By Christine Haughney | 12/05/2017 10:00 AM EDT

With Catherine Boudreau, Sabrina Rodriguez and Maya Parthasarathy.

A DEMOCRAT FIGHTS IN RED-STATE INDIANA: Although House Republicans are mostly on the defensive in the 2018 midterm election, Democrats in red states have also found that they too have targets on their backs.

Senators up for election are not immune, either. POLITICO Magazine's Adam Wren profiles Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, an Agriculture Committee member, who is running for reelection in 2018. Donnelly's positions have put him at odds with some members of his party: He voted in favor of Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court and is defense-spending hawk.

At the same time, he has alienated Republican leaders after voting against the tax bill, calling it a "partisan tax hike on Indiana's middle class" that "does nothing to prevent outsourcing of U.S. jobs to foreign countries."

Trump's cajoling, and threat: Before he voted against the Senate tax bill, President Donald Trump courted him endlessly, including by plying him with trips on Air Force One. But Trump promised crowds that if Donnelly did not vote for tax reform, "We will come here, we will campaign against him like you wouldn't believe."

At home with farmers: In the profile, Donnelly seemed most comfortable at a farm bill session held at Ancilla College, in his former congressional district. And he's attracting support from some farmers. John Childs, a pumpkin farmer from Marshall County who supported Trump, said he would support Donnelly next fall. "He'll tell you, 'I work for you.' He'll tell you pretty straight, 'It's not gonna happen.'"

Even courting the livestock: At a barn, Donnelly asked a goat who had shoved its head over a gate as he petted it "Do you vote?" The goat licked his hand. "Well, at least I got the goat vote," he said, to no one in particular.

HAPPY TUESDAY, DEC. 5! Welcome to Morning Ag, where your host has been taking breaks from tax and NAFTA news by watching videos of horses doing the cha cha slide. Have any dancing animals, news tips or birthday shoutouts? Send them to chaughney@politico.com and @chaughney. Follow the team at @Morning_Ag.

HOLA FROM ARGENTINA: Readers, stay tuned for special coverage from the World Trade Organization's 11th Ministerial Conference. POLITICO reporters Hans von der Burchard and Megan Cassella will be on the ground in Buenos Aires, Argentina, bringing you up-to-the-minute news and a special midday newsletter, Buenos Aires Briefing. It will publish each day of the conference, from Dec. 10-13. If you have specific questions about the events in South America, please reach out to hvdburchard@politico.eu and mcassella@politico.com.

HOW A COURT DECISION COULD AFFECT OTHER FARMS: After the California Supreme Court handed the United Farm Workers union a major win last week, agriculture growers and labor organizers alike are wondering how the decision could reverberate.

The court upheld a state law that calls for third-party mediation to settle union contracts when growers and farm workers fail to come to a timely agreement on their own. The ruling, related to dispute between Fresno-based Gerawan Farming and the union, keeps in place a 2002 "Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation" law that allows the state's Agricultural Labor Relations Board to call on binding mediation to settle contracts.

Gerawan had argued that the law was unconstitutional, but the court found it ensured that all parties were treated fairly. Farm workers hired by labor contractors will also be covered by union contracts arranged with growers.

Unusual circumstances: The battle between Gerawan and UFW has been brewing for over four years. Gerawan says that UFW abandoned the company's more than 3,000 farm workers for two decades after failing to represent them or charge dues. Only in recent years, Gerawan alleges, has UFW reappeared and begun to use the state law to unionize the farm's workers and fight for third-party arranged contracts.

What's the magnitude of the decision? Although the 15-year-old law is unique to California, Jason Resnick, vice president and general counsel of Western Growers Association, told MA that other states may seek to enact similar measures.

"The fact of the matter is United Farm Workers has not actively engaged in activities to try to grow the union, but now the fear is that they'll use this law to push contracts on employers and employees that would fall outside of the normal collective bargaining process," Resnick said, calling it a "sad day for agricultural employers and employees."

Philip Martin, a farm labor expert at the University of California, Davis, told the Associated Press that 50 to 100 other farms throughout California may find themselves in the same position as Gerawan.

The decision also carries huge weight for the agricultural industry nationwide because California remains the largest agricultural-producing state - growing over a third of the U.S.'s vegetables and two-thirds of the nation's fruits and nuts.

United Farm Workers weighs in: "Now that the Mandatory Mediation Law has been upheld, after four years of stalling, giant Gerawan Farming Inc. should immediately honor the union contract hammered out by a neutral state mediator in 2013 and pay its workers the more than $10 million it already owes them," UFW's president Arturo Rodriguez said in a statement.

What's next: It's not over just yet. Gerawan is filing a petition for review to the U.S. Supreme Court, so the California law's constitutionality could be weighed.

GRASSLEY'S ESTATE TAX COMMENTS RENEW DEBATE ON FARMS: Sen. Chuck Grassley's comments to The Des Moines Register about the estate tax prompted a barrage of criticism, and also returned to the spotlight a debate over how much the "death tax," as some critics call it, truly affects farmers.

Grassley framed the levy as penalizing savers without holding spenders accountable: "I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing, as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it's on booze or women or movies," the Iowa Republican said.

