Ag News

Eye on the Capital: Updates from Washington

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Many issues impacting agriculture are currently being discussed and debated in our nation’s capital. Here are just a few of the topics that we’re watching this week.

Lots of Trade Attention This Week

Not only is the latest WTO Ministerial meeting underway in Argentina but there are also technical-level discussions going on via NAFTA in Washington. With the WTO session, the top trade officials from the U.S., Canada and Mexico will not be taking part in the NAFTA meetings this week and the agriculture portion of the discussions will not unfold until either this weekend or early the following week.

AFBF President Appointed to Advisory Committee

Speaking of trade, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s president will have input on proposed and current trade deals, including NAFTA, through a White House advisory panel. President Trump has appointed AFBF’s Zippy Duvall to a four-year term on his Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations at a time when Trump has threatened to withdraw the U.S. from NAFTA and will renegotiate KORUS, the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, with South Korea. The panel is the main body advising the president on trade policy, and Duvall’s appointment, and former AFBF President Bob Stallman before him, gives agriculture a more direct voice on two existing pacts critical to Ag’s economic well-being.

Farm Bill Coming Early Next Year

House Agriculture Committee leadership says the 2018 farm bill should be ready to move in the first quarter of next year. House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson said the markup on the bill will begin at the end of January, or the first part of February. A spokesperson for Committee Chairman Mike Conaway could not confirm the timing, but did say the bill will be ready in the first quarter of 2018. Peterson expects the bill to reach the House floor in February or March. That would follow a timeline outlined by Conaway earlier this year, whose office started working on the farm bill late this fall. Conaway said in August that he expected the farm bill to be ready for a House vote in early 2018.

Perdue Backs Keeping Nutrition in Farm Bill

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue recently stated that the main USDA nutrition programs “should remain linked to the farm bill when the latter comes up before Congress in 2018, despite past efforts to decouple the two.” In 2013, before farm programs were last reauthorized, some members of the House Republican conference pushed to separate the two issues, in hopes of making cutbacks in nutrition support. Not this time, Perdue says. “I don’t see a lot of interest in calling that question right now.” “I believe the administration is sending sufficient signals it will deal comprehensively with overall welfare issues in a comprehensive method that lessens the incentives to do it in the farm bill.”

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