Weekly Food & Agriculture Update 5.20

Monday, May 20th, 2019


May 20, 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

  • US Trade Update- On Friday, the Trump administration removed the section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada and Mexico. In turn, the two countries agreed to remove the retaliatory tariffs that had been imposed on US goods. The agreement authorizes monitoring of inputs and a mechanism that would prevent surges of imports that would undermine the integrity of the 232 program. USDA Secretary Perdue called the announcement, “a big win for American agriculture and the economy as a whole.” Though the administration maintained that the tariffs were unrelated to USMCA, lawmakers, including Senate Finance Committee Chairman Grassley (R-IA), had urged removal of the tariffs to clear the way for the new trade agreement.As the trade war with China continues, USDA is working on a second round of trade mitigation payments for affected farmers. Secretary Perdue said that farmers are experiencing estimated losses of $15 to $20 billion and that the program would reflect those numbers. USDA economist Dr. Joe Glauber has voiced concerns that additional aid may be challenged at the World Trade Organization (WTO). In other trade news, Japan has agreed to lift restrictions on US beef, allowing products to enter the country for the fist time since 2003. The expanded access means that beef exports could increase by $200 million. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) president Jennifer Houston called the announcement “great news for American cattle producers” and said the decision “underscores the safety of the U.S. beef herd.”
  • Disaster Aid Legislation on Docket in Senate- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that the Senate will vote on a disaster aid bill before leaving for Memorial Day recess, warning that he will force a vote if need be. “We will be having a vote because I’m not going to be sending members of either party home to these storm- and flood-ravaged states without at least some action,” McConnell said at a recent press conference. Negotiators have reached an agreement on funding for Puerto Rico, once a major sticking point for the bill. The House passed a version of the disaster aid bill two weeks ago and appropriators have been working toward a compromise to send to the President’s desk. The legislation is set to address regions hit by hurricanes, wildfires, floods and other natural disasters.

Nominations & Confirmations

  • Brian Bulatao was confirmed to be an Under Secretary of State.
  • Jeffrey Rosen was confirmed to be Deputy Attorney General.
The Senate Agriculture Committee advanced nominees for three top USDA positions last week: Dr. Mindy Brashears is nominated to be Under Secretary for Food Safety, Naomi Earp to be Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and Dr. Scott Hutchins to be Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics. 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 three have been working in “deputy” roles at USDA while they await confirmation. It is uncertain when the nominees will be considered by the full Senate.

The Week Ahead

Monday, May 20

  • The National Coalition for Food and Agricultural Research will hold a Congressional briefing on Genome Editing in Food Animals.
Tuesday, May 21
  • The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture will hold a hearing, “To Review Animal Pest and Disease Prevention and Response Capabilities.”
  • The Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Climate Change and the Agriculture Sector.” Witnesses include farmers from Nebraska and Kansas, a professor from the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis and former Agriculture Secretary Vilsack.

Wednesday, May 22

  • The House Committee on Ways and Means will discuss, “Enforcement in the New NAFTA.”
  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will examine legislation to address the risks associated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Thursday, May 23

  • The House Select Committee on Climate Change will host a hearing on, “Creating a Climate Resilient America.”

A Quick Look Back