FarmPolicy

November 13, 2018

Sunday Recap: West Coast Ports; Trade; Dietary Guidelines; Ag Economy; and, Policy Issues

West Coast Ports

A tentative agreement on the West Coast port dispute was reached on Friday, while articles on Saturday cautioned, “that the new contract won’t immediately resolve the delays.” Some lawmakers also weighed in on the developments expressing relief and a need for quick implementation of the agreement. A recap of news from Friday and Saturday can be found here at FarmPolicy.com.

The cautionary tone was amplified in an article by Tiffany Hsu, Andrew Khouri and Peter Jamison on the front page of Sunday’s Los Angeles Times titled, “Despite West Coast ports’ labor deal, normality not yet on horizon.” The writers indicated that, “West Coast ports are emerging from the most contentious labor dispute in more than a decade, but lingering resentment and structural problems may complicate a return to normality.”

For more, see this FarmPolicy.com update.

Trade Issues

President Obama used his weekly address on Saturday to call on Congress to pass Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).

While The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday that “House and Senate negotiators are converging on a deal” regarding TPA- more details at FarmPolicy.com.

A news release on Friday from U.S. Wheat Associates indicated that, “Several influential countries are not complying with the domestic agricultural support commitments they made as members of the World Trade Organization (WTO). That is the conclusion of a study sponsored by U.S. commodity organizations and introduced to agricultural negotiators Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, in Geneva, Switzerland. Those organizations made the point that recognizing the current realities in agricultural support and trade could help improve the chances of finally reaching a Doha Round agreement.

“The study was conducted by DTB Associates, Washington, DC, and updates a similar study conducted in 2011. U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) was one of the sponsors of the latest study indicating that the governments of India, China, Turkey, Brazil and Thailand have dramatically increased trade distorting subsidies for wheat, corn or rice production over the past ten years to levels that exceed their WTO agreements — in most cases by large margins. That information has not been readily available to WTO negotiators.”

The news release noted that, “For more information, visit www.dtbassociates.com/docs/DomesticSupportStudy11-2014.pdf and www.dtbassociates.com/docs/domesticsupportstudy.pdf.”

And Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), along with several House Democrats, including Collin Peterson (Minn.), just concluded a trip to Cuba, for more on this trip and Cuba issues, see this FarmPolicy update.

Dietary Guidelines

Following Thursday’s release of dietary guidelines from a government advisory committee, reactions from lawmakers and other interested parties have been publicized, including different views from former United States Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan and American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman on the “sustainability” aspect of the guidelines.

The South Dakota congressional delegation also “expressed their concern about the misleading and inconsistent guidelines on meat consumption in the report.”

More details here, at FarmPolicy.com.

Agricultural Economy

News articles and reports highlighting aspects of the U.S. agricultural economy can be found in this update on Saturday at FarmPolicy.com.

And news release on Friday from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations stated that, “The model of agricultural production that predominates today is not suitable for the new food security challenges of the 21st century, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said today.”

The release added that, “Agriculture has a potentially large role to play not only in guaranteeing food security but also in building resilience to the affects of climate change and in reducing humankind’s emissions of global warming gases, according to the FAO Director-General.

“‘The impacts of climate change are no longer an anticipated threat. They are now a crystal-clear reality right before our eyes,’ he warned, adding: ‘Climate change will not only affect food production but also the availability of food and the stability of supplies. And in a global, interdependent economy, climate change makes the global market for agricultural products less predictable and more volatile.’”

Policy Issues

The House Ag Committee will hold hearings this week on Wednesday and Thursday regarding Farm Bill nutrition issues; while, on Tuesday, the Senate Ag Committee will hold a hearing on Farm Bill implementation and hear testimony from Sec. of Ag. Tom Vilsack.

Sec. Vilsack is also scheduled to appear on Wednesday at the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture.

Recall that earlier this month, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Ag heard from USDA Inspector General Phyllis Fong.

Meanwhile, Tom Steever reported on Friday at Brownfield that, “The Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee says cutting crop insurance subsidies is a non-starter, but the Kansas Republican also expresses the need to convince detractors that the risk management tool has value.

“Senator Pat Roberts says there are people who believe that crop insurance subsidies should be reformed, which he says is the nice way to describe a cut.

“‘Usually they want the money for something else,’ Roberts told Brownfield Ag News at the Western Farm Show in Kansas City Friday, ‘either that or they just do not feel that farmers ought to have subsidized crop insurance.’”

Mr. Steever added that, “Roberts says Obama budget writers see crop insurance subsidies as low hanging fruit where money can be saved.

“‘We’re determined to educate these folks to the value of crop insurance; that’s going to be an ongoing effort, but that’s the way it’s been for years,’ said Roberts.  ‘We’re going to put that down as a top priority.’”

And Ron Nixon reported in Saturday’s New York Times that, “To understand America’s fragmented food safety inspection system, consider a slice of frozen pizza. The pepperoni is examined by the Agriculture Department, the cheese and tomato sauce by the Food and Drug Administration, each agency using its own methods for inspecting and testing.

