Joe Biden used the final presidential debate Thursday night to reiterate his pledge to submit an immigration reform bill to Congress within his first 100 days in office. In an unusual admission, he also said that failing to get a bill passed while he was vice president “was a mistake. It took too long to get it right.” 

He said nothing about including reforms of the H-2A program for farmworkers, saying only that he would seek to provide a path to legal status for illegal immigrants who are now in the country. 

Keep in mind: As a practical matter, it would be politically difficult to pass an immigration bill that legalizes undocumented Americans without addressing the needs of agriculture and other issues. 

Most of the immigration exchange focused on the migrant children who are separated from their parents, and President Donald Trump didn’t lay out any second-term policy priorities. He instead hammered Biden for not getting legislation passed while he was vice president. “He had eight years to do what he said he was going to do,” Trump said. 

On trade:  Biden and Trump also had a sharp exchange over China. Trump noted the $28 billion USDA has given farmers in trade assistance and insisted that the money had come from China. The money he’s talking about is revenue from tariffs paid by U.S. importers of Chinese goods. 

Biden reiterated his pledge to get U.S. allies to put more pressure on China to end trade barriers.

USDA pressed on CFAP-2 and dairy cows

Fifteen senators led by the top Democrats on the Agriculture and Appropriations committees are appealing to USDA to make the beef from culled dairy cows eligible for payments under the second round of Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. 

Under current rules, dairy producers are eligible for payments on their cows’ milk but not for cull cows, as was the case with the first round of CFAP. Cows that are no longer productive are typically sent to slaughter, with much of their meat going into ground beef.

“This change will affect the livestock industry and will be particularly harmful to dairy farmers who often operate at extremely tight margins,” the senators say in a letter to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue. “The decision is even more troubling considering that USDA clearly has sufficient resources to cover these losses.”

The senators say USDA could calculate different payment rates for cull dairy cows and beef cattle.

Keep in mind: No Republicans signed the letter, led by Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the ranking member on Ag, and Vermont’s Pat  Leahy, ranking on Appropriations.

Big Chinese soy and corn purchases continue

The latest weekly trade data from USDA show China continuing to make major purchases of U.S. soybeans, corn, cotton and beef. 

Chinese importers snapped up 1.2 million metric tons of soybeans, 433,5000 tons of corn, 64,700 bales of cotton and 3,700 tons of beef from U.S. exporters in the week of Oct. 9-15. The cotton purchases were split into 47,500 bales for the 2020-21 marketing year and 17,200 bales for 2021-22.

Physical exports of all four of the commodities were also strong for the second full week in October. The U.S. shipped a whopping 1.96 million tons of soybeans, 364,000 tons of corn, 1,100 bales of cotton and 2,000 tons of beef to China in the seven-day period.

Ethanol industry pushing back on GOP senators

Biofuel groups are asking their allies in Congress to challenge a request EPA got from Capitol Hill that would effectively lower the ethanol usage mandate next year. On Wednesday, 15 GOP senators asked EPA to ensure 2021 volumes would not exceed the E10 “blend wall,” citing the pandemic-driven collapse in gasoline demand. 

“COVID-19 is presenting challenges and difficulties for everyone but nothing in the law allows EPA to waive the RFS based on external economic factors like COVID-19,” Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper told Agri-Pulse.

Ice cream exec charged in listeria outbreak

The former president of Blue Bell Creameries has been indicted on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud for allegedly trying to cover up listeria contamination in ice cream.

The Justice Department says after Texas officials told Paul Kruse of the contamination in 2015 he “allegedly orchestrated a scheme to deceive” Blue Bell customers. 

Among the steps he allegedly took was to direct employees to remove potentially contaminated products from store freezers without telling the retailers. Retailers who asked why the products were removed were supposed to be told that it was because of “an unspecified issue with a manufacturing machine,” DOJ says. 

The company pleaded guilty in May to two counts of distributing adulterated food products.

EPA wants to ease restriction on insecticide

EPA is proposing exceptions to requirements for expanded 25-foot vegetative filter strips when applying pyrethroid insecticides near water. The changes are contained in interim registration review decisions released Thursday for 13 pyrethroids.

Responding to concerns raised by the industry and USDA, the agency said application areas of 10 acres or less would qualify for 15-foot strips instead of proposed 25-foot strips. Western irrigated agriculture would be exempt if a sediment control basin is present.

The agency says small-scale operations “may be disproportionately impacted by an expanded 25-foot VFS requirement.”

By the way: EPA released an interim decision for the herbicide paraquat that prohibits aerial application except for cotton desiccation. The decision also limits the maximum application rate for alfalfa to one pound of active ingredient per acre and requires enclosed cabs if the area treated in a 24-hour period is more than 80 acres.

He said it. “She dared hug me, and look what's happening to her.” – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., on the criticism from progressives that the panel’s ranking member, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has received for hugging him after the hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Graham suggested Democrats who resist court packing will face similar pushback. 

The committee voted 12-0 on Thursday to approve the nomination. Democrats boycotted the vote. 

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