WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2016 - The presidential campaign heads into its final stage with several battleground states still in play and some key rural areas likely to influence the victory. Two of those are Ohio and Iowa and that’s where Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is trying to help pull Hillary Clinton across the finish line. 

Vilsack was in Ohio from Tuesday through yesterday, frequently addressing the opioid problem, and he’ll be in his home state of Iowa from today through Election Day. Vilsack is expected to be talking a lot in the final days about Clinton’s rural development strategy.

Vilsack is an important ally for Clinton to have, given that Donald Trump has a much deeper group of agricultural and rural leaders behind him. 

The latest average of polls give Trump an average lead of 1.4 points in Iowa and 3.3 points in Ohio, according to RealClear Politics.

Meet the Farmhand: Don’t miss Agri-Pulse’s video interview with Farm Bureau lobbyist Mary Kay Thatcher. Besides providing her outlook on the next farm bill, she also talks about her love of scuba diving and golf, and the growing role of women in agriculture and government.

Trump win could hit exports to Mexico. An official with the U.S. Meat Export Federation says a Trump presidency could make exporting meat products – and anything else – to Mexico a bit more difficult. 

Chad Russell, the group’s regional director for Mexico, Central America, and the Dominican Republic, told reporters yesterday that the value of the Mexican peso has been tracking Trump’s poll numbers. Experts think the peso would fall sharply if Trump wins next Tuesday.

Aides urged Clinton to oppose GMO labeling preemption. A Clinton campaign policy paper that has surfaced in the hacked Wikileaks emails citied warnings that mandatory GMO labeling would “undermine” food affordability, but the memo still urged her to oppose preempting state labeling laws. 

The paper laid out talking points for what aides called a “middle ground” on the labeling issue: Oppose state preemption but simultaneously push for electronic disclosure of biotech ingredients. 

Those two positions - opposing preemption while supporting electronic disclosure - were inherently contradictory, but the strategy worked for Clinton anyway.

Opposing preemption helped her respond to anti-GMO voters during the primary campaign. And now that issue is no longer relevant, since Congress has enacted a preemption bill that mandates the very electronic disclosure she was supporting. 

Clinton was warned of anti-trade, anti-government ‘dynamic.’ An email written by a pollster for the Clinton campaign email provides some clues into why Trump has gotten so much traction attacking President Obama’s trade policy and regulatory agenda. 

Writing in February 2015, pollster John Anzalone warned that the campaign faced “headwinds on trade.” A survey he had conducted found that the majority of voters believe that trade agreements hurt the economy more than they help. 

The pollster also said he found that a majority of voters “strongly prefer cutting spending, debt, and regulations” over spending on education, infrastructure, and job training. “This basic anti-government dynamic both nationally and in the battlegrounds is one of our chief obstacles,” Anzalone said.

Glickman pushed Clinton campaign infrastructure. Another email that has surfaced makes reference to ideas that former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman offered the campaign for addressing U.S. infrastructure needs.

Glickman, who is in Europe this week, tells Agri-Pulse that he received a “general response” from the campaign to his proposals “but nothing terribly specific, and they have not asked for more specific advice.  Both candidates have not elevated this issue as strong as I would have liked as it is good for the economy and means jobs.”

Glickman made the case for Clinton at a United Fresh Produce Association conference in September. United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel moderated.

Merrigan: ‘My public narrative’ could aid Clinton.  Former Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan appealed to the campaign to let her help connect with younger voters.

“My public narrative is that I’m anti-establishment, whether it’s from writing the organic law, leading the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food effort at USDA, or from many other efforts,” Merrigan wrote in an email last February to John Podesta, the campaign chairman. 

Merrigan served as a surrogate for Clinton at a Farm Foundation debate last month in Washington, and she tells Agri-Pulse that she’ll be in Pennsylvania on Election Day to help with get-out-the-vote efforts. She also has served as a surrogate at events in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Connecticut. 

Organic produce, raw milk linked to outbreaks. Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been looking into the food safety risk of organic foods. 

In a study published by the Journal of Food Protection, the scientists say they don’t have the data to compare the risk between organic and conventional foods. But the researchers found an increase in outbreaks in recent years parallels the rise in consumption of organic products. 

The researchers identified 18 outbreaks associated with organic foods since 1992, and ten of those have occurred since 2010. Nearly half of the total outbreaks were linked to produce items, including spinach, alfalfa sprouts, carrot juice, grape tomatoes and lettuce. 

Four more outbreaks involved raw milk, and three of those have occurred since 2010. The largest outbreak identified in the study sickened 183 people and hospitalized 95 in 2006 and was linked to spinach.

USDA: CRP saving lesser prairie chicken. A USDA-led coalition of government agencies, non-profit groups and private businesses that’s working to conserve the lesser prairie-chicken has issued several recommendations based on a study that showed how the Conservation Reserve Program appeared to boost the bird population in Kansas. 

Among the recommendations: Enroll acreage within the bird’s active range in prescribed grazing or CRP, and maintain large blocks of native prairie across the range through sustainable ranching.

The birds, which were on the endangered species list until a court order forced them off, are still not plentiful throughout their range in the southern Plains. Researchers found that establishing and maintaining CRP fields with the right vegetation helped attract prairie chickens to areas in and beyond their historical range. 

She said it. “Everybody is going to be scurrying for money, and that causes people at the last minute to fight with one another . … It will be an uphill battle.” - Mary Kay Thatcher of the American Farm Bureau Federation on why she believes a shortage of funding for commodity and conservation programs will make the next farm bill more difficult to write than the 2014 measure. 

Spencer Chase and Steve Davies contributed to this report. 


For more news, go to: www.Agri-Pulse.com