WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 2016 - Russia, Syria and foreign policy dominated much of last night’s debate between the vice presidential candidates. But Republican Mike Pence emphasized his rural roots, noting that he grew up in a small town "with a corn field in his backyard.”

Pence also listed family farms as potential beneficiaries of tax cuts, and he accused his Democratic counterpart, Tim Kaine, and Hillary Clinton of seeking to increase business-stifling regulations.

Trade was mentioned only in passing during the debate, when Pence said the country needs a “trade deal that will put the American worker first.” 

Kaine stayed on the attack throughout the debate, repeatedly bringing up Donald Trump's most controversial comments and trying to force Pence to address them.

Pence sidestepped the attacks for the most part, but he vigorously defended Trump’s latest immigration policy. Pence insisted that Trump would focus deportations on criminal aliens, suggesting as Trump has that he is open to letting other illegal immigrants stay in the country. 

Kaine reiterated that Clinton wants to provide undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. Republicans “want to go house to house, school to school, business to business and kick out" all illegal immigrants, Kaine said.

 Obama, Vilsack claim rural success. The Obama administration is intensifying its focus on rural America this week even as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump battle over critical swing states such as Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will host a White House Rural Forum today at Penn State University in State College. Vilsack and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf will be leading discussions on promoting economic growth and improving health care in rural regions.

In a blog post, President Obama says his administration has “worked hand-in-hand with rural communities” to expand job training, create jobs and expand internet availability. “We’re making progress - progress that’s possible only because of the strength and resilience of the people in our rural communities,”

FLOTUS announcing garden future. First Lady Michelle Obama will be announcing plans this afternoon for the future of the White House Kitchen Garden. The South Lawn garden, first planted in 2009, has been the centerpiece of her Let’s Move! initiative to fight childhood obesity.

The big question is whether the next president - or first spouse - will put the same effort behind the anti-obesity initiative even if the garden stays in place.

ARC payments move east. Farmers in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio are seeing some of the highest payment rates for the 2015 crop year under the Agriculture Risk Coverage Program. USDA announced yesterday that it is sending $5.6 billion to 1.2 million farmers nationwide in the initial round of ARC payments for the 2015 crop year.

Another $1.2 billion is going to more than 350,000 farms under the Price Loss Coverage Program.

According to maps posted by the Farm Service Agency, ARC payments for corn will range from $73.11 to $92.60 across most of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. And in some counties the payments will range from $92.61 to$135.40. Payments also are relatively high in the Mississippi Delta and in the Texas Panhandle.

For the 2014 crop year, there was a concentration of higher payment rates in Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska.

GMO critics rate lawmakers on labeling votes. Anti-GMO consumers will have a guide to use as they go to the polls rating lawmakers on how they voted on the biotech bills and amendments during this Congress.

The Cornucopia Institute scorecard gives failing grades to all four leaders of the Senate and House Agriculture committees except for Debbie Stabenow, the ranking Democrat on Senate Agriculture. She received a D, instead of an F, only because she voted against cloture last March on an earlier version of the final GMO labeling legislation.

“Public polling continues to indicate that consumers are very interested in the right-to-know what is in their food and want transparency in the use of GMO food ingredients,” said Jason Cole, a Cornucopia researcher.

Cornucopia singled out the Organic Trade Association for criticism, saying its support of the law gave some members “the political shelter needed to side with powerful ag and biotechnology interests.” OTA backed the bill in part because it allows organic foods to be labeled as non-GMO.

Biodiesel paying $6 million fine for invalid RINs – A biodiesel producer in Iowa has agreed to pay a $6 million fine to settle alleged violations of the Renewable Fuel Standard.

According to the EPA and the Justice Department, Western Dubuque Biodiesel purchased 24 million gallons of biodiesel from another company and then reprocessed the fuel to generate a new series of credits, or RINs, that were in turn sold back to the second company.

The government is separately suing the second company, NGL Crude Logistics, to force it to pay a fine and retire the allegedly invalid RINs. The case comes on the heels of a major, California-based biodiesel retailer agreeing to pay a $27 million fine and retire renewable fuel credits worth $71 million to resolve RFS violations. That penalty is the largest in the history of EPA's fuels programs.

Spencer Chase contributed to this report.


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