WASHINGTON, Jan. 4, 2017 - President Obama and Vice President-elect Mike Pence will both be on Capitol Hill today as the new Congress moves into its second day. Obama will be meeting with Democratic members of the House and Senate to make the case for preserving his signal policy achievement, the Affordable Care Act. 

Pence, who will be meeting with House and Senate Republicans, has told reporters that he’ll be pushing the incoming administration’s agenda, including the need to “roll back” regulations.

Ag secretary watch goes on. The most pressing question for agriculture is when - and who - is going to be nominated to run USDA. On Monday, the focus was on former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, but CNN reported yesterday that former California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado. 

Maldonado would make sense in that Trump hasn’t named a single Hispanic to his cabinet and has only two open slots to fill - agriculture and veterans affairs. But Perdue would likely be easier to confirm, given the tax and wage issues reported at Maldonado's family’s farming operation.

Perdue keeps “open door” for farmers. Zippy Duvall, the president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, tells Agri-Pulse that Perdue has a good understanding of agriculture even though he hasn’t been a farmer himself. Duvall was president of the Georgia Farm Bureau when Perdue was governor and says he “always had an open door” for the state’s farmers. 

Duvall also confirms that Perdue is a great outdoorsman: “He is a great shot.  If you hunt quail with him you can't let him shoot first. He does not miss.”

For more on Trump’s other nominees that are critical to agriculture, including his pick for U.S. trade representative and EPA, be sure and read the weekly Agri-Pulse newsletter. 

Sessions, Daines join Senate Ag. The Senate Agriculture Committee has two new Republican members, although one of them probably won’t be there for long. Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s nominee for attorney general, has been named to the committee along with Montana Sen. Steve Daines. 

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse will be leaving the committee, which means there won’t be a  Nebraskan on the panel when it writes the new farm bill. North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis also is leaving the committee. 

There will be one new Democrat on the committee, Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen.

Farm-state senators joining EPW. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, meanwhile, is getting additional members that represent major agricultural states, Republicans Jerry Moran of Kansas and Joni Ernst of Iowa and Democrats Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Kamala Harris of California. 

The committee has jurisdiction over the EPA and the Renewable Fuel Standard as well as other environmental issues, including oversight of the Endangered Species Act.

Barrasso, Inhofe meet with Pruitt. Trump’s nominee as administrator of the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, met yesterday with the incoming chairman of Environment and Public Works, John Barrasso, and the committee’s former chairman, Jim Inhofe.

“We had a good conversation focused on policy and reforms that are necessary at the agency,” said Barrasso, R-Wyo. Pruitt “has excellent insights on how to help the EPA better meet its mission of protecting the environment while growing the American economy.”

Massad leaving CFTC early. Timothy Massad has announced his resignation as chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, effective Jan. 20, Obama’s last day in office. Massad’s term runs to April. Under Massad, the agency has acted to soften Dodd-Frank regulations that had raised concerns with agricultural commodity traders. 

Massad says the CFTC focused on issues that pose the greatest risk to the markets while making sure that businesses can use “the derivatives markets efficiently and effectively to hedge routine commercial risk and engage in price discovery.”

FDA: Goals met on antibiotic measures. FDA has declared success in two major initiatives to combat antibiotic resistance in agriculture. 

First, new regulations are now in effect requiring farmers to have veterinary approval for usage of medically important antibiotics. 

Second, all antibiotic manufacturers have now officially ended the sale of antibiotics for growth promotion. The companies voluntarily agreed to stop the sale of the drugs for production purposes, but the agency didn’t finish approving the formal labeling changes until last month.

FDA is praising farm groups and the feed industry for cooperating with the actions. “The success of this collaborative effort marks an important step forward for promoting antimicrobial stewardship in animals,” the agency says. 

Oil industry leader to give annual outlook. That banging sound you hear this afternoon might be biofuels advocates pounding their fists against their desks as the American Petroleum Institute holds court on the American energy industry. 

API CEO Jack Gerard will deliver his annual “State of American Energy” address today at a luncheon at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington.  

Last year, Gerard used the address to refer to the Renewable Fuel Standard as a “relic of our nation’s energy past” that was in need of repeal or significant reform. Biofuels groups issued furious replies of their own. Watch for similar retorts from those same groups later today. 

He said it. “Just so you know @SpeakerRyan: He's grounded.” - Freshman Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, tweeting after his son briefly disrupted a family photo with Ryan by doing what appeared to be a dance move known as “dabbing.” 

Ryan also used his Twitter account to joke about the incident: “Just finished swearing-in photos. Nearly 300 members. Countless cute kids. Still don't get what dabbing is, though.”

Spencer Chase contributed to this report. 


For more news, go to: www.Agri-Pulse.com