WASHINGTON, Oct. 31, 2016 - There are eight days left until Election Day. While today is Halloween, Hillary Clinton got her scare on Friday with the announcement that the FBI is looking into emails found on a laptop her aide had used. 

Much of the speculation over the weekend was on the potential impact of the revelation on the presidential race, where Clinton has been maintaining a relatively comfortable lead in the polls. But Democrats have to be alarmed at the potential impact on Senate races as well. According to the polls, the battle for control of the Senate is very much up in the air. 

At least six Senate races still appear to be toss-ups, including incumbents Richard Burr in North Carolina and Roy Blunt in Missouri and the open seat in Indiana. 

Vilsack looks to give Clinton final boost. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack leaves Washington tomorrow to campaign for Clinton in Ohio and his home state of Iowa.

Jump in GDP shows importance of trade, Vilsack says. Vilsack is using the latest estimate of GDP growth to make the case for approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. According to the Commerce Department, accelerated exports of soybeans was a major factor in the estimate that the economy grew by an annualized rate of 2.9 percent during the third quarter. 

U.S. exports overall increased by 10 percent in the quarter, the biggest gain since 2013, and according to the Commerce Department, that export growth was mostly due to higher soybean sales. 

Vilsack, speaking to reporters on Friday at the last USDA farmers market of the year, said that agricultural sales accounted for 75 percent of the increase in exports. 

Vilsack noted that the surge comes as a strong U.S. dollar is making it more difficult for U.S. producers to export. He said the report “shows the capability of America's agricultural sector to increase overall growth and prosperity across the country. American agriculture needs the good deal laid out in the TPP agreement to bolster its position in the world economy.”

USDA’s chief economist, Rob Johansson says China increased its purchases of U.S. soybeans as a result of delayed shipments from Brazil. USDA this month has lowered its estimate of Brazilian soybean exports by a million metric tons, or about 2 percent. 

USDA mulls impact of Canada-EU deal. Meanwhile, Vilsack says he has asked Johansson to look into the potential impact of the new Canadian-EU trade agreement on U.S. farmers. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Brussels yesterday to join EU leaders in signing the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.

The trade deal would eliminate 98 percent of trade tariffs between the partners. 

White House pressed on China and biotech. Lawmakers worried that China is backtracking on commitments to accelerate its approvals of new biotech products are pushing the White House to take up the issue during joint meetings next month. 
A bipartisan group of 112 House members sent a letter on Friday to the White House asking officials to press Chinese officials on the issue during the upcoming Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade. A similar letter is expected out of the Senate, possibly this week. 

The latest concerns center on recent amendments to China’s biotech regulations that effectively provides “less clarity and specificity around the approval process,” the House members write. They say the changes run counter to commitments that China made in September 2015 and again this June. 

“Delayed approvals that limit access to innovative products and encumber trade only serve to undermine the progress made to date and significantly dampens innovation and trade affecting both the U.S. and Chinese economies.”

Down in Georgia, praying for rain. Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black is scheduled to join Rep. Doug Collins this morning in northwest Georgia to discuss the region’s severe drought and to pray for rain. Northern Georgia and northeastern Alabama have recorded their driest 60 day period on record, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. 

In Alabama, where farmers have delayed winter wheat planting, 78 percent of the topsoil is rated short to very short of moisture. In Georgia the figure is 73 percent. 

It’s expected to be sunny in northern Georgia today with a high near 90. 

By the numbers: 65 percent. That’s the share of U.S. mushrooms produced in Pennsylvania, all of it near Philadelphia and most of in a single county, Chester County.  Most of the remaining U.S. production is in Texas and California, said Peter Wilder, marketing director for Tojo Mushrooms, explaining the business to people attending the USDA’s last-of-the-season farmers market on Friday. 

Visitors were served a side dish made with mushrooms, butter and parsley - mushroom sauce a la vince. 

He said it. “Certainly the hope and belief and continued work of this administration is to try to get Congress to decide on TPP before this president leaves office.” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on prospects for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Bill Tomson contributed to this report. 


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