WASHINGTON, June 29, 2016 - Farmers are joining the food industry in sending a unified message to Congress to pass the biotech labeling bill. Some 1,065 companies have signed onto a letter supporting the bill. They include multinational food companies, retailers such as Wal-Mart and Kroger, farm cooperatives, small businesses, and national and state trade organizations.

Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts and ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow say they’re confident they will have the 60 votes needed to pass the bill. But it looks increasingly likely that they may not get floor time until next week. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders confirmed to Agri-Pulse that he has put a hold on the bill. Roberts called Sanders’ action a “small monkey wrench.”

President Obama is expected to sign the bill once it reaches his desk. But not everyone in his administration seems to be on the same page yet. The Agriculture Department, which would be in charge implementing the legislation, has been assisting lawmakers since last year in the drafting process. But the Food and Drug Administration, has now provided comments to the Senate that are critical of the legislation. FDA says the bill contains loopholes and that portions of the legislation are difficult to interpret. USDA did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

For more on the GMO bill, be sure and read this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter today. 

Trump bashes TPP. Donald Trump railed against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade deals yesterday in his most extensive remarks yet on trade policy. 

Speaking at an aluminum plant in Pennsylvania, Trump declared that not only is he vehemently against the TPP – the 12-nation trade deal that most U.S. farm groups firmly support – but he also stressed that he would never support any multilateral trade deals.

“There’s no way to fix TPP,” Trump declared, ruling out the possibility of renegotiating the agreement as Hillary Clinton has proposed. “We need bilateral trade deals. We do not need to enter into another massive international agreement that ties us up and binds us down, like TPP does. A Trump administration will change our failed trade policies, and I mean quickly.”

Most farm groups are expecting TPP to boost farm revenues by billions of dollars, sharply expanding market access in key trading partner countries like Japan, Vietnam and Canada. More than 200 farm groups said in a joint letter to congressional leaders last month that the TPP is “critical to the livelihood of the U.S. food and agriculture sector.”

And it’s not just TPP … Beyond his stern stance against TPP, which the Obama administration is now trying to convince Congress to ratify, Trump said he would pull the U.S. out of NAFTA should Mexico and Canada refuse to renegotiate the deal.

“I’m going to tell our NAFTA partners that I intend to immediately renegotiate the terms of that agreement to get a better deal by a lot,” Trump said. “Not just a little, by a lot for our workers. “And if they don’t agree to a renegotiation …  I will submit under Article 2205 of the NAFTA Agreement that America intends to withdraw from the deal.”

But the queue to join TPP keeps growing. Thirteen countries have now reached out to the U.S. about joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal if it is ratified, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said yesterday at the Hispanic-American Entrepreneurship Summit in D.C.

Froman didn’t name the 13 countries, but he said, that many are in the western hemisphere. “We see this as a platform for continuing to expand on trade and investment relationships across the region,” he said.

FDA builds database to track food pathogens worldwide. FDA scientists can tell if the salmonella it finds in a salad comes from China or California. And you can now check out a new documentary on how FDA is wielding the new technology and building its international data base of deadly germs. 

The massive data base as part of FDA’s “GenomeTrakr” network, which is designed to locate the source of outbreaks. FDA says the data can be used not only to speed investigations but also to help farms and food companies figure out to prevent future outbreaks.

Bill seeks to block U.S. climate aid. Senate Republican appropriators are trying to stop the Obama administration from following through on a commitment to help countries become more resilient to climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The fiscal 2017 funding bill for the State Department would block a $750 million U.S. contribution to the Green Climate Fund. Democrats say it would derail efforts to mitigate climate change vulnerable countries. 

The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to debate the bill this afternoon.

He said it: “TPP is as important as another aircraft carrier.” - Jeff Zients, director of the National Economic Council and assistant to the president on economic policy. He was quoting Defense Secretary Ash Carter to argue that ratification of TPP is matter of national security.

Bill Tomson contributed to this report.  


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