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Shelby, Jones press Commerce Department to enforce anti-dumping laws to protect American catfish farmers

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Senators Richard Shelby (R) and Doug Jones (D) were part of a group of eight U.S. Senators calling on Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to implement U.S. antidumping laws strongly and impartially to ensure U.S. catfish producers are competing on a level playing field.

Sens. Jones and Shelby joined Senators Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi), Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), and John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) raised what they believe to be serious concerns over recent deferential actions by International Trade Administration (ITA) toward a Vietnamese catfish exporter, the Hung Vuong Group, which the Senators say could affect the critical process to determine whether Vietnam continues to violate U.S. antidumping laws.


SEE MORE: Read the letter.


“We are troubled by this series of events, as in recent years Commerce has consistently found significant dumping by Vietnamese fish fillet exporters, and has determined repeatedly that many exporters have been uncooperative in responding to the Department’s questionnaires,” the Senators wrote. “The decision by Commerce to consent to a Vietnamese Embassy official’s request to allow uncooperative Vietnamese parties to impede your Department’s proceeding with further delays will have a catastrophic effect on the domestic industry. Our catfish farmers rely on strong enforcement of U.S. antidumping laws to ensure they can compete on a level playing field.”

“Vietnamese respondents or any other parties that fail to comply with requests for timely and accurate information, do not deserve more favorable treatment than U.S. catfish producers,” the Southern Senators wrote. “We hope your Department will remain committed to strong implementation of U.S. antidumping laws, and that procedural rules will be applied to all parties in an impartial manner.”

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The Senators argue that ITA, a Commerce Department agency, in recent months has deviated from standard practices to grant the Hung Vuong Group (HVG), a leading Vietnamese exporter, extensions to provide evidence of its compliance with U.S. antidumping laws. The Senators charge that the agency actions contradicted its own earlier actions to reject incomplete HVG data and to apply standard dumping margins to HGV products.

Since 2003, ITA has found that frozen fish fillets from Vietnam have been sold in the United States at less than fair market value, resulting in economic damage to U.S. catfish producers.

The Senators also met with USDA Food Safety Inspection Services (FSIS) Administrator Carmen Rottenberg recently to receive an update on her agency’s catfish inspection program for both domestic and foreign products.

The Senators point out that FSIS inspections in FY2017 and FY2018 resulted in more than six million pounds of catfish being rejected for not meeting U.S. food safety standards. As the FSIS has worked to fully implement the inspection program, the number of eligible exporters has dropped from more than 90 in 2017 to 27 in 2018.

The Senators wrote, “To express serious concern over a recent action by the International Trade Administration to reverse an earlier decision in the antidumping proceeding involving frozen fish fillets from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. This reversal will adversely impact catfish farmers and processors in our states, and is inconsistent with this Administration’s commitment to strong enforcement of U.S. trade laws.”

“We have been informed that an official from the Embassy of Vietnam met with Commerce Department officials on May 15, 2018,” the Senators stated. “The following week, Commerce reversed its decision and allowed HVG to refile its untimely response. Commerce then compounded the negative effect of its decision on American catfish farmers by extending the deadline for its preliminary finding, allowing HVG more time to justify the data in its late filing. As a result, HVG received a preliminary finding of no dumping.”

“As Commerce officials travel to Vietnam in the near future to verify HVG reported data, we respectfully request that you strongly urge them to conduct this verification rigorously, and not tolerate further delays or obstruction from HVG or other Vietnamese officials,” the Senators asked.

94 percent of American catfish is raised in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Sixty to seventy percent of the catfish sold in the U.S. is imported, much of it from Vietnam.

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Shelby discusses disaster assistance for the Wiregrass with Trump

Chip Brownlee

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Alabama’s senior U.S. Senator Richard Shelby said Thursday that President Donald Trump “agreed to help” with assistance for those affected by Hurricane Michael in Alabama’s Wiregrass region.

Shelby tweeted Thursday that he spoke with Trump about the need for assistance after Michael devastated portions of Southeast Alabama in early October.

