House ag defends budget-busting trade aid


By Catherine Boudreau, POLITICO



Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee mounted a campaign on Monday to ensure USDA isn’t hamstrung by a $30 billion borrowing cap, which has been strained by the trade aid flowing into farm country. The effort — led by Chairman Collin Peterson (Minn.) and Reps. Filemón Vela (Texas) and Jim Costa (Calif.) — appears to be working.


A senior Democractic aide confirmed that a temporary spending bill, which needs to pass before Oct. 1 to avert a government shutdown, will likely include a provision that would allow USDA to continue making the trade relief payments. Lawmakers are negotiating language to ensure “accountability and transparency” and hope to conclude those talks soon, the aide added. The provision was left out of draft legislation circulated among House appropriators last week.


“Although we mutually have concerns with President Trump’s approach to trade negotiations, we refuse to engage in the same tactics that punish our constituents and harm our communities that rely on agriculture,” the Democrats said in a statement.


The mechanics of trade aid: Similar to last year, White House budget officials requested that Congress give the Commodity Credit Corporation some wiggle room. USDA has broad authority to stabilize the farm economy using money from CCC, a Depression-era institution with a direct line to Treasury. It funds the administration’s trade bailout — now totaling $28 billion — for farmers whose products have been targeted by retaliatory tariffs.


The financial demand of that package, in addition to CCC’s regular obligations like farm bill subsidies and conservation programs, have left the agency with dwindling ability to keep borrowing.


Stopgap status: Congressional leaders are still hammering out the details of a short term spending measure. It’s still unclear how long the bill would keep the government open, but the House is expected to start debating the legislation sometime this week.


THE RISK OF SPREADING AFRICAN SWINE FEVER THROUGH FEED: The virus, which is decimating hog herds in China and several other Asian countries, can survive a 30-day transoceanic voyage in plant-based feed and ingredients, according to a study by Kansas State University. The new data highlights the potential risks of imported feed, and can be used by the U.S. and other countries to safeguard their pork production, said Megan Niederwerder, who led the team of veterinary researchers.


USDA, in outlining its strategy to respond to African swine fever, noted that ingredients like corn, soybeans and flax aren’t regulated to mitigate against foreign animal diseases. These ingredients are exported by countries affected by the virus, including China, which accounted for about 11 percent of America’s soybean imports between 2015 and 2018. Organic soybeans present a higher risk of being a pathway because the crop isn’t treated by chemical agents used to reduce bacteria, the department said.


USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in March said it would identify and rank what factors could predict whether a feed shipment posed a risk of introducing African swine fever into the U.S. to help research and response efforts.




Awaiting the results of an internal investigation ...




There’s been some positive movement by China to buy more U.S. agricultural goods ...


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