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Agriculture News

Update on the DMWW Lawsuit

Farm Doc Daily | Posted on February 12, 2017

The Iowa Supreme Court responded that Iowa drainage districts possess immunity from damages claims and immunity from equitable remedies under Iowa law. The Iowa Supreme Court also answered that DMWW as one subdivision of state government cannot sue another subdivision of state government claiming protections under the Iowa Constitution, and that this also held true for the claims of a taking of DMWW property. The following briefly summarizes the court's reasoning and decisions. First, the Iowa Supreme Court found that Iowa precedent is consistent that drainage districts are immune from lawsuits for monetary damages. This immunity is due to the fact that drainage districts are state entities that have only special, limited powers and duties under Iowa law and the State's Constitution. Under Iowa law, drainage districts exist only for the limited purpose of building and maintaining drainage improvements that help provide for the draining and improvement of agricultural and other lands. This limited statutory authority also means that drainage districts can only be sued to compel them to carry out their limited purpose and not for other equitable remedies under state law. The Iowa Supreme Court refused to overturn this longstanding precedent to allow DMWW to seek monetary damages or equitable remedies as against the drainage districts for nitrate removal. The Iowa Supreme Court also rejected DMWW's takings claims under the Iowa Constitution, finding that DMWW does not possess any private property rights in the case. The court focused on the fact that the dispute was between public governmental subdivisions and did not involve private citizens. In particular, the court noted that the Raccoon River is owned by the State of Iowa in trust for the public and thus the drainage districts have not unconstitutionally taken DMWW's property. The court added that DMWW does not own the water in the river and that the drainage districts did not deny DMWW access to the water. As such, DMWW does not have a valid takings claim under the Iowa Constitution. Finally, the Iowa Supreme Court also concluded that DMWW as a public entity was not able to sue the drainage districts, another public entity, under the state constitution over the use of public or state-owned assets. As such, the constitutional claims for inalienable rights, due process and equal protection are not available to DMWW as against the drainage districts for nitrate pollution in the public waterway. The provisions are for the protection of private citizens of Iowa, not for political/public entities as against each other. The court noted that it would not make sense for Iowa citizens to have to pay for litigation between Iowa public entities. Moreover, the court pointed out that DMWW was not deprived of any rights to waters in the Raccoon River simply because of the presence of nitrates in those waters.

America's First Ag Data Case

Janzen Ag Law | Posted on February 11, 2017

A number of poultry growers have filed suit against Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms, and other poultry integrators alleging that growers’ production data was shared among integrators to depress grower payments. This is the first case where farmers’ ag data is the center of the lawsuit. The suit, titled Haff Poultry, Inc. v. Tyson Foods, Inc., was filed in the Eastern District federal court in Oklahoma.  The suit alleges that Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms, and other integrators (called a “Cartel” in the complaint) collect and share farmer level data through a third party, Agri Stats, Inc., for the purpose of suppressing grower compensation.

Bill seeks reversal of preemption of local GMO regulatons

Portland Tribune | Posted on February 9, 2017

Biotech critics are calling on Oregon lawmakers to overturn a prohibition against local government restrictions on genetically engineered crops because statewide regulations haven't been enacted. In 2013, the Oregon Legislature passed a law that preempted cities and counties from setting their own rules over seeds, which blocked most local ordinances banning genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Groups that opposed the preemption bill say state inaction since then has justified the passage of House Bill 2469, which would carve out an exemption allowing local GMO regulations.

What Happened When the U.S. Got Rid of Guest Workers? Farms Used Less Labor

The Wall Street Journal | Posted on February 9, 2017

There’s an economic argument to limiting immigration to the U.S.: Cut down on the supply of foreign labor and wages will improve for native-born Americans. But new research shows the equation isn’t that simple. A team of economists looked at the mid-century “bracero” program, which allowed nearly half a million seasonal farm workers per year into the U.S. from Mexico. The Johnson administration terminated the program in 1964, creating a large-scale experiment on labor supply and demand. The result wasn’t good news for American workers. Instead of hiring more native-born Americans at higher wages, farmers automated, changed crops or reduced production.

Cargill set to launch beef plant expansion in Canada

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on February 9, 2017

Cargill Inc. said it plans to spend $2.7 million (C$3.5 million) to expand and upgrade its beef facility in Guelph, Ont., where the company processes 1,500 head of cattle each day.  The Ontario government will supplement the cost of the expansion project by contributing about $442,000 (C$582,000), a move that Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said will help the province remain competitive, according to a release from the agency. The Cargill project also is expected to help maintain the 1,600 local jobs at the plant west of Toronto. 

Tuberculosis-Resistant Cows Are A Thing Now, Thanks To CRISPR

Vocativ | Posted on February 9, 2017

Researchers from China’s Northwest A&F University used the gene-editing technology CRISPR to create 11 cows whose added genes made them resistant to a TB-causing bacterium. Throughout various experiments, including real-world exposure to the germ, the TB-proof cows lived up to their name. They showed fewer signs of infection and less bacterial growth than a control bovine group. And in a move that could have even bigger implications for the development of gene-editing in animals and humans alike, nine of the cows were bred using a newer form of CRISPR that the researchers said reduced the risk of side effects like unintentional genetic mutations.

New 'super yield' GM wheat trial gets go-ahead

BBC | Posted on February 9, 2017

The planting of a new experimental crop of genetically modified (GM) wheat will take place this spring after the UK government gave the final go ahead. The GM wheat has been engineered to use sunlight more efficiently and has boosted greenhouse yields by up to 40%. Researchers in Hertfordshire now want to see if they can replicate these gains in the field.

Potato growers prepare for new sustainability audit

Capital Press | Posted on February 9, 2017

A new audit that potato growers some growers will complete this season seeks to provide a common standard for sustainability. A small number of U.S. growers were picked last season for a trial run with the new Potato Sustainability Audit. This season, the Integrated Pest Management Institute of North America will roll out the audit on a large scale. Growers doing business with major potato buyers — including Lamb Weston, J.R. Simplot, McCain Foods, Cavendish Farms, Basic American Foods, McDonald’s and Sysco — will be asked to complete a 104-question survey assessing the sustainability of their operations. Twenty percent of growers surveyed will be audited in person. During the audit, growers will be asked for more in-depth explanations and records pertaining to 13 mandatory questions from the list and 27 optional questions of the auditor’s choice. Based on performance, growers will be ranked as basic, steward, master or expert.

Russia to ban beef imports from New Zealand

Reuters | Posted on February 9, 2017

Russia plans to ban temporarily imports of beef and beef products from New Zealand from Feb. 6 after finding the feed additive ractopamine in some samples, Russia's agriculture safety watchdog said.  The watchdog, known as Rosselkhoznadzor in Russian, said it was also considering banning fish imports from New Zealand due to traces of mercury in some supplies. New Zealand is not covered by a wider ban on most Western food imports which Moscow introduced in 2014 in retaliation for Western sanctions imposed on Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis.

Syngenta sees ChemChina takeover closing in the second-quarter

Reuters | Posted on February 9, 2017

Swiss pesticides and seeds group Syngenta (SYNN.S) pushed back the expected closure of its agreed $43 billion takeover by ChemChina [CNNCC.UL] to the second quarter of 2017, but said it was making progress in winning regulatory approval for the deal.  The transaction is important for China, the world's largest agricultural market, which is looking to Syngenta's portfolio of chemicals and patent-protected seeds to help bolster food supplies for its huge population.