Ag News Briefs

Quick Hits on Issues Affecting Ag From Around the World

The following are news briefs on issues affecting agriculture from around the nation and world.

(LAST UPDATED: 5/6/2019 AT 3:37 p.m. CDT)

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Tyson Sees Benefit Ahead From African Swine Fever

(Dow Jones) -- Tyson Foods Inc. said African swine fever, a disease hitting pig populations in China, may help the company's meat businesses as herds are culled in an effort to stop its spread.

The company said in its latest quarterly report that a world-wide decrease in pork supply related to the virus would offer upside to its pork business while also boosting its chicken and beef units as buyers switch to those proteins as substitutes.

Tyson Chief Executive Noel White said, "all proteins could see a benefit," related to African swine fever.

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Memo: China Stepping Up Inspections of Canadian Agrigoods

(Dow Jones) -- Canadian officials are aware of stepped up inspections by Chinese authorities of other Canadian-produced agricultural goods entering Chinese ports. This comes in the aftermath of Beijing's decision last month to ban the importation of Canadian canola seed, citing contamination concerns. According to a memo from Canada's agriculture department and reviewed by WSJ, officials told agri-industry stakeholders it knows of reports about increased inspection activities for Canadian products at several Chinese ports. However, officials said there's been no formal notification from Chinese customs authorities about a ban or restrictions on other agriproducts besides canola seed. Canadian diplomats have relayed their concerns to Chinese officials, the memo added. The trade row on agriculture comes as Beijing has expressed displeasure over the arrest in Canada last December of Huawei Technlogies CFO Meng Wanzhou at the behest of US authorities.

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Environmental Groups Find Contamination of Iowa Private Wells

(Dow Jones) -- Thousands of private wells across Iowa are contaminated with agricultural byproducts, sullying drinking water in the state, according to a new study by environmental organizations. The Environmental Working Group and Iowa Environmental Council say a review of 16 years' worth of state data ending in 2017 shows 40% of tested wells were positive for coliform bacteria at least once, while 12% had average nitrate levels at or above the federal limit. The two contaminants often flow from farms into streams or groundwater, and can be harmful to humans. States like Iowa and Wisconsin are struggling to protect drinking water for residents while farming operations throughout the country grow more productive, and more concentrated.

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Animal Rights Groups Sue Iowa Over Its Latest Ag-Gag Law

(AP) -- Animal rights groups filed a federal lawsuit Monday challenging a new Iowa law that makes it a trespass crime to conduct undercover investigations at livestock farms, a measure the Legislature approved just weeks after a federal judge struck down a similar law.

The latest bill was approved by the Senate and House on March 12 and signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds two days later. It creates a trespass charge for those who use deception to gain access to a farm to cause physical or economic harm, with a penalty of up to a year in jail. It also allows for a conspiracy charge that carries a similar penalty.

Iowa lawmakers passed the new law just two months after a federal judge struck down a law they passed in 2012 that the court concluded violated free-speech rights. That law made it a fraud crime to lie to get a job at a farm to do undercover investigations. The ruling is on appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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US Wins WTO Case Against China Over Grain Exports

(AP) -- The World Trade Organization handed the United States a win Thursday in a trade dispute with China, ruling that Beijing did not fairly administer quotas on U.S. wheat, rice and corn.

The WTO, the Geneva organization that oversees the rules of global trade, found that China had not been transparent, predictable or fair in managing so-called tariff rate quotas on U.S. grain exports. The import tax, or tariff, is higher on U.S. grain shipments that exceed the quota.

The case, started by the Obama administration, is not directly related to a larger U.S.-China trade standoff: President Donald Trump has slapped tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese imports in a dispute over Beijing's aggressive drive to challenge U.S. technological dominance; China has retaliated by targeting $110 billion in U.S. products.

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Farm Startup Licenses Gene Editing Method

(Dow Jones) -- Agriculture startup Inari inks a deal for an approach to gene editing in crops, which the company says will help it develop plants that produce bigger yields. The gene-editing technology, called "promoter fine tuning," lets scientists control plants' expression of specific genes, and was developed at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory under Dr. Zachary Lippman, an adviser to the company. Unlike some other gene-editing licenses, the use of this one is exclusive to Inari. The company is among a number of startups looking to harness cheap and precise gene editing technologies to challenge biotech crop giants like Bayer, Syngenta and DowDuPont's Corteva unit.

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Agriculture Report Shows Fewer but Larger Farms in US

(AP) -- latest Census of Agriculture shows the number of farms and ranches in the U.S. has fallen but the remaining operations are larger and are responsible for a higher percentage of agricultural sales.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released the 2017 Census of Agriculture on Thursday, marking the 29th release of the report since the government began collecting the data in 1840. Since 1982, it has been released every five years.

The census shows there were 2.04 million farms and ranches in 2017, down 3.2 percent from 2012. The average size of those operations was 441 acres, an increase of 1.6 percent.

About 75 percent of all sales came from only 105,453 of those farms, down more than 14,000 from 2012.

The average age of producers was 57.5.

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Dairy Safety Net Program Expected in June

(AP) -- The federal Farm Service Agency says a program to help hard-pressed dairy farmers is expected to be ready for enrollment in June.

Dairy farmers are in their fifth year of low milk prices that have driven thousands out of business.

Thirty-eight U.S. senators recently signed a letter urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to implement the insurance program quickly, saying dairy farmers' situation "is urgent."

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(AP) -- The German state of Bavaria is set to accept in large part a plan by environmentalists to save bees and protect biodiversity, averting a referendum on the issue.

In February, backers of the plan collected nearly 1.75 million signatures, over 18 percent of the region's electorate and enough to force a vote. It would set aside more space to protect imperiled insects and banish many pesticides from a third of Bavaria's agricultural land.

Leaders of Bavaria's two governing parties -- both traditional allies of farmers, who have criticized the proposal -- said that they would back the plan in the state legislature. But news agency dpa reported that they said some aspects would be clarified and there would be payments to farmers to cushion the impact.

(BE)