WASHINGTON, Oct. 13, 2016 - Donald Trump’s campaign is circulating a set of talking points on agricultural policy that includes a pledge that a Trump administration would work to stop states from imposing regulations that affect farmers nationwide. The 15 points also pledge that a Trump administration would be an “active participant in writing a new and better farm bill” in the next Congress. 

The talking points were developed in consultation with Trump’s agricultural advisory council last week and then approved by the campaign staff in New York before being circulated to members of the advisory team, according to a source. 

Trade, immigration get mention. Trade and immigration both are included but they’re literally low on the list. The 13th talking point promises that Trump will negotiate better trade deals for manufacturing “while continuing to protect and defend our vital agricultural export markets.” 

The final point on the list is on immigration and it reiterates that Trump would consult with farmers in carrying out his immigration policy. The full talking point: “Trump recognizes the unique labor challenges facing the American farm community and will include farmers and ranchers in the process of determining the best possible immigration policies.”

Left unaddressed is what Trump would do about illegal immigrants. Trump has indicated that he would focus on deporting criminal aliens and would decide what to do about other illegal immigrants later. 

The talking points also include Trump’s promise to withdraw the Obama administration’s “waters of the United States” rule and a separate pledge that “all segments of the agriculture industry will have a say” in the development of any future regulations. 

Two ag advisers ask off Trump team. Two members of Trump’s agricultural advisory team have asked to have their names removed since the disclosure of the candidate’s lewd remarks in a 2005 video: Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., and Tsosie Lewis, former CEO of the Navaho Nation's Agricultural Products Industries. 

A third member of the ag team, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, has called on Trump to withdraw from the race but said yesterday that he still plans to vote him. He is still on the ag advisory council.

Two farm-state senators who joined Daugaard in calling on Trump last weekend to withdraw from the race, John Thune of South Dakota and Nebraskan Deb Fischer, also have now shifted and indicated they will vote for him.

Three GOP House members targeted on food issues. Food Policy Action, a political action group that represents environmentalists, consumer advocates and other groups working to change farm and food policy, has targeted for defeat three vulnerable Republican members of the House. They are Rod Blum of Iowa, Scott Garrett of New Jersey and David Valadao in California’s Central Valley. 

Food Policy Action says it will be providing digital assistance and mail on behalf of the Democratic challengers in each of the races. Ken Cook, who co-founded the group, would only say only that the total spending would be in the “six figures.” 

The group has made endorsements in six House races altogether and six more Senate races. But in limiting its spending to three House races the group maximizes both the effectiveness of its limited spending and the chance that the group can claim credit for having an impact. 

Food Policy Action also produces an annual scorecard on congressional votes, and the 2016 version will be out next week. The House votes that the group rated last year included GMO labeling, the WOTUS rule and Trade Promotion Authority. 

EWG releases conservation database. The Environmental Working Group is going public with the first searchable database of conservation spending by county. The database allows policymakers and interested groups to tell where the programs are spending money and on what practices. 

Craig Cox, EWG’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, tells Agri-Pulse that the data should help USDA ensure that spending under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Stewardship Program is better focused on critical resource concerns.

EPA extends RIN crackdown. The owners of an Indiana biofuel production operation have pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud and false statements for their roles in a scheme that generated over $60 million in fraudulent tax credits and EPA renewable fuels credits. Fred Witmer and Gary Jury, co-owners of Triton Energy and Gen2 Renewable Diesel, agreed to serve 57 months and 30 months in prison, respectively.

Although the Renewable Fuel Standard program requires that renewable fuel be used domestically for transportation, Witmer admitted selling it for production of fire starter logs and asphalt, and also for power generation. Jury admitted to participating in a conspiracy to fraudulently claim tax credits and to providing false statements to the EPA.

The announcement is the third in recent weeks involving alleged violations of the RFS. On Oct. 4, the Justice Department said Western Dubuque Biodiesel had agreed to pay $6 million to settle charges it generated Renewable Identification Numbers for renewable fuel produced using unapproved feedstocks and production processes. On Sept. 29, DOJ said Chemoil had agreed to pay a $27 million fine and retire $71 million worth of RINs for exporting biodiesel but failing to retire the associated RINs. The fine was the largest in the history of EPA’s fuel programs.

She said it. “In 2014, I’m convinced that not just Farm Bureau but no farm organizations had very much interaction with their members and part of the reason was the price was too good at that point in time, and so they weren’t as focused on a safety net.” – Mary Kay Thatcher of the American Farm Bureau Federation, speaking to Agri-Pulse

Steve Davies and Spencer Chase contributed to this report. 


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