Farm groups are cheering EPA’s decision on over-the-top use of dicamba for five years – with some new restrictions on how the herbicide is applied. 

“With those added restrictions, it should give an insurance policy or safety net to be able to fall back on to make sure we don’t damage any crops around us,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall told Agri-Pulse.

He said the move by EPA would provide certainty to many cotton and soybean growers and said they would be able to adapt to the new restrictions. 

But keep in mind: The environmental groups that won a court victory earlier this year when the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals vacated registrations of three dicamba herbicides are vowing to sue again. 

George Kimbrell, the Center for Food Safety’s legal director, said the EPA “rushed re-approval as a political prop just before the election, sentencing farmers and the environment to another five years of unacceptable damage.”

Read our report on the EPA decision and the new restrictions here

Trump: I’m ‘right’ with the farmers

President Trump was questioned by reporters why he would go to Nebraska during the last week of the campaign. The reason is that Nebraska apportions its electoral votes by congressional district, and Trump is trying to win the 2nd District, which includes Omaha, as well as the rest of the state. “I’d like to get it,” Trump said. 

He went on to say, “At the same time, I’m right by Iowa and the farmers. You know, we got the farmers $28 billion.” That number is a reference to the Market Facilitation Program, which was intended to compensate farmers for the impact of Trump’s trade war with China. 

By the way: Former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who co-founded the One Country Project to help Democrats appeals to rural voters, predicts her party will succeed in reducing GOP margins in key battleground states this year in comparison to 2016.

“It's not as big a swing as you're going to see in suburban America, but it's enough to make the difference,” she said. That obviously could help Joe Biden win the presidency but it could aid Democrats down the ballot as well.  

As has been well analyzed, Hillary Clinton performed much more poorly than Barack Obama in many rural Midwest counties.

For more on the state of key House and Senate races for ag, as well as a look at the names being bandied for a new administration, if Biden wins, be sure and read the Agri-Pulse weekly newsletter. 

Rice shipment seen as just the start

The first ever commercial shipment of U.S. rice that was cleared to enter China Tuesday was just 20 metric tons, but it’s expected to be just the beginning of a long-term and robust trade that clears the way for future trade.

"As seasoned exporters, this small shipment of California milled rice sounded routine at the outset, but the many logistical challenges of exporting to this new market proved to be one of our most complex transactions to date," said Buzz Burich, vice president of ADM Rice. “We hope this initial collaborative effort will lead to increased sales of U.S. rice to China and contribute to stronger trade relations between both nations."

Ted McKinney, USDA’s undersecretary for trade, expressed optimism in a Monday night webinar hosted by the USA Rice Federation and aimed primarily at Chinese importers.

“We look forward to increased engagement with China as we build on the progress begun by year one of the ‘phase one’ agreement,” McKinney said.

Ag retailers worry over electric vehicles

The Agricultural Retailers Association says U.S. light-duty and freight vehicle consumption of ethanol would drop drastically if internal combustion engines are banned.

A new study released Tuesday says if internal combustion engines are banned by 2035, then by 2050 ethanol consumption could drop by up to 90%, to 1.1 billion gallons, and biodiesel consumption could decline by up to 61%, to 0.8 billion gallons.

Last month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state would require all new passenger vehicles to be zero-emission by 2035.

“Proposals that seek to rush this ban to 2035 have the most severe impacts, but any ban results in dramatic decreases in ethanol, biodiesel, corn and soybean prices, and demand for fertilizer and other agricultural products,” ARA said in releasing a new study. “These are burdens carried disproportionately by the agriculture community.”

Keep in mind: Biden’s environmental plan would promote the shift to EVs by installing 500,000 charging stations nationwide by the end of 2030.

Farm Credit looks to diversify

The Farm Credit Council is creating an internship stipend program to recruit students and recent graduates from Historically Black Colleges and Universities to work in the Farm Credit System. The $3,500 stipend will be on top of the interns’ wages to help with their expenses. 

“We encourage HBCU students and recent graduates to spend a summer or a semester as an intern with Farm Credit and share in our mission to support rural communities and agriculture,” said Todd Van Hoose, President and CEO of the Farm Credit Council.

Read our report on the struggle faced by the system and ag groups in trying to address racial diversity.

EU dairy production on the rise

Dairy herds in the European Union will thin out some this year and in 2021, but rising yields and government support programs will help boost milk production and dairy product exports, according to USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service.

The FAS office in Warsaw expects “dairy processors will increase production of cheese, butter, (whole dry milk) and (nonfat dry milk)” and also predicted “2020 cheese production will increase over 2019 levels due to higher export demand.”

EU cheese exports are now forecast to reach 960,000 metric tons next year, up from 920,000 tons this year and 880,000 tons last year. The U.S. remains the largest foreign market for EU cheese, but it was primarily demand from Japan, South Korea and Switzerland that boosted EU exports this year.

FCC prepared to launch rural broadband auction

The Federal Communications Commission is launching a reverse auction on Thursday to provide $16 billion in new funding for rural broadband. The money will be distributed to eligible applicants who build out high-speed service in wholly unserved rural areas. The funding will connect roughly 10.2 million Americans.

“It’s the biggest step we’ve taken yet to address the digital divide,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told reporters Tuesday.

A future round of funding will address locations in partially unserved census blocks, using more granular data collection related to broadband coverage.

She said it. “We’re building a ship and setting sail while the compass is still on backorder” – FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said Tuesday during a commission meeting. She was referring to the commission missing a provision in the Broadband Data Act that required the FCC to adopt new broadband coverage mapping rules by September 2020.

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