WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2017 - President Trump’s nominee for agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue, has won the endorsement of hundreds of national, state and local farm organizations. The 669 signatories on a letter of support for Perdue also includes agribusiness companies, banking and crop insurance interests, and some conservation groups.
According to the letter, only two of the past 30 agriculture secretaries have “actually lived and worked in agriculture as adults. If confirmed, Sonny Perdue will be number three.”
The letter goes on to say that Perdue “understands the critical role of feeding our country and the world” and is “keenly aware of the importance of agriculture in powering our nation’s economy, providing jobs from farm to table.”
USDA’s former No. 2 calls for activists to target farm programs. The woman who was expected to be Hillary Clinton’s agriculture secretary is calling on food policy activists to start lobbying for changes in commodity programs and crop insurance.
Kathleen Merrigan, who was deputy agriculture secretary during President Obama’s first term, urged the crowd at a food policy conference yesterday to get versed on issues such as payment limitations and what it means to be “actively engaged” in farming, a requirement for participating in farm programs.
“In order to have political leverage you need to become an expert in the entire farm bill,” said Merrigan, who teaches at The George Washington University, where the Food Tank summit took place yesterday. In her mind, activists haven’t had the influence on farm policy they could have because they’ve been too focused on smaller sections of the legislation.
Merrigan specifically calls for expanding conservation compliance requirements on crop insurance. “We’ve just really put very minimal strings” on crop insurance. “That’s one item that should be on the table.”
PHOTO: Merrigan (far right) listens as Indiana grower Kip Tom talks at the Food Tank Summit. Also pictured: Former USDA communications director Matt Herrick and Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine.
Trump wants another ‘F’ in NAFTA. President Trump huddled in the White House yesterday with leaders of the House and Senate committees that have to approve any changes he negotiates to the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, Ron Wyden of Oregon, said afterwards that Trump didn’t say what changes he wanted or how he would achieve them.
Trump told reporters during a photo op with the lawmakers that he wanted to “add an extra ‘f’ in NAFTA for “free” and “fair” trade, because it's very unfair.” He said he was seeking to speed up the start of negotiations.
Trump also made the point of saying that Commerce nominee Wilbur Ross will be "representing us in negotiations.” That role has traditionally been reserved to the U.S. trade representative, but it appears Trump may be downgrading USTR.
Rice producers worried about Mexico-Vietnam deal. The USA Rice Federation says it’s concerned that Mexico wants bilateral trade pacts with the rest of the Trans-Pacific Partnership countries now that Trump has pulled the U.S. out of the deal.
One of those TPP countries is Vietnam, a major rice exporter and a potential threat to U.S. rice sales in Mexico. Mexico currently has a 20-percent duty on Vietnamese rice, but a bilateral agreement could eliminate that. Under NAFTA, Mexico has no tariff on U.S. rice.
Lawmakers target BLM rule. Both the House and Senate could vote next week to kill the BLM Planning 2.0 rule that overhauls the agency’s process for making land management decisions. Ranchers and other critics of the rule say that it unfairly limits input from local and state interests.
The rule, issued in December, is one of a series of regulations that were released so late in the Obama administration that they can be eliminated relatively easily and quickly through use of the Congressional Review Act. The law allows Congress to vote up or down on regulations within a limited period of time after the rules are finalized.
Bill aims to curb RCRA. Legislation is expected to be introduced in the House as soon as today to prevent the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, known as RCRA, from being used to regulate waste from dairy operations and other farms.
RCRA was originally intended to regulate landfills, but a court ruling in Washington state now allows the law to be used against “anyone who manages nutrients on their land,” says Scott Yager, environmental counsel for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “We see an opportunity to close a door on that,” he said, speaking on the sidelines of the Cattle Industry Convention in Nashville.
The bill will be introduced by Rep. Don Newhouse, R-Wash.
Super Bowl pre-game ad to spoof HSUS. Livestock and poultry producers who chafe at the success that the Humane Society of the United States has had in changing farm practices may enjoy a TV spot that will run during the pre-game show for Sunday’s Super Bowl.
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The ad, sponsored by a group called Humane Watch, parodies the HSUS ads that feature abused pets. The ad is titled “Lawyers in Cages," and uses lawyers and lobbyists in place of the usual puppies. “For just $19 a month you can join us in our fight to hire more lawyers,” the narrator says.
Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO of HSUS, says Humane Watch knows “we are the most serious threat to animal cruelty and the people who do terrible things to animals.”
She said it. “He understands what happens at each end of the animal, which in DC is important.” - Michelle Bufkin, a recruiter for Auburn University’s College of Agriculture, in a tweet about Agriculture nominee Sonny Perdue.
Bill Tomson and Spencer Chase contributed to this report.