Races in rural districts and major farm states could play a role in deciding control of Congress this fall.

Republicans are widely expected to win control of the House. Dave Wasserman, a congressional analyst with the Cook Political Report, says races in regions such as south Texas or the Central Valley of California could go a long way in determining how many seats Republicans gain. It's going to be “tougher for Democrats in non-major metro areas, places where there's not as reliable a Democratic turnout base,” Wasserman says in an interview with Agri-Pulse Newsmakers.

But a pair of Democrats on the House Ag Committee, including Angie Craig in Minnesota and Abigail Spanberger in Virginia, could be helped by a backlash against Republicans over the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion, Wasserman says. Both Craig and Spanberger have districts that include suburban voters.

Take note: Wasserman thinks Republicans have netted three House seats simply because of redistricting. But he says Democrats could hold their overall House losses in November to about 15 seats if they can close the enthusiasm gap.

This week’s Agri-Pulse Newsmakers will be available today at Agri-Pulse.com.

Candidate takes on packers

Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate candidate, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, is borrowing a page from President Biden’s playbook when it comes to addressing inflation.

Fetterman tweeted this Thursday: “I don’t know who needs to hear this but while you paid $7 for a hot dog this 4th of July weekend, Tyson Foods posted nearly $1 billion in profits last quarter. (Whispers: corporate greed)”

FWIW: An eight-count pack of Tyson’s Ball Park franks can be had at walmart.com for $3.62.

Smithfield to pay $42M to settle price-fixing lawsuit

Another packing giant, Smithfield Foods, has agreed to pay $42 million to its pork-buying customers to settle a lawsuit that accused the company of participating in a 13-year-long price fixing scheme.

The settlement agreement says Smithfield denies any wrongdoing but wanted to avoid the “expense, risk, exposure, inconvenience and distraction of continued litigation.” A judge still must approve the settlement.

Take note: JBS, Tyson, Hormel, Seaboard Foods and Swift are among the processors accused in the lawsuit of conspiring to fix prices, along with pork industry data provider Agri Stats.

Dairy producers warns on farm bill issue

A senior member of the House Ag Committee, California Democrat Jim Costa, is cautioning his state’s dairy producers about expecting Congress to change a key provision in the Dairy Margin Coverage program. Some larger-scale producers in California and elsewhere want lawmakers to raise the 5-million-pound cap for the lowest-cost DMC coverage.

Costa, hosting a House Ag listening session in Fresno Thursday, acknowledged the limit “doesn’t work very well in California” but suggested dairy producers focus on issues other than “trying to raise the 5-million-pound cap.”

Take note: One industry representative called for increasing premium subsidies on dairy revenue insurance, which is popular with some larger operations.

US ambassador, Ukraine ag chief talk trade

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink met Thursday with Ukrainian Agriculture Minister Mykola Solsky for what Brink described as a “sobering discussion” about the country’s need to export more grain.

Solsky told Brink and other U.S. officials that the Russian blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports continues to cripple the country’s ability to export grain, although shipments through alternative routes have reached about 2 million tons a month. Ukraine needs to export more than double that for the good of its farmers and the foreign countries that depend on imports, Solsky said.

"What you are doing is extremely important for the agricultural sector and the world's food security," said Brink in a statement released by the Ukraine Ag Ministry.

New trial ordered in dicamba damage case

A federal appeals court has ordered a new trial in a case where a Missouri peach farm was awarded $60 million in punitive damages for dicamba damage.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals left intact the $15 million in compensatory damages awarded to Bader Farms but said the district court judge should have instructed the jury to separately assess damages attributed to BASF and Monsanto.

The new trial will focus solely on the issue of punitive damages.

Dryness continues in Cornbelt, elsewhere

This week’s U.S. Drought Monitor shows that dry conditions continue to rapidly expand across parts of the Corn Belt along with the Ohio, Tennessee, and middle Mississippi valleys.

Separately, USDA’s Midwest Climate Hub says in its outlook for the region that crop conditions are quickly becoming worse “as lack of precipitation and high atmospheric demand stress crops.”

Temperatures in the region have generally been “well above average” over the last 30 days, with large areas receiving less than 50% of June precipitation or worse. “Very spotty areas have been wetter than average,” the outlook says.

He said it. “We want to keep this industry united, border to border, coast to coast. We don’t want a program that creates division among producers.” - Melvin Medeiros, a leader of Dairy Farmers of America Inc. and a member of the board of the National Milk Producers Federation, acknowledging the difficult politics of modifying the Dairy Margin Coverage program.

Questions, comments, tips? Email philip@agri-pulse.com