January 23, 2017

EPA Nominee Pruitt Undergoes Tough Confirmation Hearing

pruittIncoming President Donald Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency said during his Senate confirmation hearing he will honor the nation’s Renewable Fuel Standard, and seek clarity on the controversial Waters of the U.S. rule, strongly opposed by much of agriculture.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt withstood some withering fire from Senate Environment and Public Works Democrats, who repeatedly accused him of representing the interests of energy companies in his state to the EPA, but failing to defend environmental regulations.  Committee Republicans, on the other hand, defended Pruitt for his record of challenging the EPA for allegedly overreaching its regulatory bounds and ignoring state and local authority.

Pruitt vowed to restore a “rule of law” mentality at EPA, balance environmental with economic interests, and seek greater certainty on pending regulations like Waters of the U.S., stymied in the courts….tape

Pruitt On WOTUS

Pruitts commitment to the RFS has been a big question for midwestern ag, and Pruitt assured senators that he will honor the current statute and its biofuels volume targets, in keeping with President-elect Trump’s commitment to ethanol. The topic was a theme of his questioning by newly elected Illinois Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth…

Duckworth on Pruitt

Pruitt responded…tape

Pruitt Response

Pruitt told Duckworth he did not want her to have any concern about his “intent, objective or will,” if confirmed, of carrying out the RFS mandate but Duckworth said she remained unconvinced by his answer


Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue To Be Named Ag Secretary

Sonny_Perdue_at_rallyThe long national wait for an Ag Secretary appears to be over.  President-elect Donald Trump has reportedly picked former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to fill the duty under the incoming administration. While the USDA landing team has yet to confirm the nominee, multiple media outlets attributed a senior transition official as saying Trump will nominate Perdue to the post. As Governor of Georgia, the now 70-year-old Republican’s key agricultural issues included water management and making changes to the tax code that were beneficial to farmers. Perdue is a veterinarian-turned-politician who was Georgia’s first Republican governor in more than a century when he was first elected. If transition team officials confirm the nomination Thursday, Perdue will be poised to take the last remaining seat in Trump’s cabinet, and the long search for the next Agriculture Secretary would end just a day before Trump takes office.

The search has included a handful of false reports of when and who Trump would pick, even up until the end of last week. Still, this appears to be more serious, with Perdue’s cousin, David Perdue, is a Republican U.S. Senator from Georgia tweeting Wednesday night he “could not be more proud of his cousin” as being named USDA Secretary.

The American Farm Bureau and the National Pork Producers Council have already come out endorsing Perdue.

We will update this story as  more becomes available.


Now Former US Ag Secretary Vilsack To Lead US Dairy Export Council

TOMVILSACK The U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) today announced that former U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will join the organization as president and CEO, effective Feb. 1, 2017. USDEC is a non-profit, independent organization that seeks to enhance the global demand for U.S. dairy products and ingredients.

“Growing the global market for U.S. dairy products is essential to the future of the dairy industry and America’s dairy farmers. I’ve spent my career in public service as a tireless advocate for farmers and American agriculture and can think of no better way to continue this service than by leading the U.S. Dairy Export Council,” said Vilsack. “I look forward to partnering with the dynamic team at USDEC as well as agriculture, food industry and key stakeholders at home and abroad to advance the council’s mission and strengthen trust in American dairy.”

As president and CEO, Vilsack will provide strategic leadership and oversight of USDEC’s global promotional and research activities, regulatory affairs and trade policy initiatives. This includes working with industry leaders to develop a long-term vision for building sales and consumer trust in U.S. dairy. Together with the USDEC board, he will create strategies to successfully achieve the shared vision. He will serve as the organization’s primary spokesperson and ambassador to a host of global and domestic stakeholders.

“The global dairy market is more competitive today than ever. Ambitious trade agreements, reasonable labeling and product standards, and other issues are vital to the growth of America’s dairy industry,” noted Thomas Gallagher, CEO of Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), the umbrella organization that represents the broad interests of U.S. dairy and founded USDEC in 1995. “Secretary Vilsack’s impressive record of leadership and his proven ability to manage complex issues, combined with his breadth and depth of industry knowledge, made him the preeminent choice to take the helm of USDEC. I look forward to working with him.”

USDEC routinely partners with other dairy industry groups such as the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation to address the needs of its members, which include producers, processors and cooperatives, ingredient suppliers and export traders. An important component of Vilsack’s role will be working with and through these organizations to achieve results on behalf of the value chain.

“Secretary Vilsack is a proven leader on global issues ranging from child nutrition and food security to biotechnology and sustainable agriculture. He shares the dairy community’s commitment to advancing responsible solutions to global challenges and collaboration across the industry,” said Paul Rovey, USDEC Chairman and Arizona dairy farmer.

Vilsack will succeed Tom Suber, who served as president of USDEC since its founding in 1995, and retired at the end of 2016. Under Suber’s leadership, global U.S. dairy exports showed significant growth, rising from the equivalent of roughly 5 percent of U.S. milk production to a high of 15.5 percent.

“We thank Tom Suber for his tremendous contributions to the growth of U.S. dairy exports and elevating U.S. dairy’s position globally. He leaves an impressive legacy at USDEC,” noted DMI’s Gallagher.

USDEC has more than 100 dairy industry, dairy exporter and affiliated entity members. Its work is supported by staff across the United States and internationally in Mexico, South America, Asia, the Middle East and Europe.