WASHINGTON, Oct. 4, 2016 - The 15th round of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) negotiations is underway in New York and two pro-trade leaders in Congress are pushing hard for results.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, asking him not to allow EU officials to stall the process or exclude sensitive topics from negotiation.

 “The EU’s pattern of ‘hostage taking’ and other stall tactics has led us to where we are today – to a point where European leaders are expressing an inability and an unwillingness to complete a comprehensive agreement by the end of this year,” the two lawmakers said in the letter. “However, we remain committed to continuing and elevating these negotiations.”

Vilsack on his future: ‘I’m an executive.’ In an appearance at the National Press Club yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declined to address speculation that he would be chief of staff in a Hillary Clinton White House.  “I don’t think anybody should be talking about what jobs are available or what’s going to happen after the election,” he said. 

But he doesn’t sound like he’s ready to step away from government. He gave a vigorous defense of public service as a “noble” profession. “Anyone who has the opportunity to provide public service is blessed,” he said. 

And he ruled out ever running for the U.S. Senate with a comment that suggests he wouldn’t mind a top job in the Clinton administration. “Here’s what I know about myself: I’m an executive. I like to make decisions. I like to implement decisions.”

USDA seeks to attract new professionals to the workplace.The Obama administration is hoping that college graduates with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math will consider a job at the Agriculture Department. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Purdue University have predicted that the USDA will have a “shortfall of over 22,000 agriculture professionals each year between 2015 and 2020.”

The USDA and the White House on Monday announced the America the Bountiful initiative, aimed at increasing “the number and diversity of skilled agriculture workers.”

USDA detects screwworm threat in Florida. Federal and state officials are scrambling to wipe out the New World Screwworm after confirmation that the flying pest have infested some of the deer population in Florida, according to a USDA announcement. It’s been 30 years since there has been an infestation in the U.S. of the maggots that can kill livestock.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on Tuesday declared an agricultural state of emergency in the state’s Monroe County. So far the maggots have only been detected in deer and pets, but the pests can infest livestock and humans.

 “Infested livestock usually show signs of discomfort, and they may go off their feed and produce less milk,” the USDA explains in a factsheet. “Typically, these animals will separate themselves from the rest of the flock or herd and seek shady or secluded areas to lie down.  Infested animals that are not treated in 7 to 14 days may die.”

The USDA eradicated the New World Screwworm in the 1950s by releasing sterile males to breed with females. 

“The initial goal will be to keep the infestation from spreading to new areas while eradicating the New World screwworm flies from the affected Keys,” USDA said. 

ARC and PLC payments coming soon. Farmers who earned an ARC or PLC payment for their 2015 crops should get a check soon. A Farm Service Agency program specialist in Iowa says the payments will begin this week. The 2015 county yields by crop are currently being put together, which Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will announce once everything is official. 

Last week the FSA announced the 2015 PLC payment rates for corn, sorghum, soybeans, canola, lentils and dry beans. Payment rates were zero for all of the commodities except for sorghum - 64 cents per bushel - and canola – 4.55 cents per pound. 

He said it. “That’s easy. It’s one that the first lady is not going to be too happy about. Cookie Monster is my favorite.” - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, asked at the National Press Club what was the favorite children’s characters with which he had appeared.

Phil Brasher and Spencer Chase contributed to this report


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