WASHINGTON, July 18, 2016 - The Agri-Pulse team is on hand in Cleveland today as the Republican National Convention begins. We’ll be talking to delegates and policy makers and also watching efforts by the GOP and the Trump campaign on the sidelines of the convention to reach out to the agriculture sector.

The feature event for the farm and ag sector will be Wednesday with the Great American Farm Luncheon. A representative of Trump’s campaign will be on hand along with the chairmen of the House and Senate Agriculture committees, Mike Conaway and Pat Roberts, respectively.

Conaway told Agri-Pulse that he would like to hear Trump start talking about the positive impact that trade has on the U.S. economy and farmers in particular. But Trump gave no sign of doing that during his news conference Saturday where he introduced Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate. Trump said voters are “tired of a country that has terrible trade deals,” and he called the North American Free Trade Agreement the “worst economic deal in the history of our country.”

During a joint interview on CBS’ 60 Minutes last night, Trump repeatedly interrupted Pence when the governor was pressed to explain his differences with Trump over the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade deals. Pence insisted that they both support free trade, and he called Trump “one of the best negotiators in the world.”

Warming for race? Vilsack attacks Trump. There’s continued speculation that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack could wind up as Hillary Clinton’s running mate, and Vilsack was harshly critical of Trump during an interview over the weekend with NBC News in Iowa. Vilsack compared Trump to disgraced financier Bernie Madoff.

During the interview, Vilsack also brushed off suggestions that he isn’t adequately prepared to handle foreign policy. Vilsack made the point that food and agriculture is vital to international relations, citing a meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan where the monarch asked for help bringing agriculture to Syria.

USDA moves into Havana. Vilsack announced Saturday that he’s been given the green light to send a temporary USDA representative to the U.S. Embassy in Cuba.

Vilsack, speaking at the National Governors’ Association meeting in Des Moines, said he’ll send his new envoy to Havana in August for a three-month detail while the department works on making the position permanent. And that’s where Congress comes in. A USDA official tells Agri-Pulse that the Obama administration is asking appropriators for an extra $1.5 million in fiscal 2017 to keep a lasting presence in the island nation.

Cuba already imports U.S. agriculture commodities, but farmers, lawmakers and USDA officials believe that by building better ties with the country and chipping away at the long-standing trade embargo, the U.S. could be selling a lot more corn, soybeans, chicken and dairy products.

Closer to the finish line on T-TIP negotiations. U.S. and EU negotiators have accomplished plenty, including agreements to eliminate duties on 97 percent of trade tariffs, but there’s still a long way to go on other issues, says U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

“We've got text on the table in nearly all of the negotiating areas and we're now deep into the process of resolving differences and negotiating agreement text,” said Froman, speaking in Brussels at the 14th round of T-TIP negotiations.

Negotiators met all last week and will sit down again today to begin a second week of talks in this latest round. One of the big issues the negotiators hope to make headway on this week is an agreement on how to align procedures for import inspections and sanitary and phytosanitary audits.

Froman gets TPP support from governors. Froman joined a group of governors at the National Governors’ Association meeting to promote the benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and urge support for approval of the 12-nation tract pact before the end of the year.

Governors Terry Branstad of Iowa, Terry McCauliffe of Virginia and John Bel Edwards of Louisisana joined Froman at a press conference.  The Associated Press quoted McCauliffe as saying: "The rhetoric in this presidential campaign has been so over the top,” and predicting that "once we get through the presidential election, more common sense will prevail."

AFL-CIO to dog candidates on TPP.  AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says his organization is going to be doing its best to persuade lawmakers not to ratify the TPP  this year after the November elections.

AFL-CIO members will be working to pin down lawmakers on their TPP opposition or support ahead of the elections, Trumka told reporters. “Every candidate, whether in the House or Senate, will be asked and we will demand an answer about what they will do in the lame duck session,” he said.

Louisiana company recalls catfish. It’s not just catfish from Vietnam that are in the sights of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. FSIS officials have been inspecting U.S.-raised catfish since March 1 and Friday a recall of domestic product was issued.

Louisiana-based Haring Catfish announced it is recalling 21,521pounds of catfish after residues of gentian violet, a chemical used to fight bacterial infections, were found.

Congress ordered FSIS to take over catfish inspection from the FDA in the 2008 farm bill, but it wasn’t until December that FSIS issued its final rule to do so. On April 15 FSIS began inspecting imports and since then it has rejected two shipments because they were contaminated with gentian violet and other chemicals.

He said it. “I would hope that whoever is sworn in as president in January will step back from some of their comments and be more practical.” - Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., when asked about Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on imports from China.

Bill Tomson contributed to this report



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