WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2016 - The agriculture sector remains one of the biggest sources of support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but the Obama administration isn’t taking that support for granted. Darci Vetter, the chief agriculture negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and former USDA deputy under security for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, will be talking up the 12-nation trade pact in a radio interview with AgNet West on Wednesday.
The broadcast will be aimed at reaching farmers in California, the largest agricultural state in the country. It won’t be the first time this year that Vetter reached out to the largest fruit and vegetable producing region in the world.
In April, she met with farmers in Fresno, according to reporting by Valley Public Radio. Vetter said: “The return that goes back to the pockets of farmers and ranchers is $4.4 billion annually based on TPP, almost $6 billion in new exports themselves.”
As one example of the market-opening advantages, she said Canada will eliminate tariffs on whey. “California farmers could ship north, but also unprecedented access into Japan and elimination of every dairy tariff in Vietnam and Malaysia.”
In recent months Vetter has crisscrossed the country, talking about the advantages of TPP to events by the American Soybean Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Western Growers Association and many others.
Vilsack warns Congress not to focus on savings in next farm bill.Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is warning farm groups that they are going to have to work together to tell Congress what producers need in the next farm bill and steer lawmakers away from focusing on spending cuts.
Vilsack said in an audio posting: “The conversation in 2011 and 2012 started with ‘We have to save money.’ The first way to start this conversation should be, ‘What is the need? What is the total need?’”
Farm groups lost out in the 2014 farm bill because they competed with one another as lawmakers looked for savings, according to the USDA posting.
“My hope is that the conversation starts the right way and that it moves expeditiously to a conclusion so there is not the uncertainty that we had in 2011, 2012 and 2013,” Vilsack said.
Good forage and prices behind low feedlot numbers. USDA’s latest “Cattle on Feed” numbers took some by surprise because of the low number of animals that came in to feedlots from cow calf operations in September. USDA livestock analyst Shayle Shagam said good forage conditions and the quest to boost profits are two explanations.
There were just 1.91 million head of cattle placed in feedlots throughout September, a 2 percent drop from September last year and the lowest total for the month since USDA began collecting the data in 1996, according to the report released Friday.
“The continued availability of forage is encouraging some cow calf operators to continue to hold cattle before placing them in feedlots,” Shagam said in a USDA audio posting. “Cattle feeders have been under pressure in terms of their returns and have been obviously trying to push the price of feeder cattle down. And as cow calf operators have seen their returns diminish, they may be a little more resistant to selling the cattle at prices that the feedlots are offering if they have alternatives.”
Industry input sought for second $20 million cheese purchase. The USDA is preparing to begin buying surplus cheese off the market under the second $20 million purchase that it announced earlier this month in order to help boost low dairy prices.
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service announced on Friday it will hold a Nov. 9 teleconference “to facilitate feedback from industry suppliers, promote increased participation of suppliers offering products, and discuss the timing of purchases, product types, and commercially available consumer pack sizes to be solicited.”
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, speaking about the purchase earlier this month,said, “While our analysis predicts the market will improve for these hardworking men and women (in the dairy industry), reducing the surplus can give them extra reassurance while also filling demand at food banks and other organizations that help our nation's families in need.”
USDA cracks down on horse soring. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service wants to make it clear that it’s taking seriously its responsibility to stop the painful practice of horse soring. The agency on Friday released an update on its efforts under the Horse Protection Act, showing it has disqualified hundreds of horses from shows across the country this year.
USDA inspectors were able to inspect 3,044 of the 11,348 horses on display at 80 events this year, according to the online FY 2016 Activity Report for the Horse Protection Program. Of that total, 716 were disqualified.
Soring is a common practice in which owners purposely inflict pain to a horse’s legs or hooves to make the animal perform an exaggerated gait, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
“By taking these measures, we have begun the very real process of making good on the goals in our strategic plan,” said Bernadette Juarez, deputy administrator of USDA Animal Care. “We remain steadfast to the commitments in our strategic plan – building relationships and promoting animal welfare.” 

Walking away from RINs. Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta, apparently was happy to leave behind the complexities of the Renewable Fuel Standard program, according to a recent dump of hacked emails posted by WikiLeaks.

David Marchick, managing director at the global private equity firm The Carlyle Group, praised Podesta for his government service early last year, telling him, "You really did great things – China agreement, immigration, climate, etc.," but then added, jokingly, "all except RINS," using the abbreviation for Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs, which are used as the "currency" of the RFS program.

Podesta seemed happy not to have to deal with the RFS any longer, telling Marchick, "RINs was the only thing that I was completely happy to walk away from."

Steve Davies contributed to this report. 



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