Tales from the Trail

from Commodity Corner:

If only trade talks went this quick…

KirkCall it the Congressional version of the lightning round.

Ron Kirk, the Obama administration's choice for U.S. Trade Representative, had a rapid-fire confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Monday that lasted no longer than 45 minutes.

"Exhilarating," was how Kirk, a former Dallas mayor, described the quick experience, fittingly, in one word.

Senators had to compress the session to attend a vote on amendments to the omnibus spending bill.

Kirk started off by telling senators "It's been a long and strange journey getting to this point," but didn't even make it through a shortened version of prepared remarks before he was urged by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus to wrap it up.

"I'm going to ask about four questions, and if you don't mind, I'd like about 45-second answers," Baucus told Kirk. He proceeded to ask how Kirk would promote bipartisanship on trade issues, enforce the U.S.-Canada softwood lumber deal, eliminate sanitary and phytosanitary barrier for farm goods, and whether a bilateral trade agreement with Panama was closer to passage than pending deals with Colombia and South Korea.

The First Draft: A Beauty Way to Go

Good day you hosers!

President Barack Obama takes off to the Great White North today on his first foreign jaunt as president. Trade will top the agenda in Ottawa as Obama seeks to ease concerns about protectionism. He’ll also discuss the war in Afghanistan and clean energy technology with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Canadian Parlaiment, but the one-day trip leaves little time to get into details. Too bad, eh?CANADA-MOUNTIES/

Obama’s foreclosure plan should start showing results as soon as next month, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation chairman Shelia Bair said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in Poland, seeking help from allies for the war in Afghanistan. The United States is sending an additional 17,000 troops, but has now lost its last remaining air base in Central Asia after a “Yankee Go Home” vote was approved by Kyrgyzstan.

Palin’s apple picking lesson: It’s about immigration, not China

NEW PARIS, Penn. – What is the biggest competition for an apple orchard owner in rural Pennsylvania?
Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin thought she knew the answer when talking to Matthew Boyer of Boyer Orchards.
“So is your competition imports from China?” Palin asked Boyer, as she stood in a barn in front of bushels of all different kinds of freshly picked apples at the family-owned orchard.
Not quite.
While it’s true that China is a huge apple producer and the United States’ share of world exports continues to decline, competition from China wasn’t Boyer’s biggest concern.
Boyer told Palin he was more worried about apples from Washington state, which produces some 60 percent of the apples grown in the United States.
In fact, the issue on Boyer’s mind was immigration.
Boyer employs migrants to pick his apples, and it is becoming harder to find people willing and able to do the work.
“We need workers. We can’t get any local person for it. It’s hard work,” he said.
“It’s increasingly difficult to find legal help. People don’t understand this immigration issue.”
Palin quickly turned the conversation to one of her preferred topics — the need to cut taxes, especially for small business owners.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Obama visit to North Carolina restaurant stirs mixed emotions

obama-bbq.jpgFAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – There was a sharp exchange among patrons during Barack Obama‘s visit to a barbecue restaurant on Sunday, highlighting the strong emotions the U.S. presidential race is stirring in the final weeks of the campaign.

Obama stopped by Cape Fear BBQ in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to pick up some chicken, collards and baked beans and court voters in this traditionally Republican state.

Some patrons cheered his arrival while others looked on with curiosity and surprise. One woman yelled, “Socialist, Socialist, Socialist — get out of here.” Obama was across the room at the time and did not appear to hear Diane Fanning, 54, who was among several patrons who had just come by after services at the local Presbyterian church. She said she was annoyed that the Illinois senator had stopped in at the restaurant that she regularly visits.