WASHINGTON, July 13, 2016 - The national biotech disclosure bill appears headed to an easy victory in the House, clearing the legislation for President Obama’s signature. House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Collin Peterson, tell Agri-Pulse that they expect a majority of both Republicans and Democrats to vote for the landmark bill. 

Some Republicans may oppose the bill because it requires mandatory disclosure. But Conaway says those lawmakers will be voting against the “expressed interest” of a “huge consortium” of groups and companies across the food and agriculture sector. 

The House is expected to take a procedural vote on the bill today by approving a rule that won’t allow any amendments to be considered to the legislation. The final vote on the bill is expected Thursday. The president is expected to sign it before the end of the month. Peterson said he believes that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will put his department to work right away writing the regulations that will be required to carry out the disclosure standards. 

Conaway has let it be known that he has concerns about the bill because of the discretion that USDA will have in writing the rules. But he also made clear to Democrats on the House Rules Committee that the on-package labeling required by Vermont’s new law is unacceptable. Conaway said the labels are the “equivalent of a skull and crossbones” and would have a “chilling effect” on biotechnology.

(For more on Conaway’s and Peterson’s thoughts on the bill see this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter.)

House debates Interior-Environment amendments. The House started debate last night on dozens of amendments to the fiscal 2017 spending bill for the Interior Department and EPA. The White House already is threatening to veto the bill because of its attacks on the president’s regulatory agenda. 

The pending amendments include one that would bar the EPA from penalizing any states that fail to meet pollution-reduction targets for the Chesapeake Bay region.

McGovern warns on splitting farm bill. An outspoken Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee says farmers should think twice about pushing lawmakers to remove nutrition programs from the farm bill. Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern told members of the American Soybean Association yesterday that “you’re never going to see another farm bill” if the legislation is split. 

McGovern has frequently criticized the long series of oversight hearings that the Agriculture Committee has been holding on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. He says that he’s worried that the hearings – there have been 16 in all – “are really kind of a backdoor attempt” to either cut the program “in a major way” or to separate SNAP from the farm bill. 

Earlier this year at Commodity Classic in New Orleans, ASA voted to formally oppose splitting the farm bill.  Many commodity groups and lawmakers - including McGovern - feel the urban and rural coalition is vital to creating enough support to pass the key ag legislation. 

Farm groups fear EU pesticide rules would impact trade. Forty-nine U.S. agricultural groups have signed a letter warning the Obama Administration that new pesticide rules being considered in Europe could hurt U.S. exports.

The groups say that the rules being considered by the European Commission would prevent some pesticides from getting a proper risk analysis and simply declare them “ineligible for authorization.” That in turn could create new barriers for European imports of U.S. fruits, vegetables, nuts and other commodities, the groups warn. 

The groups say that U.S. growers don’t have alternative pesticides for many of the products that would be hit by the EU rules. 

Weedkillers to get California warning labels. California has added three herbicides to its Proposition 65 list of products that receive warning labels. Atrazine, simazine and propazine and their chlorometabolites will go on the list effective July 15 as “known to the state to cause reproductive toxicity,” according to the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. 

The agency had proposed adding them to the list about a year ago, but Syngenta appealed the decision, delaying the designation. The state agency noted that Syngenta lost in state court and hasn’t gotten an appeals court to stay the ruling.  Monsanto is in state court fighting the California agency’s proposed placement of glyphosate on the Prop 65 list as a known carcinogen.

DeLauro warns against lame duck TPP vote. The Obama administration is still hoping Congress will ratify the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal this year, but Rep. Rosa DeLauro is warning lawmakers that they would be going against popular public sentiment if they did so.

“A lame duck vote to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership will not only go against the American people’s will, it will be shameful and wrong, said DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman continues to promote the trade pact and to meet with supporters, like the American Farm Bureau Federation. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated to reporters yesterday that the chances of TPP getting a vote after the November elections are “pretty slim.”

Fast and furious at FFAR. The new Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR), created in the 2014 farm bill, is marching along at a “fast and furious” pace, says Executive Director Sally Rockey. We’ve got an excellent overview of what’s been happening since the foundation was created in today’sAgri-Pulse newsletter. 

Later this morning, FFAR will announce funding for its first major project – partnering with a large global foundation to reward mid-career agricultural scientists, who will presumably be incentivized to keep doing great work after receiving such a big financial award and recognition. Stay tuned. 

He said it. “This is about getting rid of Roundup and getting rid of Roundup Ready crops.” - The House Agriculture Committee’s ranking Democrat, Collin Peterson, to the House Rules Committee on what he believes are the motives of pro-labeling activists. 

(Spencer Chase, Bill Tomson, Steve Davies and Sara Wyant contributed to this report.)



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