WASHINGTON, June 18, 2017 - President Trump heads to Iowa this week to showcase precision agriculture and its benefits to the rural economy, and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue will host his Mexican and Canadian counterparts in Georgia.

Trump heads to Cedar Rapids on Wednesday where he will speak on agriculture innovation and visit one of several community colleges that are training young precision ag specialists to serve farmers who are adopting the technology, which allows them to reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides by targeting them where they are most needed.

Perdue, who will be in Georgia on Tuesday, is expected to join the president in Iowa along with the newly minted U.S. ambassador to China, former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad.

Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey, who sources say will be nominated as USDA’s undersecretary for farm and conservation programs, also is expected to be on hand.

Perdue’s visit Wednesday in the Savannah area with Canadian Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay and Mexican Agriculture Secretary José Calzada Rovirosa comes as the three countries are preparing to renegotiate the North America Free Trade Agreement at Trump’s insistence.

The three men will meet in Savannah, tour the Georgia Ports Authority, hold a news conference and then participate in the Georgia Agriculture Department farm tours in Vidalia, famous for the sweet onions grown in the area.

The United States and Mexico settled a major agriculture trade dispute last week with an agreement on sugar trade, but the Trump administration remains at odds with Canada over barriers restricting U.S. dairy and wheat sales.

Meanwhile this week, the House Agriculture Committee launches its farm bill listening sessions on Saturday in Gainesville, Fla. The listening sessions, which are less formal than the traditional field hearing, are designed to gather regional input. The committee has not released a schedule for the rest of the meetings.

Despite the ongoing GOP struggles over health care reform, the fiscal 2018 budget and other big issues, House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, told Agri-Pulse he still hopes to have a new farm bill on the House floor by the end of this year or in early 2018. “Where I am right now, with the circumstances I see right now, we think we can have that floor time,” he said.

The NAFTA renegotiation also will be a major topic when U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer testifies Wednesday before the Senate Finance Committee and Thursday before House Ways and Means.

“No matter how successful, our agreements can always be improved and strengthened,” said Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas. “I look forward to learning more about the administration’s plans for seamlessly modernizing and upgrading NAFTA, as well as opening up other markets through the negotiation of strong new agreements.”

Also this week, a number of other Trump Cabinet members and senior officials will be trekking to the Hill for confirmation and budget hearings.

On Thursday, Trump’s nominee to chair the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, J. Christopher Giancarlo, will testify before the Senate Agriculture Committee.  Giancarlo, who joined the commission in 2014, is currently serving as the agency’s acting chairman. 

The CFTC is almost certain to become friendlier to agribusiness interests with Giancarlo as chairman and the recent nomination of Dawn DeBerry Stump, a former Senate Agriculture Committee aide, to another seat on the commission.

Stump, a native of West Texas who has a degree from Texas Tech in agricultural economics, represented the committee during negotiations on the Dodd-Frank law that required the CFTC to tighten its regulations. The five-member CFTC currently has three vacancies.

Grain traders and other agriculture interests have complained that they were unfairly swept up in the regulations.

During a recent agriculture forum in Montana, Giancarlo said “farmers and ranchers were not the cause of the financial crisis. The CFTC must take care to avoid making farmers and ranchers collateral damage of regulations designed to curb bad behavior on Wall Street, not Main Street.”

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will testify at three separate hearings this week on his department’s budget, while FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb will appear Tuesday before the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.

Here’s a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere:

Monday, June 19.

Deadline for comments to USDA and FDA on regulations of agricultural biotechnology.

9:30 a.m. - Council for Agricultural Science and Technology holds briefing on bee health, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, 50 F St. NW. Capitol Hill briefings at noon, 1300 Longworth, and 3 p.m., 328A Russell.

4 p.m. - USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.

Tuesday, June 20

9 a.m. - U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy Hosts “Energy Strong” forum with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and others, 1615 H St. NW 

10 a.m. - Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee budget hearing with Zinke, 366 Dirksen.

10:30 a.m. - Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, 192 Dirksen.

1 p.m. - House Energy-Water Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Energy Secretary Rick Perry, 2359 Rayburn.

2:30 p.m. - Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on restoration of small watersheds and large landscapes, 366 Dirksen.

2:30 p.m. - Senate Financial Services-General Government Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with the Federal Communications Commission, 138 Dirksen.

Wednesday, June 21

9 a.m. - Farm Foundation forum, “Nutrition and Agriculture – a Natural Partnership,” National Press Club.

9:30 a.m. - Senate Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Interior Secretary Zinke, 124 Dirksen.

10 a.m. - House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on defining and mapping broadband service, 2123 Rayburn.

10:15 a.m. - Senate Finance Committee hearing with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, 215 Dirksen.

2:30 p.m. - Senate Energy-Water Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Energy Secretary Rick Perry, 138 Dirksen.

Thursday, June 22

8:30 a.m. - USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.

9:30 a.m. - House Natural Resources Committee budget hearing with Interior Secretary Zinke, 1324 Longworth.

9:30 a.m. - Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on the nomination of J. Christopher Giancarlo to be chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, 328A Russell.

10 a.m. - House Agriculture Committee hearing on university research, 1300 Longworth.

10 a.m. - House Small Business subcommittee hearing on rural broadband, 2360 Rayburn.

10 a.m. - House Ways and Means Committee hearing with U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer, 1300 Longworth.

10 a.m. - Senate Energy and Natural Resources budget hearing with Energy Secretary Perry, 366 Dirksen.

Friday, June 23

9 a.m. - USDA releases monthly Food Price Outlook.

Saturday, June 24

House Agriculture Committee holds farm bill listening session, Gainesville, Fla.



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