Now that congressional Democrats have to slash their $3.5 trillion Build Back Better spending plan, the attention is turning to what gets eliminated or cut, and by how much.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., declined Tuesday to discuss the possible cuts that could be made in the agriculture provisions. But she assured Agri-Pulse that the bill would still “have something meaningful” when it comes to addressing climate-smart agriculture and forestry.
“We still have a very important role to play in tackling the climate crisis and addressing the wildfires,” she said.
One source with long ties to congressional Democrats suggests that they are making decisions between pro-rating everything or picking and choosing ones to cut and ones to leave more as they are. This source believes climate funding is likely to be a priority for funding, if Democrats decide to emphasize some areas of the bill over others.
By the way: CNN asked a key Senate Democrat, Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., whether he would support a bill in the range of $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion. Manchin replied, “I’m not ruling anything out.” Manchin had said his top line was $1.5 trillion.
President Biden said later of Manchin, “It sure seems like he’s moving. I hope that’s the case.”
Also this: Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Virginia Democrat who chairs the subcommittee of the House Agriculture Committee that handles conservation and forestry programs, was among 11 moderate House Democrats who talked online to Biden on Tuesday about the bill.
Boozman open to Vilsack’s CCC funding
Congressional Republicans sharply criticized the idea of using USDA’s Commodity Credit Corp. to set up a carbon bank to buy and sell offsets. But that idea appears to be off the table for now in favor of a plan to fund large-scale demonstration projects for developing markets in “climate-smart commodities,” as Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last week.
The top Republican on the Senate Ag Committee, John Boozman of Arkansas, tells Agri-Pulse that he could support the plan as long as it benefits farmers and doesn’t result in new mandates. Boozman said that the CCC spending would have to be limited to “agricultural commodities” and that the projects must be “producer driven.”
For more on how successive administrations are ramping up use of the CCC, read our Agri-Pulse newsletter.
Farmers’ trade outlook turns sour
Farmers are feeling more pessimistic when it comes to trade, according to the September survey of producers sponsored by Purdue University and the CME Group. Early this year, seven out of ten farmers expected ag exports to increase over the next five years. In September, only 37% of farmers feel that way.
Concerns about input costs also are rising sharply, which is not surprising given the rising cost of fertilizer and other products. More than one-third of the farmers surveyed said they expect input prices to rise bemire than 12% in the coming year. That would be more than six times the average inflation rate for farm inputs.
Republican: Biden ‘throwing in towel’ on China
Sen. Chuck Grassley, a senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees trade policy, didn’t like what he heard from U.S. Trade Representative Katharine Tai this week on the Biden administration’s approach to China.
In a Monday speech, Tai said the administration would be working with allies to pressure China to reform its trade practices. But Tai wouldn’t say whether the administration would pursue a new trade agreement with China, and Grassley told reporters Tuesday that President Biden appears to be “throwing in the towel.”
Grassley said trade policy has taken a back seat to the administration’s domestic priorities.
“I’m hope I’m wrong when I say he is not as involved in trying to get China to the table as he ought to be or as Trump was,” Grassley said.
By the way: Grassley said his scheduled appearance before the House Ag Committee on Thursday stems from a meeting he had with the panel’s chairman, David Scott, D-Ga., in June. Grassley said he made his case for restricting the market power of meatpackers.
USTR to begin exclusion process for tariffs on Chinese goods
Next week, Tai’s office will begin the long process of considering exclusions to Section 301 tariffs on some Chinese goods. The USTR will start taking comment next Tuesday. The comment period ends Dec. 31.
The Trump administration issued 2,200 exclusions and then granted just 549 extensions after the first round expired. Most of those extensions expired at the end of 2020 and now the USTR is considering reinstating them.
The extensions being considered represent a wide array of products such as steel pipes and posts, animal feeding machinery and parts, water pumps, wine filters pipe brackets and shovel loaders.
The USTR says it will consult with other agencies such as the Small Business Administration to make a decision on the exclusions.
Senators seek congressional say on Section 232 tariffs
Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Mark Warner, D-Va., have introduced legislation that would require congressional approval before a president can invoke Section 232 tariffs in the name of protecting national security.
The Trump administration used the tariffs to hit steel and aluminum imports from China, the European Union, Brazil, Canada and other nations, claiming a threat to national security. Many of those tariffs are still in place and so are retaliatory tariffs that continue to take a toll on U.S. ag exports.
“For too long, Congress has allowed presidents to unilaterally impose tariffs by invoking spurious claims of ‘national security’ – regardless of whether or not the import in question poses any genuine threat to national defense,” Toomey said.
He said it. “Everyone's still talking.” - Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., on the state of negotiations over Democrats’ Build Back Better plan.
Ben Nuelle and Bill Tomson contributed to this report.
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