WASHINGTON, Sept. 28, 2016 - Congressional supporters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership are stepping up pressure on the White House to address some outstanding concerns with the trade pact so that it can pass in the lame duck Congress. Members of the House Ways and Means Committee met with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman yesterday and told him that the “White House must act soon” to address those issues, said Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas.

“Without these substantive changes, the House will not have the votes to approve TPP, and American workers will continue to lose customers to other countries,” Brady said. 

Lawmakers may ‘rethink’ TPP post-election. Brady’s Senate counterpart, Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, told Agri-Pulse yesterday that the White House has yet to address his specific concern about the trade agreement’s limits on protection of pharmaceutical testing data. 

Hatch also said that additional Democratic votes may be needed to make up for losses on the GOP side due to growing opposition among Republican voters. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has insisted that the TPP is dead for this year. But Hatch as well as Brady have been holding out hope that the agreement could get a vote after the election. “I think most people once the election is over will rethink this thing because it’s crucial to not just us but to all of the TPP countries,” Hatch said. 

Vilsack: Business needs to counter protectionism. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said at an event sponsored by The Washington Post yesterday that he’s concerned about growing protectionism in the country. He said the business community at large hasn’t done enough to counteract criticism of trade deals. 

“You have to tell the other side of the story, and you have to tell it more effectively,” he said. 

 Vilsack with the Post's James Hohmann. For more on Vilsack's comments, read this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter.

Child nutrition unlikely to move before lame duck. The Senate is unlikely to pass a child nutrition bill this week, delaying any action until after the election, says Senate GOP Conference Chairman John Thune, R-S.D.

Senate Agriculture Committee leaders had been trying to get unanimous consent from the Senate in order to pass the bill this week. But Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., tells Agri-Pulse that several senators continue to raise questions and concerns about the legislation.

Government shutdown looms as stalemate continues. Senate Democrats are continuing to block passage of a continuing resolution needed to keep the government running when the new fiscal year starts Saturday. 

Democrats have said it’s unfair to include flood relief in the bill without aid for drinking water problems in Flint, Mich. Senate Republican leaders say they now intend to try moving the stopgap spending bill without either flood relief or the Flint money. 

A spokesman for Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid says that “Republicans would rather help no one than help Flint.” Republicans argue that the Flint belongs in a separate water projects bill. 

A boost for biodiesel. The New York City Council plans to vote today to boost the content of biodiesel in heating oil city-wide to a 5 percent blend in October 2017 and steadily up to 20 percent in 2034. Current law requires that only 2 percent of home heating oil contain biofuels, such as soybean and vegetable oil.

Councilman Costa Constantinides, who introduced the bill along with 34-co-sponsors on the council, said that cleaner heating has been a priority in New York City’s efforts to combat climate change and the measure would also create additional “green” jobs. 

His bill has support from the New York League of Conservation Voters, the Environmental Defense Fund, Empire Clean Cities, the heating oil industry, and local labor organizations, among others.

Vilsack confident USDA can cover loan demand. The USDA’s Farm Service Agency ran out of funds for its direct and guaranteed loan program this year, thanks to higher than normal demand. But Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says he doesn’t think the situation will repeat itself in fiscal 2017.

“As Congress works on the full budget, they’ll look at ways in which they can provide us ample resources,” Vilsack told reporters. “I think we’ll be able to meet the needs.”

The FSA announced Sept. 2 that it redirected $185 million from other areas of USDA’s budget to issue about 1,900 loans or loan guarantees. The backlog for credit demand is expected to stretch into FY 2017, and Vilsack says it will take roughly another $150 million to deal with it.

Virtual center planned to coordinate efforts to combat food waste. USDA has agreed to start collecting and disseminating information on ways for cutting down on food waste in the U.S.

“We’ll get more communities, more partners, more businesses, more food banks … involved and engaged in this process,” Vilsack said yesterday at the National Food Rescue Summit, hosted by Feeding America, the umbrella group for the nation’s food banks. 

About 133 billion pounds of food worth about $161 billion is wasted each year and much of it goes into landfills, according to USDA

Obama names ambassador to Cuba. Jeffrey DeLaurentis, who has been serving as chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Havana since last year, has now been nominated as ambassador to Cuba. The announcement is the latest move by the president to normalize relations with Havana as he leaves office.

He said it. “In agriculture, every farmer understands trade. They understand the significance of it to their bottom line.” - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

Sara Wyant and Bill Tomson contributed to this report. 



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