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Agriculture News

Jury returns $2 billion verdict against Monsanto for couple with cancer -- the biggest so far

CNN | Posted on May 16, 2019

A jury handed an unparalleled $2.055 billion verdict in favor of a couple in California who say their cancer was caused by long-term exposure to Monsanto's popular weed killer Roundup, according to the plaintiffs' attorneys.The verdict in Oakland includes more than $55 million in compensatory damages to the couple and $2 billion in punitive damages, a statement said.The verdict "is as clear of a statement as you can get that they need to change what they're doing," one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, Brent Wisner, told reporters Monday.

Farmers Losing Grip on American Food Dollar

Growing Produce | Posted on May 16, 2019

According to a report recently released by the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), U.S. farmers and ranchers earn just 14.6 cents for every dollar American consumers spend on food. This value marks a 17% drop since 2011 and marks the smallest portion of the American food dollar that farmers have received since the USDA began reporting this data in 1993. The remaining 85.4 cents cover off-farm costs, including processing, wholesaling, distribution, marketing, and retailing.

US planning to support farmers amid China trade spat: Agriculture secretary

Straits Times | Posted on May 16, 2019

US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Friday (May 10) that US President Donald Trump had asked him to create a plan to help American farmers cope with the heavy impact on agriculture of the trade war with China. A new aid program would be the second round of assistance for farmers, after the US Department of Agriculture’s US$12 billion plan last year to compensate for lower prices for farm goods and lost sales stemming from trade disputes with China and other nations.

North Dakota site out to create farm of the future

Bismarck Tribune | Posted on May 16, 2019

Carroll says project will involve unspecified millions in capital investment, and thousands of people involved, including participation from federal, state, local and private contributions. Carroll said the initiative has five strategic parts:“Ecosystem”: The project will build a community of interest, through networking events, identifying collaboration opportunities as well as gaps in the process.Innovation platform: This initiative will create or engage with a “business accelerator” company to match start-up companies with venture capital.Makerspace: This is a a kind of laboratory -- a building and some land used for hands-on creativity. Individuals, organizations, universities, corporations, or even high school students, to “prototype different applications and look for different opportunities to do autonomous activities.”Education: The Grand Farm will study the education needed for the industry and play a part in delivering it. Young people and potential workers, perhaps displaced out of disrupted industries could “upscale” skills through working a “code school,” developed by Grand Farm, to teach specialized software development.

Pennsylvania Senate passes a series of bills aimed at bolstering farm economy

Penn Live | Posted on May 16, 2019

In a year where state officials are paying increased attention to a depressed farm economy, the Pennsylvania Senate gave unanimous approval Tuesday to a set of bills they hope can help. Different planks of the package will:Make clear that farmers who have sold off development rights for their properties are permitted to use a portion of their preserved farms for “agri-tainment” activities like mazes, hayrides, petting zoos and the like.Establishes a blue-ribbon panel to take a year-long look at factors hurting and future opportunities for the Pennsylvania dairy industry, with recommendations for further state policy initiatives to follow.Create a new personal income tax credit to farmers who sell or lease their land to new farmers, offering an additional incentive for retiring farmers to keep their farms in agricultural production instead of selling for real estate development.Permit farm families who rent out barns for wedding receptions or other events to not have to comply with safety code requirements that typically apply to public accommodations.Permits milk haulers to get exemptions from weather-related commercial vehicle travel bans. This bill is a recognition of the limited time farmers have to get their raw milk to dairy plants for processing. (A similar bill to this one also passed in the state House.)


Ag Credit Conditions Deteriorate Steadily

Kansas City Federal Reserve | Posted on May 16, 2019

A majority of bankers across the District continued to report decreases in farm income during the first quarter. Despite a slight improvement in livestock prices toward the end of the period, the pace of decline in farm income quickened slightly from a year ago and from the prior quarter (Chart 1). A similar pace of decline also was expected in coming months. However, significant increases in hog prices in the final weeks of the quarter and into April improved revenues for some operations in the livestock sector.

Iowa egg farm sues over damage from bird flu disinfection

WOWT | Posted on May 16, 2019

An Iowa egg farm that killed millions of chickens because of a 2015 bird flu outbreak is suing companies hired by the federal government to disinfect barns. Sunrise Farms says the chlorine dioxide gas and heat treatments used to kill the virus destroyed barn equipment, electrical wiring, production equipment and water lines. The company also says the structural integrity of its barns was diminished.The farm near the northwest Iowa town of Harris housed more than 4 million egg-laying hens.The farm confirmed on April 19, 2015, that its birds had the deadly strain of H5N2 bird flu. The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service division hired several companies to euthanize birds and disinfect barns to prevent the spread of the virus.Sunrise is suing the contractors who applied the gas and heat treatments. Those companies have in turn sued subcontractors.

