Joe Biden’s farm policy relies heavily on ramping up conservation spending as a way to support farm programs. But former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack tells Agri-Pulse that he thinks the Biden administration, working with Congress, could act quickly next year to shore up farm income, possibly through a new stimulus bill.

Vilsack, who’s advising Biden on ag policy, notes that the Commodity Credit Corp. is now available to the secretary to make ad hoc payments to producers, something Congress blocked him from doing after 2010. 

For more on how Biden and Trump could do about farm income, including Vilsack’s thoughts, be sure and read this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter. Also in the newsletter is the results of our annual CEO salary survey.

AFBF survey spotlights Trump, Biden divide

The American Farm Bureau Federation today is releasing its survey of the Biden and Trump campaigns on a range of issues. While the survey mostly reiterates Biden’s policy proposals and Trump’s first-term record, it does highlight some sharp divisions on the candidates on a range of issues. 

Take biofuels, for example: The Biden campaign highlights his push for next-generation biofuels made from plant cellulose while criticizing EPA’s refinery waivers for corn ethanol. The Trump campaign focuses on building demand for conventional ethanol, both domestically and overseas. 

Take note: The Trump campaign says the next farm bill “must do a better job of sustaining” farmers “through these tough times.” No proposals are offered, but that statement obviously suggests Trump is open to some significant reforms. 

We’ll have more on the survey in the newsletter and at

Senate readies vote on more ag aid

Senate Republicans are moving forward this week on a new coronavirus relief package, even though it has no chance of getting the Democratic support need to pass. The new bill, unveiled Tuesday, includes $20 billion in expanded USDA spending authority that Senate Republicans proposed back in July. 

Keep in mind: Negotiations between the White House and congressional Democrats remain at an impasse. So, unless there is a breakthrough soon, the new GOP bill will largely serve as a talking point for Republicans in the fall campaign. 

The Republican proposal also would authorize a second round of forgivable loans through the Paycheck Protection Program. 

“We don't expect a lot of help from the Democrats, so we're not going to get 60,” the number of votes needed to advance the measure, said Senate GOP Whip John Thune, R-S.D., told reporters. 

In a joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the GOP bill “doesn’t come close to addressing the problems and is headed nowhere.”

Grassley warns biofuel sector on Trump support

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley is warning the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association about questioning Trump’s support for biofuels. 

“It seems like that organization is stirring up a hornet’s nest by raising questions about it and that doesn’t do the president any good,” Grassley told reporters Tuesday. Grassley fears the questioning is fueling Democrats’ attacks on Trump and Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, who is running for re-election. 

IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw told Agri-Pulse that Trump “can pick up the phone and call the EPA with a simple message: follow the law and uphold my promise to Iowans – deny the baseless RFS exemption requests. If he does so, IRFA and the entire biofuels community would praise him for that action.”

IRFA signed onto a letter Tuesday that calls on Trump to reject refinery exemptions from the Renewable Fuel Standard.

USDA raises forecasts for China’s soybean imports

The USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service has raised its forecast for Chinese soybean imports in both the 2019-20 and 2020-21 marketing years as the country continues to make large purchases from the U.S.

The forecast for China’s imports is now set at 95 million metric tons for both marketing years, a 4-million-ton increase above an earlier prediction for 2020-21 and a 5-million-ton increase from the previous 2019-20 prediction.

 “Feed production is projected to rise during the remainder of 2020 and into 2021 as the swine herd continues to recover from African Swine Fever and the poultry sector expands to meet growing demand,” FAS says. 

On Tuesday, USDA reported sales of 664,000 metric tons of U.S. new crop soybeans to China.

USDA raises TRQ for FY 2020 sugar imports

The USDA has decided to again allow more sugar imports into the U.S. during the 2020 fiscal year, according to a notice posted Tuesday. USDA is raising its tariff rate quota for raw sugar by 90,718 metric tons, a move that will be much appreciated by food and beverage companies that need the supplies, says Rick Pasco, president of the Sweetener Users Association.

USDA is also extending the FY 2020 through Oct. 31 to give the industry more time to bring in the extra sugar.

“There was concern that there was not enough raw sugar for refiners, so it makes a lot of sense,” Pasco told Agri-Pulse.

USDA originally set the FY20 raw sugar TRQ at about 1.1 million metric tons and raised it for the first time in April. 

New test from Europe can detect gene-edited canola

A group that has long been critical of agricultural biotechnology, the Center for Food Safety, says a new test developed in Europe to detect gene-edited canola shows that crops developed with newer forms of genetic engineering can be detected in the food supply. The group says that means such crops should be labeled in the U.S.

The herbicide-tolerant canola was developed by the biotechnology company Cibus and is grown on a limited basis in the U.S. and Canada, CFS said.

Why this could matter: In its bioengineered food labeling rule, USDA has excluded “highly refined,” non-detectable GE ingredients found in foods such as oils and soda. CFS has sued USDA over the rule, contending that “the law demands labeling of all GMO foods, including those that are highly refined or gene-edited, and does not restrict the labeling mandate based on ‘detectability,’ ” CFS said.

He said it. “Any characterization right now that rural America and farmers are somehow either red or blue I think is really missing the point, because right now farmers are in the red.” – Rob Larew, president of the National Farmers Union, speaking to reporters Tuesday.

Questions? Tips? Contact Philip Brasher at