In a statement Monday, Grassley said his comment was taken out of context, and that his point was that the government shouldn't "seize the fruits of someone's lifetime of labor after they die." The Senate version of tax bill would increase the estate tax exemption from about $5 million to $11 million, and double that for couples (a 40 percent tax would be assessed on the value above the exemption of an estate transferred to heirs after a person dies).

Republican lawmakers who support eliminating the estate tax, which the House version would eventually do, have long used its potential impact on farmers and ranchers as justification for repealing it. But USDA data and a 2015 Congressional Research Service report all show that very few farmers will actually pay the tax in any given year, as The Register pointed out. CRS found that just 65 farm estates will pay any estate tax when being passed on to heirs. The USDA has a slightly higher estimate at 160. Both figures represent less than 1 percent of all U.S. farms.

ROW CROPS:

- Gates and genes: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation paid a PR firm, Emerging Ag, $1.6 million to influence the U.N. decision-making process against prohibiting gene drives -- a controversial genetic extinction technology that could potentially eradicate agricultural pests. Emerging Ag covertly recruited seemingly independent academics to shape the discussion surrounding gene drives, Independent Science News reports.

- Egg-ing on a dispute: Thirteen states, led by Missouri, have petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn a California's Prop 2, which sets minimum space requirements for hens that lay eggs sold in the state, saying it raises egg production costs and prices for consumers. California challenged the law, but the case was dismissed by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 2016. More from Pro Ag's Jenny Hopkinson here.

- Wellman tapped to replace Ibach: Steve Wellman, a row crop and cattle farmer, will serve as Nebraska's director of agriculture in place of Greg Ibach, who left in October when confirmed as USDA's undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs. Wellman, who starts today, is a former president and chairman of the American Soybean Association and served on Trump's Agricultural Advisory Committee, Jenny reports.

ICYMI: On Friday, Indiana replaced Ted McKinney, who was confirmed as USDA's undersecretary for trade, with Bruce Kettler, who was previously director of public relations for seed company Beck's Hybrids. Kettler will take the helm of Indiana's Department of Agriculture on Jan. 8.

- Conservation call: The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition says lawmakers should restore cuts to conservation programs because of farmers' continued interest.

- Clearing financing barriers: A bill introduced Monday would allow new farmers seeking USDA loans to count postsecondary agriculture education, business management, on-the-farm employment and military experience toward the agency's three-year experience requirement. More for Pros here.

- Fueling the fire (aid): California's entire congressional delegation, led by Rep. Mike Thompson, wrote a letter asking the House Appropriations Committee to include money for fire-related disaster aid in legislation that would provide relief to areas hit by recent natural disasters. It follows the White House's mid-November request for $44 billion in disaster aid, which did not include the $7.4 billion in funding California lawmakers had asked for, The Los Angeles Times reports.

- Across party lines: After House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen voted against the GOP tax bill, Speaker Paul Ryan and his leadership team discussed stripping him of his chairmanship, POLITICO's Rachael Bade and John Bresnahan report. Frelinghuysen isn't the only Republican willing to vote against his own party - in the House, the 63 representatives of the Florida and Texas delegations threatened on Friday to withhold their votes on the two-week, stopgap spending package unless they get a better disaster aid package. (h/t Morning Energy)

- Montana beef's China excursion: Chinese e-commerce company JD.com and the Montana Stockgrowers Association's $300 million agreement recognizes that it is critical to expand beef markets internationally, Eric Belasco of Montana State University says. Still, it is unclear how the Chinese will perceive the value of the Montana brand. Read his analysis here.

- Recognizing heat stress: Developed by a high school student who grew up hearing horror stories about heat stress, CalorApp will alert farmers of dangerously high temperatures and allow them to report unsafe work practices, Civil Eats reports.

- Give us more time: French farmers don't think that they will be able to find an adequate replacement for glyphosate within three years, Reuters reports.

- A cashew for globalization: The story of the supply chain of the humble cashew explains the integration of the global economy reports The Wall Street Journal.

Revolving door:

- Ben Famous, who previously ran press for the Senate Agriculture committee, has moved to CAVA.

- Beth Ford has been promoted to chief operating officer of Land O'Lakes Businesses, while Brad Oelmann will be COO of Land O'Lakes Services, including Land O'Lakes SUSTAIN and Government Relations.

- Mark Jirik has been hired as director of the Northern Crops Institute, replacing six-year director Mark Weber. Jirik has a background in commodity merchandising and commercial management at Cargill, Agweek reports.

THAT'S ALL FOR MA! See you again soon! In the meantime, drop your host and the rest of the team a line: cboudreau@politico.com and @ceboudreau; jhopkinson@politico.com and @jennyhops; hbottemiller@politico.com and @hbottemiller; chaughney@politico.com and @chaughney; jlauinger@politico.com and @jmlauinger; and pjoshi@politico.com and @pjoshiny. You can also follow @POLITICOPro and @Morning_Ag on Twitter.

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https://www.politico.com/newsletters/morning-agriculture/2017/12/05/a-lonely-democrat-in-trump-country-040489

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