READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Monday, November 5th

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation

CA Senators Asking for more Farm Trade Compensation

The Hagstrom Report says California Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala (Kuh-MAH-lah) Harris are asking Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to give extra compensation to farmers who’ve been hurt by trade disputes. The legislators are citing a USDA study that estimates 2018 farm income will drop by $9.8 billion from 2017 income levels. The senators wrote a letter to the Secretary, saying that, “California relies on export markets for many agricultural goods, including many specialty crops that are grown almost exclusively in our state. These same goods now face steep tariffs, and farmers are experiencing severe losses.” They say USDA assistance to farmers doesn’t make up for the drastic losses farmers face due to retaliatory tariffs imposed by some of America’s most important trading partners, including China, Mexico, Canada, and the European Union. As a more specific example, they also cite a University of California-Davis study that says the total losses for pistachio farmers due to trade actions will total $384 million. However, USDA has only announced $85.2 million in pistachio purchases as part of their trade assistance program to help farmers.  

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Bayer Focused on Defending Glyphosate

Bayer says that it’s focused on defending Monsanto weed-killers containing glyphosate from lawsuits over claims that the products cause cancer. However, Bayer CEO Werner Baumann says they might settle those cases if the court costs become too high. Earlier this year, Bayer acquired Monsanto for $63 billion. “If we can settle nuisances at some point where the defense costs become significantly higher than potential settlement amounts, we will of course consider it from an economic standpoint,” says Baumann. A Reuters report says that was his response to questions on whether or not Bayer might consider settling in certain scenarios. He did add that, “We will resolutely and with all means defend ourselves against this glyphosate litigation.” Back on August 10th, a San Francisco jury awarded $289 million to Dewayne Johnson on grounds that Monsanto had failed to warn the groundskeeper and other customers about the potential cancer risks of Roundup and Ranger Pro. Since then, shares in Monsanto have dropped 25 percent of their value.  A judge later reduced the award to $78 million. Johnson has terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that he alleges was caused by repeated use of the Roundup herbicide.

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CA Groundskeeper Accepts Settlement; Bayer Planning Appeal

The California groundskeeper who won a lawsuit against Bayer’s Monsanto by claiming that Roundup herbicide caused his cancer has agreed to accept $78 million dollars. He’s doing so against the advice of his lawyers because he wants to “ensure that the situation is resolved in his lifetime.” The jury’s initial reward in the case was $289 million, later reduced to $78 million by a judge. Dewayne Johnson was a California groundskeeper and pest-control manger, age 42, who developed a strange rash that would lead to a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Court records say his duties included mixing and spraying hundreds of gallons of Roundup, the company’s weed killer that contains glyphosate. Johnson’s doctors say he’s in the last stages of his life. A Bayer Crop Science spokesperson issued a statement, saying, “The Court’s decision to reduce the punitive damages by more than $200 million is a step in the right direction. However, we believe the verdict and damage awards aren’t warranted or supported by the evidence available.” Bayer is planning to appeal the verdict to the California Court of Appeals.

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Extra Beef, Pork Supplies Pressuring Chicken

Trade issues have led to an increasing supply of beef and pork, which in turn is pressuring poultry sales. The extra beef and pork means retailers are featuring those products more than poultry, luring consumers away from chicken purchases. Pilgrim’s Pride CEO Bill Lovette says the chicken processor posted a sharp drop in third-quarter earnings. The drop was attributed to a “very challenging U.S. pricing environment.” Lovette expects the trade pressure to drop significantly in 2019 as potential new agreements and trading partners help reduce the extra supply of beef and pork on hand. The African Swine Fever outbreak in different parts of the world might actually boost overseas demand for U.S. pork, which should also help clean out the extra supply. U.S. chicken prices have remained attractive, helping to boost demand internationally. In terms of supplies, chicken has been growing at a pace similar to 2017. The industry website Meating Place Dot Com says U.S. beef supplies are expected to shrink in 2019, and chicken promotions are expected to pick up at the start of 2019.  Earlier this year, Pilgrim’s moved one of its large-bird deboning plants to no-antibiotics-ever and vegetarian-fed to help offset commodity market weakness.

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Romaine Lettuce Testing Program in Development after E-Coli Outbreak

The Food and Drug Administration’s investigation into a deadly E-Coli outbreak involving romaine lettuce raised in Yuma, Arizona, found no specific reason for the outbreak. However, the FDA did conclude that it’s likely from contaminated water from an irrigation canal that passes near a cattle operation. The FDA issued documentation on the investigation, as well as notified the leafy greens industry that it will start a romaine lettuce survey program very soon. The Packer Dot Com says the agency will analyze samples from all major growing areas, and if a pathogen is found, the FDA will follow the supply chain back to the source and see if unsanitary conditions were the cause. A letter to stakeholders also says the agency will explore all regulatory options and consider appropriate enforcement actions against firms and farms that produce and pack fresh lettuce and other leafy greens under less-than-sanitary conditions. The letter was addressed to stakeholders and agriculture departments based in California and Arizona, the two states that produce the largest amount of leafy greens in the country. The letter was also copied to the FDA website for other industry stakeholders as well. One of the things that made the investigation more difficult was that multiple records were either on paper or handwritten. FDA says one of the new requirements will be updated methods of recordkeeping, in order to make investigations like this easier to complete.  

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Penn State: Food Safety at Farmers Markets a Concern

Penn State University conducted a recent study on the safety of food purchased at farmers markets in the state. The trade publication Food Safety News reports that researchers found evidence of food safety problems over the course of the five-year study. The Penn State report on the findings says, “Researchers checked select samples of leafy green produce and meat obtained from farmers markets in Pennsylvania for the presence of hygiene indicators, such as coliforms, fecal coliforms, Listeria, and E Coli. What they found was cause for concern.” The study reported that E Coli was present in 40 percent of beef tested, 18 percent of pork, 28 percent of kale, 29 percent of lettuce, and 17 percent of spinach. The study also found that vendors at farmers markets were found to demonstrate insufficient or high-risk behaviors in areas like hand washing, personal hygiene, and cross-contamination.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

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By Brian Allmer - The BARN

Brian Allmer & the BARN are members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB), the Colorado FFA Foundation, the Colorado 4H Foundation, the Colorado Farm Show Marketing Committee, 1867 Club Board Member, Denver Ag & Livestock Club Member, the Weld County Fair Board, the Briggsdale FFA Advisory Council, Briggsdale 4H Club Beef Leader & Founder / Coordinator of the Briggsdale Classic Open Jackpot Show.