This presidential debate will hardly be remembered for the policy. The talk around the country today is almost certainly going to be about the relative performance of President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, not the positions on issues. 

But the debate did touch at a few points on issues directly relevant to agriculture. 

During the debate, Biden repeatedly brought up Trump’s proposed 10% across-the-board tariff, saying it would essentially be a tax increase on consumers and drive up the cost of living. In an apparent reference to a report by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, Biden said Trump’s tariff plans would “cost the average American $2,500 a year more because they’re going to have to pay the difference in food and all the things that are imported.” Other economists have also said the tariffs could worsen inflation.

Trump defended his tariff plans, as he has in the past, by asserting that exporting countries pay the duties, when they’re actually paid by importers. “It’s just going to cause countries that have been ripping us off for years, like China and many others … to pay us a lot of money, reduce our deficit tremendously, and give us a lot of power for other things,” Trump said.

Trump repeatedly hit Biden on the issue of immigration and border security. Trump was asked, but didn’t address, the question of how he would carry out his call for deporting illegal immigrants.

By the way: There was one brief mention of agriculture in the debate. It came when Trump was defending his trade policy. Trump claimed he “made great trade deals with the European nations.” He said the Europeans “don’t want anything that we have but we’re supposed to take their cars, their food, their everything, their agriculture. I changed that.”

Interior-EPA spending bill targets regs

House Republicans are using their fiscal 2025 spending bill for the Interior Department and EPA to target a variety of regulatory moves by the Biden administration. Among other things, the bill would block the EPA from implementing regulations on light, medium and heavy-duty vehicles. 

Other policy riders in the FY25 Interior-Environment bill would block rules issued under the National Environmental Policy Act to factor climate change considerations in permitting decisions. The bill also would prohibit EPA from enforcing its Clean Power Plan 2.0, new climate-related regulations on power plants. The Bureau of Land Management would be blocked from carrying out new regulations that put conservation on a par with grazing and other uses of BLM land. 

The bill also slashes funding for both Interior and EPA. EPA’s science and environmental programs would be cut by $1.2 billion to $2.8 billion in FY25. Funding for BLM would be reduced $116 million to $1.3 billion. The Fish and Wildlife Service would be cut $144 million to $1.6 billion.

Lawmakers raise concerns about Chinese terminal deal

Growmark, a major Midwest cooperative, has bought what it calls “one of the most influential grain warehouses” in Illinois, the B-House, which has been renamed Lakeside Grain Trading, from COFCO, China’s largest food and agriculture company. At the same time, Growmark has sold its minority stake in the Cahokia Grain Terminal near St. Louis to COFCO, and that is raising congressional concerns.

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Reps. Mike Bost, R-Ill., and Nikki Budzinski, D-Ill., said the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States should “immediately review the acquisition to weigh the consequences for America’s national security and the region’s agricultural economy.”

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 “COFCO now owns more than six locations across the U.S. for commercial sales, port terminals, and warehouse storage,” they said. “While we support expanding access to foreign markets, it is alarming that a majority of U.S. ports and terminals are owned and operated by foreign entities, especially China.”

Growmark’s take: Its acquisition will be beneficial to farmers. “The facility can accommodate lake vessels and larger ships to further diversify GROWMARK’s fleet of marketing options for grain, which currently includes Class 1 rail, barges, and trucks,” the co-op said. In addition, Lakeside Grain Trading’s affiliation with the CME “as the last remaining par value delivery warehouse will also enable Growmark to further support the hedging and marketing strategies of its members.”

Crop insurance expanded for specialty, organic growers

USDA is expanding crop insurance options for specialty crop and organic growers. The Risk Management Agency is allowing enterprise units in organic farming and adding enterprise unit eligibility for several specialty crops. Enterprise units allow a producer to insure together all acres of a crop in a county.

Starting next year enterprise unit eligibility will be expanded to almonds, apples, avocados in California, citrus in Arizona, California, and Texas, and figs, macadamia nuts, pears, prunes and walnuts.  

Take note: RMA also is reducing coverage penalties on perennial specialty crop producers and producers of intensively managed crops such as alfalfa, when they move to row crop production.  “This allows for a seamless transition without losing crop insurance coverage,” USDA’s Risk Management Agency said.  

More information is available from RMA.

Bipartisan bill would restore WIC milk allotments 

Lawmakers have introduced a bill to override the Biden administration’s updates to the Women, Infants and Children nutrition assistance program on the maximum monthly milk allowance.

Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., and Josh Harder, D-Calif., along with House Agriculture Committee member Derrick Van Orden, R-Wis., introduced the “Protecting Mothers and Infants’ Access to Milk Act” Wednesday. It would return the maximum monthly milk allowance for WIC participants to previous levels. 

The USDA finalized the WIC updates in April, which took effect on June 17. The rule includes cuts to the amount of milk and dairy products available for purchase through the program. This sparked backlash from industry groups and some lawmakers who say most Americans already don’t consume the recommended dairy servings. 

“Families are already struggling with skyrocketing prices at the grocery store, and this new rule would limit their access to healthy milk our dairy farmers in Upstate New York and the North Country work hard to provide for our communities,” Stefanik said in a statement.

Take note: The draft House Agriculture-FDA Appropriations bill includes a provision that would restrict funds from being used to implement or enforce rules that cut the maximum monthly allowance of milk. 

 Rebekah Alvey and Philip Brasher contributed to this report.