WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2016 - President-elect Donald Trump’s quest to fill his administration continues to add new names to positions that hold great importance to the agriculture sector. On Friday he met with North Dakota Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp amid speculation that she could be the next agriculture secretary.

Today Trump is scheduled to meet with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. Branstad has been rumored to be a possible USDA chief, but more frequently as a candidate for ambassador to China.

The Des Moines Register reported that Branstad has been seen as a possibility for the ambassador position ever since Trump told a crowd in Sioux City, Iowa, that the governor “would be my prime candidate to take care of China.”

The meeting today with Branstad is in New York, but on Thursday, Trump will travel to Des Moines for an event that is part of his post-election “Thank You America” tour. Eric Branstad, who led Trump’s campaign in Iowa, will also be meeting with the president-elect in New York this week.

Bankers ask lawmakers to fund FSA farm loans in CR.  The demand for government-subsidized farm credit continues to rise, say banking and farming groups, and that makes it very important that lawmakers include extra funds in the short-term appropriations bill that will likely be passed soon in Congress.

The National Farmers Union, National Grange, National Rural Lenders Association, Independent Community Bankers of America, National Sustainable Agriculture and National Association of Credit Specialists all signed onto a letter asking House and Senate appropriators to make sure the needed funds are included.

“When you factor in the existing loan backlog and the higher than previously anticipated demand on (Farm Service Agency) loan programs due to lower commodity prices, FSA will likely run out of money during the CR period, just when farmers need the program the most,” the groups said in the letter. “We understand that this crisis now cannot be fully averted until the final bill is approved this spring. We continue to strongly urge you to give this issue the high priority it deserves, in crafting the final bill, by providing for additional direct and guaranteed operating loan funding than in the committee approved bills earlier this year.”

Conaway and Roberts pleased with CFTC position limits rule proposal.House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts both said Monday they are pleased that the CFTC agreed to re-issue a proposed rule on position limits without making it final.

“Today’s action will offer (the CFTC) the opportunity to refine this rule and ensure that it does not negatively impact (farmers’) ability to manage their risks,” Conaway said.

But Debbie Stabenow, the top Democrat on the Senate committee, expressed frustration.

“I am disappointed that the CFTC is not finalizing the position limits rule in its entirety this year – nearly six years after the CFTC first proposed a rule,” Stabenow said in a statement. “Position limits are a critical tool for the CFTC to ensure that Americans are not paying too much for energy at home or at the pump. Finalizing a full and meaningful rule should be the first priority of the Commission next year.”   

House and Senate reach agreement on California drought relief.Lawmakers in the House and Senate have agreed on legislation to help bring relief to the drought-stricken Golden State, according to statements released by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. David Valadao, D-Calif.

The provisions, which would divert more river water to farms and households as well as improve water storage facilities in California, will be included in the FY 2017 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) that both the House and Senate are expected to vote on this week.

“This legislation will bring more water to our communities and supports critical storage projects,” McCarthy said. “It also provides resources for water desalination, conservation, efficiency, and recycling projects. Getting to this point has not been easy, but the collective commitment to provide relief to our state and local communities has proved resilient.”

Capitol Hill Christmas tree gets lit tonight. If you’re not feeling the holiday cheer yet, maybe Congress can help. Tonight is the annual tree-lighting ceremony for the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree at 5 p.m. ET. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, will take part in the event on the West Lawn of the capitol building. They’ll be overseeing the lighting of an Engelmann Spruce tree from the Payette National Forest in Idaho.

The tree was cut down on Nov. 2 and then went on a 26-day odyssey from Idaho to Washington D.C., stopping in many towns and cities along the way. Besides the lights, the spruce tree has been decorated with “thousands of ornaments handcrafted from recycled materials by Idaho communities,” according to a statement from the Architect of the Capitol.


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