This week in Washington: March 21-25

Congress plans Easter recess while President Obama is on trips to Cuba and Argentina.

The Senate left Washington, D.C., and will not return to session until Monday, April 4. The House will remain in session through Wednesday before going on recess through Tuesday, April 12.

The House Budget Committee will hold a hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, March 22. For more information, click here. At 2 p.m. there will be a joint hearing with the energy and commerce committees on the EPA budget.

On Tuesday, the House Committee on Natural Resources will hold a hearing at 2 p.m. titled Examining the Missions and Impacts of the President’s Proposed Fiscal Year 2017 Budgets of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Power Marketing Administrations and one at 10 a.m. on Examining the Spending Priorities and Missions of the Forest Service in the President’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Proposal.

On Wednesday at 9 a.m. the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform will hold a hearing on Examining the Bureau of Land Management Public Lands Leasing.

President Barack Obama will visit Cuba and Argentina this week. For more on the Cuba visit, read this story on Feedstuffs from last week on the focus for agriculture and those who will be attending. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will accompany the President on the trip.

Vilsack will use this second trip to Cuba to discuss opportunities for collaboration in agriculture between the U.S. and Cuba, to better understand how climate change is affecting agricultural production in Cuba and to continue to help American businesses interested in exporting to Cuba form and strengthen ties to the Cuban people and culture.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) said the U.S. pork industry would like to sell more to pork the two countries. While NPPC is interested in expanding sales to both markets, Argentina presents the better opportunity – economically and politically. The South American nation has a much higher per capita income and a much larger population than Cuba and has experienced a very significant increase in pork consumption over the past 10 years, with future increases expected. More important, the country’s newly elected president, Mauricio Macri, is a strong supporter of trade. NPPC has been working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in negotiating an export certificate with Argentina that would open its market to more U.S. pork.

Later this week, Vilsack will return to the states with two visits to Illinois. The first will come Wednesday when he makes remarks on nutrition at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill. On Thursday, he will give remarks on strengthening local and regional food systems as a way of revitalizing rural economies at the Good Food Festival & Conference in Chicago, Ill.

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