USDA announced that this fiscal year’s agricultural exports were on pace to reach the second-highest level in history at $104.5 billion – $8 billion higher than last year. The report also indicated that the trade surplus in agriculture is expected to reach $28 billion, the second-highest ever achieved. U.S. agricultural exports to China grew to $10.6 billion during the first half of fiscal year 2010, an increase of nearly $3 billion. This made China the United State’s top market for the first half of the fiscal year.

Regulate non-0157 E. coli Strains — Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has introduced legislation to require USDA to regulate non-0157 E. coli strains. The proposed legislation would add the confirmed strains of E. coli (026, 045, 011, 0121, and 0145) and give USDA authority to find and regulate more toxic strains in the future. Senator Gillibrand said, “By expanding the definition of adulterants to other strains, it will require USDA to begin spot testing procedures, force companies (through legal pressure) to test and eliminate the pathogen, and require the Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) to recommend best testing practices to companies.”

Senate Farm Bill Hearings Begin June 30 — The Senate Agriculture Committee announced a series of farm bill hearings, the first scheduled for June 30, focused on maintaining a strong U.S. farm policy. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) commented, “As we look toward the upcoming farm bill, I will use these hearings to gather feedback on how the current bill is working and lay the groundwork for the future of the nation’s farm, nutrition, conservation, rural development, research, forestry and energy priorities.” Other hearings will focus on revitalizing the rural economy through robust rural development; promoting conservation practices that preserve our natural resources and wildlife habitat for future generations; and, ensuring agriculture is part of the nation’s energy future.

Full Market Access for U.S. Beef — The Senate recently passed a Sense-of-the-Senate Resolution by Senators Max Baucus (D-MT), Mike Johanns (R-NE), and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), which urges China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mexico and Vietnam to follow international guidelines and provide full market access to all U.S. beef products. Senator Baucus said, “American beef is world class and there is absolutely no scientific basis for any country to restrict it. These unfounded and unscientific barriers are impeding our economic recovery and hurting hardworking ranchers in Montana and across the United States.” The resolution does not mention a phased-in approach, which is what the administration has adopted.

Biodiesel Tax Credit Extended — The House of Representatives extended the $1-per-gallon biodiesel tax credit as part of its tax extenders/jobs package. The bill extends the tax credit for one year and makes it retroactive. The biodiesel tax credit had expired Dec. 31, 2009. The Senate will consider the legislation this month.

Another Incumbent Loses — Congressman Parker Griffith (R-AL) lost his primary election. Griffith had the support of the national Republican leadership. He was originally elected as a Democrat, but switched parties the end of last year. Also, Congressman Artur Davis (D-AL) lost his nomination for governor of Alabama. This week all eyes will be on the Arkansas Democratic Senate run-off election between Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Lt. Governor Bill Halter.

Congress Returns from Memorial Day Recess — Congress returns after its week-long Memorial Day recess. There are a number of items on the agenda for Congress to consider, including fiscal year 2011 appropriations bills, financial regulatory reform, Supreme Court nomination and tax extenders.

P. Scott Shearer
Vice President
Bockorny Group
Washington, D.C.