It’s primary day in Kansas, and Democrats are betting big that pouring campaign money into a Republican Senate race can help them steal a Senate seat in November. 

GOP Rep. Roger Marshall is facing off with former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the man Democrats believe will be too controversial to win November. The liberal Sunflower State PAC has spent at least $5.3 million to defeat Marshall and ensure a win for Kobach, according to the latest data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

President Donald Trump resisted appeals from establishment Republicans to endorse Marshall ahead of Tuesday. Senate Ag Chairman Pat Roberts, who is retiring from the seat, came off the fence last month to endorse Marshall. 

Keep in mind: Kobach has run on a populist agenda that includes criticism of meatpackers and support for mandatory country-of-origin labeling on meat.

CFAP payments grow slowly

As talks continue on a next coronavirus relief package, payments under the existing aid program for farmers are slowing down. USDA reported Monday that it has made $6.8 billion in payments through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, an increase of about 4% over the past week. USDA has $16 billion budgeted for the program. Signup ends Aug. 28. 

Keep in mind: USDA is paying out only 80% of what farmers are due under the program, but at the current pace the department will have plenty of money left over to provide the remaining 20% that farmers are due. 

Cattle producers have received about $3 billion so far, while $1.3 billion has gone to dairy producers. Another $1.2 billion has been paid out on corn. 

Sen. Tom Udall

Some Dems eye ban on pesticides 

Legislation set for introduction in the House and Senate would ban some of the most well-known and popular pesticides on the market today, including neonicotinoids and organophosphates.

New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall and Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse will discuss their bill at a teleconference today. They call it “the most comprehensive update in nearly 25 years” to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA.

Among the chemicals the bill would ban are chlorpyrifos, diazinon and paraquat. Corteva has said it will stop making chlorpyrifos by the end of the year, but it is still registered for use through Oct. 1, 2022, and EPA continues to work on its re-registration.

Keep in mind: This bill isn’t going anywhere this year, and Udall is retiring from the Senate. But new pesticide restrictions could be in play if Democrats win the White House and take control of Congress. 

Trump set to sign permanent lands funding

President Trump today is signing into law the Great American Outdoors Act, a landmark bill that mandates permanent funding for public land acquisition. The new law will guarantee $900 million a year for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. 

Passage of the bill was a victory for two vulnerable Senate Republicans, Steve Daines of Montana and Cory Gardner of Colorado. Groups representing cattle and sheep producers opposed the legislation. 

Matt Lohr

Lohr: NRCS in good hands

In an exit interview with Agri-Pulse, the departing chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Matt Lohr, says he expects the agency to finalize four major conservation program rules this fall, including those for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program. The rules will make changes required by the 2018 farm bill.

Lohr, who told employees Friday he’d be leaving Aug. 15 to manage his farm in Virginia full-time, says the agency will be in good hands with incoming Acting Chief Kevin Norton. 

“My advice to anyone taking this job is that just being able to see the big picture,” Lohr said. He says he found it a challenge sometimes to avoid getting bogged down in a single issue.

 US denies Brazilian reports of US ethanol meddling

 The State Department is denying Brazilian news reports that U.S. Ambassador Todd Chapman leaned on the Brazilian government to drop its tariffs on U.S. ethanol to help President Trump win Iowa in the November election. 

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. and Rep. Albio Sires, D-N.Y., wrote Chapman on Friday, demanding to know if he lobbied Brazilian leaders to help Trump. Brazil is the largest foreign market for U.S. ethanol.

Allegations that Chapman “has asked Brazilians to support a specific U.S. candidate are false," a State Department spokesperson said in a statement to the Des Moines Register. "The United States has long been focused on reducing tariff barriers and will continue to do so.”

US dairy wants spotlight in trade deals

Sixty-one senators have signed onto a letter calling on the Trump administration to fight the European Union’s attempts to protect its use of dairy names such as “asiago” and “havarti.” The U.S. industry hopes the letter keeps the pressure on the Trump administration to counter the EU campaign. 

The first test will be the ongoing U.S.-U.K. trade talks, according to Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation and Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council. 

The UK is the “second largest importer of cheese in the world, so it’s obviously a very large market opportunity for us,” Vilsack said. 

Court: Aquaculture illegal in Gulf's federal waters

Delivering a blow to the fish farming industry, a federal appeals court in New Orleans has struck down a National Marine Fisheries Service rule allowing aquaculture operations in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

At issue was whether NMFS has authority to set up the permitting plan under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976. The court said in its 2-1 decision that the law “neither says nor suggests that the agency may regulate aquaculture. The agency interprets this silence as an invitation, but our precedent says the opposite: Congress does not delegate authority merely by not withholding it.”

Circuit Judge Stephen Higginson dissented, arguing that the agency does have the power to regulate how fish are reared and harvested in the exclusive economic zone. Congress provided an “expansive grant of authority to conserve and manage offshore ‘fishery resources,’ without distinguishing between methods of fishing or types of fish,” the judge said. 

Center for Food Safety lawyer George Kimbrell, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, called the decision “a landmark victory protecting our oceans and fishing communities.” The advocacy group claims aquaculture poses potential harm to commercial and recreational fisheries as well as the environment.

He said it. “There’s a lot of things I am going to miss … about this job, but certainly the traffic and the travel are things that I won’t miss. – NRCS Chief Matt Lohr, telling Agri-Pulse he normally drove two hours to get to work each day.

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