“If someone gets ill sampling that slice’s tasty goodness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention might sound the alarm, but it would fall to the F.D.A. to pressure the pizza maker for a recall.

The Obama administration wants a single new agency to sweep all that away: the Food Safety Administration, a colossus that would be housed within the Department of Health and Human Services to ‘provide focused, centralized leadership, a primary voice on food safety standards and compliance with those standards,’ the administration said in its new budget request.”

Keith Good

Cuba Trade Issues

Categories: Trade

Lauren French reported on Friday at Politico that, “Congress should work quickly to end the decades-old trade embargo against Cuba, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said during a visit to the island nation.

“‘I do believe that there is strong bipartisan support in the Congress of the United States to lift the embargo,’ the California Democrat said during a news conference Thursday in Havana, according to a transcript made available Friday morning. ‘I also think that it would be important for us to move as quickly as possible … to move in a positive way to remove Cuba from the list of concerned states.'”

Rep. Pelosi also issued a statement on Friday which noted in part that, “Following a press conference, the delegation proceeded to our final meeting in Havana with the First Vice President of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel. We engaged in a constructive dialogue about the future of our two countries and discussed how we could work together on agriculture, biotechnology and small business to our mutual benefit. All of the participants in the meeting agreed that a critical step towards normalization is the establishment of formal diplomatic relations.”

And The Washington Post editorial board indicated today that, “For all the high expectations, and deep anxieties, that surround the U.S.-Cuba thaw that President Obama announced two months ago, the reality is that the process is still in its very early days. The two countries have not agreed even on one of the simpler bilateral issues: opening full-fledged embassies in each other’s capitals. Cuban President Raúl Castro sounded an ominous note by hinting that complete normalization might depend on such far-fetched demands as the hand-over of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay or reparations for the U.S. embargo.”

The Post stated that, “U.S. political leaders would be well advised not to succumb to, or foster, exuberance about the transformation in economic relations that might be at hand — much less about the pending transformation of the Cuban regime. Official contacts must not sugarcoat or lend undeserved legitimacy to a dynastic dictatorship that remains one of the most repressive on the planet.

“Consider the just-concluded visits to Havana by a House delegation led by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and a three-senator group made of Democrats Mark R. Warner (Va.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.) — the tone and tenor of which were too starry-eyed by half. Ms. Klobuchar gushed that she and her colleagues ‘walked freely around the streets and talked with anyone we wanted,’ apparently oblivious to the political surveillance within which those ‘free’ conversations occurred. Ms. McCaskill posted charming photos of vintage cars on her Instagram account; nothing depressing, like images of Cuba’s poverty, though.”

Sunday’s opinion item concluded by stating: “No one, not even a politically powerful American visitor, is immune to being exploited by the Cuban propaganda machine; no one is truly free on that island. U.S. lawmakers need to understand that, fully, and behave accordingly.”

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West Coast Ports- “Normality not yet on Horizon,” LA Times

A tentative agreement on the West Coast port dispute was reached on Friday, while articles on Saturday cautioned, “that the new contract won’t immediately resolve the delays.” Some lawmakers also weighed in on the developments expressing relief and a need for quick implementation of the agreement. A recap of news from Friday and Saturday can be found here at FarmPolicy.com.

The cautionary tone was amplified in an article by Tiffany Hsu, Andrew Khouri and Peter Jamison on the front page of Sunday’s Los Angeles Times titled, “Despite West Coast ports’ labor deal, normality not yet on horizon.” The writers indicated that, “West Coast ports are emerging from the most contentious labor dispute in more than a decade, but lingering resentment and structural problems may complicate a return to normality.

Activity picked up Saturday at Western harbors after the dockworkers union and employers reached a tentative agreement late Friday on a new five-year contract that will cover 20,000 workers at 29 ports.”

The article added that, “‘I think the parties have an understanding of the impact of this disruption,’ U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez said in an interview. ‘They understand that they not only have to restore service, they have to restore confidence.'”

“Trade experts said that it could be months before ports were operating at their normal pace,” the article said; adding that, “Even before the union was accused of slowing operations in November, the ports had struggled with delays for months, experts said.

“A truck trailer shortage and the increased reliance on massive container vessels contributed to the worst freight backlog in a decade at the San Pedro ports. At the Los Angeles port, a single ship now often carries 14,000 containers. Two years ago, a large ship would have held 8,000 to 10,000 of the steel boxes.”

Laura Stevens reported on Sunday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “West Coast ports are finally working at full speed again, but it will likely take months for the backlog to clear, port officials and logistics experts said.”

The Journal article noted that, “‘Just based on the mathematics, it will be about three months before we return to a sense of normalcy,’ said Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles.”

Also, Marianne Levine reported on Saturday at Politico that, “Labor Secretary Tom Perez said Saturday that in bringing resolution to a tense labor-management dispute at the West Coast ports he never said President Barack Obama might impose a solution unilaterally.

“‘What I did tell them is they have no time, they have to move forward [and] they’re playing with fire,’ Perez said in an interview with POLITICO.”

The article added that, “Perez said the White House came into the negotiation neutrally and did not have a specific proposal in mind. However, he said the White House was not neutral over the time line to reach a solution.”

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