Washington Insider-- Wednesday

Dusting Off the Shutdown Clock

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

India Makes Changes to Resolve Poultry Trade Skirmish with US

Indian trade officials said they amended their domestic laws to comply with a 2015 World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that found its ban on U.S. imports of poultry meat, eggs and live pigs violated international trade rules.

The change seeks to resolve a key aspect of the 2015 decision that found India's import ban failed to separate disease-free areas and areas of low disease prevalence, thus violating sections of the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement.

In a September 22 WTO filing, India said it modified its domestic law to comply with the ruling by:

Screening poultry imports according to the standards outlined by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE);

Recognizing the concept of disease-free areas; and

Conforming its recognition of disease free areas according to the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code and the SPS Agreement.

U.S. officials said they were studying the amendment carefully and were not prepared to comment. Earlier this year, the U.S. asked the WTO to sanction $450 million in annual retaliatory trade measures against India until New Delhi complied with the ruling.

First Shipment of Brazil Beef has Landed in US: Brazil Ag Minister

The first shipment of Brazilian beef has now arrived at a U.S. port, according to Brazilian Ag Minister Blairo Maggi. He made the comments when discussing a recent Asian trade mission.

Indications were that shipments of beef from Brazil to the U.S. could begin this month, with the statement by Maggi a confirmation that is the case. Brazil has access to the U.S. market for beef under a 64,805-tonne quota available to countries that do not have a trade deal in place with the U.S.

Officials from Brazil's JBS said this week they believe Brazilian beef will be competitive in the U.S. market even if they were to come in outside the quota and be subject to an import duty.

Washington Insider: Dusting Off the Shutdown Clock

The key issue in Congress this week by any measure is the spending fight. Leadership groups are discussing, almost non-stop, and draft bills are being circulated. No one wants a shutdown, everybody says. But, any piece of legislation that is really, actually, "must pass" invites poison pill riders and this is no exception.

So, the clock is ticking toward the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 at the end of the week and Roll Call is suggesting that "it might be time to dust off the government shutdown clocks." We will see.

Tuesday saw Senate Democrats block a spending bill offered up by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., prompting efforts to find a compromise after the procedural vote failed.

If it were approved, this legislation would not have arrived in the House until Wednesday or Thursday meaning that the vote in that chamber would take place on the verge of government funding expiring.

Still, House Republican leaders say they are showing patience and Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., told Roll Call he supports the Senate-led proposal. But time clearly is getting short.

The package offered by McConnell was generally clean, but leaves by the wayside emergency funding for the lead-plagued water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

The inclusion of what Republicans described as a "down payment" on supplemental aid to flood-ravaged communities in Louisiana but not the Flint money drew the ire of Michigan Democrats and now appears to be a key to Democratic opposition in the Senate.

A Senate-passed water resources bill is the vehicle for aid to Flint, but there won't be a conference report completed before the end of this September session, Roll Call says.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, accused Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., of stalling and refusing to complete negotiations on what is a generally agreed-upon spending package.

Given the end-of-the week deadline, Cornyn said, "I don't know what the alternative is," to McConnell scheduling a vote on a plan without Reid's support.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, said that talks would continue between Democrats and Republicans in an effort to strike a deal before the scheduled afternoon vote. Still, she called the discussions "very constructive" and noted that "We're a work in progress."

There are a few other issues, as well. For example, as the release of McConnell's plan was imminent, Reid seemed particularly critical of the continuation of language in current appropriations law that blocks the Securities and Exchange Commission from compelling companies from disclosing so-called "dark money" campaign contributions.

The SEC provision being continued is not literally a new rider, but it has prompted outside campaign finance watchdog groups, who are longtime adversaries of McConnell, to accuse him of risking a government a shutdown.

"Our lawmakers can't pass standalone legislation blocking democracy reforms, so instead they snuck a provision into the continuing resolution behind closed doors," said Dan Smith of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. "That kind of politics is great if you're raising money from special interest groups, but it shortchanges the American public."

For example, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, responded positively to a Roll Call question about whether Democrats would remain united. However, he subsequently told the press that given the urgent need for funds to fight the Zika virus in Florida, that while he supports the people of Flint, "this bill provides a clean $1.1 billion to help stop the spread of Zika virus with no political riders, and I will support it," he said.

So, while some of the earlier issues have been dropped, there are still important ones being contested and the remaining fight will be bitter and tough up until a bill is completed and new government funds provided—or not. And, then since life of this proposed CR will be short the fights likely will begin again, a process producers should watch very closely as it proceeds, 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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