WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2017 - Trade was on the list of topics that U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talked about on Saturday, according to a White House statement. The two leaders agreed to meet in person in Washington on Feb. 10.
That should be some consolation to farm groups here that are worrying about the fate of agricultural exports after Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and signaled that he was serious about renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Japan, one of the 12 TPP member countries, is a major buyer of U.S. beef, soybeans, wheat and other commodities, but farm groups had hoped to see that trade increase under reduced tariffs called for in TPP.
But Trump stuck to campaign promises and scuttled U.S. involvement in the deal. White House officials stressed that Trump is not anti-trade, but prefers that the U.S. only enter into bilateral deals with one foreign country at a time.
Trump and Abe “committed to deepen the bilateral trade and investment relationship” between the two countries, according to a White House summation of the Saturday conversation.
The UK looks to the U.S. after Brexit. On other fronts for potential bilateral deals, British Prime Minister Theresa May said Friday that work is already under way to set up UK-U.S. negotiations for a trade pact between the two countries.
U.S. farm groups are hopeful that the UK will be willing to shed some of the trade barriers that it was forced to maintain as a member of the European Union, said David Salmonsen, a senior director of congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation.
U.S. beef, pork, poultry and dairy exports to the EU are all severely restricted, but the UK is currently working to pull itself out of the EU after the British people voted to exit the union.
May, in a joint press conference from the White House with Trump, said she is “convinced that a trade deal between the U.S. and the U.K. is in the national interest of both countries and will cement the crucial relationship that exists between us, particularly as the U.K. leaves the European Union and reaches out to the world.”
A new title for Clovis at USDA. Sam Clovis has a new and more permanent-sounding title as the top political person installed at USDA by the Trump administration. A USDA spokesman confirmed Friday evening that Clovis, a former economics professor at Morningside College in Iowa and a Trump surrogate during the campaign, has been officially dubbed “Senior White House Advisor for USDA.”
The senior ag policy advisor to the president has traditionally been a job in the White House and fulfills a Congressionally-mandated slot on the president’s Domestic Policy Council. Clovis is stationed at USDA on the second floor of the department’s headquarters. Sources say he is the White House representative at USDA to assure the agency is ready for the new Secretary and that the President's policies are carried out.
Meanwhile, new Trump-appointed officials are beginning to take up their positions at USDA ahead of the arrival of Sonny Perdue, Trump’s nominee for agriculture secretary.
Filling in for Perdue is Michael Young, director of USDA’s Office of Budget and Program Analysis. He is technically the acting USDA deputy secretary, although there is no acting secretary. Young has a security detail assigned to him.
Other temporary caretakers of USDA, left in place by the Obama administration to smooth the transition include Jason Hafemeister as acting deputy undersecretary for the Farm and Foreign Agriculture Service and several others.
No date has been set yet for Perdue’s confirmation hearing, but the Trump administration is pushing for it to be scheduled by Feb. 20, according to an Atlantic Constitution Journal article.
Perdue won’t be sitting at home until then. Starting today, the former governor of Georgia will be meeting with U.S. senators, according to the ACJ story. He’s scheduled to meet with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday.

Former USDA chiefs make the argument to allow merger of Dow and DuPont. Former Agriculture Secretaries Mike Johanns and Dan Glickman are arguing that the Trump administration should not stand in the way of the proposed merger between chemical giants Dow and DuPont. Both companies have seed and input divisions and a union of the two would benefit farmers, Johanns and Glickman argue in an article published today by Morning Consult.
“Given the current landscape, now more than ever America’s farmers need what Dow and DuPont are proposing – a strong, focused American agriculture company that is American-owned, championing the interests of the American farmer in a marketplace that may soon be dominated by foreign-owned behemoths,” the former ag secretaries wrote.
Johanns was USDA secretary during the George W. Bush administration and Glickman held the title in the Bill Clinton administration.
California and Oregon farmers go to court for water lost to fish. Farmers in southern Oregon and northern California who depend on water from the Klamath Lake were denied supplies in 2001 because of threats to fish on the endangered species list. Now they are suing the government in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, in a trial that starts near the White House today, the Merced Sun-Star reports.
The outcome could have broad implications for other actions involving property rights and environmental interests.
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