WASHINGTON, Sept. 7, 2016 - The Senate Judiciary Committee is moving ahead with plans to look into the mergers taking place in seed and chemical sectors. Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has scheduled a hearing on the issue for Sept. 20. 

This comes on the heels of Bayer’s announcement yesterday that the company increased its bid for Monsanto. Dow and DuPont already are in the process of combining, although recent reports suggest the combination won’t be completed until next year. ChemChina is working to complete its takeover of Syngenta. Grassley told reporters the hearing will “allow us to hear from all sides about likely impact these transactions will have on farmers and consumers.”

Grassley said he doesn’t think any of those mergers are comparable to Deere’s attempted acquisition of Precision Planting that the Justice Department has gone to court to stop. Grassley praised the Justice Department’s lawsuit, saying it “shows they are doing their jobs.” 

Latest hunger numbers due. We’ll get the latest numbers today on hunger in America. USDA is releasing its annual household food security report.  In 2014, 14 percent of U.S. households were estimated to be food insecure. That was essentially unchanged from the year before but it represented a statistically significant decline from 2011. Today, we’ll learn if there was any more improvement in 2015. 

A family that is considered food insecure had difficulty at some time during the year obtaining enough food due to a lack of resources.

USDA targets aid to rural businesses. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today plans to announce new research-oriented spending for innovative small businesses in rural areas. The funding will support what the department calls “groundbreaking scientific research” that will improve agriculture and promote strong rural economies.

The money will go to businesses in 35 states, stretching from Maine and Florida to Alaska and Hawaii. 

US agribusiness women seek Asia deals. Leaders from 23 agribusiness companies, many of them headed by women, are heading today to Hong Kong and Shanghai on a week-long trade mission. They’ll be joined by representatives of several farm organizations and severn state departments of agriculture.  Alexis Taylor, USDA’s deputy undersecretary of farm and foreign agriculture services, is leading the trip as part of the department’s Women in Agriculture initiative. 

Taylor says the trip provides “an opportunity to discuss the impacts women in the United States and China are having on agriculture and to share our visions for the next generation.” The group, which was open to men as well as women, will be meeting with potential customers as well as government officials. 

The companies represented on the trip include Earthbound Farm, Hidden Valley Ranch and Ocean Spray. There also will be leaders from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Corn Growers Association, U.S. Grains Council and the U.S. Soybean Export Council.

House GOP seeks to bridge rift on FY17 spending. House Republicans will meet Friday to see if they can agree on finishing the fiscal 2017 spending legislation in a lame duck session. Members of the Freedom Caucus have been trying to block any action on an omnibus in the lame duck and push spending decisions into the next Congress. 

GOP leaders would clearly prefer to wrap up work on FY17 spending in the lame duck to clear the decks for the next Congress. Plus, Republicans don’t know whether they will even control the Senate next year, which means the GOP’s best chance to shape the FY17 budget will be in December. 

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters yesterday that he doesn’t expect any legislation to come up in a lame duck session beyond appropriations. That doesn’t bode well for the possibility of an energy bill this year. It also rules out congressional action on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. 

McCarthy suggested that the administration was at fault for the delay in TPP, saying the administration still hasn’t addressed concerns that lawmakers have with the TPP. But the 12-nation trade pact has become a tough issue for many Republicans, too, because of Donald Trump’s continued attacks on the agreement. 

McCarthy confident GOP keeps House. McCarthy told reporters he feels “very secure” that Republicans will retain a majority in the House, although he’s not willing to predict how many seats the GOP will hold next year.  

He’s on safe ground. Democrats need to flip some 30 seats to take over the House. That means they would have to run the table in November, winning every Republican seat that the rating services consider at play - and avoid losing any of their own vulnerable members. 

The GOP majority is down to 246 after the resignation of Kentucky’s Ed Whitfield yesterday. Democrats hold 186 seats.  

She said it. "Women in agriculture have a powerful story to tell - one of leadership, stewardship and resilience - from the combine, to the classroom, to the boardroom.” - Alexis Taylor, USDA deputy undersecretary for farm and foreign agriculture services


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