Agri-Pulse Daybreak for May 11, 2016

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 11, 2016 - The Senate is getting back on track moving spending bills for the new fiscal year. The fiscal 2017 Energy-Water bill, which funds port and waterway projects and is one of the least controversial appropriations measures, has been stalled because of Democratic resistance. The bill will move forward today after a vote on an Iran amendment. 

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Senate will spend much of its time between now on the party conventions in July on additional spending bills. The Agriculture appropriations bill, which funds Agriculture Department and Food and Drug Administration, is expected to begin moving through committee next week. 

Late yesterday, the Senate cleared legislation to provide tariff relief to the pesticide manufacturers and other companies that must import special components and chemicals. The miscellaneous tariff bill, which is identical to a House-passed measure, had been on hold until lawmakers agreed on a new process through the International Trade Commission for determining which companies need the benefit. 

Lets Talk Food

Clinton adds animal welfare, farm antibiotics to issue priorities. Even as she pivots to the general election campaign, Hillary Clinton has added animal welfare and farm use of antibiotics to her list of priority issues. The description of her concerns includes farm animals as well as pets and wildlife. 

She's pledging to “protect farm animals from inhumane treatment by encouraging farms to raise animals humanely, and working to eliminate the use of antibiotics in farm animals for non-therapeutic reasons.”

The campaign says Clinton had a perfect voting record with the Humane Society of the United States while in the Senate. 

Sanders voters like Trump -  in West Virginia. West Virginia's primary Tuesday is providing evidence that Donald Trump could win over some Bernie Sanders voters in the Rust Belt. According to exit polling, 33 percent of Democratic voters would favor Trump over Clinton in November. The vast majority of those Democrats were voters for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. 

Sixty-eight percent of Republican voters and 52 percent of the Democratic voters said that trade kills job. Those Democrats heavily favored Sanders.

There's also skepticism about trade among Nebraska Republicans. Half the voters in yesterday's GOP primary said trade takes away jobs. Just 35 percent said it creates jobs. 

Trade may come up as Trump heads to Hill. Thursday is shaping up to be a huge day in Donald Trump's efforts to win support on Capitol Hill. Donald Trump will be meeting with Republican senators as well as the House GOP leadership that day. McConnell says he's expects the meeting to be “cordial.” 

Trump has a number of disagreements with GOP senators, none greater than on trade policy. Senate GOP Conference Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., says the issue could come up in the meeting. Thune said Republican senators “are anxious to hear from him about a path forward” in the presidential campaign. “Obviously, there may be a whole range of issues that could come up.

Trump's first supporter in the Senate, Alabama's Jeff Sessions, told reporters yesterday that Trump's positions on trade and immigration should appeal to conservatives. “They are common-sense principles.”

Anti-biotech group takes ‘stab' at Stabenow. The Center for Food Safety, long one of the strongest and most litigious critics of agricultural biotechnology, is launching a preemptive strike on a possible Senate agreement to preempt GMO labeling laws. A web page and a post on the group's Twitter feed takes aim specifically at the Senate Agriculture's top Democrat, Debbie Stabenow, saying “Don't stab Americans in the back for Monsanto!”

Stabenow told Agri-Pulse yesterday that the Agriculture committee staff is spending a “tremendous amount of time” on the issue. The attack on Stabenow can only be read as a good sign for supporters of a preemption bill. 

For more on the biotech labeling negotiations, be sure and check out this week's Agri-Pulse newsletter today.

Vilsack addresses forum on food waste. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is a featured speaker this afternoon at an all-day conference on food waste. The National Consumers League, which is cosponsoring the event with the Keystone Policy Center, will release new research about consumer confusion with date labels on foods. Experts have long believed that misunderstanding about sell-by dates is a major reason food is thrown away unnecessarily. The research was done in conjunction with the Harvard Food Law and Policy Center.

KIND snacks say ‘healthy' again after FDA shift. The KIND snack company can once again label its cereal bars and other products with the word “healthy” after FDA reversed a previous decision. 

FDA sent a warning letter to KIND in March 2015 telling the company that its bars had too much saturated fat to be labeled as healthy. The company took the word off the label but fought back with a petition arguing that the fat comes from nutritious nuts. 

The agency says it has relented only because the words “healthy and tasty” will be clearly presented on the label as the company's corporate philosophy - not as a statement about the nutrient content. 

The company's founder and CEO, Daniel Lubetzky, says that taking “healthy” off its label “cut to the core of who we are.” He says the word is back on wrappers “just as we had it before.”

He said it: “I don't know if Confucius was a free trader or not, but I am.” - Sen Tom Carper, D-Del., after using a quote from the Chinese philosopher to sum up why China's duties on U.S. chicken are wrong. The Confucius quote Carper used was: “Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself.”

Bill Tomson contributed to this report.

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