WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2016 - Republican congressional leaders are providing little reason for optimism that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will get a vote before the end of the year. 
In a news conference a day after Congress wrapped up its pre-election work, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said flatly that he doesn’t think that TPP has the votes to pass. He also said that the new president is going to have to shift positions on the trade agreement in order for TPP to have a chance in the next Congress.
“I believe that if it were brought up this year it would be defeated anyway, leading you to raise the obvious question: ’If you’re interested in America being in the trading business in the future in what way is it advantageous to have a trade agreement go down?’”
He said the TPP is “politically toxic, and I don’t think the Congress is ready to tackle it in any positive way.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has also been pessimistic about chances for a TPP vote this year, declined to comment on the issue when he was asked about it at a separate news conference yesterday. He said he had nothing new to say.
McConnell: ‘committed’ to considering tax extenders. McConnell has much better news for the biofuels industry, who are lobbying Congress to extend a series of tax subsidies that expire at the end of the year.
The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Kevin Brady, has said he doesn’t want to pass any tax extenders this year, but McConnell indicated they would be on the Senate’s agenda. “We’re committed to taking a look at that before the end of the year,” McConnell said.
The expiring measures include the $1-a-gallon tax credit that subsidizes biodiesel as well as tax benefits for cellulosic fuels and E85 pumps.
GOP senators: Drop estate tax rules. Forty-one Republican senators are siding with farm groups and small businesses and urging the Treasury Department to withdraw proposed regulations that could increase the value of estates for tax purposes.
“Treasury should pursue policies that encourage the creation and growth of small businesses, not propose regulatory changes that make it more difficult and costly for families to transfer ownership to future generations,” the senators write.
Treasury officials say they’re closing a loophole that allows owners of closely held businesses to artificially lower the value of their assets. Every Republican on the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee signed the letter except for three who are in tight re-election races in North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Congress updates livestock auction regs. Congress has sent the White House a bill that will  extend the requirements of the Packers and Stockyards Act to online and video auctions that are charging commissions or fees. Supporters say the bill, which passed both the House and Senate this week, will protect producers who sell online and ensure the use of electronic payment methods.
The chairman of the Livestock Marketing Association, Dan Harris, says the bill is a “huge step forward” for the industry.  Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., says “it’s time that our livestock auction laws reflect the world we live in.”
Egg, poultry, soybean representatives head to Cuba. Earlier this year, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that he would start allowing checkoff-funded producer groups to travel to Cuba. And this week, representatives of egg and poultry sectors are on a four-day fact-finding mission in Cuba, along with the United Soybean Board.
Anne Alonzo, president and CEO of the American Egg Board, says exports are crucial to the future for egg producers and that eggs could be a low-cost way to improve Cubans’ diets. “We are always looking for innovative ways to grow egg demand and broaden commodity trade,” she said.
Urban agriculture gets focus. Urban agriculture and its future in the next farm bill are the subject of an all-day conference today.  The speakers and panelists include Ohio Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, a long-time member of the House Appropriations Committee; Elanor Starmer, administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service and A.G. Kawamura, a former California agriculture secretary who’s a member of Donald Trump’s agriculture advisory council.
The conference sponsors include AGree and Michigan State University.
Earlier this week, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Debbie Stabenow, released legislation to open a number of USDA programs to those involved in urban production agriculture.
Looking ahead. Vilsack will be speaking at the National Press Club on Monday. His remarks will focus on the benefits of the biobased economy to rural America.
On Wednesday, he’ll head to the swing state of Pennsylvania to host a White House Rural Forum. He’ll be joined by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, as well as Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, and economic development experts from other states.
She said it. “We’re not even at the beach. Let us take this down the road and we’ll see where it is.” - House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, responding to comments by a colleague that there didn’t appear to be a “wave” developing that would give Democrats control of the House.


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