Inside Dems’ scramble to save Sanford Bishop
With help from Marcia Brown and Steven Overly
— A perfect storm of record inflation and redistricting has forced key House Ag Democrat
— The Agriculture Department and Office of the U.S. Trade Representative will form an advisory panel to assist struggling Southeast farmers. The U.S. trade representative declined to open a Section 301 probe into fruit and vegetable imports from Mexico, as was requested by Florida senators.
— Bayer, one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of agriculture chemicals like fertilizers and pesticides, as well as a major seed producer, is partnering with Nori, a company that markets carbon offsets and pays farmers for deploying practices like cover crops.
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THE SCRAMBLE TO SHORE UP BISHOP: Alarm spread through Democratic groups earlier this year as a perfect storm in Georgia’s 2nd District suddenly landed 30-year incumbent Rep. Sanford Bishop in one of his toughest races yet.
Political headwinds: Bishop, a Blue Dog Democrat, Black Caucus member and dean of Georgia’s congressional delegation faced a swirl of inflation, stiff GOP challengers and a slightly redder map after redistricting by the state’s Republican-majority state legislature. More alarming was the state of Bishop’s campaign coming into this cycle, which according to one Democrat involved in the race was “pretty dire.” Bishop, who survived the red wave in 2010, hadn’t needed to seriously campaign for years.
“An all out scramble”: Cash-strapped Democratic groups, facing a flurry of tight races across the country, jumped into action in what another Democrat involved in the race described as “an all out scramble.” The DCCC has spent more than $2 million on radio and TV to shore up a once-safely blue House seat.
New Dem $: House Majority PAC has plowed $929,763 in TV reservations into GA-02 through Election Day. The group also pushed a six-figure investment into field efforts in the district, which spans military bases and peanut fields in middle and southwest Georgia. Bishop himself, with his dusted off campaign operation, has outraised GOP challenger Chris West by a significant margin.
Internal Democratic polling showed Bishop with a comfortable lead early in October. A recent Trafalgar poll has Bishop leading by a slimmer margin, about four points. Republicans say they believe the race has tightened in the past few weeks and those involved in the race insist the millions Democrats are spending to defend the blue seat show how much they’re worried about losing it.
More notable though, is that GOP groups have yet to exert significant resources in the district to boost West while many national Republicans aren’t considering it a major target. The GOP favorite Jeremy Hunt lost in an upset during the primary to West, an attorney whose family owns an agricultural business in the nearby district. Political operatives in the area say Bishop is still favored.
INFLATION SQUEEZE: Still, West and other Republicans are hammering Bishop and President Joe Biden over inflation in an effort to peel away voters, including low-income families in the district, which is one of the poorest in the country, and some of the conservative-leaning, white farmers who have voted for Bishop in the past.
In addition to inflation barbs, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested during a visit to GA-02 last week that Bishop’s effectiveness on the key committees from which he’s derived his staying power in the region (House Ag and the powerful House Appropriations Ag subcommittee) would be diminished should Republicans win a majority in the House.
“Say Sanford Bishop was to win, he would be in the minority,” McCarthy said as he campaigned for West. “He has ethics complaints moving forward and would be under a shadow and you don’t know if he can continue to serve. So what could he produce for you?”
Bishop’s campaign declined to comment.
Ethics investigation: The House Ethics Committee has an open investigation into Bishop’s alleged misuse of more than $90,000 in campaign funds. Bishop said during a debate with West last week that he was “disturbed” to learn of the lapses and took action to reimburse the payments.
Farm Bill impact: Bishop is one of the few House Democrats left that represents a district with a significant rural swath. If reelected, he would be in a key position in the upcoming 2023 farm bill debate to determine how Congress spends hundreds of millions of dollars across rural communities, the agriculture sector and federal food assistance programs. But if he loses, it will deliver another blow to Democrats as they continue to lose a foothold in rural America.
TAI SAYS NO TO MEXICO FRUIT/VEGGIE PROBE: U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai will assemble an industry advisory group to recommend actions that trade and agriculture officials can take to help farmers in the southeastern U.S. better compete with exports from countries like Mexico, Morning Trade’s Steven Overly writes.
Her decision comes after Florida lawmakers asked Tai to initiate a Section 301 investigation into fruit and vegetable imports from Mexico, arguing that growers in their state need relief from harms caused by an “export targeting” scheme.
Tai declined to open such an investigation, which could lead to retaliatory measures like tariffs, after conducting a required 45-day review. But she acknowledged that producers in the region are struggling, especially in the wake of Hurricane Ian, and opted to form the advisory panel in conjunction with the Agriculture Department.
Lawmaker concerns: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Al Lawson (D-Fla.) led a bipartisan coalition of two dozen Florida lawmakers who petitioned for the investigation back in September. They called on USTR to “redress the untenable situation imposed by Mexico’s practices and policies.”
CARBON SEQUESTRATION PARTNERSHIP: Bayer, one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of agriculture chemicals like fertilizers and pesticides as well as a major seed producer, is partnering with Nori, a company that markets carbon offsets and pays farmers for deploying practices like cover crops.
Details: The collaboration scales a carbon marketplace to create Bayer’s ForGround platform. The scheme will enable Bayer to use the Nori platform and verification processes in order to capitalize on farmers’ regenerative practices by turning them into carbon removal offsets. The new platform will give farmers technical support and compensation for their efforts. Nori anticipates that the first 400,000 acres of farmland will be available by 2023.
Buyers of the offsets can use cash or “NORI tokens”, a proprietary cryptocurrency Nori plans to launch in order to provide “accurate price discovery” for what removing one ton of carbon dioxide really costs and preventing double-counting.
Crypto carbon impact: Crypto mining has significant carbon emissions, and the White House has said that its “broader adoption” should include more government oversight. A spokesperson said carbon emissions from the technology “vary wildly” and added that its tokens will be carbon negative within 2022.
— Jacqlyn Schneider has joined FGS Global as a partner in the firm’s food and agriculture practice. She was previously a deputy staff director for the Senate Ag Committee under Sen. Debbie Stabenow, marking the latest high level exit for the office.
– Smithfield Foods Inc. has gotten court approval for its $42 million pork antitrust settlement, Bloomberg Law reports.
– The trade publication Grocery Dive has an in-depth look at the proposed Kroger-Albertsons merger and how regulators might assess the deal.
Read More: Inside Dems’ scramble to save Sanford Bishop
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