Weekly Food & Agriculture Update 2.4

Monday, February 4th, 2019


February 4, 2019

A quick look at what’s happening in Washington, D.C. that’s impacting food and agriculture. If you would like to subscribe to the receive the updates right to your inbox, please contact Marissa Dake

Big Picture Outlook

  • USDA Announces Trade Promotion Awardees- The USDA has announced the 57 organizations selected to receive $200 million through the Agricultural Trade Promotion (ATP) program. The ATP is one of three programs that were developed to compensate farmers that are experiencing losses from the ongoing tit-for-tat tariff war between the US and China. The program is designed to help US farmers and ranchers “identify and access” new export markets. “This infusion will help us deliver other markets and move us away from being dependent on one large customer for our agricultural products,” explainedUSDA Secretary Perdue. The top three recipients are the American Soybean Association, US Meat Export Federation, and the US Grains Council. Last week, USTR held high-level bilateral trade talks with China, resulting in an announcement that China will purchase 5 million tons of soybeans. A spokeswoman for the American Soybean Association said that the organization, “wants to see these negotiations lead to an end to the tariffs.”
  • Lawsuit over H-2A Guestworker Wages-  Earlier this month, the Department of Labor set new wage minimums for companies employing H-2A guest workers and was met with a court action lawsuit from the National Coalition of Agricultural Employers. The NCAE contends that the method used to set the rates is arbitrary, established without sufficient basis, and does not consider other costs that employers have to consider, such as housing and transportation. A court ruling is expected as early as February.


Nominations & Confirmations

The Senate has not made any confirmations in this session yet.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue has appointed Dr. Mindy Brashears as Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, Naomi Earp as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, and Dr. Scott Hutchins as Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics. The positions do not require Senate Confirmation. The three individuals have been nominated for their senior roles, but will serve as deputies while they await confirmation. The Senate Agriculture Committee had advanced the group to the full Senate in December, but the nominations expired with the end of the 115th Congress. The nominations have been sent back to the Senate.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is expected to vote on the nomination for Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler this week.

The Week Ahead

Wednesday, February 6
  • The House Committee on Small Business will evaluate the government shutdown’s economic impact on small businesses.
Thursday, February 7
  • The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure will hold a hearing entitled, “The Cost of Doing Nothing: Why Investing in Our Nation’s Infrastructure Cannot Wait.”
  • The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will examine the status and outlook of energy innovation in the United States.

MTA In Action

Last week, Michael Torrey Associates hosted a breakfast meet and greet for newly elected Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer (D-IA). Congresswoman Finkenauer grew up in Sherrill, Iowa represents Iowa’s first district. Congresswoman Finkenaur was newly appointed to serve as Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Rural Development, Agriculture, Trade, and Entrepreneurship. The post is a subcommittee of the Small Business Committee. The meet and greet was held at the Beer Institute and included attendees from American Bankers Association, Corteva Agriscience, Elanco Animal Health, the Fertilizer Institute, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Farmers Union, the Organic Trade Association, and Tyson Foods, Inc.

A Quick Look Back

Pertinent Timing Ticker