WASHINGTON, May 13, 2016 - House Speaker Paul Ryan appears headed to an eventual endorsement of Donald Trump after the nominee made the rounds of Capitol Hill yesterday. House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway beat Ryan to it, announcing his support of Trump and telling reporters he’s offered to provide the billionaire advice on farm policy.
Conaway specifically says he wants to see where Trump is on reforming food stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. SNAP also is a major priority of Ryan’s as he develops a set of policy principles that set the agenda for the congressional campaigns this fall. Ryan is expected to release the plan next month. After meeting with Trump, Ryan told reporters his staff would be working with Trump’s on policy details.
Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts says he discussed Trump with Conaway. But Roberts, who endorsed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, hasn’t reached out to the Trump campaign himself.
“I think we could be of help in the campaign with regards to agriculture and rural and small town America,” Roberts says. “We have a lot of problems. … I think we could provide some good answers.”
Senate advances Energy-Water funding bill. The Senate passed, 90-8, a fiscal 2017 Energy-Water spending bill that would maintain funding for ports and waterways well above the levels that President Obama wants. The bill reverses a 23 percent cut that the White House proposed in the Corps of Engineers budget for civil works.
The bill would provide $376 million for priority navigation projects by using the full amount of barge-tax revenue flowing into the Inland Waterways Trust Fund. The National Grain and Feed Association says the bill would provide “much-needed, critical investments in U.S. waterways.”
What the bill lacks is a provision blocking the Obama administration from enforcing its “waters of the United States” rule - should court stays be lifted. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., was unable to get the 60 votes needed to add a WOTUS rider to the bill. The House version of the legislation does contain the WOTUS provision.
The Senate bill also left out House provisions that would roll back environmental protections that are limiting water flows in California’s Central Valley. But the Senate measure would provide $100 million to the Bureau of Reclamation to address drought issues.
The House is expected to start debating the first of its 2017 appropriations bills next week, starting with the military construction measure.
Study: Trump tariffs would hammer families. Business groups and pro-trade think tanks are stepping up their defense of trade agreements now that Trump has wrapped up the GOP nomination. A study by the nonpartisan National Foundation for American Policy says the tariffs Trump has threatened to impose on China, Mexico and other countries could cost the typical American family $11,100 over five years by raising the cost of imports.
The poor could be the hardest hit. According to the study, households in the lowest 10 percent of income would pay up to $4,670 more, if importers raised prices to cover the tariffs.
But hold on, the report also says that previous studies have shown that antidumping duties such as those Trump is threatening to impose actually have a minimal impact on U.S. consumers. The reason, the report says, is that importers simply find suppliers in other countries that are unaffected by the tariffs.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, posted a defense of the North American Free-Trade Agreement, arguing that NAFTA “has proven to be one of the great economic policy achievements of the 1990s.” The Chamber says NAFTA “has been a bonanza for U.S. farmers,” increasing exports to Canada and Mexico by 350 percent.
Poultry groups fight report of worker mistreatment. The National Chicken Council and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association say they are “troubled” by claims of worker mistreatment contained in a report by Oxfam America. According to the report, workers are “routinely” denied access to the restroom while at work and are sometimes forced to “urinate and defecate while standing on the (production) line” or even wear diapers on the job.
In a statement, the two industry groups said that “such instances are extremely rare and that U.S. poultry companies work hard to prevent them.” The groups also took issue with what they said were Oxfam’s “efforts to paint the whole industry with a broad brush based on a handful of anonymous claims.”
"Although individual practices vary by company, restroom breaks are planned for any production line,” the groups said. “Most facilities also employ extra people to cover for production workers who request a bathroom break.”
Lawmakers maneuver to block OSHA. House members are seeking to stop the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from revoking a key regulatory exemption for retailers that handle anhydrous ammonia. Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., introduced legislation called the FARM Act, or the Fertilizer Access and Responsible Management Act that would protect the exemption.
Smith and other lawmakers have asked the House Appropriations Committee to use the Labor-HHS spending bill to force OSHA to keep the exemption in place. Smith says the OSHA decision would keep small retailers from handling the fertilizer.
He said it. “I haven’t heard a thing about what went on except that there was an awful lot of people, and it tied up a lot of traffic.” - Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., when asked by reporters about Trump’s meeting with some senators Thursday.
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