WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2016 - President-elect Donald Trump met with two people on Monday who have been mentioned as possible administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency. 

They include Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who has fought back against the Obama administration on several issues, including the “Waters of the U.S.” rule. Also in New York was Kathleen Hartnett White, who is director of the Armstrong Center for Energy and the Environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank.

White, who is married to a fifth-generation cattle producer, is a former chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and has ties to a number of cattle industry groups, including the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. She’s also a former board member of the National Cattlemen's Legal Defense Fund.

At one point, Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore reportedly said he was pushing Trump to put White in charge at EPA. She has criticized the WOTUS rule, saying it would “vastly extend federal jurisdiction over land across the country."

She also has slammed the EPA’s effort to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, writing that the agency’s plan was “bereft of legally meaningful justification.”

USDA blocks more contaminated catfish from entering the U.S. Industry and government sources confirmed for Agri-Pulse that FSIS has blocked another shipment of Chinese catfish from entering the U.S. because inspectors found residues of an illegal substance.

About 30,000 pounds of frozen catfish fillets from China arrived in the Port of San Francisco on Oct. 17 and FSIS selected it for inspection, according to an FSIS document viewed by Agri-Pulse. FSIS said it decided to inspect the shipment from Gain Ocean Food Co., Ltd., because “the foreign establishment was identified on a former FDA Import Alert.”

One of the five lots – about 6,000 pounds of catfish – tested positive for crystal violet, a dye that is also used as an antibiotic. The rest was allowed to enter commerce. The lot that tested positive can be sent elsewhere or destroyed.

USA Rice sees no easy path to lifting embargo on Cuba. The death of Fidel Castro won’t likely make it any easier to open up Cuba to more agricultural trade and Donald Trump’s administration may add more roadblocks, according to the USA Rice Federation. 

Ernesto Baron, a USA Rice consultant, said, “At the end of the day, Raúl is still a Castro and he's been in power for the last decade so short-term change within Cuba is unlikely."

Trump offered some hopeful sentiments Saturday after Fidel Castro’s death, but USA Rice said it’s troubled by the appointment of Mauricio Claver-Carone, an anti-Castro and pro-embargo lobbyist to the transition team. 

Ben Mosely, USA Rice vice president of government affairs, said, "If Claver-Carone's appointment to the Treasury Department's transition is any indication of the direction the Trump administration is headed, we're going to have our work cut out for us to maintain the positive actions in Cuba taken under the Obama Administration and to persuade Congress to remove the financing barriers for products like U.S.-grown rice. As the Cabinet is named and appointees start to come into place over the next several weeks we'll have a better idea of what direction the next administration is headed with regard to the U.S.-Cuba relationship."

Cuba's rice consumption is at about 1.0 million tons for 2016/17, but the Communist country doesn’t buy any from the U.S.

Water resources bill, energy deal still possible. The House and Senate are back in action today as they look to wrap up the 114th Congress this month. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said yesterday that negotiators are making good progress on a new water projects authorization bill, and he held out hope that Congress also could pass the first major energy bill since 2007. 

McConnell noted that Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Lisa Murkowski is “continuing her efforts” to get an agreement on the energy legislation. 

Farmers face long wait times for FDA help. Farmers can face long wait times to get answers from the FDA about its produce safety regulations, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office. FDA set up a technical assistance program to assist producers, but representatives of industry groups told investigators that it can take up to four months to get a response from the agency. 

As of October, the agency says it has responded to 72 percent of all questions. FDA officials say that most of the questions are complex and have to be handled by agency experts. The median response time for those questions is 22 days. 

The officials say the slow response rate is due in part to the fact that the agency is still working on guidance for the produce rule. But agency officials say they plan to solicit industry feedback and develop metrics to measure how effective the agency has been in responding to questions. 

Large farms have until January 2018 to be in compliance with the regulations.

Christmas tree growers fight back against plastic with social media.America’s Christmas tree farmers have a new weapon to fight back against the lifeless, artificial versions that more and more families are throwing their tinsel on: a new checkoff program and promotion board

Tim O’Connor, executive director of the new board, said it is primarily targeting millennials through social media like Instagram and You Tube to promote real Christmas trees.

The board even has a new slogan: “It’s Christmas. Keep it real.”

Philip Brasher contributed to this report.


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