Ellyn Ferguson

Another Farm Bill Trouble Spot: Ex-Prisoners Growing Hemp
The conference committee met Wednesday morning ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline

Advocates for criminal justice reform hope to convince lawmakers to reject a provision by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Senate farm bill that would deny people with drug felony convictions the chance to be hemp farmers.

Nine Senate and 47 House negotiators met publicly for the first time Wednesday to lay out their positions on how to proceed in reconciling House and Senate versions of the five-year legislation. Lawmakers will push to have a compromise bill ready before the current farm and food policy law expires Sept. 30.

Canada: No Deal Yet With U.S. on NAFTA Update
Dairy central to disagreements

Canada’s top trade negotiator said Friday that talks to update NAFTA have yet to produce an agreement with the United States. The comments come just hours before the administration plans to notify Congress that it intends to sign a trade agreement in principle with Mexico.

“We are not there yet,” said Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland Friday morning.  “We are only going to sign a deal that is good for Canada. My job is to find the deal that works for Canada.″ 

Congress Awaits Details as Canada Looms Over NAFTA Deadline
Democrats and Republicans want northern neighbor included

With just a day before the Trump administration is expected to notify Congress that it plans to sign an agreement in principle with Mexico to update the NAFTA trade pact, lawmakers continue to seek more details and push for a final outcome that includes the third NAFTA partner — Canada.

“We have no exact details. Other than what’s been written in newspapers, we have no idea what’s in it,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said of the agreement in principle announced Monday by Mexico and the United States to update the North American Free Trade Agreement.  Corker said Senate Republicans were told Tuesday that they could soon receive what he called talking points on the agreement.

Trump Administration Hears Day One of China Tariff Pleas
Six public hearings on import duties began Monday amid worries, hopes

Importers told government officials Monday that very little product manufacturing will return to the United States, saying Chinese manufacturers have the expertise to produce at high volume and lower prices.

The comments came as the Trump administration began public hearings on proposed tariffs on $200 billion in imports from China. While business leaders in some industries are hopeful that the tariffs will offer protection against competitors using cheaper imported Chinese goods, others worry about potential financial hardships.

NAFTA Talks Hit One-Year Mark as Trump Keeps Canada Hanging
Mexican officials are in D.C. this week amid push for bilateral agreement

Top U.S. and Mexican negotiators are meeting this week in the latest effort to finish a bilateral trade agreement amid unanswered questions about the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement on the first anniversary of the Trump administration’s launching of negotiations to revamp the 1994 trade pact.

Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, secretary of the economy, made a late afternoon arrival at the office of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Wednesday. Guajardo is leading a Mexican delegation comprised of negotiators from the current administration and a transition team from the new administration that takes office in December.

Trump’s Threat to Leave the WTO Alarms Many, Even in Congress
And it might be a tipping point for Republicans on the Hill

The United States once viewed the World Trade Organization as the wave of the future, an improvement over the aging General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade system and a hub of rules-based stability for countries — rich and poor, democratic and nondemocratic — engaged in the international buying and selling of goods and services.

Now President Donald Trump is eyeing the exit door from the WTO, a Geneva-based body the U.S. helped to create in 1995 to negotiate trade standards among its 164-member nations and to referee disputes among them using a playbook of agreed upon rules.

McConnell Hopeful Farm Bill Conference Report Ready for Vote After Labor Day
Treatment of work requirements under SNAP an issue

The Senate agreed by voice vote Tuesday to go conference with the House to negotiate a new version of the farm bill before the current legislation expires, even if that means working through the summer recess.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he was hopeful the farm bill conference report would be ready for a vote after Labor Day. The Senate is expected to name nine negotiators, five Republicans and four Democrats.

US, EU Trade Officials Split Over Agriculture in Trade Talks
“We feel the EU has become increasingly aggressive in their agreements,” Perdue says

The apparent U.S.-European Union trade truce is less than a week old and the two parties disagree on whether agriculture will be on the table in follow-up discussions to flesh out an agreement, adding more uncertainty to the American farm economy.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue reiterated the U.S. trade representative’s position that agriculture will be part of further talks. Robert Lighthizer last week told Senate Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Chairman Jerry Moran that no matter what the EU says, the U.S. “view is that we are negotiating about agriculture, period. That’s part of the process.” The panel questioned Lighthizer about the administration’s overall trade strategy.

Trump Trade Czar Talks Lobsters, ‘Farmers of the Sea’ and ‘Playing Chicken’
Robert Lighthizer tells Senate panel trade dispute with China won’t end soon

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told Senate appropriators Thursday it could take years to get China to change trade policies that he says undercut U.S. businesses. But he added that the Trump administration’s aggressive push for change in Beijing will eventually result in better deals for American companies.

While Lighthizer defended the administration’s tariffs action on Chinese imports, lawmakers on the Senate Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee pressed for quicker action to open up additional export markets for U.S. products.

Lawmakers Welcome Easing of EU-US Trade Rift, Look to NAFTA
But tensions still evident, as U.S. trade representative finds out

Key agriculture Republicans say they are hopeful the Trump administration is starting to move farmers out of a trade crossfire under a limited agreement between President Donald Trump and the European Union to ease trade tensions as the two sides work to iron out their differences.

Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts called Wednesday’s agreement in principle “quite a startling development and positive development. If that happens and then we get NAFTA done, there are quite a few lights at the end of the tunnel.”

House Set to Start Farm Bill Talks With Senate Before Recess
Senate version does not include new work requirements

The House is expected to trigger farm bill negotiations Wednesday, raising the House Agriculture Committee chairman’s hopes that public pressure in support of expanded work requirements for food stamp recipients could help move Senate negotiators toward accepting the House legislation.

