WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2017 - News that the Trump administration was considering a 20 percent tariff on Mexican imports to pay for a border wall sent shockwaves through the international trade sector, including much of the farming industry that relies heavily on exports.
Now Sen. Mike Lee is proposing a bill that would give Congress the authority to approve or block trade measures from the White House that would impose tariffs or impede trade.
The Republican Senator from Utah’s Global Trade Accountability Act (S. 177) is already gaining support from key think tanks in Washington.
Thirteen groups such as the National Taxpayers Union, Americans for Tax Reform, Competitive Enterprise Institute and FreedomWorks have all signed onto a letter in support of Lee’s bill.
“Over time, Congress has ceded much of its authority to establish and raise tariffs and restrict imports to the Executive Branch as long as certain conditions are met,” the groups wrote in an open letter. “This current arrangement gives the Executive Branch virtual carte blanche to raise tariffs or otherwise restrict imports in a manner that could trigger a costly and unnecessary trade war.”
Trade troubles with Mexico would hike the prices of fruits and veggies in U.S. Any major trade dispute with Mexico that results in new tariffs or barriers would result in American’s paying more for their produce, United Fresh Produce Association President Tom Stenzel, tells Agri-Pulse in this week’s Open Mic interview.
About half the fruit and 35 percent of the vegetables consumed in the U.S. are imported and a lot of those imports come from Mexico, he said. Much of that produce comes in “counter-season” when it’s not being grown in the U.S. so Americans can have strawberries and grapes all year round.
“Agriculture is so dependent on trade,” Stenzel said when asked about the 20 percent tariff proposed by the Trump administration. “Nobody wants to start a trade war. Nobody wants to upset the apple cart and go back to the days of tariffs and quotas …”
USDA: There’s no bacon shortage. The news of record low pork belly supplies in a January cold storage report sparked fears of a bacon shortage and price spikes in grocery stores. Neither is true, according to USDA livestock analyst Shayle Shagam.
While it’s true that the report showed that pork belly supplies were at their lowest level since the 1950s when USDA began keeping track, Shagam stressed that the situation was only temporary. In fact, USDA is predicting that pork production will increase this year by 5 percent for a new record high.
Wholesale pork belly prices rose in the first four weeks of the year, Shagam said in an audio posting, but he stressed that was a “short term phenomenon” and did not translate into higher bacon prices. Supplies will continue to grow and Shagam said he expects that will push retail bacon prices down.
Ethiopia braces for another drought. Southeastern Ethiopia is already in the grips of another drought that is killing livestock and forcing the country to appeal for international aid, according to reports by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network and USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service.
The African country - no stranger to crippling droughts and famine - has filed the official paperwork requesting assistance and is seeking $948 million worth of food and other types of aid for about 5.6 million people in the region, the USDA agency said. Ethiopia is asking for $598 million worth of wheat, sorghum and cooking oil as well as other supplies like water and sanitation supplies.
The drought isn’t isolated in Ethiopia. Neighboring regions in Somalia and South Sudan are also facing the prospect of famine, according to the agencies.
Pesticides may get ESA review. The Environmental Protection Agency may have to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service about the effects of 31 pesticide active ingredients on endangered species, under a decision issued last week by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
A district court judge had dismissed all of the claims by the Center for Biological Diversity, and the 9th Circuit largely agreed with that judge’s reasoning. But the appeals court also said that a subset of pesticide products should be subject to consultation under the Endangered Species Act: those for which reregistration took place after January 20, 2005, and for which there was no public notice and comment in the Federal Register.
The case now goes back to the district court for further proceedings.
CropLife America, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and other groups intervened in the case on the side of EPA. 
USDA pulls animal welfare reports from website. The USDA announced on Friday that it is removing inspection reports and other materials documenting compliance with the Horse Protection Act and the Animal Welfare Act.
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said it made the decision to remove the material after a year-long review into what should be made public.
“APHIS will also review and redact, as necessary, the lists of licensees and registrants under the Animal Welfare Act, as well as lists of designated qualified persons (DQPs) licensed by USDA-certified horse industry organizations,” the agency said.
(Steve Davies contributed to this report.)