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Feds Pull Crop Tour Staff After Threat From Farmer

'The safety of our employees is our top priority'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 22, 2019 5:15 AM CDT
Soybeans grow in a field near Murray, Neb.   (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)
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(Newser) – Trouble in the heartland for the Trump administration? The Department of Agriculture says it pulled all of its staff from a tour of corn and soybean fields in the Midwest after a credible threat was made against an employee. Sources tell Reuters that the threat was made in a phone call from an angry farmer. The sources say Lance Honig, crops chief of the department's National Agricultural Statistics Service, was among the staffers who had to leave the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour. Honig was due to address the tour in Nebraska City, Nebraska, Tuesday but appeared in a video interview instead, reports Bloomberg. An employee received a threat "from someone not involved with the tour," NASS administrator Hubert Hamer said in a statement. "As a precaution, we immediately pulled all our staff out of the event."

Farmers have been hit hard by the trade dispute with China—and by a drop in commodity prices caused by larger-than-expected federal crop estimates. Planting this year was delayed by flooding and farmers expected estimates to be significantly reduced. In the interview, Honig admitted that this season has been "horrific" for farmers, but defended the service's methodology and stressed that the Department of Agriculture has no political bias. Illinois farmer James McCune tells Reuters that he can understand why somebody was angry enough to make threats. "Any farmer who talked to the USDA guy who made the crop report would probably say something derogatory to him," McCune says. "I don’t know anybody that agreed with that stuff." (Read more Department of Agriculture stories.)

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