WASHINGTON, Aug. 22, 2016 - While we were away for our August break, Agri-Pulse kicked off a new video series that will bring you closer to some of Washington’s key agricultural influencers. “Meet the Farmhands” focuses on the people behind our “Farmhands on the Potomac” newsletter column, giving you a look at how some of the movers and shakers in Washington agriculture have gotten to their current positions of influence and what they learned along the way. 
 
The series kicked off with Agri-Pulse’s own Jim Webster  who spent time on Capitol Hill and at USDA before forming the Webster Agricultural Letter, which included the original iteration of “Farmhands on the Potomac.” There’s also an interview with John Gordley of Gordley Associates. Stay tuned later this week for a chat with Randy Russell of The Russell Group. 
 
Trump says he’s the agriculture candidate. “Farmers are the backbone of America,” Republican nominee Donald Trump said Saturday at a rally in Virginia where he pledged to work hard for the agriculture sector if he is elected president.
 
Trump pledged to eliminate the estate tax, completely scrap the EPA’s Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule and install someone who is pro-agriculture as the next EPA administrator.
 
“The massive regulations and EPA interventions from the Obama-Clinton administration have devastated America’s farmers,” Trump said. “A Trump administration will be pro-agriculture, 100 percent.”
 
Meanwhile, Vilsack stumps for Clinton. While Trump spoke in Virginia, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack campaigned for Hillary Clinton in Iowa, a state known for its agricultural production.
 
But it wasn’t agriculture that was highlighted in a statement from the event released by Clinton aides. Vilsack, together with Iowa Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, used an event in Des Moines to call on Trump to make public his tax returns.
 
“First, Donald Trump has refused to release his taxes, leaving Iowans in the dark if he pays a lower tax rate than working families struggling to pay their bills,” Vilsack and Fitzgerald said in a joint release. “Now, Trump has proposed a new loophole which would cut his tax rate—and the tax rate of other millionaires and billionaires—by more than half on a significant portion of their income.”
 
In between his travels last week, Secretary Vilsack found time to talk to broadcaster Jeff Nalley about the next farm bill, biotech labeling, trade and other issues. You can listen to this in-depth interview by clicking here.
 
Companies can use “Non-GMO” on meat labels. The USDA has barely begun working on the GMO disclosure law, but it’s already having an impact. The Food Safety Inspection Service said Friday it will begin accepting the use of the term “genetically modified organism” and “GMO” on meat product labels. This change in FSIS labeling rules, one USDA official explained, was prompted by the use of the acronym in the legislation that President Barack Obama signed into law on July 29.
 
The law clearly states that meat, dairy and eggs are not eligible for GMO disclosure, but some food makers want to label their products as coming from animals that were never fed genetically modified feed. FSIS allows this, so long as a company can back up the claims with third-party verification. But in the past, labels were only allowed to use terms such as “genetically modified” or “genetically engineered” or “bioengineered.”
 
Examples listed by FSIS wording on new labels include “Fed a vegetarian diet with no GMO feed ingredients” and “Derived from beef fed no GMO feed.”   
 
Catfish farmers to continue fight for insurance program. The USDA’s Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) has concluded that a catfish margin insurance program is not feasible – subscribers can get the full Agri-Pulse story that broke the news Friday - but farmers will not be giving up, Catfish Farmers of America spokesman Chad Causey said.
 
“We will continue working toward the development of an insurance product that allows farmers to protect themselves against uncontrollable and severe market volatility on price and inputs, as well as natural disasters,” Causey said.
 
Congress, in the 2014 farm bill, ordered USDA to look into the feasibility of an insurance program for catfish producers and the FCIC hired the research group Agralytica Consulting. That study is now online and USDA is asking the public to write in and provide feedback.
 
R-CALF USA wants Trump and Clinton campaign speakers at convention. The rancher group is preparing for its 17th annual convention in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and the group has announced it wants representatives from both the Trump and Clinton campaigns to speak to its members.
 
R-CALF said it sent invitations to Charles Herbster, chairman of Trump’s Agricultural and Rural Advisory Committee, as well as Amanda Renteria, Clinton’s national political director.
 
So far only the Trump campaign has pledged to send someone to the conference. R-CALF said that Herbster promised to send former Ohio Congressman Bob McEwen.
 
"Competition is fast disappearing from our cattle markets and we need the next Administration to take decisive action to correct this," said R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard. “That is why we provided the candidates with summaries of our key issues that range from reinstating country of origin labeling to ending antitrust and anticompetitive practices to reforming the beef checkoff program to establishing a trade policy that doesn't invite imports from disease-affected countries and restores the national sovereignty our country has surrendered to the World Trade Organization."
 
ICYMI: NGA tells Senate panel that corn growers need atrazine. Losing the ability to use the herbicide atrazine would be a major loss for farmers and the farm economy, Jim Zimmerman, a member of the National Corn Growers Association Board of Directors told a Senate panel last week.
 
"Atrazine is the most widely used herbicide in conservation tillage systems,” Zimmerman said at a field hearing held by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “Without atrazine, farmers would have to use higher quantities of other herbicides that are less effective while increasing tillage and threatening soil health and nutrients,"
 
Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, held the hearing in Dubuque, Iowa, and focused on how federal agriculture regulations impact farmers.
 
“Overreaching rules and regulations are burdening our employers and our businesses and we’re not growing our economy like we could be and should be because of that,” Ernst said at the hearing.