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BCA, U.S. Chamber Support National Standard for BioTech Food labeling Issue

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Coalition for Safe Affordable Food-supported legislation passed by the House Thursday represents a major step forward in providing regulatory certainty and clear consumer information.

The Business Council of Alabama was one of hundreds of affiliated businesses and industries that signed letters to Congress this week urging passage of biotech disclosure legislation, which occurred Thursday when the U.S. House approved the conference committee report on S. 764 that was previously passed by the Senate.

The BCA wrote members of the Alabama congressional delegation and leaders in both parties in the House this week urging passage of biotech disclosure. “On behalf of the Alabama agriculture and food industries, we write to express our strong support for S.764, the Senate-passed legislation on biotech disclosure,” the BCA wrote. “It is vitally important for the House to call up and pass this legislation this week, in order to avoid the economic costs of a patchwork of state laws that will directly impact consumers, farmers, and the entire food value chain.”

S. 764 builds on H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act that the House passed a year ago with overwhelming bipartisan support. The bill sets a national uniform standard for biotech disclosure and avoids the economic costs of a patchwork of state laws that will directly impact consumers, farmers, and the entire food value chain.

“Congress must ensure we avoid senseless mandates that will thwart agricultural advancement and hurt consumers-especially those low income Americans who can least afford to pay more to feed their families,” the letter states.

The BCA also signed the Coalition letter to Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

The letter was signed by representatives of all segments of the U.S. food chain – producers, cooperatives, agribusinesses, processors, seed makers, handlers, food and feed manufacturers, grocers, restaurants, lenders, and retailers. The U.S. food chain creates more than 17 million jobs, nearly one in 10 in the United States, and produces the most abundant, highest quality, and affordable food in the world.

The issue of biotech disclosure is one of the most significant issues that the agriculture and food industry has faced in recent years. The application of biotechnology to agricultural production has led to increased crop yields, decreased use of pesticides, and lower food costs for consumers. They have also been proven to be safe for consumers in comprehensive studies conducted by major advisory groups, according to an article by the New York Times.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President for Government Affairs Bruce Josten lauded Congress for passage of common-sense biotech food labeling legislation.

“American companies understand that biotechnology is the future of food, agriculture, and medicine, and is a cornerstone of domestic investment and innovation,” he said. “This bipartisan legislation represents a major step forward in maintaining an orderly system for U.S. food producers, while providing consumers more information about their food. We hope President Obama quickly signs this legislation into law, providing a national solution to replace what is now an increasingly confusing landscape.”


U.S. FILES CHALLENGE AGAINST CHINA OVER IMPORTANT MANUFACTURING MINERALS

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) along with several lawmakers lent their support to a case filed in the World Trade Organization against China for maintaining restrictions on minerals widely used in the aerospace, automotive, and electronics sectors.

Myron Brilliant, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs, issued a statement Wednesday on the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s announcement that it was filing a WTO dispute against China challenging its export duties on nine classes of raw materials.

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is troubled by China’s continued use of measures that appear designed to make raw materials more expensive for U.S. companies in a number of critical industries, thus putting them at a disadvantage to Chinese manufacturers, including in aviation, electronics, and cosmetics,” Brilliant wrote. “At a time when trade protectionism is on the rise worldwide and trade is declining, all WTO members should renew their commitment to avoid export restraints.”

NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons said export restrictions harm all: “This is an important step forward that builds on two prior successful cases the administration pursued that eliminated China’s similar restrictions on rare earths and other raw materials to the benefit of manufacturers across many sectors. Export restrictions distort markets, drive up costs for consumers and hurt manufacturers in the United States as well as around the world.”

China has continued export duties on nine raw materials that are widely used in the United States, which gives them an unfair advantage over U.S. manufacturers.

The nine raw materials are antimony, cobalt, copper, graphite, lead, magnesia, talc, tantalum, and tin. The export duties range from 5 to 20 percent and effectively keep those minerals cheaper in China, boosting domestic manufacturing. The duties also provide an incentive for companies to move to China to avoid the artificial cost.

The United States has won each of the 13 trade enforcement cases launched against China since January 2009.

The Business Council of Alabama is the exclusive representative of the NAM and the U.S. Chamber in Alabama.


REPORT: FRACKING SAVED AMERICAN FAMILIES NEARLY $500 EACH IN 2015

Over the last few years, thanks in part to fracking, oil production has dramatically increased and fuel prices have gone down, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce cites from a report by the J.P. Morgan Chase Institute.

Researchers examined the spending of 1 million of its credit and debit card holders and found that middle-income households spent nearly $480 less on gas in 2015 than in 2014 when gas prices fell 25 percent.

