WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2016 - Congress has left town for the holidays, but not before averting a government shutdown at the last minute by passing a short-term spending bill late Friday night. The continuing resolution will keep USDA, FDA, EPA and the rest of agencies running through Apr. 28.

Contained in the four-month CR are measures important to the agriculture sector, including a provision to make sure that USDA’s Farm Service Agency will be able to meet the rising demand for loans and loan guarantees. Weak farm income and the rising demand for credit has put the FSA under abnormally high pressure to provide the credit.

On Saturday the Senate approved legislation containing California drought relief. The provision allows more water to be redirected from rivers into the Central Valley Project before it can flow out into the ocean and provides for speedier approval of new water storage facilities.

Curbs on global trade remain high. The volume of new trade restrictions being erected by countries across the globe remains high, according to a newly released report from the World Trade Organization. That’s especially troubling when coupled with data that shows a severe drop in international commerce.
From October 2015 through October 2016, there were an average of 15 new major trade-restrictive measures put in place by countries. That’s about the same as the previous 12-month period.
The WTO recently predicted a hike in world trade growth of just 1.7 percent this year. That’s down substantially from a previous forecast of 2.8 percent.
“If this revised forecast is realized, this would mark the slowest pace of trade and output growth since the financial crisis of 2009,” the report concluded.
Trump says goal is to make EPA more business friendly. President-elect Donald Trump, in a Fox News interview Sunday, said a shakeup is needed at the EPA to make the agency more efficient and less of a drag on U.S. businesses.
“I do know this: other countries are eating our lunch,” Trump said. “If you look at what China is doing, if you look at what -- I could name country after country.  You look at what's happening in Mexico where our people -- just our plants are being built.  They don't wait ten years to get an approval to build a plant, OK?  They build it like the following day or the following week.”
As to whether or not to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Trump said he’s undecided.  
“Now, Paris, I’m studying,” he said. “I do say this -- I don't want that agreement to put us at a competitive disadvantage with other countries.  As you know, there are different times and different time limits on that agreement.  I don't want that to give China or other countries signing agreements and advantage over us.”
John Block: It’s up to Trump administration to finish 2014 farm bill. Former Agriculture Secretary John Block on Friday decried the USDA’s lack of progress in reorganizing the department to install a trade undersecretary position, which was mandated in the 2014 farm bill.
“There is a lot of talk today about the next Farm Bill,” Block said in a statement released by OFW Law, where he is senior policy advisor. “What will be in it?  When will it get done?  But I think the agriculture industry should remind the new Secretary of Agriculture when Donald Trump takes office that the last Farm Bill had an important provision that was never implemented.”
A long list of influential farm groups, such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Meat Institute, National Corn Growers, United Fresh Produce Association and Western Growers Association, have been keeping up the pressure on USDA to create the new agency head. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said repeatedly that it’s an extremely complicated process and might be better if it were not done until the next administration is in place.
“There are trade opportunities and challenges today that we did not imagine in 1978,” said Block. “We need an experienced trader at the Under Secretary level to focus on agriculture trade. We are facing challenges every day to keep markets open and gain access to new markets. There are trade disputes with China all the time but, for agriculture, that market is essential.”
Vilsack and Rogers honored for efforts to reduce global hunger. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Rep. Hal Rogers, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee were honored last week at a dinner event by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition for their “leadership and support for U.S. foreign assistance programs.”
Vilsack, at the event, said, “We can empower farmers all over the world to be better farmers. We are going to make those countries more secure and more economically prosperous. We are making sure there are fewer hungry children and at the end of the day every one of you is going to be safer.”
Several congratulations were delivered via video during the ceremony, including one from President Barack Obama.


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