“During my meeting with @POTUS, I brought up the need for disaster relief in the #Wiregrass following #HurricaneMichael,” Shelby tweeted. “President Trump agreed to help.”

While Trump approved a Major Disaster Declaration last week for four affected counties, Geneva, Henry, Houston and Mobile, it only provides public assistance grants, which reimburse local governments and community organizations for certain expenses incurred because of the disaster but can’t be disbursed to individuals recovering from a disaster.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has also not yet approved the state of Alabama’s application for an agricultural disaster declaration.

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The Alabama Emergency Management Agency has requested IA grants, and the agency has also provided additional evidence to demonstrate that certain Alabama counties qualify for the individual assistance.

Individual assistance, where it to be approved in the coming days by the Trump administration, would include financial assistance, direct aid and disaster loans. The assistance could be used for losses that were not covered by insurance, are of critical need and couldn’t be covered in other ways. It’s not intended to restore damaged property to its condition before the disaster, according to FEMA.

Most disaster assistance is provided in the form of loans administered by the Small Business Administration.

Shelby’s discussion with Trump comes after U.S. Sen. Doug Jones urged President Donald Trump last week to push for approval of the individual assistance grants for Alabamians impacted by Hurricane Michael. Jones also supported agriculture assistance in a separate letter to the Department of Agriculture.

Neighboring counties in Florida and Georgia have already received IA grants.

Hurricane Michael was one of the most powerful hurricanes to make landfall in the continental United States, causing more than $204 million in estimated agriculture losses and $307 million in estimated economic losses in Alabama, according to a report from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Auburn University.

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Jones co-sponsors bipartisan bill to address growing chronic wasting disease problem

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, joined Sens. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, and Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, in introducing legislation to authorizes a special resource study to determine how chronic wasting disease (CWD) spreads and could be prevented in deer and elk.

CWD can affect both wild and domestic herds of deer and elk in 25 states. However, state recommendations for preventing the spread of the disease vary. This bill would give state wildlife agencies and wildlife experts information to conduct targeted research on how the disease is transmitted, determine which areas are most at risk, and develop consistent advice for hunters to prevent further spread.

“As an avid outdoorsman and hunter, I am deeply troubled by the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease,” said Senator Jones. “This disease is threatening to impact the wildlife population in Alabama just as it has in a number of other states throughout the country. That’s why it is so vital for the Senate to pass legislation that will ultimately give state and local wildlife officials the tools they need to contain the spread of CWD.”

“Chronic wasting disease has negatively affected white-tailed and mule deer in Wyoming for decades,” said Senator Barrasso. “To protect our wildlife populations and our hunters, we need to know more about how this disease is spread and which areas are most at risk. Our bill gives wildlife managers the tools they need to research and identify exactly where chronic wasting disease is most prominent and how we can better prevent it. It’s a critical first step to addressing this debilitating disease and keeping our wildlife herds healthy.”

“The deer and elk herds affected by Chronic Wasting Disease are a critical part of Colorado’s wildlife heritage and economy,” said Senator Bennet. “We need to learn more about containing CWD, and this bipartisan legislation will provide the information state wildlife professionals need to align their work and prevent further spread.”

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Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), John Thune (R-South Dakota), Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), and Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) cosponsored the legislation.

The “Chronic Wasting Disease Transmission in Cervidae Study Act” addresses the needs identified by state wildlife agencies. The bill requires the USDA secretary to enter into an arrangement with the National Academies of Sciences to review current data and best management practices (BMPs) from the CWD Herd Certification Program and state agencies regarding: the pathways and mechanisms for CWD transmission; the areas at risk and geographical patterns of CWD transmission; and gaps in current scientific knowledge regarding transmission to prioritize research to address gaps.

In October the second confirmed case of CWD positive deer was found in Mississippi. The most recent deer was in Pontotoc County. CWD is the most devastating disease facing the deer population today. Alabama has 1.75 million deer. Currently the state is CWD free; Mississippi was CWD free until this summer.

