Washington Insider-- Tuesday

Appropriators Say Restraint on Riders To Be Key

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

Turkey Imposes Antidumping Duty on Imports of US Cotton

An antidumping charge of 3% of CIF (cost, insurance and freight) is being imposed on imports of non-carded cotton from the U.S., according to a ruling published in Turkey’s official gazette.

Turkey’s import of cotton from the U.S. rose to $915 million in 2014 from $653.7 million in 2012. The market share of domestic producers fell to 40% in 2014 from 61% in 2012. Turkey was the second-biggest cotton importer behind China in 2013-14, buying 924,000 metric tons of the fiber, according to data from USDA.

Turkey announced the antidumping probe on Oct. 18 against U.S. cotton exporters, sending shippers questionnaires.

Turkey's decision to put a 3% CIF duty on U.S. cotton fiber imports is being disputed by the National Cotton Council (NCC), which argues the duties put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage.

Turkey typically takes in 1.5 million to 2 million bales of U.S. cotton, and NCC Chairman Shane Stephens said the investigation was clearly in response to several U.S. trade investigations of Turkish steel imports. Plus, he noted the Turkish government self-initiated the investigation without any showing of special circumstances as is required under WTO rules.

"In the first place, the investigation itself lacked transparency regarding information used to justify the investigation," Stephens said. "In fact, data used in support of a finding of injury to the Turkish domestic cotton market ignored established facts to the contrary." The duties imposed by Turkey come at a time when producers are facing economic difficulties already, Stephens said.

"The Council will continue to actively oppose the imposition of duties and is exploring ways to reverse the decision, such as WTO mechanisms and the Turkish judicial system," Stephens noted.

Sen. Boozman Welcomes Mexico Lifting of ban on Arkansas Poultry

Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., said he was pleased that Mexico lifted its ban on Arkansas poultry products, saying it is "important that producers in Arkansas are treated fairly, and as a leading producer of poultry, having access to export markets is important to Arkansas’s economy. Mexico is an important market for the industry and I’m excited for the opportunity for Arkansas poultry producers and businesses,” Boozman said.

Mexico banned the import of Arkansas poultry after turkey at a Boone County farm tested positive for avian flu in March of 2015. Despite USDA tests showing the strain no longer exists in the region last year, Mexico would not reverse its ban, Boozman noted in a statement.

Boozman previously urged the lifting of the ban via meetings with the Ambassador of Mexico and USDA officials.

In addition to Arkansas, USDA has confirmed that Mexico has lifted its ban on imports of poultry and poultry products from all states except for Indiana. Indiana is the site of the most-recent bird flu cases in the U.S. Mexico at the end of March reopened its market to Canadian poultry after also blocking those supplies due to bird flu.


Washington Insider: Appropriators Say Restraint on Riders To Be Key

There is a lot of discussion on the Hill and in the press now about how the appropriations process will actually function this year in the absence of a Congressional budget. Bloomberg is reporting this week that appropriators are pushing members to agree to exercise “restraint” in order to move the necessary spending bills to the Senate floor in a timely manner.

As Republican leaders continue to lay the groundwork to bring the first of the 12 bills up for full Senate consideration, key members of the Senate Appropriations Committee told Bloomberg that they have agreed that any chance to achieve “regular order” and put the budget process back on track will require them to “check their own desire to use the measures as vehicles for controversial policy changes.”

“This will all work if we exercise restraint in the amendment process,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who chairs the Energy and Water Subcommittee and whose bill is expected to be the first to hit the Senate floor, likely this week. Alexander said at the first markup of the year that members agreed to avoid including “poison pill” riders on committee bills in order to expedite their consideration and avoid early battles with Democrats and the White House.

“There’s several senators here that have already stepped back, not insisted on amendments we would call, quote, controversial,” Alexander said after his bill won the endorsement of all committee members on a 30-0 vote. “Save those for the floor.”

Besides the Energy and Water bill, the committee also approved an annual spending bill for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs programs that will go to the floor later this spring.

Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., supported the effort to hold spending consistent with last fall’s bipartisan budget deal and also praised the members for avoiding controversy.

“They have developed bills free of poison pill riders that would bring a presidential veto,” Mikulski said.

Alexander said that when the bills move ahead senators are assured of many chances to offer amendments on the floor—but suggested that the concept of “restraint” also includes limiting proposed amendments to those actually relevant to Energy and Water. In addition, he said that appropriators plan to process the amendments quickly to help Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R. Ky., keep to his schedule to consider 12 bills in 12 weeks.

Alexander noted that he and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. processed 78 floor amendments in a handful of days last year during consideration of a bill to overhaul the No Child Left Behind Act.

“[I]f we show some restraint and cooperate many senators will have a chance to have as many amendments if they wish to have them,” Alexander said.

Alexander also noted that the most controversial items still will be subject to 60-vote thresholds, meaning that they will need the support of some Democrats to pass.

Sen. John Hoeven, N.D., was among the Republicans who agreed to hold off offering items that the White House and Democrats likely consider veto bait. Hoeven said he instead plans to offer his amendment to defund the administration's clean water rulemaking when the Energy and Water bill moves to the floor. Hoeven said he also is considering offering the same amendment when the Interior-Environment bill is on the floor later this spring.

“That makes sense,” Alexander said. “It means the bill can get to the floor.”

This, of course, doesn’t end efforts to link controversial riders to the appropriations bills but it is intended to allow Majority Leader McConnell to impose party discipline to prioritize those it wants to push the hardest, while avoiding fights over many others.

Throughout the process, it will be important to watch carefully how well this strategy works as spending bills are considered under “forced draft.” Many members of the majority consider appropriations bills their primary vehicle for forcing policy changes from either the majority or the administration. Now that the Majority has been embarrassed by its failure to pass the budget it promised it will be important to note whether the leadership can actually support Senator McConnell’s speed up strategy and return to something near the “regular order” to fund the government for FY2017, a process that producers should watch carefully as it proceeds, Washington Insider believes.

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