Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to be in Des Moines, Iowa, today to formally launch the “Farmers & Ranchers for Trump” coalition. The event is set for this afternoon on the state fairgrounds. Pence also will speak at a town hall sponsored by Heritage Action, the political advocacy arm of the Heritage Foundation. 

Why it matters: President Trump and Republican congressional candidates will need to run up big margins in the rural Midwest, but Democrats are going much harder after the rural vote than they did in 2016. Democrats don’t have to win rural areas, but they do want to hold down the GOP margins. 

To that end: An anti-Trump group called Rural America 2020 held an online event for reporters Wednesday to attack President Trump’s record on trade and agriculture. Farmers from Iowa, Ohio and Minnesota said Trump hasn’t delivered on his promises to boost the farm economy, citing, for example, the 4 billion gallons of ethanol usage waived by EPA. 

“There’s a liquidity crisis today in American agriculture,” said Iowa farmer Doug Thompson. Rural America 2020 President Chris Gibbs admitted that most farmers still strongly support Trump, but he said that “farm wives are really going to be the key. They look at things with a 360-degree view,” whereas farmers are more “mono-focused,” he said. 

Peterson braces for tough race

Republicans got the candidate they wanted to take on House Ag Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn. Former Minnesota Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach easily won the 7th District GOP primary with nearly 60% of the vote in a five-person field.

A poll conducted Aug. 2-5 by The Tarrance Group, a GOP firm, had Fischbach leading Peterson by 52% to 42%. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9%. 

Keep in mind: Peterson won re-election by just four points in 2018 over Dave Hughes, who only got 22% of the vote in Tuesday’s primary.

US keeps tariffs on EU wine, whiskey

The Trump administration is making some changes to tariffs that were imposed on European goods to punish the EU for its Airbus subsidies. But the U.S. won’t remove the 25% duty on wine, single-malt Irish and Scotch whiskey.

That’s a blow to the U.S. wine sector because the tariffs have been hurting distributors who sell domestic and imported wines across the country. It’s also troubling to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, which says it laments the EU tariffs on American whiskey – a retaliation to U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

“The EU’s tariff on American Whiskey, now in place for over two years, is causing severe damage to U.S. exports and negatively impacting jobs in the U.S.,” the council said.

British International Trade Secretary Elizabeth Truss, who has been meeting recently with U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer, is demanding the U.S. remove its 25% tariff on Scotch whiskey. 

Keep in mind: The U.S. and U.K. are separately holding talks to form a free trade agreement as Britain exits the EU. The British Department of International Trade said Wednesday that those negotiations are scheduled to resume in September. The latest round of talks ran from Aug. 27 through July 7.

Iowa wind damage on Ron Heck's farm

USDA: September crop report will include storm damage

USDA’s August crop production report estimates farmers will produce a record corn crop and the second largest soybean harvest. But the report, which provides the first survey-based estimates of the season’s crop prospects, didn’t account for the storms that devastated much of Iowa this week. That analysis will come in September. 

Lance Honig, chief of the crops branch at the National Agricultural Statistics Service, tells Agri-Pulse that the Sept. 11 crop report will include additional survey work as well as a satellite-based assessment of the damage. In the interim, weekly crop progress reports may also shed some light on crop conditions, he said. 

USDA seeking more local produce for Food Boxes

Companies looking to obtain contracts for the third round of USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program are being told to specify fairly precisely in their applications what areas they will be serving. USDA also is looking to ensure that locally grown produce get included. 

In a webinar Wednesday, Agricultural Marketing Service contracting officer Hilary Cole said prospective offerors need to list the city, state and ZIP code. She also emphasized that contractors will be responsible for the cost of “truck-to-trunk” delivery to recipients and not try to pass those costs on to nonprofits.

In the third round, AMS also is trying to make sure locally grown produce gets in the combination boxes, asking for “one or two locally grown fruit or vegetable items, as available.”

AMS recently expanded the types of boxes it is seeking in the third round, adding a meat and egg or egg products box, and a dairy box with fluid milk. Meats allowed now include precooked or frozen beef and turkey, in addition to chicken and pork.

New-crop sorghum export sales highest in five years

 U.S. sorghum export sales are hot. New crop sales for shipment around the world through July total about 1.2 million metric tons, the highest level in five years, according to a new estimate from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. Much of the success in sales for delivery in the 2020-21 marketing year is due to strong demand in China, which hasn’t been a major purchaser for years.

“Strong early season sales do not necessarily lead to greater total exports as numerous variables influence trade dynamics throughout the year,” the FAS report concludes. “However, large early season sales do give a kickstart to exports in the coming year.”

And U.S. sales of new crop purchases are also on an upward trajectory. U.S. new crop corn sales for export are about 10.9 million tons, almost triple what they were just a year ago. Again, Chinese demand is a major factor.

He said it.” I’m not willing to acknowledge that yet, but again I’m not in the room.” - Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., when asked by reporters whether a coronavirus relief package is unlikely to pass before the end of September. Both sides continue to be at an impasse. 

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