Latest trade, Ag developments in Congress

By National Association of Wheat Growers

Though the Hill was quiet this week with Congress out on recess, the Administration made a number of announcements of interest to U.S. agricultural producers. Over the weekend, President Barack Obama made 15 recess appointments, installing Jill Long Thompson as a member of the board of the Farm Credit Administration and two key trade nominees (see story here). On Wednesday, Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a plan to dramatically expand oil and natural gas production on East Coast shorelines and in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. The announcement, which comes as climate and energy legislation is being hashed out despite the recess period, was accompanied by other plans to raise car and truck fuel efficiency standards and incorporate renewable fuels into military uses.

In the area of trade policy, a number of Administration officials, including USDA Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Jim Miller, traveled to Brazil to learn more about potential retaliatory action that country could take stemming from a long-running World Trade Organization dispute. The wheat industry is watching this closely as the country has threatened to raise import tariffs on U.S. wheat exported to Brazil to 30 percent and could endanger a key export credit guarantee program.

Also this week, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released the 2010 National Trade Estimate, which describes significant barriers to U.S. trade and investment faced in the last year as well as actions being taken USTR to address them.

USTR also released reports specifically on sanitary and phytosanitary barriers and technical barriers to trade that harm the ability of America’s agricultural producers and manufacturers to export around the world. All of that information is available online at

Congress is scheduled to return to D.C. the week of April 12. Members will face a heavy load of items tinted by election-year politics, not the least of which is setting and approving a budget. NAWG continues to work with coalition partners to express the importance of a range of agriculture-related budget items, including funding for farm safety net, conservation, trade promotion and research programs.

Other legislative items on tap include two pending tax incentives/safety net bills, finalizing financial regulatory reform and energy and climate change legislation.

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