A new poll finds strong public support for compensating farmers for the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Morning Consult survey done for the American Farm Bureau Federation found that 53% of adults believe farmers have been affected “a lot” by the COVID-19 crisis, and another 23% believe there has been at least some impact on producers. 

Some 52% of Americans say they strongly support providing financial assistance to farmers, and another 32% are somewhat supportive. Only 6% of those polled are opposed to assisting farmers. 

Other findings: 85% of those polled think the pandemic has affected the food supply chain, and 59% believe that agriculture should be classified by the government as a matter of national security. The poll was conducted June 6-7 with 2,200 adults. 

“Shortages at grocery stores and other food supply chain shockwaves caused by the pandemic gave many people a new understanding of the crucial role of America’s farmers and ranchers and the importance of their survival through the COVID-19 economic storm,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall.

White House pushes back on Bolton claims

President Trump and administration officials are pushing back hard against accusations by former National Security Advisor John Bolton that Trump asked China’s president for help in currying favor with America’s farmers.

Trump painted Bolton as a disgruntled employee in a Thursday tweet, calling him a “sick puppy,” and White House trade adviser and China critic Peter Navarro told reporters the accusations were untrue.

“My take on him is Big Lie Bolton, it’s Book Deal Bolton, he is doing it for the money, that is pretty clear, and my view is it’s the Washington swamp’s equivalent of revenge porn,” Navarro said.

By the way: Vanity Fair says it has an unredacted version of Bolton’s book that quotes Trump as telling Xi Jinping: “I will probably win anyway, so don’t hurt my farms. … Buy a lot of soybeans and wheat and make sure we win.”

Take note: Rep. Ron Kind, a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees trade policy, tells Agri-Pulse that Bolton’s claims need to be investigated. But Kind is also concerned that China ultimately won’t fulfill its commitments under the “phase one” agreement. 

“I’m skeptical, I know a lot of other people are skeptical just because of the economic hit that China is taking right now. … The goal is to try to get China back to at least where they were pre-trade war” in terms of U.S. ag trade.

Watch our interview with Kind on this week’s Washington Week in Review. 

Trump: US has ‘decoupling’ option

Trump has recently cast doubt on the trade deal himself, and Thursday he tweeted that the U.S. has an “option, under various conditions, of a complete decoupling from China.”

The tweet was apparently in reaction to comments made Wednesday by U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing. Lighthizer dismissed the idea of severing all trade ties with China.

Responding to a question, Lighthizer said, “Do I think that you can sit down and decouple the United States economy from the Chinese economy? No. I think that was a policy option years ago. I don't think it's a reasonable policy option at this point."

New crop soy sales to China continue strong

Lighthizer promised lawmakers that China would come through with major purchases of U.S. soybeans in the 2020-21 marketing year, and the latest USDA trade data shows that sales continue. 

Chinese importers contracted to buy 1.033 million metric tons of new crop soybeans in the week of June 5-11. That’s on top of the 320,000 tons of old crop the Chinese purchased in the same time period for the 2019-20 marketing year.

China also bought 90,700 bales of 2019-20 cotton and 24,200 bales for the 2020-21 marketing year from June 5-11.

Report: Ethanol industry needs new products

The ethanol industry faces long-term oversupply issues and needs to expand into products other than fuel alcohol, according to a new report by CoBank, the national cooperative bank that is part of the Farm Credit System. 

CoBank analysts say the industry’s excess capacity will likely rise from the 1 billion gallons that the industry began the year with, to 2.4 billion gallons more in 2021. 

The analysts say weaker companies with high operating costs and less efficient operations will probably be forced to consolidate or shut down plants. And by 2025, the industry will likely be dominated by fewer, well-capitalized companies with diverse revenue sources, which include existing byproducts as well as new products such as high protein distiller’s grains, the report says. 

“Two factors could derail this transformation: the combination of an ethanol industry-wide bailout and a faster-than-expected economic recovery,” the report says. (Congress is, in fact, considering direct aid to ethanol plants in the next coronavirus relief bill.)

By the way: Because of competition from Brazil and other factors, the industry’s export business may have seen its peak in 2018, the report warns. 

Meanwhile: EPA confirmed Thursday that it’s considering 52 new small refinery exemptions that date as far back as 2011. Read our coverage here

Bayer scraps plans for dicamba plant

Bayer has halted construction of a new dicamba production facility in Louisiana, but the company says the decision has nothing to do with the recent Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacating registrations for the herbicide.

Instead, the company says that expanding domestic production “is no longer as compelling or cost-competitive” because of global overcapacity. Bayer will continue buying the active ingredient and making XtendiMax at its plant in Muscatine, Iowa.

He said it. “American people are actually very positive in our nature, look at the farming community. These people are some of the toughest Americans ever known. They just keep pounding ahead.” - Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. 

Emmer tells Agri-Pulse that rural districts will be critical to GOP chances of winning the 17 seats necessary to take control of the House. Read our story here

Questions? Tips? Contact Philip Brasher (philip@agri-pulse.com)