The conventions are now over, and one thing seems pretty clear: Two or three battleground Midwest states could decide the presidential election. 

As the electoral map stands now, President Donald Trump needs to hold Iowa and will likely need to win Wisconsin again, or possibly Minnesota, (both have 10 electoral votes) to have a path to the 270 that he needs to win re-election. It was no accident that there were a number of speakers at the Republican convention from both Wisconsin and Minnesota talking up his trade policy and regulatory rollbacks.

Trump made clear in his acceptance speech from the White House lawn Thursday night that he’s going to keep hitting Biden hard on trade and China. “For 47 years, Joe Biden took the donations of blue collar workers, gave them hugs and even kisses, and told them he felt their pain – and then he flew back to Washington and voted to ship their jobs to China and many other distant lands,” Trump said. 

Trump said he resisted the advice of “Washington insiders” to take “the toughest, boldest, strongest, and hardest hitting action against China in American history.”

Looking ahead: Biden said Thursday that he’s planning trips to Wisconsin and Minnesota  as well as Arizona and Pennsylvania. 

The One Country Project, a group founded by two former Democratic senators to help the party increase its performance in rural areas, notes that the Republicans didn’t approve a platform this year, while Democrats wrote one that has an extensive section on agriculture and rural issues. The GOP has no platform this year, opting instead to express support for Trump’s policies.

Take note: Former Ag Secretary Ann Veneman is one of more than 200 alumni of the George W. Bush administration to sign a statement endorsing Biden. Read our story here.

Filemon Vela

Biden campaign hosts roundtable

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Texas Rep. Filemon Vela, who chairs the subcommittee on general farm commodities and risk management, will be hosting a roundtable today sponsored by the Joe Biden campaign. 

Peterson and Vela will share their perspective on issues and field questions from the audience.

USDA assuring farmers on CFAP-2

Deputy Agriculture Steve Censky will be in Minnesota today to tour a food bank in Rochester and get input from farmers and others on the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program and the Farmers to Families Food Box program. Censky should have good news to deliver to farmers. 

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told reporters on Wednesday that USDA would be moving forward with a second round of CFAP payments “very shortly after Labor Day,” using $14 billion left over from the CARES Act that passed in March. 

Perdue indicated that CFAP-2 will focus on compensating farmers for losses after April 15 and would include commodities that have been added to the program recently. 

Scoop: Peterson keeps Farm Bureau backing

The Minnesota Farm Bureau’s political action committee is endorsing Peterson again this year even as he faces the toughest re-election challenge of his career. Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap tells Agri-Pulse that Peterson has been a champion for agriculture not only in Minnesota but across America. 

Peterson faces former Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach in a western Minnesota district that Trump carried by 31 points in 2016.

Roundup settlement in trouble?

The multibillion-dollar settlement announced in June to resolve thousands of Roundup exposure cases may be on the rocks, according to statements at a status conference in the litigation Thursday.

A federal judge is considering lifting the stay on litigation he granted to allow the settlement to be resolved. Read our report here

Grassley tells USTR to make Brazil ethanol tariff a priority

U.S. and Brazilian trade negotiators are quietly squaring off over Brazil’s 20% tariff on U.S. ethanol, but Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is putting new pressure on the Trump administration to reach a deal that benefits U.S. corn farmers.

“I have personally informed (USTR Robert) Lighthizer that he needs to make the Brazil ethanol tariff a high priority, considering the state of the (U.S.) ag industry in Iowa and for that matter, across the country,” Grassley told reporters.

Brazil’s tariff rate quota that allows in 198 million gallons of U.S. ethanol to enter tariff-free expires on Aug. 31. U.S. corn farmers are pushing for Brazil to drop the tariffs.

China’s pork and poultry sectors spur large corn purchases

China’s corn purchases and imports have set records so far this year, and U.S. Grains Council President and CEO Ryan LeGrand tells Agri-Pulse it’s largely due to the country’s efforts to build up protein production after African swine fever decimated China’s swine herd.

The USDA announced Thursday that China purchased an additional 747,000 metric tons of U.S. corn for delivery in the 2020-21 marketing year, following closely after reports of China buying 408,000 tons of U.S. corn on Aug. 25 and 405,000 tons on Aug. 21.

“They’re rebuilding their swine herd and after ASF a lot of attention is being paid to increasing poultry production, so there’s an added source of demand (for corn) there,” LeGrand said.

NRCS modifies wetland determination process

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has finalized some changes to how it determines whether land is highly erodible or a wetland, in the process “clarifying how wetland hydrology is identified for farmed wetlands and farmed wetland pasture,” the service said Thursday.

final rule published in today’s Federal Register includes new language to clarify how NRCS considers the “best-drained condition for wetland hydrology in keeping with the definition of prior converted cropland.” The rule also adds a requirement from the 2018 farm bill that USDA “make a reasonable effort” to include the affected farmer or landowner when investigating on-site whether a wetland determination was violated. 

Responding to criticism of maps used between 1990 and 1996, NRCS said determinations made after Nov. 28, 1990, and before July 3, 1996, “are certified wetland determinations” if they were made using one of two separate forms, “the person was notified that the determination had been certified, and the map document was of sufficient quality to determine ineligibility for program benefits.”

She said it. “If we expect farmers to do a good thing for the planet, we should pay them for it.” – Laura Wood Peterson, senior director of government affairs for Indigo Agriculture, on a webinar sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center. Peterson was making the case for providing farmers tax incentives for carbon sequestration. Indigo has a carbon credit business.

Questions? Tips? Contact Philip Brasher at