May 23, 2015

Trade Promotion Authority Passes Major Senate Hurdle

mitch-mcconnell-floor-speech-conTwelve Democrats joined 50 Republicans to end a Senate filibuster of President Obama’s top domestic priority – trade promotion authority. The vote greased the skids for final Senate passage of TPA – needed to secure a Trans Pacific trade deal among the U.S. and 11 Pacific nations – which could dramatically boost U.S. farm exports to Asia. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took the Senate floor…

McConnell

Finance Chair Orrin Hatch crafted the TPA bill and stressed the importance of the latest vote as debate wound down on TPA…

Hatch

The Democrats’ filibuster was broken by a deal to vote on a measure to renew the controversial export import bank. Top Finance Democrat Ron Wyden…

Wyden

Thursday’s vote was seen giving TPA supporters the votes needed for final Senate passage of fast track – a huge win for major farm groups. An even tougher battle still looms in the U.S. House.

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House Ag Committee Votes To Repeal COOL

Vote

With that, The House Ag Committee passed a bill this morning that would repeal the now offending Country of Origin labeling law.  The move is meant to preempt any retaliation measures by Canada or Mexico now that the U.S. is found to be out of compliance with international trade laws.  Not everyone is on board.  House Ag Ranking Member Colin Peterson of Minnesota:

Peterson 1

Peterson also saw other challenges ahead :

Peterson 2

Peterson was in the minority.  Livestock Subcommittee Ranking Member Jim Costa, Democrat out of California cautioned against the repercussions if Country of Origin Labeling were to remain the law of the land:

Costa 1

Schedules are such that the bill is unlikely to make it to the full House floor until June.   No word on when the Senate might consider a similar measure.

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World Trade Organization Announces U.S. Has Lost COOL Appeal

Feeding CowsThe World Trade Organization announced its final ruling on the Country of Origin labeling dispute between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico, confirming earlier rumors that the U.S. has lost its last appeal.  The WTO made the announcement this morning following months of rumors; the decision will open the way for retaliatory trade measures by Canada and Mexico.  The news comes as a blessing to many in the U.S. meat packing industry who have stated the rules were too restrictive. The ruling follows years of complaints by both Canada and Mexico that the U.S.’s mandatory labeling laws were discriminatory.  Just last year the WTO found in favor of the plantiff parties which led to USDA redrafting the rules.  USDA has said they felt the rules were in compliance with international laws, but has stated several times in various committee hearings on Capitol Hill that if this appeal failed there was little they could do to bring the law into compliance. House Ag Committee Chair Michael Conaway issued this statement following the announcement:

“Once again, the WTO has found COOL to be non-compliant – a decision we fully expected. As retaliation by Canada and Mexico becomes a reality, it is more important now than ever to act quickly to avoid a protracted trade war with our two largest trade partners. I have asked my colleagues on the Agriculture Committee to weigh in on resolving this issue once and for all during a business meeting this Wednesday in a targeted effort to remove ongoing uncertainty and to provide stability.”

Conaway has previously stated his intentions to initiate a repeal process in the House should this be the outcome of the appeals process.   A news conference with Chairman Conaway, Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC), Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), John Murphy of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Ken Monahan of the National Association of Manufacturers, John Weber of the National Pork Producers Council, and Philip Ellis of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has been scheduled for tomorrow.

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