WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2016 - Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump square off tonight in the first of their three scheduled debates. NBC anchor Lester Holt will be the moderator. We’ll be watching to see what they say about trade and immigration, two of Trump’s signature issues. 

Voters appear to favor Clinton over Trump on both issues at this point. A McClatchy-Marist poll released Friday shows that likely voters trust Clinton over Trump by 52 percent to 42 percent to negotiate fair trade policies. They favor her by an even bigger margin, 54-41, for handling immigration. 

Clinton and Trump also could clash on tax policy tonight. Clinton last week called for rolling back a bipartisan agreement on the estate tax to raise rates and lower exemptions. Trump has called for abolishing the tax. He responded to her latest plan by saying that she would lose the support of “all farmers” and small business. 

Few voters know about TPP despite campaign. A Politico-Harvard poll released over the weekend has some bad news for supporters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Forty-seven percent of Republicans who were polled believe that free trade agreements have hurt their communities. Only 24 percent of Democrats feel that way. 

The poll also found that only 29 percent of Americans have heard or read anything about the TPP. Among that 29 percent more than two-thirds are opposed to Congress voting on it during the lame duck session. 

The takeaway for TPP backers is that since most voters don’t know anything about the 12-nation trade pact they still could be persuaded to support it. Whether voters will start paying attention to any new messaging about the agreement is another question, given that Trump has been talking about the TPP endlessly. 

Our Agri-Pulse poll of farmers in January found that three in four hadn’t heard of the TPP. Of those who were familiar with it, only a third supported its passage. 

(Daybreak friend Sally Keefe shares this photo of a sunrise where the Patuxent River meets the Chesapeake Bay at Solomons, Md., where she grew up. “Like many I’ve been grateful for agriculture’s efforts to improve the Chesapeake ecosystem,” she says. Sally operates a food and agriculture management consulting business in Colorado,)

Urban agriculture gets farm bill push. Supporters of urban agriculture are looking to use the next farm bill to make it easier for city-based farms to qualify for USDA loans and other forms of aid. Today, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Debbie Stabenow, will release a bill that would give USDA authority to provide assistance to a variety of urban agriculture methods, including vertical farming. 

Later this week, on Friday, the Food Institute at The George Washington University will host an all-day conference on urban agriculture and the farm bill. 

Urban agriculture may be a strange concept to traditional producers, but it potentially offers a way to broaden the urban-rural coalition that many farm groups and their allies in Congress believe will be critical in passing the next farm bill. 

House set to pass WRDA bill this week. The top order of business in Congress this week before lawmakers head home to campaign is passing a continuing resolution to keep the government running until Dec. 9. But House leaders also have scheduled action on a water projects authorization bill to set up negotiations with the Senate. 

The House Rules Committee meets this afternoon to consider the rule for debating the measure. 

The Senate version of the bill, which passed earlier this month, would authorize $10.6 billion in spending over 10 years, nearly three times as much as the $3.8 billion authorized in the House bill.

What inflation? Food costs could wind up lower this year. USDA economists have lowered their estimate of the cost of eating at home because of falling prices for meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products. The new estimate that is that prices could actually be a half-percent lower this year, up to a half-percent higher. USDA expects grocery prices to rise between 1 and 2 percent next year. 

NASDA calls for legalization, expanded foreign labor. The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture has approved a significantly new policy statement on immigration and farm labor. 

The organization, which wrapped up its annual meeting on Saturday in Lincoln, Nebraska, called for replacing or dramatically overhauling the H-2A program to offer two new types of worker visas. There would be an “at-will” visa that would allow workers to move between employers and farms as seasonal and labor demands change. There also would be a contract visa that would tie workers to a specific employer for a set period of time. 

The revised policy statement also calls for providing legal status to farm workers who are now in the country illegally. NASDA’s old policy statement, adopted in 2010, called for “regularizing” the status of undocumented workers and reforming the H-2A program to make it easier to use. 

The new policy reflects the growing demand on farms for legal foreign workers and frustrations with the limits on how H-2A can be used. The new statement says that “American agriculture faces a critical shortage of labor that harms annual harvests, animal agriculture production and processing facilities.”

Louisiana ag chief takes over NASDA. Louisiana. Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain was elected as NASDA’s new president on Saturday, replacing Nebraska’s Greg Ibach. NASDA’s annual meeting next year will be in New Orleans. 

Duvall appeals for unity on new farm bill. During a keynote speech at the meeting in Lincoln, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall told the agriculture secretaries that the entire agricultural sector needs to come together like a “band of brothers” and provide a unified front in negotiations for the next farm bill.

Duvall said the conservative Heritage Foundation and the House Freedom Caucus have “a big ol’ bull’s eye” on the farm bill and the support programs it provides for farmers. 

Dan Enoch contributed to this report.



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