WASHINGTON, June 22, 2016 - The administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, is back on Capitol Hill today for another grilling by Republican lawmakers on a range of issues. Agri-Pulse is told that members of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will be questioning her in part about the agency's review of glyphosate herbicide.

Committee Chairman Lamar Smith recently wrote McCarthy, demanding interviews with four agency officials about her agency’s role in the World Health Organization's deliberations over the safety of glyphosate. WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer used in making its decision that the herbicide could cause cancer. 

Smith, R-Texas, wanted to know what influence EPA had on deliberations by WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in its finding that glyphosate probably causes cancer. 

Also today, officials from EPA and the Energy Information Administration will testify at a hearing on implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard. EPA’s Janet McCabe will tell the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that the proposed 2017 mandates will “drive increased production and use of renewable fuel.”

Roberts, Stabenow closing in on biotech deal. Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts is expressing confidence that he will reach an agreement with his committee’s ranking Democrat, Debbie Stabenow, on biotech labeling. He isn’t guaranteeing that a deal can pass both chambers of Congress before the House leaves this week for its Independence Day break.   

In a statement to Agri-Pulse late yesterday afternoon, Roberts said that the senators are “working overtime and are closer than ever to reaching a bipartisan deal, but we’re not there yet.”

Southerners fish for inspection backing. Lawmakers who want to keep the catfish inspection program at USDA are trying to head off a House vote on the issue. A group of the program’s supporters led by Arkansas Rep. Rick Crawford is holding a news conference today to make the case that it’s an issue of consumer safety. 

Some 180 House members who oppose the program have signed a letter calling for a House vote on a resolution that has already passed the Senate. But Mississippi sources say they’ve been assured by GOP leaders that the issue won’t come up for a vote this summer.

For more on the biotech negotiations, the catfish fight and other issues, be sure and read this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter.

Scuse says Cuba measure big for trade. USDA’s acting deputy secretary, Michael Scuse, says that legislation added to the Senate’s Financial Services spending bill last week will be huge for U.S. exports to Cuba.

The amendment by North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp and Arkansas Republican John Boozman would lift the ban on U.S. financing for agricultural exports to Cuba, removing the largest impediment to increasing trade, Scuse said yesterday. The amendment made it into last year’s version of the bill before being dropped in the final budget negotiations. But Heitkamp believes there is growing momentum in Congress to expand trade with Cuba. 

U.S. rice exports have the greatest potential to benefit from the ability to finance exports, Scuse said. The U.S. was exporting a lot of rice to Cuba in 2006, 2007 and 2008, but sales dropped to virtually zero in recent years because countries like Vietnam and Thailand have been offering cheap financing – something the U.S. still cannot do.

Chairman worries ag giants will abuse foreign immunity. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley is worried that Chinese state-owned enterprises can dodge the U.S. court system by claiming the sovereign immunity available to foreign governments. 

Grassley’s concern comes as ChemChina is seeking to take over Syngenta, the biotech giant based in Switzerland. Grassley says such deals raise issues of long-term food security for the United States. 

Foreign investment in the United States is generally a good thing, but “we must ensure that entities, whether owned by a more traditional foreign-based company or a foreign government all play by the same rules when it comes to U.S. laws,” he told reporters yesterday. Grassley hasn’t scheduled a hearing on the issue yet, but he said the Judiciary Committee would be watching it “very closely.” 

Trade talks seen better without Brexit. Britain’s vote Thursday on whether to leave the European Union is raising questions about the possibility of a bilateral trade deal between the UK and the United States. Were the UK to leave the EU, the British government would presumably have to start negotiating its own trade agreements. 

Hopes are dimming that the Obama administration can reach a trade deal with the EU, but Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker told reporters yesterday that the United States would be “much better off” if Britain stays in the EU and is part of an EU-wide agreement the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Corker, R-Tenn., says that’s because the U.S. would benefit from aligning its regulations with all of Europe, not just Britain.

He said it. “Just sent my email to Senators Blunt and McKaskill: Act Now To Support A Uniform National Food Labeling Standard!” - Monsanto Co.’s chief technology officer, Robb Fraley, on his Twitter feed.

Sara Wyant, Bill Tomson and Spencer Chase contributed to this report.


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