An interesting perspective of the exterior of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., looking from the ground up. Getty Images/Win McNamee

Federal government to run through April 28

Congress passed a Continuing Resolution that keeps the federal government running through April 28, thus avoiding a government shutdown.

It provides additional funding for USDA to meet the increasing demand for operating loans by farmers. The bill provides an additional $5.8 billion for the Department of Defense and Department of State for overseas war operations.

There is increased disaster relief funding for Louisiana and other states to address damage caused by recent flooding and severe weather events. By passing a CR, it will give the Trump administration three months to determine its spending priorities for the remainder of Fiscal Year ’17.

Senators call on Obama to stop issuing new rules and regulations

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), along with 22 other Senators, sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to stop issuing non-emergency rules and regulations in the final weeks of his administration.

The Senators said in the letter, “In a clear and direct repudiation of consistent regulatory overreach by federal agencies, the American people have, for the first time since 2007, handed control of both the executive and legislative branches of government to the same majority. It is our job now to determine the right balance between regulation and free-market principles and make sure that our federal government no longer stands between Americans and financial success.”

USDA estimates FY 2017 exports at $134 billion

USDA is now estimating Fiscal Year ’17 agricultural exports to reach $134 billion. This is according to USDA’s most recent “Outlook for U.S. Agriculture Trade.”

The report increased livestock, dairy and poultry exports to $26.5 billion, due to an expected increase in dairy and livestock byproducts exports. Pork exports are forecast at $4.7 billion and beef exports at $5.3 billion. Dairy is expected to reach $5.3 billion, an increase of $300 million from USDA’s previous August estimates.

Grain and feed exports are forecast at $29.6 billion. This is primarily due to stronger wheat and corn volumes. Oilseed and oilseed products are forecast at $31 billion.

Agricultural imports are estimated at $112.5 billion. The U.S. agricultural trade surplus is expected to reach $21.5 billion.

Trump names EPA administrator and ambassador to China; still waiting on ag secretary

President-elect Donald Trump has named Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as his choice for the next administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt is already facing strong opposition from various Democratic Senators, the Humane Society of the U.S. and environmental groups.

Pruitt has said he is a leader in the fight against EPA’s “activist agenda.” HSUS in a blog says, “An elected official who abused the power of his office to attack charities on behalf of agribusiness interests will now lead the federal agency responsible for a number of important animal issues, including animal testing for pesticides and chemicals, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution from factory farms.” As Oklahoma’s Attorney General, Pruitt filed lawsuits against the Waters of the U.S. rule and the EPA’s greenhouse gas limits on electric utilities. He has led efforts against ethanol. Pruitt filed a “friend of the court” brief in a lawsuit over the ethanol fuel mandate. In the brief he says that increased-ethanol fuel posed a risk to the fuel systems of many of the vehicles on the road and that diverting corn from the food supply would drive up the cost of food for consumers.”

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad will be the new U.S. Ambassador to China. He is known for his relationship with the current Chinese government leaders. Trump says, “Gov. Branstad’s decades of experience in public service and longtime relationship with President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders make him the ideal choice to serve as America’s Ambassador to China. He successfully developed close trade ties with China while serving as chief executive of the Hawkeye State.”

Everyone in agriculture is waiting to see who will be appointed Secretary of Agriculture. Trump has talked with former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND). Indications there are others being considered by the transition team.

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