WASHINGTON, July 27, 2016 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack skipped last night’s session of the Democratic convention to give an impassioned plea for agriculture leaders to support Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. 

Speaking at an agribusiness reception in downtown Philadelphia, Vilsack said he had “never been involved in a political campaign where the choice was as stark and as clear and the consequence as dire. He said Clinton is a “problem solver,” while Trump is a problem maker.”

Vilsack, who was reportedly a finalist to be Clinton’s running mate, also described Clinton as someone who will listen to the concerns of agriculture, in contrast to Trump, whom Vilsack said “only listens to himself.” 

The one agricultural issue that Vilsack touched on specifically was immigration, which is probably the single policy area where there is a clear difference between Clinton and Trump that benefits the Democrats when it comes to the concerns of farmers.

“Everyone in this room knows that we have a broken immigration system,” Vilsack said. “A solution is not a wall. A solution is bringing people together over a difficult issue and forging a sound, solid policy that allows people who have been here for a long time, who have helped to support our agricultural economy, to be able to find their way to legitimacy.”

Historic moment: Farmer announces key number. Clinton officially claimed the party’s nomination over Bernie Sanders earlier in the evening during the roll call of state delegations. South Dakota put Clinton over the top at 2,395 votes. She needed 2,383 to clinch. Ann Tornberg, a dairy producer from Beresford, S.D., who chairs the South Dakota Democratic Party, got to announce the state’s historic vote count. 

Stabenow announces Michigan votes. The ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Debbie Stabenow, announced Michigan’s votes on behalf of the “hard working men and women … who make things and grow things for America.” Michigan provided 81 votes to Clinton and 66 to Sanders. 

The delegate who announced Montana’s votes described Montana as the home of the “only farmer” in the Senate, Jon Tester. Iowa’s Charles Grassley has long taken pride in calling himself a farmer, although his son manages the family operation.

Clinton plans rural push. Trevor Dean, a volunteer leading the “Rural for Hillary” coalition, told Democratic delegates yesterday that rural voters will be impressed with Hillary when they learn about her record as a senator from New York and her work on food security issues as secretary of state. “We want everyone in rural America to understand that Secretary Clinton is looking out for them,” Dean said at a meeting of the convention’s Rural Council.

After the meeting, Dean met with some agribusiness leaders to discuss ways of improving Clinton’s rural outreach program. 

For more on Clinton’s rural effort, read Agri-Pulse’s weekly newsletter today.

Pelosi announces opposition to TPP. Groups opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership yesterday released a letter that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent last week to constituents, telling them that she’s opposed to the trade deal in its current form. Pelosi had opposed giving President Obama fast-track negotiating authority so her letter is not a big surprise. 

Groups target delegates with ‘DARK Act’ ad. Groups opposed to the GMO disclosure bill that passed Congress this month took out a full-page ad in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The ad urges readers to appeal to President Obama to veto the bill. Obama has yet to sign the bill but there’s no reason to believe he’s changed his mind about doing so. The House sent the measure to the White House July 19.

Food banks struggle to get attention to nutrition. Delegates to every party convention find that there are endless invitations to receptions, lunches and other events. But the national network of food banks, Feeding America, has been trying to draw lawmakers and delegates to a different sort of event to focus their attention on the issue of hunger and federal nutrition policy. It hasn’t been easy to do. 

At the Republican convention last week, Feeding America invited lawmakers to a summer feeding program in Cleveland. This week, lawmakers were invited to help fill bags of rice at the Philadelphia-area food bank, called Philabundance, located in a warehouse district near the convention site. 

Only one of the dozen Democratic lawmakers who RSVP’d showed up, but he’s an important one: Massachusetts congressman Jim McGovern, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee’s subcommittee on nutrition. 

McGovern applied nutrition facts labels to small bags of donated rice, and he also got to inspect one of the boxes of food provided monthly to 4,000 area senior citizens under USDA’s Commodity Supplemental Food Program. The box included two cans each of carrots, green beans and pears, bottles of juice, peanut butter, a bag of oatmeal and two boxes of shelf-stable milk. The program is available in 45 states.

Lisa Davis, senior vice president of government relations for Feeding America, said security measures, traffic tie-ups and other conflicts have made it difficult to get members of Congress to the food bank events. Two Republican congressmen appeared at the event in Cleveland, along with the wife of Arkansas Sen. John Boozman.

Wheat growers latest to turn on Huelskamp. The National Association of Wheat Growers is the latest farm group to endorse Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp’s challenger in his Republican primary Aug. 2. NAWG is the fourth national group to throw its support behind physician Roger Marshall, joining the National Sorghum Producers, the Dairy Farmers of America, and the National Corn Growers Association.

Marshall also has endorsements from the Kansas Farm Bureau, the Kansas Livestock Association, and the ethanol group Renew Kansas. 

He said it. “Hillary believes in us. Donald believes in himself.” - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

Sara Wyant and Spencer Chase contributed to this report. 


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