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A new front in the food stuff box fracas

With help from Helena Bottemiller Evich, Theodoric Meyer and Daniel Lippman

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Satisfied MID-AUGUST MONDAY. Let’s start off with an under-the-radar, perhaps potent difficulty we’re preserving an eye on this week:

The Agriculture Division is experiencing fresh scrutiny more than experiences that the administration is putting signed letters from President Donald Trump into food bins for hungry households, under a $3 billion stimulus software aimed at diverting excess farm merchandise like meat, milk and deliver to food items banks and other nonprofits.

In the letter, Trump claims he “prioritized sending nourishment foods from our farmers to family members in need” and guarantees to “support America’s restoration each step of the way,” together with other marketing language. It also contains simple health suggestions, like urging recipients to wash their palms, stay home if they truly feel sick and “consider putting on a confront masking when in general public.”

Here’s the friction issue: Home Democrats are beginning to raise queries about the messaging, namely regardless of whether it constitutes inappropriate “political activity” by USDA officers. Dozens of lawmakers led by Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), a senior Residence Ag member, are demanding to know who ordered the Trump letters and no matter if it’s mandatory or voluntary for contractors and nonprofits to incorporate them in their food bins.

— “Using a federal relief plan to distribute a self-advertising and marketing letter from the president to American people just three months in advance of the presidential election is inappropriate and a violation of federal regulation,” they wrote to the department on Friday. “We strongly urge you to close the follow quickly.”

Sound acquainted? The fears mostly echo the backlash from Trump signing his identify on to thousands and thousands of stimulus checks sent to Americans by the IRS after Congress passed an initial $2 trillion economic rescue package deal in March.

— Far more particulars: Fox Information, which initially flagged the letters, experiences that they were Ivanka Trump’s strategy. The president’s daughter and senior adviser has been involved in advertising and marketing the food stuff box plan given that it released in May perhaps.

Getting A Action Back: The initiative was by now somewhat contentious simply because of USDA’s range of non-public contractors, together with a number of with minor practical experience in foodstuff distribution (most prominently, a marriage ceremony planner in San Antonio that was awarded practically $40 million to pack and produce foodstuff containers across the Southwest).

USDA officers bought an earful from Fudge and other Democrats at a House Ag hearing previous month about their option of distributors and oversight of the software.

So what’s the upshot? Besides heightened scrutiny of the ongoing hard work, the new controversy could even more encourage essential lawmakers who are pushing to tighten restrictions on how the department spends any long run farm aid resources — assuming Congress and the White Residence ever agree on a new stimulus package…

WELCOME TO Early morning AG! It’s Monday, Aug. 17, and your host thinks summer is flying by a lot quicker than regular this yr. Ideas? Mail ‘em to [email protected] and @ryanmccrimmon, and abide by us @Morning_Ag.

THE Residence IS COMING Back again: Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced Sunday evening that she’s reducing the August recess brief and bringing the chamber back again into session this week to confront Trump’s efforts to undermine the U.S. Postal Support. The chamber is predicted to vote as quickly as Saturday to block the administration’s options for important improvements at USPS that could hamstring mail-in voting, which will achieve unprecedented levels this calendar year amid the pandemic.

What’s coming up: Democrats are summoning Louis DeJoy, a Trump donor appointed to guide USPS and who took in excess of in mid-June, to surface at an unexpected emergency listening to a person 7 days from these days. They’ve previously asked for a slew of files trying to get facts on why DeJoy cracked down on additional time hours, limited selected deliveries and provided conflicting information and facts on the timeline for mail-in ballots.

While we’re in this article: Some customers are pressing House leaders to act on specific financial relief steps when they are back in session, like voting to extend improved federal unemployment advantages, as negotiations with Senate Republicans and the White House are displaying no indicators of lifestyle. Speaking of economic relief measures…

Prime DEMOCRAT BACKS Cafe Invoice: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is the latest member of Congress to co-sponsor legislation that would established up a $120 billion fund to rescue the restaurant business. The evaluate was released by Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Pass up.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) in June.

— “As 1 of the most difficult strike industries throughout this pandemic, we should do almost everything we can to make sure our eating places and our restaurant workers are safeguarded, normally we will shortchange our whole economic climate,” Schumer mentioned in a assertion, for every POLITICO Impact.

Field groups celebrated Schumer’s aid for the monthly bill, but it’s nevertheless challenging to inform if the laws is likely any place in Congress. Though 28 senators have signed on, the measure was left out of Senate Republicans’ financial reduction bundle very last thirty day period.

YOUR Post-WEEKEND REFRESHERCapture up on some of our prime news and notes from last 7 days:

Derecho wallops the corn-belt: Extreme storms ripped throughout the Midwest past 7 days, flattening crops and pummeling grain bins in the biggest corn and soybean expanding states. Iowa officers estimated that 10 million acres of farmland were being affected by the severe climate, along with millions of bushels of saved grains. Common problems to storage web pages could also be a dilemma with the tumble harvest approaching and significant stockpiles anticipated this calendar year.

Minnesota Republicans decide Peterson’s challenger: House Ag Chair Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) will encounter former Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach in November, immediately after Fischbach received the crowded GOP major on Tuesday. Republicans are yet again gunning to flip Peterson’s conservative rural district, which voted for Trump by more than 30 share details in 2016. Read through the complete rundown from the Minnesota primaries, together with several other Household Ag customers in aggressive races.

Biden picks Harris: Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden selected Sen. Kamala Harris to be his working mate. The California Democrat hasn’t been a major participant in ag coverage, but she backed Senate legislation to rewrite farm labor regulations and laid out a detailed rural agenda and climate prepare all through her bid for president this cycle — including several concepts for agriculture that overlap with Biden’s positions.

— The U.S. and China postponed a check-up on the Stage Just one trade deal planned for past weekend, citing scheduling conflicts. Trade analysts instructed the hold off was not always a bad indication and would give Beijing extra time to ramp up its buys of U.S. farm items, which so much are below the ranges desired to fulfill China’s once-a-year import commitments underneath the arrangement. The South China Early morning Post has a lot more.

— The Trump administration is punting hard selections about its ethanol procedures right until following the November elections, aiming to stay away from any additional backlash from the oil and agriculture industries that have lengthy struggled about federal biofuel guidelines. The EPA faces a late-November deadline to identify the quantity of ethanol that oil refiners must blend into the U.S. gasoline pool, Pro Energy’s Eric Wolff experiences this a.m.

— Trump is withdrawing his controversial nomination of William Perry Pendley to lead the Bureau of Land Management. Pendley confronted appreciable opposition in the Senate, and he will as an alternative keep his recent appointment at the company, for each Professional Energy’s Anthony Adragna and Ben Lefebvre.

— Virtually 20 % of Us citizens with youngsters at residence last thirty day period could not afford to pay for to feed their households plenty of food stuff, up from 17 per cent in early June, according to Census figures. The figures are anticipated to increase now that some governing administration added benefits have expired. The Wall Road Journal has the tale.

— Democrats are hunting to revive the troubled Economic Harm Disaster Mortgage application for smaller businesses like farms, even although it was widely criticized for delivering less support than promised to numerous employers. Farm-state lawmakers before this year pushed to make sure ag operations had been suitable for the loans. Far more from Professional Fiscal Services’ Zachary Warmbrodt.

— Thor Christianson, the White Residence liaison at USDA, is heading to the Schooling Department, the place he’ll work for Assistant Secretary Robert King on greater training and coronavirus concerns, per POLITICO Playbook.