April 26, 2015

Senate Finance Committee Passes TPA; Bill Moves To Floor

The product of months of negotiations between Democrats and Republicans – Trade Promotion Authority and other trade bills advanced through the Senate Finance Committee – after an objection by one Democrat kept the panel from meeting for hours. Chairman Orrin Hatch called it an historic bill:


Hatch says in a clear appeal to reluctant Democrats that lawmakers and the public will be able to review trade deals before they are signed. Top Finance Democrat Ron Wyden appealed to organized labor and other backers of his party:


Ag Senator Chuck Grassley argues American agriculture also needs a level playing field in trade:


Grassley also backed a bipartisan amendment to toughen TPA language targeted largely at China to stop countries from intentionally undervaluing currencies to make their export goods cheaper. The package of trade bills – facing time pressure from Trans Pacific trade talks – could hit the Senate floor soon.


Senate Finance Committee Continues Hearing on TPA

All eyes were on the Senate Finance committee this morning as they continued last weeks hearing on Trade Promotion Authority. This week’s agenda featured testimony focused less on agriculture and more on business, labor and manufacturing issues. First testimony came from Thomas Donohue, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

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He explained why fast track authority is needed:

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However, Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO disputed those claims:


No official mark up of the Senate TPA bill has been announced yet but it’s widely believed the meeting to do so will be held sometime on Thursday.  Most congressional Democrats oppose fast track and the administration has scrambled for support.


Several Minnesota, South Dakota Counties Added To Bird flu List

TurkeysOver the past week, USDA has announced several additional flocks in the region that have been confirmed positive with H5N2 highly-pathogenic avian influenza. These include Ottertail, Roseau, Kandiyohi and Stearns in Minnesota and Roberts county in South Dakota.

USDA has a 60-person response team on the ground lead by Chief Veterinarian Dr. John Clifford.  He says they suspect the spread of the virus is coming from multiple paths…tape

Clifford 1

He says it could have also been spread by workers or through the feed.

Minnesota State Vet Dr. Bill Hartman says the virus is heat sensitive – so they’re hopeful the cases will start to decline with the onset of summer…tape

Hartman 1

Meanwhile – sales have also been lost – as Clifford says export bans continue at varying levels…tape

Clifford 2

He says they are negotiating with Mexico – the top export market for U.S. turkey – to see if they will regionalize their ban.

The United States has the strongest Avian Influenza surveillance program in the world.  As part of the existing USDA avian influenza response plans, Federal and State partners as well as industry are responding quickly and decisively to these outbreaks by following these five basic steps: 1) Quarantine – restricting movement of poultry and poultry-moving equipment into and out of the control area; 2) Eradicate – humanely euthanizing the affected flock(s); 3) Monitor region – testing wild and domestic birds in a broad area around the quarantine area; 4)  Disinfect – kills the virus in the affected flock locations; and 5) Test – confirming that the poultry farm is AI virus-free.  USDA also is working with its partners to actively look and test for the disease in commercial poultry operations, live bird markets and in migratory wild bird populations.

The H5N2 strain should not be confused with the H5N1 strain of avian flu that’s caused human illness in portions of Asia, Europe, and Africa.  This latest strain of bird flu to affect the U.S., while highly pathogenic in turkeys, is not believed to affect humans and according to the Centers for Disease Control does not pose a public health threat.