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This Week in Washington: Feb. 22-26

Congress back in session, with ag budget hearings and Vilsack topping agenda, as well as USDA Outlook Forum.

Congress is back from its weeklong recess and plans to be busy with hearings. As it relates to the industry, be sure to tune into Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's time before the House Agriculture Committee to discuss the state of the rural economy.

The House appropriations subcommittee for agriculture also has four hearings scheduled over the week featuring testimony from top government officials.

Also this week, many will be headed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Outlook Forum. We'll be logging news from the event, so be sure to follow us on Twitter at @Feedstuffs or at www.Feedstuffs.com.

HEARING: State of the Rural Economy

Feb. 24 at 10 a.m.

The House Agriculture Committee will hear from Vilsack on the state of the rural economy against the backdrop of deteriorating conditions in farm country. This hearing will examine the extent to which current farm policy is helping address the estimated 56% decline in net farm income since 2013, the largest three-year percentage drop since the Great Depression. The hearing will also provide committee members with an opportunity to engage with the secretary on issues important to constituents in their home districts.

For more information, click here.

HEARING: Food for Thought: Efforts to Defend the Nation's Agriculture & Food

Feb. 26 at 9 a.m.

The House Committee on Homeland Security's subcommittee on emergency preparedness, response and communications will examine the risks to agriculture and food systems from a terrorist attack or natural disruption, including an assessment of the threats and an overview of capabilities and efforts to enhance protections.

Bobby Acord, former administrator of USDA's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, will testify next Thursday on behalf of the National Pork Producers Council on efforts to defend the nation's agriculture and food industries. Other witnesses are Dr. Tammy Beckham, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University and former director of the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases at Texas A&M University, and Dr. Doug Meckes, state veterinarian for North Carolina who formerly was branch chief of the food, agriculture and veterinary defense branch of the Office of Health Affairs at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

For more information, click here.

HEARING: Fiscal 2017 Agriculture Budgets

The House appropriations subcommittee on agriculture, rural development, food and drug administration and related agencies will hold a number of fiscal 2017 budget hearings (the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1).

On Wednesday, the subcommittee will review the USDA budget, with a hearing on the agency's Food & Nutrition Service at 10 a.m. and its Food Safety & Inspection Service at 2:30 p.m.

A panel at 10:30 a.m. Thursday will hear from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, and one at 9:30 a.m. Friday will examine USDA's budget for natural resources and the environment.

For more information, click here.

Agricultural Outlook Forum

The Agricultural Outlook Forum, now in its 92nd year, is USDA's largest annual meeting, attracting 1,600 attendees. Along with the plenary panel discussion on “Providing Leadership for Present & Future Generations in the Transformation of Agriculture,” attendees can choose from 30 sessions with more than 80 speakers and a host of agriculture-related exhibits. The two-day meeting will be held Feb. 25-26 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Va.

Click here for forum information or to register.

Animal health advisory meeting

The USDA Secretary's Advisory Committee on Animal Health will hold a public meeting in Dallas, Texas, on Feb. 23-25 to discuss issues pertaining to USDA's role in promoting and maintaining U.S. animal health. The committee advises the secretary of agriculture on means to prevent, conduct surveillance on, monitor, control or eradicate animal diseases of national importance while considering public health, conservation of natural resources and the stability of livestock economies.

Members of the public may attend in person or listen via conference call. Registration is encouraged by emailing [email protected]. Information regarding this public meeting, along with a final agenda, is available on the committee's website. All documents (presentations, handouts, etc.) will be made available (under the Meeting section) throughout the public meeting.

EU, U.S. to continue TTIP talks in Brussels

The 12th round of negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union and the U.S. will continue during the week in Brussels, Belgium. While the EU is willing to eliminate tariffs on nearly all goods, for example, it announced publicly that it is unwilling to eliminate them on beef, poultry and pork. It also is refusing to reconsider its stance on beef hormones and the feed additive ractopamine, which is used in beef and pork production.

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