WASHINGTON, June 23, 2016 - We’ll be watching Capitol Hill today for the white smoke from the Senate for news of an agreement on biotech labeling. Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts has been looking to nail down a deal before the end of this week that can get the 60 votes to pass the Senate. He’ll have to run any agreement by colleagues, but all signs suggest that he is close. 

Any such legislation would still have to be approved by the House, which approved a very different bill last summer. But we believe House GOP leaders would accept the Senate deal. 

EPA’s glyphosate review expected this fall. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is defending her agency's decision to pull back a report that found that glyphosate herbicide was unlikely to cause cancer. She told a House committee yesterday that an agency contractor mistakenly posted the scientific committee’s report on the web. It wasn’t supposed to be released, she said, until EPA had completed its review of glyphosate’s safety. 

McCarthy told Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., that the review would likely be released this fall. 

Lucas said the report’s removal made it appear that the scientific advisers had been “overruled somewhere else on high.” McCarthy insisted that the agency simply hasn’t completed its work. 

Mistake or not, the premature release of the report, and the congressional outcry that resulted, will make it very difficult for the agency to move away from the report’s findings. 

Bankers plead for more rural appraisers. Bankers from across the country say a critical shortage of qualified rural appraisers has “dramatically increased” the time it takes to to process a rural real estate loan. So, the banks are seeking to get training requirements eased to make it easier for new appraisers to get qualified. 

The bankers aired their concerns in a letter to the congressionally authorized entity that sets appraisal standards, the Appraisal Foundation. The American Bankers Association, along with state banking associations from across the country, say that many rural appraisers are nearing retirement and that the training requirements make it difficult to recruit younger replacements.

In the letter, the banking groups say the training rules need to be addressed urgently because it’s “palpable that the lack of qualified rural appraisers is hurting our rural economies.”

Ryan: Obama ‘screwed up’ TPP. House Speaker Paul Ryan is going so far as to say that the Trans-Pacific Partnership must be changed before Congress can consider it. “The administration screwed up a number of things” and “made some critical mistakes,” Ryan said in an interview with CNN about his policy differences with Donald Trump. “I don’t think it’s ready to go. I don’t think it’s ready to pass.” 

Ryan’s comment illustrates how toxic the TPP has become due to the attacks by Trump and other presidential candidates. “I do hope we can change this agreement. … The key here is to get it right,” Ryan said.

Sugar ally Rubio seeking re-election. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who took heat during his presidential campaign for backing the federal sugar program, has finally announced his decision to run for re-election. Rubio made his plans official yesterday in a series of posts on his Twitter feed. Rubio said he decided to run again “because control of the Senate may very well come down to the race in Florida.” 

During debate on the 2014 farm bill, the first-term Republican supported a number of proposed cuts to farm, conservation and nutrition programs. But he voted against rolling back the current sugar policy. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose presidential campaign super PAC hit Rubio over his support for the sugar program, quickly endorsed Rubio’s re-election bid yesterday. 

Raisins: ‘Midgets’ no more. USDA is doing away with the term “midget” as a classification for small raisins. This is in response to complaints by the dwarfism community and a group called Little People of America that said the term “midget” was offensive to people of small stature. 

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service says the term was also redundant. The terms “small” and “midget” were already used interchangeably for processed raisins of the same size. The agency says it received a total of eight comments on the name change, five in favor and three opposed. 

Two of the opponents said AMS has better things to do than to spend time trying to be “politically correct.” But Little People of American said in a petition to the agency that it was trying to “raise awareness around and eliminate the use of the word midget.”

Consider your awareness raised. 

She said it. “I don’t think I can.” - EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, when asked to name  farm groups that support the “waters of the U.S.” rule. Actually, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition supports WOTUS, and the National Farmers Union issued a statement when the rule was released welcoming changes that had been made to address agricultural concerns. 

Steve Davies contributed to this report.


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