WASHINGTON, Jan. 12, 2017 - We’re down to one. President-elect Donald Trump now has only one cabinet opening left, and that’s Agriculture, after announcing his pick for Veterans Affairs yesterday. That means that if he’s going to have an Hispanic in his cabinet it will have to be his agriculture secretary. 

At least two Latino groups, including the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, are promoting former California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado for the job. 

Trump becomes president a week from tomorrow. 

Bayer, Monsanto execs get Trump time. Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant and Bayer CEO Werner Baumann went to Trump Tower yesterday to meet with the president-elect. A joint statement from the companies said that the executives had a “productive meeting” with Trump and shared their views on the “future of the agricultural industry and its need for innovation.” 

A spokesman declined to say whether the executives discuss the companies’ pending merger, but the meeting looks like a proactive move on the part of the CEOs. 

Last week, Trump adviser and Iowa agribusiness leader Bruce Rastetter called on Trump to block some of the pending mergers in the seed and agrochemical industry. 

House to debate CFTC curbs. The House today will debate a reauthorization bill for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The legislation probably has little future beyond the House because of Democratic opposition in the Senate. But Republicans are using the first weeks of this session to highlight regulations they want to roll back, and today’s debate will send some messages to the CFTC about the priorities of GOP members. 

The amendments that the House will consider include one by House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway that says the agency shouldn’t impose position limits until it issues a finding that they are needed to curb excessive speculation. The agency believes that the Dodd-Frank law requires the CFTC to issue a rule even without the finding. 

The CFTC agreed unanimously last month to propose a reworked position limits rule that was first released in 2013.

The bill would freeze CFTC’s budget at its current level, $250 million, through fiscal 2021. That cap alone will guarantee Democratic opposition.

House Ag takes shape. Southern states are maintaining a strong hold on the House Agriculture Committee as the panel gears up to write a new farm bill. Some 15 of the 26 Republicans on the committee will come from the region that stretches from Texas and Oklahoma to Florida and Virginia. 

The committee has six new Republicans, including Roger Marshall, the first Kansan on the committee since the GOP leadership removed his predecessor, Tim Huelskamp, in 2012.

Tillerson backs TPP but says needs improvement. Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, reiterated his support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership as he faced senators at his confirmation hearing yesterday. But Tillerson also said he agrees with Trump that the TPP could be improved. “I share some of his views regarding whether the agreement that was negotiated serves all of America’s interests best,” Tillerson said.

Tillerson also was asked about his position on the North American Free-Trade Agreement and cited the president of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, as saying that the agreement was due for an update. 

Tillerson criticized President Obama’s efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, saying that Cuba failed to make concessions on human rights.  “We have not held them (Cuban leaders) accountable for their conduct,” he said. 

But Tillerson also said that trade is fundamentally good for maintaining peace and U.S. influence other countries. “It allows us to project American values into those countries we are trading with,” he said. 

Much of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing focused on Russia, the Middle East and Tillerson’s views on climate change. Tillerson said he agreed with the scientific consensus that the climate is changing and that human action is playing a role. 

Key hearings set for next week. Several confirmation hearings critical to agriculture are scheduled for next week: Interior nominee Ryan Zinke will have his hearing on Tuesday. 

On Wednesday, there will be hearings for Trump’s pick to run the EPA, Scott Pruitt, and for Commerce nominee Wilbur Ross. Ross will be leading Trump’s trade policy.

Trump reiterates border tax plan. In his long-anticipated news conference yesterday in New York, Trump repeated his threat to impose a “very large border tax” on companies that move jobs overseas and import products back into the country. 

Trump also said he planned to nominate someone for the Supreme Court within the first two weeks of his presidency. Trump said he’s working off the list he released during the campaign and has been consulting closely with Jim DeMint, the president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

NASDA, dairy industry appeal to Trump on Canada. With Trump promising to renegotiate NAFTA, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and dairy industry groups are asking the incoming administration to address complaints that Canada is unfairly restricting U.S. milk imports. 

letter sent to Trump, key cabinet nominees and lawmakers says pricing policies followed by Canadian provinces are displacing U.S. exports and costing thousands of U.S. jobs.  

“It is clear that these policies were implemented to intentionally block imports from the United States and are therefore in direct violation of Canada’s trade commitments under NAFTA and the World Trade Organization,” the letter says. 

They said it. “Do you lack the knowledge to answer my question or are you refusing to answer my question?” “A little of both.” - Question by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and response from Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson.


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