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Members of the House and Senate will return to Washington, D.C. after the mid-term elections with a full plate of business. One item on the agenda is the 2018 Farm Bill which farm-group leaders hope will be passed before the end of the year.

The Senate will vote to confirm Tom Vilsack as Agriculture secretary, on Tuesday, Feb. 23.

The Senate made the decision on Feb. 13 after the vote on former President Donald Trump’s impeachment. The Senate has not set a time for the confirmation of Vilsack, who served as Agriculture secretary in the Obama administration.

Both the Senate and the House were out of session last week following the Presidents Day holiday.

Climate hearing

The House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing, Climate Change and the U.S. Agriculture and Forestry Sectors, on Feb. 23. The hearing will be the committee’s first since Rep. David Scott (D-GA-13) became chairman of the committee.

USTR hearing delayed

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) who chaired the Senate Finance Committee in the 116th Congress, said recently he does not expect Katherine Tai, President Biden’s nominee for U.S. trade representative, to get a committee confirmation hearing until mid-March.

Speaking to rural reporters, Grassley said that Tai might get a Senate floor confirmation vote before the congressional break that begins March 26 for two weeks because she is not considered to be a controversial nominee, but that her confirmation vote might not come until April.

McCarthy invited to IA

Grassley also said that he will invite Gina McCarthy, President Joe Biden’s national climate adviser, to Iowa after she made remarks that the middle of the country needs to be involved in the climate discussion and see “what resilience looks like.”

“Look, we have to get the middle of the country understanding and active on climate. We need to show them what resilience looks like,” McCarthy told an Energy Storage Association virtual policy forum on Feb. 3, Microgrid Knowledge reported.

McCarthy called for moving the climate message from the “coastlines” to “every state in the middle so they can see, not just that climate change is real and the crisis is upon us, but we have solutions. Let’s celebrate them. Let’s spend money on them. Let’s grow this clean energy future that we all talk about, and let’s do it now,” Microgrid Knowledge reported.

Grassley said in his weekly telephone call to rural reporters that he considered McCarthy’s remarks about the middle of the country “disparaging” and that she needs another visit to Iowa “to see how Iowa has been reducing the country’s dependence on fossil fuels” and that Iowans already know a lot about resilience.

Grassley noted that when McCarthy headed the Environmental Protection Agency in the Obama administration, she visited Iowa at his invitation and that separately she also attended the Iowa State Fair.

On her visit with him, Grassley said he showed her biofuels facilities and “in the 12 years since her visit, Iowa has done even more.” On her state fair visit, Grassley said McCarthy was in a discussion about Iowa’s voluntary program to clean up the state’s waterways and that she spoke highly of it and said it would be good for other states to follow Iowa’s lead.

Asked about the likelihood that Biden officials would rewrite the Waters of the U.S. Rule, also known as the Clean Water Rule, Grassley said, “They are inclined to regulate everybody’s life to the nth degree.” The question is, Grassley said, “Could you even farm without getting a government permit?” — Jerry Hagstrom, DTN political correspondent

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