WASHINGTON, Nov. 2, 2016 - U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman says there are enough votes in Congress to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the lame duck Congress, even though GOP leaders have said there is no point in bringing up the deal.

“If they bring it forward, I think we can get the votes,” Froman told CNBC yesterday. He also used a speech to a conference of exporters to push for passage of the 12-nation agreement. 

“As you know, the president very much wants Congress to act on TPP this year, and we are doing everything we can, across the Administration, whole-of-government, whole-of-White House to maximize the likelihood of that happening,” Froman said. 

So far, GOP leaders have given no sign that they’re thinking of holding votes on the deal.

Grain traders raise alarms on biotech overhaul. Grain and oilseed traders are raising alarms about the Obama administration’s plan for overhauling the federal regulatory process for genetically engineered crops. The companies are worried that attempts to streamline U.S. regulations could cause problems for shipping into foreign markets. 

In comments filed with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, groups representing grain and oilseed companies say that the administration considered but dismissed the industry’s concerns. 

The administration’s plan for updating what is known as the government’s “coordinated framework” for regulating GMOs “fails to recognize the underlying fact that nothing is gained if crops produced through modern biotechnology and other safe cropping technologies cannot be marketed.”

The industry groups say it’s a “serious omission” not to include the U.S. trade representative in the review and that the administration should be working with U.S. trading partners to ensure American regulations are compatible with theirs. 

The groups also suggest USDA consider creating a new category of “conditional deregulation” for crops that are considered safe but haven’t received the necessary overseas approvals. 

In a separate filing, the American Farm Bureau Federation and groups representing corn and soybean growers also said that the regulatory agencies needed to consult with USTR and consider the trade impact of changes to the U.S. system. 

EPA talks to stakeholders on pesticides. EPA officials will be meeting with a committee of stakeholders today and tomorrow to discuss a range of pesticide issues, including biotech policy as well as protections for farmworkers and risks to pollinators. 

The advisory committee includes representatives from several farm organizations as well as environmental groups and state regulators. 

Grassley urges ‘robust’ DOJ review of Monsanto deal. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley is telling the Justice Department that he fears the Monsanto-Bayer merger will “substantially lessen competition in an already concentrated sector.” Grassley urges the department in the letter to do a “robust analysis” of the $66 billion deal.

“I am concerned that the merger will curtail chemical and seed choices and raise prices for farmers and the American consumer,” Grassley writes. “In addition, I am concerned that the proposed deal will harm research, development and innovation.” 

HSUS cuts workers amid ‘restructuring.’ An advocacy group critical of the Humane Society of the United States claims HSUS has laid off 55 staffers to cope with a $20 million shortfall. The Center for Consumer Freedom says the problems show the public is turning against the organization. 

HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle, without confirming details of the cutback, acknowledged in an email to Agri-Pulse that HSUS is restructuring to focus on strategic priorities and eliminating several dozen positions. Pacelle says HSUS is expanding in several areas, including farm animal protection. 

Pacelle says he expects HSUS to be back in the black next year.

Farm allies struggling to survive on Nov. 8. Three members of committees important to agriculture are in tough reelection races. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican on the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, holds just a one-point lead in his state even though Donald Trump is comfortably ahead in the presidential race, according to the latest Missouri polls.

Two House Agriculture Committee members, California Republican Jeff Denham and Nebraska Democrat Brad Ashford, also are in close races.

Of the 58 members of either the House and Senate Agriculture committees or Agriculture Appropriations committees, 47 are in races rated as safe according to ratings compiled by Ballotpedia. 

Three members (Rep. Robert Aderholdt, R-Ala., Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., and Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.) are in uncontested races. Another three (Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Mich., and House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, aren’t facing any major party opposition. 

Heritage to next president: Kill subsidies, split the farm bill. The Heritage Foundation has released 86 pages of recommendations to the next president that includes the conservative group’s proposals to end commodity subsidies and remove nutrition programs from the farm bill. 

Those ideas are a dead issue with either candidate, but Heritage’s proposals to end greenhouse gas regulations and expand fossil fuel production are in line with Donald Trump’s agenda. The plan also calls for restricting the use of the Endangered Species Act and giving states responsibility for all leasing and permitting on federal lands. 

Georgia gets break on disaster aid. USDA is making it easier for livestock producers in drought-stricken Georgia to qualify for disaster assistance. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., says the Farm Service Agency is extending to December the qualifying grazing period for the Livestock Forage Program. 

Producers can qualify for LFP for drought losses they incurred during their county’s grazing period. 

She said it. “It’s kind of like accusing the body shop that just fixed your dented car door of not making your engine run better.” - Nina Federoff, a science adviser to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a blog post blasting Sunday’s New York Times story that attacks ag biotech. 

Federoff took issue with - among other things - the article’s claim that biotechnology had not increased crop yields. That wasn’t the goal of the crops in the first place, she writes. “Citing yield data is simply disingenuous.”

The biotech story is still one of the most frequently emailed stories for the Times this week.

Spencer Chase contributed to this report. 


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