WASHINGTON, Feb. 10, 2017 - President Trump and Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, will meet at the White House today to discuss a range of issues, including trade. They’ll then head to Florida to spend the weekend together at the president’s Mar a Lago estate. 

Some agricultural groups are pressuring the White House to begin negotiations on a bilateral agreement to replace the Trans-Pacific Partnership from which the United States has now withdrawn.

A senior administration official said the two leaders would reaffirm the importance of “a free and rules-based trading order” in the Asia-Pacific region. But the official declined to go into specifics of what the trade discussions would cover. 

Trudeau visits on Monday. Trade is also likely to be on Trump’s agenda Monday when Canadian Prime Minister comes to Washington. Trump has called for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. 

Sonny Perdue & Debbie Stabenow
Agriculture nominee Sonny Perdue meets with Senate Agriculture's ranking Democrat, Debbie Stabenow. (Photo by Stabenow staff.)

Perdue meets Stabenow, Grassley. Trump’s nominee for agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue, met yesterday with the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Debbie Stabenow, as well as with Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican who had registered concerns about having a southerner run USDA. 

Stabenow, who met with Perdue for half an hour, said they had “a productive conversation about his priorities and vision” for USDA. She stopped short of endorsing him, saying instead that she looked forward to learning more about his goals for the department. 

Grassley pronounced himself “pleasantly surprised” after his 45-minute meeting with Perdue. Grassley has frequently tangled with southern farm interests over his concern that lax restrictions on farm subsidies can encourage excessive consolidation. Grassley said he was “very much comforted” by Perdue’s approach to farm policy.

The Senate Agriculture Committee is not expected to hold Perdue’s confirmation hearing until after the Senate returns from its week-long President’s Day recess later this month.

Democrats pledge fight against Labor nominee. There’s no reason to believe that Perdue will have any trouble winning confirmation, but the same can’t be said for some other nominees important to agriculture. 

Senate Republicans have finally scheduled a confirmation hearing for one of those, Andy Puzder, Trump’s pick to run the Labor Department. But Democrats have already dragged out the confirmation of several other nominees, and Puzder is very much in the cross hairs as well.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer says Trump could not have “picked a worse nominee” than Puzder to run the Labor Department, citing Puzder’s record of running the company that owns the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. restaurant chains.  

Schumer held a news conference yesterday with a Carl’s Jr. employee who claimed she had been cheated out of pay she was owed. 

Schumer also laid out a core reason why Democrats are making a show of fighting Trump’s nominees: Democrats want to make it as difficult as possible for his cabinet members to maneuver politically once they are in office. 

“We think we’ve been very effective in showing who they are and putting some constraints on their actions and on the president’s actions,” said Schumer. 

A spokesman for Puzder called the attacks on him “fake news.” Puzder “is exactly what America’s workers and businesses need: a proven job creator,” the spokesman said.

Plains cropland values fall. Evidence for the slump in the U.S. farm economy keeps rolling in. A survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City found that farmland values in its region dropped 6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016 over the same period a year earlier. Ranch land values were down 7 percent. 

In some areas, the decline is even more severe: For example, the value of non-irrigated farmland in Kansas is down 13 percent. The Kansas City Fed’s survey includes Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado as well as Kansas and western Missouri. 

SCOTUS asked to overturn egg producers’ prison terms. The Supreme Court is being asked to overturn the prison sentences facing the father-and-son Iowa egg producers who were linked to a major outbreak of salmonella in 2010.

The conservative Washington Legal Foundation says the three-month prison terms given to Austin and Peter DeCoster abused a doctrine that allows corporate officials to be held criminally liable for employee misconduct. 

In a brief filed with the high court, the organization says FDA’s use of that legal concept allows corporate officials to be labeled “as criminals - even if they never participated in, encouraged, or had knowledge of the violations alleged.”

Bumble bee listing delayed. Another day, another delay in regulations.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has pushed the effective date for the listing of the rusty patched bumble bee from Feb. 10 to March 21.

The delay complies with a Trump administration memo issued Jan. 20 that directs federal agencies to delay rules for 60 days “from the date of this memorandum.”

Since the late 1990s, the bee’s range has shrunk from 31 states and Canadian provinces in the Northeast, Southeast and Midwest to its current range of 14 states and provinces.  It’s the first bee in the lower 48 to receive protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Biotech plan slowed for more comment. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is giving interested parties an extra 30 days to comment on a sweeping proposal to update and streamline the regulatory process for genetically engineered crops. 

The original comment period would have ended May 19. APHIS has extended it to June 19.

They said it. “If this trend persists, it will become intolerably risky to be an executive in the food and drug industries in the United States, and the compensation required to attract and train qualified executives who are willing to risk their liberty will substantially drive up prices for vital consumer goods.” - The Washington Legal Foundation in its brief on behalf of Austin and Peter DeCoster. 

Steve Davies contributed to this report.