Mississippi Wildlife officials report that an emaciated 1.5-year-old, free-ranging male white-tailed deer was euthanized on October 8, 2018. The deer’s behavior appeared abnormal. The sample was confirmed CWD-positive by the National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames, Iowa, on October 30, 2018. This is the second case of CWD documented in Mississippi.
Alabama’s WFF has tested nearly 8,000 deer since 2002 and has not detected CWD within Alabama.

As part of WFF’s CWD Strategic Surveillance and Response Plan, WFF will increase its CWD surveillance sampling efforts beyond typical surveillance rates in those counties within the 50-mile radius of the Pontotoc County CWD-positive white-tailed deer. These counties include Franklin, Lamar, and Marion counties.

Additional samples for these counties including, but not limited to, voluntary samples from hunter-harvested deer as well as focused efforts on road kills and abnormally behaving deer.

CWD is a neurodegenerative disease found in most deer species, including moose, elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer. It is infectious and always fatal. It is part of a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies and is similar to mad cow disease in cattle and scrapie in sheep. These diseases cause irreversible damage to brain tissue that leads to neurological symptoms, emaciation and death of the animal.

Deer infected with CWD can become emaciated, lethargic, have abnormal behavior, and show gradual loss of bodily functions. Other signs include excessive salivation, loss of appetite, progressive weight loss, excessive thirst and urination, and drooping head/ears.

Because it is a prion disease, contact with the spinal and brain tissue of a deer carcass can spread the disease to uninfected deer. To prevent the spread of the disease into Alabama it is now forbidden to import the complete carcasses from members of the cervid family (deer, elk, moose, caribou, etc.) from any other state and Canada.

The rules requires that hunters should completely debone the animal and remove and dispose of any brain or spinal tissue from skull plates, raw capes and hides before returning to Alabama. Those skull plates must be free of any brain or spinal cord material. Velvet-covered antlers are also included in the prohibited materials. Root structures and other soft tissue should also be removed from all teeth. Finished taxidermy products and tanned hides are not affected by the ban.

Overhunting resulted in the near extinction of deer in Alabama by 1905, when there were less than 2,000 deer living in the state, until the state of Alabama and a collection of private landowners in south Alabama stepped in to protect the species. The wolf, bison, elk, cougar, passenger pigeon were all wiped out in Alabama by overhunting. From those humble beginnings, the Alabama Conservation Department, restocked the rest of the state, with most of the restocking done in the 1950s and 1960s.

Gun season for deer in Alabama begins on Saturday and continues until February 10.

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McCarthy defeats Jordan for GOP Minority Leader

Brandon Moseley

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House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy & House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer interviewed on the stage at AIPAC. (Lorie Shaull)

The U.S. House Republican Caucus voted Wednesday 159 to 43 to elect U.S. Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-California) as their new minority leader for the next Congress. House Republicans prepare for life as the minority party for the first time in eight years.

McCarthy was the majority leader for the past four years. He easily defeated Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). Jordan co-founded of the conservative Freedom Caucus. The vote occurred during a closed-door, secret-ballot election in the Ways and Means Committee room.

The vote was 159 to 43. While it takes 218 votes to become Speaker of the House, McCarthy only needed a simple majority of votes from his GOP colleagues to become minority leader.

Outgoing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) did not seek another term to his House seat.

“We have a new role and a new mission in the House, and this group is well-equipped to meet the challenge,” Speaker Ryan said. “I know they will defend the significant policy achievements of the last two years, find areas of common ground where possible, and draw a stark contrast with the new liberal majority. This team has the experience, skill, and steadiness to guide us back to the majority, and I congratulate them all on their new positions. In particular, it gives me great confidence as I depart knowing this conference is in good hands with my friend Kevin McCarthy at the top. Bright days are ahead for this team.”

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Alabama Congressman Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) was elected Chair of Policy for the House Republican Caucus.  Prior to his election to Congress, Palmer was cofounder and President of the Alabama Policy Institute (API).

Last week’s “blue wave” election meant that 37 House seats flipped from Republican control to Democratic control.