House Ag Appropriations Questions Perdue on ERS Move

Herald Review | Posted on May 14, 2019

Sanford Bishop and Sonny Perdue go way back. So far back that Bishop, now a 14-term, Democratic congressman from south Georgia, remembers when Perdue, now the Secretary of Agriculture under President Donald J. Trump, was a Democrat.Their friendship was tested April 9 when Perdue appeared before the House Appropriations ag subcommittee to defend the president’s 2020 budget request for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Bishop, as chairman of the subcommittee, oversees every taxpayer nickel USDA receives.During his question time, Bishop roasted the secretary’s plan to move two USDA agencies, the Economic Research Service and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture, out of Washington, D.C. No one, he said, favors the move except Perdue.Not only that, Bishop went on, Perdue was moving ahead with his plan despite the subcommittee not receiving a cost-benefit analysis on it that the secretary had promised. In fact, he continued, Perdue’s rush to shuffle ERS and NIFA out of town just “seems to be a solution in search of a problem.”When asked to comment on those facts — especially that no one with any working knowledge of his plan endorsed it — Perdue went full farm folksy: “Mr. Chairman,” he said, “I’m just amazed that all those people you mentioned could all be wrong.” He then grinned weakly. Bishop is just the latest public official to question Perdue on his ERS/NIFA plan. All — like Perdue himself — have seen no evidence to support it because, in fact, there is no evidence to support it. Moreover, Perdue can’t explain it in any terms other than nonsense like “getting ERS closer to its customers.” On May 7, however, Politico, a Washington-based news service, reported that the plan was the Trump Administration “retaliating” against the ERS “for publishing reports that shed negative light on White House policies…” Specifically, ERS “has run afoul of… Perdue… with its finding on how farmers have been financially harmed by President Donald Trump’s trade feuds, the Republican tax code rewrite and other sensitive issues…”

In Farm Belt, objections mount to ‘endless tariff war’

Food & Environmental Reporting Network | Posted on May 14, 2019

In a sign that their patience is waning, soybean leaders called for talks, not tariffs, in the Sino-U.S. trade war. “With depressed prices and unsold stocks expected to double by the 2019 harvest, soybean farmers are not willing to be collateral damage in an endless tariff war,” said Davie Stephens, a Kentucky farmer and president of the American Soybean Association. The National Farmers Union, the second-largest U.S. farm group, also said that the financially beleaguered agricultural sector needs long-term economic solutions, rather than spur of the moment bailouts from the White House. Building on Twitter posts over the weekend, President Trump told reporters the administration would provide $15 billion in assistance “so our farmers can do well.” He gave no details. A 2018 package sent $8.3 billion in cash to producers of nine commodities.Senate Agriculture chairman Pat Roberts urged a speedy resolution of the trade war. “It is essential to focus on what can be done now,” said Roberts. “These negotiations must find a successful conclusion soon so our producers can realize open and reliable markets in China and around the world.”The administration is quick to promise and slow on details, said economists Brent Gloy and David Widmar, when “farmers and ranchers deserve better” than short-term thinking. “We contend it is exceedingly difficult for U.S. producers to make business and financial plans when the promises are a combination of mixed messages and light on details. However, a strategic plan with long-term, multiple-year payments mechanisms built in – should the trade war continue – would significantly help farm managers and the farm economy.”In some of the strongest language yet by a U.S. farm group, the American Soybean Association said the trade war threatens farmers’ ability to stay in business. The ASA urged the administration to remove its unilateral tariffs and work with other nations to reform China’s trade policies. Before tit-for-tat tariffs, China bought a third of U.S.-grown soybeans. Exports have plunged and the U.S. stockpile is headed for a record 1 billion bushels, a three-month supply.“Our patience is waning, our finances are suffering and the stress from months of living with the consequences of these tariffs is mounting,” said ASA chairman John Heisdorffer, of Iowa.

Trump is terrible for rural America

The New York Times | Posted on May 12, 2019

What, after all, is Trumpism? In 2016 Trump pretended to be a different kind of Republican, but in practice almost all of his economic agenda has been G.O.P. standard: big tax cuts for corporations and the rich while hacking away at the social safety net. The one big break from orthodoxy has been his protectionism, his eagerness to start trade wars. And all of these policies disproportionately hurt farm country.The Trump tax cut largely passes farmers by, because they aren’t corporations and few of them are rich. Of the 100 counties with the highest percentage of their population receiving food stamps, 85 are rural, and most of the rest are in small metropolitan areas. The expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which Trump keeps trying to kill, had its biggest positive impact on rural areas. Medicaid is also a key factor keeping rural hospitals alive; without it, access to health care would be severely curtailed for rural Americans in general.What about protectionism? The U.S. farm sector is hugely dependent on access to world markets, much more so than the economy as a whole. American soybean growers export half of what they produce; wheat farmers export 46 percent of their crop. China, in particular, has become a key market for U.S. farm products. That’s why Trump’s recent rage-tweeting over trade, which raised the prospect of an expanded trade war, sent grain markets to a 42-year low.Why, then, do rural areas support Trump? A lot of it has to do with cultural factors. In particular, rural voters are far more hostile to immigrants than urban voters — especially in communities where there are few immigrants to be found. Lack of familiarity apparently breeds contempt.Rural voters also feel disrespected by coastal elites, and Trump has managed to channel their anger.