House Agriculture Chairman K. Michael Conaway said he is ready to go to conference on the farm bill with the Senate. The Texas Republican said the House will vote Wednesday afternoon to launch negotiations with the Senate that will resolve differences between the chambers on a new five-year farm bill. The most contentious divide between the chambers is the scope of work requirements for food stamp recipients.

Tariffs Not Enough to Outsmart China, Experts Tell Lawmakers
Two House Foreign Affairs subcommittees held hearing Wednesday

The United States will have to use more than trade tariffs to force China to curb policies designed to give its state-owned enterprises a competitive edge over U.S. companies and undermine America’s technological future, experts on China told two House Foreign Affairs subcommittees on Wednesday.

The witnesses, at a hearing on Chinese trade practices, recommended strategies including using a new Justice Department anti-trust enforcement division that scrutinizes violations by foreign governments. They also said the United States should band together with trading partners to increase pressure on China to change discriminatory policies on intellectual property. In addition, the witnesses favored action on legislation in a House-Senate conference committee that would expand national security reviews of Chinese business transactions involving high-tech.

Congress Can Stop Trump From Ditching WTO, Analysts Say
President threatens to pull out ‘if they don’t treat us properly,’ but lawmakers could stand in the way

Congress has largely been a bystander as the Trump administration’s trade actions have unleashed trade disputes with friend and foe, but lawmakers may have a chance to weigh in with the president’s latest trade threat — withdrawing from the World Trade Organization.

“We’re not planning anything now, but if they don’t treat us properly we will be doing something,” President Donald Trump said July 2. “They have been treating us very badly for many, many years and that’s why we were at a big disadvantage with the WTO.”

Senate and House to Negotiate on Farm Bill After Recess
Senators overwhelmingly passed their farm bill Thursday

The Senate passed its farm bill Thursday by a vote of 86-11, after rejecting a proposal that would have reduced food stamp benefits for able-bodied adults.

The vote clears the path for a Senate-House conference committee after Congress returns from the weeklong Fourth of July recess. Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts and ranking member Debbie Stabenow remained united in keeping the bill bipartisan by working to prevent contentious provisions from being added to it.

Trump Backtracks, Turns to Congress to Police China, Others
Committee could determine if restrictions on tech investments are needed

The Trump administration will rely on Congress to produce legislation that would restrict new Chinese investments in U.S. technology companies, backing away from a earlier threat to issue specific restrictions on such investments in “industrially significant” areas of the U.S. economy.

In a Wednesday morning call with reporters, senior administration officials said President Donald Trump opted to have the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States — known as CFIUS — determine if restrictions on Chinese investments in the U.S. are needed, as the panel offers a process that is familiar to investors and to U.S. allies. The panel reviews proposed investments in U.S. businesses by foreign investors.

Corker Adds Wrinkle to Farm Bill as He Pushes Back on Trump’s Tariffs
Agriculture is the ‘No. 1 target’ of foreign retaliation, GOP senator says

The Senate could begin action Wednesday on dozens of farm bill amendments, including Sen. Bob Corker’s proposal for congressional approval of import tariffs and Sen. John Kennedy’s effort to extend the expiring National Flood Insurance Program.

Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts and ranking member Debbie Stabenow said Tuesday they were starting to sort through amendments to the House-passed farm bill to determine how to address them. The Senate voted to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the farm bill Monday night. The House bill is intended to be the legislative vehicle for the Senate version, expected to be offered by Roberts as a substitute amendment Wednesday.

House GOP Farm Bill Passes; Compromise With Senate Next
Senate bill expected on the floor next week

The House on Thursday passed, 213-211, the Republican-written farm bill that seeks to restructure the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a month after a stinging defeat when the legislation became embroiled in an unrelated battle over immigration legislation.

The vote “was about providing certainty to farmers & ranchers who have been struggling under a 5yr recession & about providing our neighbors in need w/ more than just a hand out, but a hand up,″ House Agriculture Chairman K. Michael Conaway wrote on Twitter after the bill passed. There was no floor debate.

Fight Over Food Stamps Among Big Hurdles Facing Farm Bill
As a fall deadline looms, Congress keeps stewing and squabbling

If everything goes according to plan this month, House leaders will round up the necessary Republican votes to pass the chamber’s 2018 farm bill after an unexpected defeat on the floor put the legislation on hold.

The failed May 18 vote marked the second time in five years that a farm bill ran into obstacles in the House. In the Senate, meanwhile, leaders have indicated they want to pass the bipartisan legislation by the July Fourth recess.

Corker Seeks to Push Back on Trump Trade Actions
Tennessee Republican wants congressional vote on future tariffs involving national security

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker plans to make a pitch to Republican colleagues at the Senate lunches Tuesday on a proposal to require a congressional vote on future tariffs involving national security before they can take effect.

The Tennessee senator said he’s found Democrats who are interested in the proposal, but he would not identify them. The fiscal 2019 defense authorization bill is a likely vehicle for the proposal, he said, “because it deals with national security. That would be the best vehicle.”

Allies, Lawmakers Brace for Fallout of Steel, Aluminum Tariffs
“‘Make America Great Again’ shouldn’t mean ‘Make America 1929 Again,’” Sasse says

Mexico, Canada and the European Union threatened to retaliate with tariffs on American-made goods after the Trump administration announced that it would reimpose steel and aluminum tariffs, as it tries to pressure them to crack down on imports of the metals from China, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday.

The tariffs will take effect Friday. U.S. companies that import steel from Canada, Mexico and the 28-nation EU will pay an additional 25 percent duty on steel and a 10 percent duty on aluminum.