Agri-Pulse Daybreak for April 20, 2016

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



http://www.agriculture.senate.gov/04-18-16-epa-acknowledgment-whatsupstreamWASHINGTON, April 20, 2016 - Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have fresh momentum after big victories in yesterday's New York presidential primary. In his victory speech, Trump attributed his win to trade-related job losses. “Our jobs are being sucked out of our states. … We're not going to let it happen anymore,” he said. 

According to exit polling, Trump voters don't necessarily share his hard-line views on immigration, though. Half of them favor giving illegal immigrants path to legal status. The next five primaries, including Pennsylvania, Maryland and Connecticut, will take place next Tuesday.

Lets Talk Food

Energy vote, possible WOTUS debate ahead in Senate. The Senate is set today to approve what would be the first major overhaul of federal energy policy since 2007. The bill includes incentives for renewable power as well as fossil fuels. 

The bill also would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund and require a portion of it to be used to secure rights of way and easements that open up access to existing public lands.

The Senate will next turn to its fiscal 2017 spending bill for the Army Corps of Engineers. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., wants to force a debate on the administration's WOTUS rule, but an aide said he hasn't yet been assured of a vote on his amendment. 

The House version of the bill already contains a rider to block the rule.  

Vilsack, Conaway address Food Tank Summit. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway are featured speakers today at a conference that's drawing food policy activists who are often critical of conventional agriculture. Vilsack, who speaks at the Food Tank Summit this morning, will tout USDA's efforts to promote local and regional agriculture. According to USDA, the department has put more than $1 billion into 40,000 projects promoting local and regional foods. 

Conaway's message, according to an aide, is that “honest and clarity” are needed in every part of the food system and that “good public policy isn't a zero-sum game - there are different ways to achieve the same goal.” Conaway's appearance demonstrates the importance he places on reaching beyond conventional agriculture interests to build support for farm policy.

Food Tank founder Danielle Nierenberg argues, among other things, that “industrial agriculture” has produced diet-related diseases and environmental problems that aren't reflected in the cost of food. 

House to advance tariff bill important to pesticides. The House Ways and Means Committee today will move a new miscellaneous tariff bill (MTB) to cut duties on components imported by pesticide manufacturers and other industries.

The MTB expired in 2012 despite strong support in the farming and pesticide industry. Juli Jessen, CEO of the Arizona-based pesticide company Gowan Company LLC, said tariffs on pesticide components are often “considerable.”

The bill sets up a three-step process for providing tariff relief to companies, starting with petitions to the International Trade Commission.

EPA watchdog to investigate ad campaign. EPA's inspector general is looking into a grant the agency made that wound up funding an ad campaign blaming agriculture for water pollution in Washington state. In a letter to two Senate committee chairmen, the IG says it will determine whether the grant was properly used and whether EPA provided the necessary oversight. 

Grassley: More state GMO laws could break Senate impasse. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, says it may take more states passing biotech labeling laws before there will be enough pressure on the Senate to pass a national GMO disclosure bill. A bill to preempt state labeling laws has been stalled since March because of a disagreement over what food companies should be required to put on labels. 

A Vermont labeling law is set to take effect in July, but other state legislatures are considering bills that would set up regulations that differ in meaningful ways. “This may create an environment where all the anti-GMO people wake up to the fact that this is an impossible situation right now, so we do need a national law,” Grassley said. 

Of course, if that happens, food companies are also going to be stepping up the pressure on the Senate to act. Pro-labeling activists have pledged that the state bills will be brought into alignment before they become law.

He said it: “We're one dam failure away from a major economic crisis in the heart of America. It's just been a bunch of tape and bubblegum keeping these water projects going.” - Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., on the deteriorating lock and dam system along the Mississippi River and the need to increase investment in repairs.

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