WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2016 - House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway says he expects the incoming Trump administration to kill proposed new livestock marketing regulations as well as the “waters of the U.S.” rule. The GIPSA livestock rule is currently under review at the Office of Management and Budget. 

Conaway also tells Agri-Pulse that Vice President-elect Mike Pence will be taking a “very influential” role in development of farm policy during the Trump administration, including in the selection of the agriculture secretary.

If President Obama’s transition is an example, it will be weeks before an agriculture secretary is announced. Obama didn’t announce Tom Vilsack as his pick for USDA until Dec. 17, 2008, six weeks after the election.

Conaway and Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts say they haven’t been in contact with the transition team since the election. 

Read this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter for more on Conaway’s thoughts about Pence and the transition. We’re also providing an in-depth at the impact that the Trump administration will have on regulatory and trade issues.

Press China on biotech approvals, senators say. Some 37 senators, including 16 members of the Senate Agriculture Committee are asking the White House to push Chinese officials to speed up their approvals of genetically engineered crops. 

letter from the senators follows a similar letter from members of the House ahead of the upcoming meeting of the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade.

“When the Chinese government fails to remain transparent, science-based, and timely in its regulatory process it impacts not only our farmers’ and ranchers’ abilities to access critical markets in China, but also their abilities to utilize the best and most innovative agricultural technologies in our fields at home in the U.S.,” the senators wrote. 

Organic board debates hydroponics. A debate over whether hydroponic crops can be sold as organic could come to a head this week as the National Organic Standards Board meets in St. Louis. The board, which is meeting through Friday in St. Louis, will consider whether to prohibit the use of container techniques in organic production. Critics say organic crops should only be grown in soil.

But two California lawmakers, Democrat Sam Farr from the Salinas Valley and Republican David Valadao from the Central Valley, wrote Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week that a ban would be unfair to growers who have invested in bioponics on the assumption their crops could be sold as organic. 

In a separate letter to Vilsack, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Peter Welch said that USDA certifying agents are inconsistent in whether they approve the use of hydroponics. “The current lack of consistency puts farmers on an uneven playing field,” those lawmakers wrote. 

The board also is considering whether to ban the food additive carrageenan, which is made from red seaweed and used for a variety of purposes in yogurt, ice cream, infant formula and other products. 

The Grocery Manufacturers Association is expected to appeal to the board today to allow the carrageenan’s continued use. Opponents of the product cite research they say show it’s potentially dangerous. 

USDA reviews biotech plan. USDA’s Biotechnology Regulatory Services is holding its stakeholders meeting in Riverdale, Md., today. Officials will provide updates on the agency’s as-yet-unreleased proposal on how to overhaul the way the agency’s Part 340 regulations for approval of new genetically engineered crops. 

Grain and oilseed companies are concerned that the regulations may go too far and disrupt export markets. Other critics say BRS hasn’t coordinated closely enough with other agencies. In any case, the issue will be left for the new Trump administration to handle along with implementation of the newly enacted GMO disclosure law. 

BRS officials also will be discussing a new approach to assessing the weed risk of genetically engineered crops. The meeting is available via webinar

Kicking a trade deal when it’s down. Connecticut Democrat Rosa DeLauro led a group of Democratic lawmakers yesterday as they gleefully announced that the Trans-Pacific Partnership was dead.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D - Texas, stressed that TPP opponents would be on guard in case the trade deal comes back from the dead next year.

TPP is popular with most U.S. farm groups because of the increased market access it promised in countries like Japan and Vietnam, but critics say it doesn’t provide enough environmental and labor protections.

Report argues for new soil-saving restrictions. A report being released today by the World Wildlife Fund analyzes U.S. grassland losses to argue for stiffening Sodsaver requirements in the next farm bill. 

According to the report, more of the Great Plains was converted from grasslands in 2014 than the Brazilian Amazon lost to deforestation the same year. The report also says that the conversion of grassland from 2009 to 2015 emitted as much carbon dioxide as putting 670 million extra cars on the road. 

“A high percentage of what we’re plowing up now are poor soils in landscapes that regularly experience drought. So we’re losing these valuable grasslands and the unique ecological services they provide, while getting little in return,” says Martha Kauffman, managing director of the organization’s northern Great Plains program.

Noem seeking governorship. Republican Rep. Kristi Noem, a South Dakota rancher, is leaving Congress to run for governor of her state. Her departure will cost agriculture an ally on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees tax and trade policy. 

A new state law that limits how much congressional candidates can transfer in campaign funds forced Noem to make an early announcement of her intentions. According to the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader, she has $1.9 million in her campaign account. 

He said it. “Maybe they will let us start shooting wolves again, which is a big deal for my cattlemen.” - Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, on one of the regulatory changes he hopes to see in the Trump administration.

Bill Tomson contributed to this report.


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