Washington Insider -- Tuesday

Purdue to Face Senate Ag Thursday

Here’s a quick monitor of Washington farm and trade policy issues from DTN’s well-placed observer.

Bayer Said To Plan Sales ff Seed Assets To Pre-Empt Regulators

Bayer AG will put some of its seed businesses up for sale, Bloomberg reported Friday, according to people familiar with the matter, in an attempt to address likely antitrust concerns over its $66 billion combination with Monsanto Co.

The Leverkusen, Germany-based company will send out information packages on three assets, which it may sell separately, to potential bidders, the people said. None of Monsanto’s assets will be sold in the process, they said.

The process could start as soon as this week, one of the people said. Among the products being offered are the cottonseed business Bayer acquired from Monsanto for more than $300 million in 2007, as well as canola seed operations and LibertyLink, a herbicide-resistant crop gene, the report noted.

Representatives for Bayer and Monsanto declined to comment. Reuters had reported on the potential asset sales previously.


USDA's APHIS Announces Another 60-Day Stay on Lemon Imports from NW Argentina

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will be issuing a second 60-day stay on the effective date of its final rule, published on December 23, 2016, to allow the importation of fresh lemon fruit from northwest Argentina into the continental United States.

APHIS initially said in a notice published in the Federal Register dated Jan. 25, 2017, that the final rule would be stayed until March 27, 2017.

No notice was available on the Federal Register site by the close of business March 20.

Washington Insider: Purdue to Face Senate Ag Thursday

Sonny Perdue, President Trump's pick to head USDA, is headed to Capitol Hill on March 23 for his confirmation hearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Perdue's nomination process has been anything but swift, Bloomberg says, noting that he's one of the last cabinet-level nominees to get a hearing. It took seven weeks for the White House to submit his financial disclosure and background check documents to the committee, which received the ethics forms March 10.

As the head of the USDA, Perdue will represent the administration in the coming debate as well as help implement the next farm bill, a five-year agriculture, food and conservation policy vehicle expected to be produced in 2018. So during the upcoming hearing, lawmakers are expected to work hard to nail down important commitments for their constituents covering almost everything from crop subsidies to conservation to the food stamp program.

Despite Perdue's reported ethical lapses as governor, there seems to be no evidence of a major move in opposition to Perdue’s confirmation. He has the backing of major farm groups and even support from former USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, although Democrats haven't yet said whether they will try to block his confirmation. This means he likely will not face much drama in the up-coming hearing, Bloomberg says.

If confirmed, Perdue will be one of the few voices for agriculture in the new administration and farm groups are expecting him to push their interests as the administration gears up to renegotiate major trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement. Canada and Mexico are major agriculture trading partners with the U.S., amounting to $38.6 billion in agricultural exports in 2015.

According to forms submitted to the Office of Government Ethics, Perdue will unwind himself from a broad business portfolio and resign his position in several policy and trade groups. He also step away from his private business, Perdue Management Holdings LLC and Perdue Business Holdings Inc.

Of course, the committee will want to know something about his position on trade proposals being considered by the administration, and also likely will raise numerous farm bill issues and many others. So, even without drama, the hearing is expected to surface a large number of sensitive issues and concerns.

In addition, few secretaries in recent years have faced expectations as high as Governor Perdue likely will face if confirmed. He will represent a sector that feels it is owed a debt for its election support, but which likely will find itself well down the administration priority list on several important issues. This certainly applies to trade, but also to the need to shore up available farm labor supplies and program spending in many other areas, as well. For example, the upcoming farm bill will consider extending or expanding numerous expensive commodity and other programs at a time when budget hawks have strong political positions and are primed to fight hard for a smaller government.

So, if confirmed as expected, Secretary Perdue will face a tough, tough job, but one he seems well suited by both training and experience to perform. Certainly, he will find plenty to do as he heads to Washington, Washington Insider believes.

Want to keep up with events in Washington and elsewhere throughout the day? See DTN Top Stories, our frequently updated summary of news developments of interest to producers. You can find DTN Top Stories in DTN Ag News, which is on the Main Menu on classic DTN products and on the News and Analysis Menu of DTN’s Professional and Producer products. DTN Top Stories is also on the home page and news home page of online.dtn.com. Subscribers of MyDTN.com should check out the US Ag Policy, US Farm Bill and DTN Ag News sections on their News Homepage.

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