That’s “more than a one percent increase in annual income for 60 percent of households” and enough for a half a monthly mortgage payment, the report said. Lower-income households fared even better. Middle-income households saw a 1 percent savings but those in lower-income households saw as much 1.4 percent in savings, a 40 percent difference.

More than $200 of the saved $480 was spent at restaurants and retail and grocery stores.

Other research learned that households also saved because of increased natural gas production, the Chamber reported. A 2015 Harvard Business School study found that consumers saved $780 dollars in energy costs because of larger supplies of natural gas.

“This is another reminder that of how fracking is making Americans’ lives better. It means more American energy, lower energy prices, and more money in families’ wallets. An all-around good thing,” the Chamber said.


OREGON DEMOCRAT INTRODUCES A $417 BILLION STOCK TRADING TAX

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio this week introduced a financial transactions tax bill that would remove $417 billion from the portfolios of small and large businesses and from everyday stock, bond, and derivative holders trying to save for retirement. The proceeds would go to the U.S. Treasury for more programs.

The bill, H.R. 5745, would impose a 0.03 percent tax on most financial trades. DeFazio’s office said the tax would divert more than $417 billion over 10 years, money that would not be available for reinvestment or to buy more stock, bonds, or derivatives.

Supporters said it could pay for new programs such as free higher education. The measure is supported by the AFL-CIO, Americans for Financial Reform and the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the Communications Workers of America, and Public Citizen.

“This tax is a great way to raise money for the federal government by making the financial sector more efficient,” said Dean Baker, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Business groups have opposed an FTT, saying that it would hurt financial markets and those who are trying to save for retirement.

“A new federal sales tax on Americans saving for retirement is a bad idea,” Payson Peabody, Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association managing director and tax counsel, said in a statement reported by Investment News. “If the experience of other countries is any guide, an FTT would raise less revenue than promised; it would also reduce liquidity sharply in the affected markets, reducing asset values and increasing borrowing costs for US businesses, consumers, and the federal government itself.”

A transactions tax on buying and selling of stock can negatively affect the market and on a company’s ability to raise capital. A transaction tax also can negatively affect the price discovery process by which the market determines an asset’s value because such a tax reduces trading volume. It also can greatly decrease asset prices.

DeFazio introduced the bill for political purposes as it’s expected to be part of the Democratic Party’s platform in the presidential convention.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

House Passes GOP-Backed Bill to Limit Executive Branch Rulemaking Power
The Hill (Wheeler 7/12) “A GOP-backed bill to limit federal agencies’ rulemaking power passed the House on Tuesday. The Separation of Powers Restoration Act overturns the 1984 Supreme Court decision that created Chevron deference. The legal precedent says courts must defer to agency interpretations of ‘ambiguous’ statutes when disputes arise, unless the interpretation is unreasonable’.

“The bill, which passed by a 240 to 171 vote, amends the Administrative Procedure Act to require courts to conduct a ‘de novo’ review of all relevant questions of law instead of relying on agency interpretations. While debating the bill on the House floor Monday night, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said judicial deference under Chevron weakens the separation of powers. ‘It bleeds out of the judicial branch power to interpret the law, transfusing that power into the executive branch’, he said.

Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), who authored the bill, claims regulators are crafting rules with Chevron deference in mind, ‘knowing that it will give them the ability to regulate, sometimes for political gain, beyond the actual scope of the statutes that we pass as the duly elected representatives of the people’. ‘By allowing unelected, unaccountable regulators to effectively grade their own papers, we are circumventing the will of the American people’, he said.

“In a statement following the floor vote, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the bill ‘will restore the separation of powers among the branches of the federal government that we all rely on to protect our rights and ensure equal justice for all’.”

 

GOP Turns to the Power of the Purse to Kill the Labor Department’s Fiduciary Rule
The Hill (Devaney 7/12) “A Republican-backed bill to fund the Labor Department contains a provision that would block the agency from using any money to implement the new restrictions on financial advisers. Earlier this year, President Obama vetoed a high-profile GOP attempt to disapprove of the rule — and essentially block it — under the Congressional Review Act. After that failed, Republicans turned to the appropriations process.

“The House Appropriations Committee (voted Wednesday) on the Labor Department’s funding bill. In addition to the fiduciary rule, the legislation also contains a provision blocking the agency’s overtime rule. The Labor Department recently raised the overtime threshold, so that more employees get paid time and a half when they work more than 40 hours in a week. It’s unlikely President Obama would accept a budget that blocks the fiduciary and overtime rules.”

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