agriculture

Photos of the Week
The week of Dec. 13 as captured by Roll Call’s photojournalists

Top row from left, Reps. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, are seen as the House Judiciary Committee hears the House Intelligence Committee’s presentation on the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump on Monday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Craft distillers, retailers wait anxiously for tax extenders
Stakeholders predict layoffs, hiring freezes if deal is not struck by end of year

Rep. Denver Riggleman says it would be “disastrous” for his wife’s Virginia distillery if a 2017 provision that cut excise taxes is not extended past its Dec. 31 expiration date. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman says a looming tax increase on small craft distillers will lead to layoffs at the distillery his family operates in Afton, Virginia, where they make a handful of spirits with colorful names like Strange Monkey Gin and Blackback Bourbon.

And Jeff Quint, a Swisher, Iowa, distillery owner who makes bourbon from corn grown on his family farm, says the demise of the small distillers’ break will force him to rethink new hires he’d been planning.

Some fear new federal rules on hemp production may go too far
Lawmakers and policymakers still aren’t distinguishing between hemp and marijuana, advocates say

Efforts across the nation to regulate hemp production seek a balance between encouraging the new industry and deterring pot growers who might sneak under the plant’s new legal umbrella. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Congress opened the door in 2018 to what many in the agriculture sector hope will be a 21st-century money crop: hemp. But the budding industry must first escape the shadow of marijuana, hemp’s botanical cousin.

The efforts in Washington, as well as in state and tribal governments, to regulate hemp production seek a balance between encouraging the new industry and deterring pot growers who might sneak under the legal umbrella now covering hemp.

At Trump White House, that elusive China trade deal is always ‘close’
On Oct. 11, president saw final deal in a few weeks. Eight weeks later, talks drag on

A container ship sits docked at the Port of Oakland in May in Oakland, California. The Trump administration has yet to finalize an elusive trade pact with China that has at times shaken global markets. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images file photo)

ANALYSIS — A trade agreement with China that President Donald Trump boastfully announced nearly two months ago remains stalled, despite a top White House economic adviser’s Friday pledge that a final deal is “close.”

On Thursday, the often-verbose president was notably succinct when a reporter asked about the on-again/off-again/on-again China trade negotiations, including whether he would follow through on a threat to slap 15 percent tariffs on $160 billion worth of Chinese-made items on Dec. 15.

FDA nominee faces bipartisan grilling on Trump's vaping plan
Stephen Hahn pressed on whether he would work to curb spike in youth vapers

Stephen Hahn, nominee to be commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Medical executive Stephen Hahn faced a bipartisan grilling in his nomination hearing Wednesday about whether he would, if confirmed to lead the Food and Drug Administration, challenge the president to release a promised tobacco flavor ban.

Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee ranking member Patty Murray, D-Wash., pressed Hahn on whether he would “stand up” to the White House in order to curb a sharp spike in young people's exposure to nicotine through the growing vaping industry, including the rise of Juul Labs Inc. 

Trump has no China trade pact, but he does have a signing location in mind
2020 battleground state of Iowa is president’s preferred spot

Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa has raised concerns about a possible trade pact with China. President Donald Trump might sign it with Xi Jinping in his home state. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump gave no indication Friday he and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are closer to signing a “Phase One” trade pact, but he does have a place in mind where a signing event for it could happen — a battleground state that has borne the brunt of the U.S.-China trade war.

“It could even be in Iowa,” he told reporters on the White House South Lawn as he departed for a campaign rally in Mississippi. “I would do it in the U.S. He would too,” he added, speaking for Xi.

White House scrambles to get Trump, Xi together for trade pact signing after Chile axes summit
President and aides are eager for another foreign policy win amid Dems’ impeachment probe

A shipping container is offloaded from a Hong Kong based CSCL East China Sea container ship at the Port of Oakland, Calif., earlier this year. Wildfires in Chile forced the cancellation of a summit where President Trump and Chinese President Xi had hoped to sign a trade pact. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images file photo)

Eager for another foreign policy win, White House officials are scrambling for a Plan B for President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping to sign a “phase one” trade pact after Chile canceled an Asia-Pacific economic summit.

“We’re still working on it,” acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told CQ Roll Call as he exited the office of Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, where West Wing aides have been discussing alternative plans.

USDA's hemp rules open door to states to set up regulations
McConnell led drive to legalize the crop

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue calls hemp a new opportunity for farmers. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Tuesday his department was opening "a new economic opportunity for America’s farmers” with the issuance of long-awaited rules governing legal hemp production and a path for state and tribal governments to submit regulatory plans for review.

The USDA is setting the minimum rules, allowing states to impose more restrictive requirements. One official said the department would "test drive" the interim rule in the 2020 growing season and then adopt a final rule.

White House ‘does not seek confrontation with China,’ Pence says
‘There’s no deal with China,’ GOP Sen. Rick Scott says, breaking with Trump on trade pact

Vice President Mike Pence walks through Statuary Hall on his way to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's office in the Capitol in January. On Thursday, he laid out the Trump administration's China trade deal and its policy toward its top economic and military rival. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday credited President Donald Trump with altering U.S.-China relations “forever,” saying the decades during which “we rebuilt China … are over.”

“Past administrations have come and gone; all were aware of these abuses. None were willing to upset the established Washington interests who not only permitted these abuses, but profited from them,” Pence said during what his office billed as a major policy speech. “The political establishment was not only silent in the face of China’s economic aggression and human rights abuses, but enabled them.”

Pot restrictions add risks and costs to hemp growing
Cannabis cousins hemp, marijuana are often hard to tell apart

Hemp flower on display at the Tennessee Grown booth at the Southern Hemp Expo in Franklin, Tenn., on Sept. 7, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Hemp and marijuana, both cannabis plants, are hard to tell apart. The average person and law enforcement officer can struggle to tell the difference in their leaves, buds and flowers. The two plants differ in their levels of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical responsible for marijuana’s high. Hemp typically has less than 1 percent, but marijuana can have THC levels up to 30 percent.

More important for many in the hemp industry, however, is a federal law that puts the THC ceiling for legal hemp at 0.3 percent of its dry weight. States can order the destruction of a grower’s entire hemp crop if testing finds the THC exceeds that maximum. The THC ceiling is designed to draw a clear line between the cannabis cousins, hemp and marijuana.