This means Democrats will pick the next Speaker of the House, likely Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and will pick the chairs of all the House committees. They also have the votes to pass Democratic legislation to the Senate, including the impeachment of President Donald Trump (R).
Congressman Bradley Byrne predicted that it would be “crazy season” in the House.

“Crazy is just one way to put it,” Byrne said on social media. “The Democrat agenda will attempt to undermine the President and all that we have accomplished. I will continue to focus on issues that actually matter like rebuilding our military, growing our economy, and securing our borders.”

McCarthy addressed reporters in a news conference following the vote, vowing to retake control of the House in 2020.

“I know they want to abolish ICE. I know they want to impeach the president,” McCarthy said. “I just don’t think that’s the agenda Americans want.”

While Republicans controlled the House of Representatives for 8 years, they only controlled the U.S. Senate for four years, and Donald J. Trump has only been President for the last two. Despite controlling both Congress and the White House efforts to repeal Obamacare stalled in the Senate; President Trump’s promised border wall never went anywhere in Congress, and the GOP House Caucus was hopelessly divided on how to proceed with immigration reform. The rules of the Senate and the narrow Senate majority meant that many pieces of legislation that passed the more conservative Republican controlled House of Representatives died in the Senate. Trump was not the first choice of many members of the Congress and there was often friction between the House and the White House. Dissatisfaction with Trump, particularly in suburban America, was a factor in last week’s many GOP losses.

Despite the “blue wave” election nationally, all of Alabama’s congressional delegation were easily re-elected to additional terms. Robert Aderholt is Alabama’s longest serving member of the Alabama congressional delegation, having just been re-elected to his twelfth term representing Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District.

The GOP leadership team for the 116th Congress:
Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA)
Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY)
NRCC Chair Tom Emmer (R-MN)
Policy Committee Chair Gary Palmer (R-AL)
Conference Vice Chair Mark Walker (R-NC)
Conference Secretary Jason Smith (R-MO)

(Original reporting by Fox News, Politico, and the Yellowhammer News contributed to this report.)

 

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Palmer elected to 116th Congress’s GOP leadership team

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, the Republican Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives elected Alabama Congressman Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) to the position of Republican Policy Committee Chair for the 116th Congress.

“I appreciate the faith that my colleagues have placed in me and am grateful for their support,” Rep. Palmer said. “Throughout my career, I have focused on being a problem solver and developing and promoting sound policies, so I feel like I’m uniquely prepared for this role. I look forward to working with my colleagues as we continue advancing and promoting ideas supported by the American people.”

Congressman Palmer will serve in the GOP’s leadership team, which includes: Representative Kevin McCarthy (California) was elected as the GOP Minority Leader easily defeating Freedom Caucus founder Jim Jordan (Ohio). Representative Steve Scalise (Louisiana) will return as the Minority Whip. Representative Liz Cheney (Wyoming) will serve as Conference Committee Chair. Representative Mark Walker (North Carolina) will serve as Conference Committee Vice Chair. Representative Jason Smith (Missouri) was elected as Conference Committee Secretary; and Representative Tom Emmer (Minnesota) was elected as the National Republican Campaign Committee Chair.

Gary Palmer was born in Hackleburg. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama. After working for engineering firms, Palmer cofounded the conservative Alabama Policy Institute (API) where he served as President for many years, before running to represent the Sixth Congressional District of Alabama when then incumbent Spencer Bachus (R-Vestavia) retired.  Palmer is a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

A week ago Palmer easily defeated his Democratic opponent, Danner Kline, 69.26 percent to 30.74 percent to win his third term in the United States House of Representatives.

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The Republican Party suffered a crushing defeat in House midterms, losing control of the U.S. House of Representatives after eight years of control. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) appears to be the consensus choice of Democrats to be the Speaker of the House. Pelosi previously was Speaker from 2007 to 2011.

The Sixth Congressional District of Alabama includes all or parts of Blount, Jefferson, Shelby, Bibb, Coosa, and Chilton Counties.

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Shelby, Jones press Commerce Department to enforce anti-dumping laws to protect American catfish farmers

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 3 min
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