Subcommittee hearing. House Financial Services — Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit.
Biodiesel fuel fraud:
Subcommittee hearing. House Energy and Commerce — Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing titled "RIN [Renewable Identification Numbers] Fraud: EPA's Efforts to Ensure Market Integrity in the Renewable Fuels Program." RINs serve as credits for the production and blending of renewable fuels into the nation's fuel supply. Since November 2011, EPA has identified some 140 million invalid or fraudulently created RINs associated with biodiesel fuel.
Effect of vehicle safety regulations on small businesses:
Committee hearing. House Small Business Committee hearing to review the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program and its effects on small businesses. The CSA is the federal government's primary tool to regulate commercial motor vehicle safety.
Energy reports: Weekly Petroleum Status Report (EIA) | Weekly ethanol plant production (EIA).
Economic reports: MBA Purchase Applications | International Trade | Wholesale Trade.
USDA reports: Broiler Hatchery (NASS) | World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WAOB) | Crop Production (NASS) | Cotton, Grains, Oilseeds, and World Agricultural Production Data (FAS) | Oilseeds: World Markets and Trade (FAS) | World Agricultural Production (FAS) | Cotton: World Markets and Trade (FAS) | Grains: World Markets and Trade (FAS) | Season-Average Price Forecasts (ERS) | Latest US Agricultural Trade Data (ERS).

Thursday, July 12
Japan: The Bank of Japan is seen easing.
Regulatory review:
Subcommittee hearing. House Judiciary — Subcommittee on Courts, Commercial and Administrative Law.
Energy reports: Weekly US underground natural gas stocks (EIA).
Economic reports: Jobless Claims (Labor Dept.) | Weekly Mortgage Rates (Freddie Mac) | ICI weekly money market mutual fund data | Import and Export Prices | Treasury Budget.
Transportation: Grain Transportation Report (AMS).
USDA reports: Export Sales (FAS) | Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook (ERS) | Livestock and Meat Trade Data (ERS) | Cotton and Wool Outlook (ERS) | Oil Crops Outlook (ERS) | Rice Outlook ERS | US Agricultural Trade Data Update (ERS).

Friday, July 13

China posts quarterly GDP growth.
JPMorgan Chase: Deadline for JPMorgan Chase to respond to US requests for e-mails sought in an energy-market manipulation probe.
Europe's farming future: Officials discuss the future of Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) at a European Commission conference in Brussels. The event will discuss the CAP reform proposals for post-2013, which focus on food security, sustainable management of natural resources and maintaining the territorial balance of rural areas in the EU.
Review of unnecessary and burdensome regulations: Field hearing. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. At University of Central Oklahoma, 100 N. University Dr., Edmond, Okla.
Economic reports: Producer Price Index | Consumer Sentiment.
USDA reports: Peanut Prices (NASS) | Wheat Outlook (ERS) | Feed Outlook (ERS).

Saturday, July 14
Blueprint for domestic energy production:
Field hearing. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. At North Dakota State University, 12th Ave. North and Bolley Dr., Fargo, N.D.

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.






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