Daily Digest: Politics and tariffs at Farmfest

Good morning, and happy Wednesday. Here's the Digest.

1. Trade war a key topic at Farmfest. Farmfest is underway, and along with the machinery exhibits and seed corn displays, you'll find politics. The annual trade show in southwest Minnesota attracts more than 30,000 visitors, and this year many of them are wondering about the trade war brought on by import tariffs from the Trump administration. Many farmers see the need for better trade deals, but they're worried about the financial impact — which many farmers are already feeling. The tariffs and counter tariffs around the world have dropped sales and the prices of some key U.S. farm exports. Since China placed a tariff on U.S. soybeans, Walnut Grove area farmer Mike Hewitt has watched the price of that crop drop almost 20 percent. "They're below break even, so we're not making any money on soybeans," said Hewitt.  But even though the decline of the soybean market hurts his income, Hewitt is optimistic about the situation. He says President Trump's trade actions may hurt now, but in the long term he believes they will improve the profitability of foreign trade for all sectors of the U.S. economy, including farmers. (MPR News)

2. Senate candidates talks tariffs and trade. Five candidates participated in a forum at the annual event near Redwood Falls. The three DFLers and two Republican candidates expressed worry about lower commodity prices, and U.S. Sen. Tina Smith said President Donald Trump’s proposal to offset losses with $12 billion in emergency assistance to farmers is not a long-term solution. “A lot of farmers and ranchers say, ‘We want trade, not aid,’” said Smith, who is running in next week’s DFL primary against Richard Painter and Nick Leonard. “Of course in this difficult time, a little bit of help is going to be a little bit of help and people wouldn’t turn it down ... but it doesn’t get at the core issues we have here.” Painter, once a White House aide to former President George W. Bush who’s now running as a Democrat, hit Trump even harder. “We have a reckless president who has commenced a reckless trade war,” said Painter, invoking lessons from the Smoot-Hawley tariffs of the 1930s.On the Republican side, state Sen. Karin Housley, the GOP-endorsed candidate, is running against Bob Anderson, a dental technician from Hastings. The winners of next week’s primaries will face off in November. (Star Tribune)

3. Candidates for Congress find some common ground. Immigration may be one of the biggest partisan divides in Washington, but there appears to be general support among candidates for rural U.S. House seats in Minnesota for a program providing workers to farmers. Democrats and Republicans agreed on the need for the visa program during a Farmfest candidate forum Tuesday, Aug. 7. But they disagreed on many other issues. Rural Minnesota lacks enough workers on farms. An existing visa program to allow people from other countries to work on farms has flaws, and some in Congress are taking a look at improving it. "Congress should take a central role in that," said Republican Dave Hughes, who is trying to unseat Democrat U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson in the western Minnesota 7th district. Peterson said he is working with Republicans on a visa bill that would help the situation. (Fargo Forum)

4. Swanson campaign calls Intercept story 'politically motivated attack.' Long-simmering tensions over workplace culture in Attorney General Lori Swanson’s office are drawing new attention just days ahead of the wide-open DFL primary for governor in which she’s competing. In a story published Monday evening in the Intercept, an online news outlet, former and current unnamed staffers said employee raises and promotions over Swanson’s three terms as attorney general were directly linked to “willingness of employees to participate in Swanson’s campaign work.” The Swanson campaign swung back hard at the report Tuesday, denying the allegations and calling it a “political attempt to settle scores.” “There is no political activity undertaken by any member of the attorney general’s office while ‘on the clock’ for the government, period. Employees of the attorney general’s office are paid and promoted based solely on their merit and work responsibilities, period,” according to a statement from Swanson’s campaign. The statement, not attributed to any specific person or staff member, also copied and pasted campaign finance reports showing one named source in the story donated to Erin Murphy’s campaign, one of Swanson’s opponents in the DFL primary race, and questioned the motives of the Intercept because of business ties to some of its investors. “As we get closer to the primary, we anticipate a continued onslaught of politically motivated attacks,” the statement continued. (MPR News)

5. CD5 is getting younger. What will that mean for next week's primary election? The 5th Congressional District that Keith Ellison was elected to represent 12 years ago has changed considerably. The district, which covers Minneapolis and some surrounding suburbs, is growing. Since 2007, it's gone from 583,700 residents to roughly 708,000 now, the largest of any in the state. And many of those residents are young — and trending younger. The 5th is Minnesota's youngest district by far, with a median age of 34 years old, down from 37 years old when Ellison was first elected. "An interesting feature of this district, which is relatively rare given the demographic trends in the state, is it's kind of pulled a Benjamin Button on us. It actually got younger," Craig Helmstetter, head of the APM Research Lab, which analyzed demographic and voting characteristics of all 435 U.S. House Districts in its Representing US tool. The millennial age group, ranging from 22 to 36 years old, also makes up the greatest share of the voting-age population in the district at 35 percent, or more than 200,000 voters. That percentage also stands out in the nation: Minnesota's 5th District has the 6th highest percentage of millennial voters of all 435 U.S. House districts. It's a microcosm of a trend nationally that has, for the first time ever, pushed the number of millennial-aged voters over the number of boomer-aged voters. (MPR News)

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