April 18, 2015

Trade Legislation On the Move

Leaders on the Senate Finance Committee introduced a bill Thursday to the give the White House Trade Promotion Authority that some say could seal the deal on the 12 country Trans Pacific Partnership agreement.

Committee Chair Orrin Hatch introduced the bill with ranking member Ron Wyden, and House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, U.S. Trade Ambassador Michael Froman and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew testified before the committee on Thursday.

The hearing highlighted disagreement among Democrats about TPA and the process to move it forward.

Senator Charles Schumer of New York railed on the fact that the hearing was being held on a bill that had not been unveiled yet.


Meanwhile, Country of Origin Labeling – or COOL – came up for discussion during the hearing.  Senate Ag Committee Chair Pat Roberts indicated to Secretary Vilsack that the committee would make required changes to avoid retaliatory trade measures Canada and Mexico due to rulings from the World Trade Organization.


Past Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow echoed those thoughts.


Iowa Senator Charles Grassley posed a question to the Ag Secretary.


The response from Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack.


A World Trade Organization dispute panel is currently reviewing the legality of the amended COOL regulations.  A WTO compliance report is expected in May.


Saudi-Bunge Joint Venture Purchases Majority Interest in CWB

A state-owned Saudi Arabian company is joining U.S. grain trader Bunge Ltd to buy a majority stake in Canadian grain handler CWB for C$250 million ($201 million).

The joint venture of Bunge and Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Co (SALIC), called G3 Global Grain Group, said on Wednesday it will buy a 50.1 percent stake in CWB. It said the minority interest will be held in trust for the benefit of Canadian farmers, and that G3 will be based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The transaction is expected to close in July 2015.

Saudi Arabia began to scale back its domestic wheat-growing program in 2008, planning to rely completely on imports by 2016. SALIC was formed in 2011 by late Saudi King Abdullah to secure food supplies for the desert kingdom, mainly through mass production projects with other countries.

CWB, known as the Canadian Wheat Board until the government stripped it of its Western Canadian grain monopoly in 2012, has remained under the control of the federal government, which has been seeking a majority investor. CWB, meanwhile, has been attempting to reposition itself as an independent grain handler.

Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said the government has approved the deal, which he said would increase the country’s grain-exporting capacity.

CWB operates a network of seven grain elevators in Western Canada, along with port terminals in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and Trois Rivieres, Quebec. CWB is building four additional grain handling facilities in Bloom and St. Adolphe, Manitoba, and at Colonsay and Pasqua, Saskatchewan.

G3 said Bunge’s export terminal in Quebec City and four grain elevators in Quebec will be part of the transaction.


Courtesy of Reuters News


Showdown Looming Between EPA And Congress

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Chairs introduced legislation this week to stop EPA from finalizing the clean water rule it sent to the Office of Management and Budget last week.

House Ag Chair Michael Conaway is an original sponsor of the bill. Conaway says the U.S. Supreme Court rebuked EPA twice for overstepping its bounds – but the Administration’s response was to double down. House Ag Ranking Member Collin Peterson says EPA’s proposed rule has the potential to regulate farmers and ranchers out of business – putting the entire rural economy in jeopardy.  Peterson says this new legislation is needed because EPA does not seem to grasp the real-world impact the rule would have on farmers and local communities.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy – however – says the agency will get the rule over the finish line – and the final rule will provide the clarity people want – ensuring not to overextend into agriculture.