WASHINGTON, Mar. 14, 2017 - Agri-Pulse Daybreak March 14: Perdue may get nomination hearing next week * Chinese president to meet with Trump * Lighthizer to get glowing introduction at hearing
Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts says he hopes to have a confirmation hearing next week for Agriculture secretary nominee Sonny Perdue. But it could be several days before he knows when he can move forward with the hearing, he says.
The committee has been reviewing the report that has been submitted to the committee on the FBI’s background investigation.
Asked whether any problems had turned up that could impede Perdue’s nomination, Roberts said, “There are a lot of allegations but I think that comes with the territory. When you run for office you’re always going to have those kinds of things.” The New York Times last week reported on some ethics questions that followed Perdue during his tenure as governor of Georgia.
The FBI report was submitted to the committee along with a financial disclosure report and an ethics agreement that laid out Perdue’s plans for separating from his business agribusiness and trucking interests.
Lighthizer to get warm introduction at nomination hearing. Robert Lighthizer, Trump’s choice to be the next U.S. Trade Representative, will be getting a glowing introduction today at his nomination hearing - so long as Washington isn’t shut down by an expected snowstorm.
Former Senator Bob Dole – a still-influential voice on Capitol Hill - is planning to introduce the USTR nominee to the Senate Finance Committee and give Lighthizer a very strong recommendation.
Dole, according to a prepared introduction viewed by Agri-Pulse, will say: “I am confident that Bob Lighthizer is uniquely qualified to serve the president and all Americans well as the U.S. Trade Representative. I encourage members of this committee to unanimously support this highly qualified nominee.”
Lighthizer was a deputy USTR during the Reagan administration, but before that he served as the staff director for the Senate Finance Committee.
Dole will highlight the importance the USTR position has on the nation’s farmers: “As a Kansan, I am particularly concerned about agriculture trade. A significant percentage of our production is exported, including half of the nation’s wheat crop.”
White House confirms visit of Chinese president. White House spokesman Sean Spicer confirmed Monday that Chinese President Xi Jinping will be coming to the U.S. soon to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump. Early press reports suggested the two would meet at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida resort, but Spicer said the exact date and place of the meeting has not been decided.
The primary reason for the visit, Spicer said, is to try to ease some of the tension caused by recent missile tests in North Korea that have U.S. officials concerned about improving military technology under the dictatorship of Kim Jong-un.
But trade is another source of tension. Trump has repeatedly criticized unfair trading practices of China and the growing U.S. trade deficit with the country since its accession into the World Trade Organization.
If the topic of trade comes up, the two leaders will have plenty to talk about – especially in regards to agriculture.
China continues to shut the U.S. out of its growing beef market as well as ban U.S. poultry and eggs.
Furthermore, the USTR filed two major WTO challenges against China in the waning months of the Obama administration. One challenge accuses China of failing to import enough wheat, corn and rice to meet tariff rate quotas. Another complaint charged China with maintaining domestic price supports that are far above market rates.
Trump hears ag concerns about health care. A rancher and a farmer were among a group of people who met with President Trump to discuss their complaints about Obamacare.
Joel Brown, a farmer and Tennessee, says insurance premiums are so high that has considered not carrying insurance. He said he has only option, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the premium is $540 a month for a policy with a $7,000 deductible. “You’ve got to pay a high premium for a plan I don’t need or don’t want,” he told the president.
The rancher, Carrie Couey from Colorado, said her premiums are three times higher than they were before the Affordable Care Act became law. “We can’t afford our equipment if we’re paying these rates year after year after year,” she said.
Trump complained that Obamacare was getting “wonderful press” now that Republicans are trying to repeal it. “It’s a horrible thing, actually, and getting worse,” he said.
Poor harvests in North Korea result in worsening food shortages. North Korea is doing a good job of using missile tests to rattle Western fears, but the country isn’t fairing so well when it comes to feeding its people.
North Korea’s food deficiency has skyrocketed in the past year, according to a recent report released by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. Based on data from the United Nations and South Korea, FAS said North Korea’s food deficiency jumped from 29,000 metric tons (a grain equivalent basis in the 2014-15 marketing year Nov. - Oct.) to 392,000 tons in 2015-16.
“This estimated net shortage was primarily a result of lower rice production caused by drought and a continued trend in decreasing imports,” the FAS report said.
Phil Brasher contributed to this report.