WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2016 - Now that Donald Trump has won the presidential election, speculation is rampant over who will be his choice to run USDA. This list of possibilities is long, including people like National Council of Farmer Cooperatives CEO Chuck Conner and Indiana farmer Don Villwock, who was previously president of the Indiana Farm Bureau. But it wasn’t long ago that Hillary Clinton was still the odds-on favorite to win and D.C. was abuzz about the future of current agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack.

Before Clinton chose Tim Kaine as her running mate, Vilsack was on the short list for that spot. Afterwards there was talk he might be the next chief of staff. Now that those options are off the table, Vilsack is talking about spending more time with his grandchildren.

“I think the next phase of life could include agriculture, could include advocacy … for the people I love and care about, but it will also include a commitment to family,” Vilsack told reporters at the National Association of Farm Broadcasters convention last week in Kansas City, Mo.

Meanwhile, the transition to a Trump Administration races ahead, even at USDA. A new secretary has not been chosen, but Trump transition officials are scheduled to arrive today to set up shop at USDA. A block of offices have been set aside and prepped on the fifth floor of the Jamie L. Whitten building in USDA’s D.C. headquarters on the Washington Mall for the Trump team, just three floors above Vilsack’s office.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence has taken over the lead on the overall transition team and the first top appointments were announced Sunday. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has been named President-elect Trump’s Chief of Staff and Campaign CEO Steve Bannon will serve as chief strategist and senior counselor.

As we reported last week, D.C. lobbyist and former USDA official Mike Torreywill be heading up the USDA transition, according to a document viewed by Agri-Pulse.

Trump on conservation? The uncertainty about Donald Trump’s agenda as the next president includes his stance on agricultural conservation. The National Association of Conservation Districts announced Friday that the nonprofit group has sent its congratulations to President-elect Trump along with its hope that conservation will be one of his priorities.

"The natural resources concerns facing our nation's diverse landscapes – from our private agricultural working lands to forestlands and urban lands – span political parties and presidential administrations," NACD President Lee McDaniel and President-elect Brent Van Dyke wrote in a letter to Trump. "It is only through a locally-led, voluntary approach that we will achieve the healthy soils and clean water and air we all desire to leave for our future generations."
African Swine Fever spreads toward central Europe. The deadly swine disease has spread quickly from Belarus, Ukraine and Russia to neighboring Poland and the Baltics. Now concerns are growing about the threat to commercial hog operations in centr Trade (JCCT). Last year the JCCT meeting was held in Guangzhou, China.
Agriculture always plays a major role in trade talks with Chal European countries, according to a report from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.
African Swine Fever (ASF), which can kill pigs in as little as a week, has caused more than a billion dollars in losses for swine farmers in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia over the past few years and the outbreaks are increasing as they spread to the west, according to the report.
“Initially the outbreaks were mostly in the wild boar population but since the beginning of August 2016,  the Polish Veterinary Services every few days informs about new outbreaks of ASF in swine population,” the authors of the FAS report said.

The Chinese are coming for trade talks. A high-ranking delegation of Chinese trade and commerce officials will be arriving in D.C. next week to meet with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.

State Council Vice Premier Wang Yang will lead the Chinese delegation attending the 27th session of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce andina because the country imports more than $20 billion worth of agricultural products per year, but this JCCT meeting could hold even more importance than normal for the U.S. farm sector.

China announced in September that it was ready to lift its 13-year ban on U.S. beef, but the details on how that trade would resume have not been negotiated yet.

USDA tackles turkeys on ice. How long has that turkey been in the deep freeze? This is the time of the year that people start calling in to USDA’s meat and poultry hotline to ask for safety tips on cooking Thanksgiving dinner. One of the most common questions is how long does a turkey stay good to eat in the freezer, according to USDA’s Marianne Gravely in an audio posting.

Gravely said USDA suggests the turkey you cook for Thanksgiving shouldn’t have been in the freezer for more than a year, but stressed that it’s not an issue of food safety.

“What we tell people is that a turkey will keep its best quality for a full year,” she said. “After that it will lose flavor or dry out.”


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