Washington Insider - Tuesday

Toxic Politics Resume

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

Actions under Foodstock Flexibility Program Not Expected For Fiscal 2018

No purchases of sugar under the Feedstock Flexibility Program (FFP) are expected for Fiscal 2018, according to the USDA Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), based on current crop and consumption forecasts. CCC is required to make the determination each quarter.

FFP is aimed at avoiding forfeitures of sugar placed under loan and USDA's current forecasts are that ending stocks are unlikely to lead to any forfeitures. The next quarterly estimate on FFP will occur on or before April 1, 2018.

Biofuels from Distillers Sorghum Oil Meet GHG Emission Reduction Thresholds

Biofuels produced from distillers sorghum oil would meet the lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction threshold of 50% under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), according to a notice of proposed rulemaking from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published in the December 27 Federal Register.

Amending the RFS to define distillers sorghum oil as "oil from grain sorghum that is extracted at a dry mill ethanol plant at any location downstream of grinding the grain sorghum kernel," EPA noted in the filing, provided the grain sorghum is made into ethanol and the oil is rendered unfit for food use without additional refining.

The proposal also seeks to add biodiesel and heating oil produced from distillers sorghum oil via a transesterification process, and renewable diesel, jet fuel, heating oil, naphtha, and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) produced from distillers sorghum oil via a hydrotreating process as being approved pathways under the RFS.

Comments on the matter are due January 26 and EPA said it will not hold a public hearing on the matter unless a request for a hearing is made by January 11.

Washington Insider: Toxic Politics Resume

It seems now that Washington affairs have become so toxic that even a meeting between Democratic and Republican congressional leaders is news, according to POLITICO.

The news outlet is reporting that the leaders “will meet Wednesday with top White House officials as they attempt to hammer out a deal to avert a government shutdown and resolve an impasse on immigration.” Given the intensity of the issues involved, a broad agreement seems unlikely.

The meeting was initially expected to include President Trump's chief of staff, John Kelly, but a White House spokesman said legislative affairs director Marc Short and budget director Mick Mulvaney would represent the president. The meeting is seen as an effort by the President to force action on one of his most iconic, divisive policy proposals: a wall on the southern U.S. border.

Trump has signaled in recent days that he would support a measure to protect undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as minors in exchange for wall funding and other stiff border security measures that Democrats have ardently opposed.

"The Democrats have been told, and fully understand, that there can be no DACA without the desperately needed WALL at the Southern Border and an END to the horrible Chain Migration & ridiculous Lottery System of Immigration etc," Trump tweeted Friday morning. "We must protect our Country at all cost!"

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer brushed off the president's tweet.

"We're not going to negotiate through the press and look forward to a serious negotiation at Wednesday's meeting when we come back," said Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill.

Pelosi and Schumer will join Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, in the meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

Short and Mulvaney's lead role in the negotiations is a break from similar meetings in recent months, when Democrats have walked away emboldened and claiming to have won concessions from Trump. After a September session at the White House, Trump joined Pelosi and Schumer to punt a series of fiscal negotiations until early December.

Democrats bailed on the most recent planned meeting of the four leaders in November, though, after Trump tweeted that an immigration deal was unlikely.

Trump told The New York Times on Thursday that he believes a bipartisan solution on DACA is within reach, though he said he wouldn't back any plan "without a wall."

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus, said Friday that he's confident Trump won't sign any deal that doesn't include his immigration priorities — from the wall to ending so-called chain migration and the visa lottery program.

"The president will veto something that doesn't have those items in there," Meadows told the press. "I firmly believe that."

Well, this meeting looks very much like a heavy-duty standoff just now, with extremely high political stakes on both sides. At least a few commentators are suggesting that a DACA deal has significant political support now, while support for an expensive wall may have diminished, at least slightly. Still, the emotional anti-immigration battles continue to be high priority for many Americans, even as the need for off-shore labor grows in several industries, including agriculture.

So, this is a fight producers should watch closely as it proceeds, Washington Insider believes.

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