WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2016 - President-elect Donald Trump used a rally in Iowa last night to reiterate his pledge to roll back Obama-era regulations, a major concern of farmers in Iowa and across the country “We’re going to protect the family farm, and we’re going to end the EPA intrusion into your lives,” Trump told the Des Moines crowd. 

Trump didn’t back off an inch from his threats to take action against China over its trade policies, although he did make a brief reference to the importance of China to Iowa’s economy: Trump introduced his nominee for ambassador to China, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, by noting that Branstad urged him not to criticize China while campaigning in the state. Branstad told Trump that in Iowa, “We do well with China.”

House leaves Senate in a bind on spending, water bills. The House has shut down for the year after overwhelmingly passing a short-term spending bill yesterday, along with a water projects measure that includes drought provisions for California farmers. 

Some Democrats in the Senate object to both bills, but successful filibusters would risk shutting down the government or killing the popular water resources bill. 

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has been leading opposition to the spending bill over an extension of health-care coverage for coal miners that he says is too short. The continuing resolution, or CR, under which the government is currently operating expires today. But unless there’s a deal, the next Senate vote on the bill won’t be until 1 a.m. tomorrow.

CFTC at risk, Democrats say. The House-passed CR, which would fund the government through April, contains a provision to ensure that USDA can fill its demand for farm operating loans in the new year. But Democrats say that the stopgap bill will leave some other agencies without needed funding. 

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission could even be forced to furlough workers because of a shortfall in its budget, they say.

Trump’s Labor choice backs low-skilled, immigrant workers. Farms looking for relief from labor rules and easier access to guest workers will be counting on Trump’s nominee for the Labor Department to help them out. Trump’s pick is Andy Puzder, a fast-food executive who argues that low-skilled, immigrant workers are critical to the economy.

Craig Regelbrugge, former co-chairman of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform, says the nomination is a good sign that the industry will see fewer regulations and streamlined guest worker programs. 

Puzder is CEO of CKE Restaurants, which operates the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. burger chains. He was a strong supporter of the Senate’s 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill that would have offered illegal immigrants a path to citizenship and expanded access to low-skilled guest workers.
His only complaint about the bill was that it would have spent too much money on border security, which puts him at odd with one of the president-elect’s primary campaign themes.

Democrats concerned about EPA pick. Senate Democrats are raising objections to Trump’s pick to run the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. But they won’t be able to block his nomination without some help from Republicans, given that Democrats decided in 2013 to abolish the 60-vote threshold for most appointments. 

Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, who will be the ranking Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee next year, says he doesn’t want to roll back the “significant progress” that President Obama made on environmental issues. “Any individual charged with leading the EPA who wants to ignore science or look out for special interests at the expense of public health can expect a fight with me,” Carper said. 

The ranking Democrat on Senate Agriculture, Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow, also worries about Pruitt, citing in part his opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard. 

The American Farm Bureau Federation has endorsed Pruitt, who has led fights against a number of Obama administration initiatives, including the “waters of the U.S.” rule. 

Environmentalists fundraising off of Pruitt. The Environmental Working Group cited Pruitt yesterday in an emailed appeal to supporters to help the group raise $25,000 by midnight. The appeal alleged that Pruitt “could be the agency’s most hostile administrator in history when it comes to clean air and safe drinking water.”

Vilsack: House SNAP report backs program. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the House Agriculture Committee’s two-year investigation of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program wound up showing how important it is to low-income people. 

Vilsack says the report that the committee released this week shows that “states already have significant flexibility to tailor the program to their unique needs, while maintaining the responsiveness, effectiveness, and oversight of the federal program.” The report contains relatively modest recommendations to improve worker requirements, education and training and to reduce errors

The ranking Democrat on House Agriculture’s nutrition subcommittee, Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, said he didn’t see the report before it was released, but he shares Vilsack’s assessment that it provided evidence that SNAP is working largely as intended.

USDA softens SNAP retailer rule from earlier proposal. Under heat from convenience stores and their allies in Congress, Vilsack has softened some new requirements for retailers that accept SNAP benefits. The number of qualifying food products that a SNAP-qualified store must sell will still increase from the current 12 to 84. USDA had proposed to increase the requirement to 168.

Energy bill dies. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski is blaming the House for Congress’ failure to enact a sweeping new energy bill this year. She said yesterday that the negotiations were on track until a couple of weeks ago “when it became pretty apparent that the House … was just done. They stopped negotiating in good faith.”

She said it. Marion Nestle, a New York University professor who has long been a critic of federal food policy, told the website Grist that she’s now interested in writing about the politics of marijuana. But she emphasizes that her interest is purely academic. 

“I’m not a user myself because I had a very, very bad trip many, many years ago, and I haven’t touched it since. It was not an experience I wanted to repeat. I ate a brownie. Nothing happened. I ate another one. Bad mistake.”

Thursday’s Daybreak incorrectly referred to Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., as a senator.


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