READ the NAFB’s National Ag News for Thursday, October 27th…

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Ag Tech Investments Reach Record Despite Sluggish Ag Economy

Investments in agricultural technology reached a record $25 billion globally last year, despite a softer global agriculture economy. A new report released this week by the Boston Consulting Group and AgFunder expects the figure grow again this year as well. The two firms say real-time data analytics, sensors and robots are raising the prospect of the “next green revolution” and are spurring start-ups focusing on new agricultural technology. Boston Consulting Group’s Decker Walker says the investments in total were “impressive” at a time when farm income is declining. Early-stage funding from venture capital firms reached $3 billion globally, up from $900 million in 2013 and $400 million in 2010, according to the report. Goldman Sachs estimates the market for new agriculture technology products could be worth $240 billion by 2050.


Canada PM Warming up to TPP, CETA Still Possible

Canada’s Prime Minister appears to be warming up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement following the stalled negotiations of a trade deal between the European Union and Canada. Justin Trudeau (True-doh) told a youth summit this week it was “difficult to imagine” Canada rejecting the TPP. Specifically, he says: “It’s difficult to imagine a world where Canada would turn its back on three of its top five trading partners,” being the United States, Japan and Mexico. Politico reports that the TPP was finalized before Trudeau took office, and he has yet to take a formal stance on the deal. Meanwhile, talks between Belgium and the European Union are reportedly progressing regarding opposition to the trade deal between the EU and Canada. Belgium’s Wallonia region has blocked the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, but the EU says it is possible the deal could still be signed this week. An official with the European Commission commented Wednesday that: “When it happens is less important than that it happens.” The EU and Canada had planned to sign the trade agreement at a summit Today (Thursday) in Canada.


Judge Considering Merits of Beef Checkoff Lawsuit

A decision on whether or not a lawsuit against the Beef Checkoff can continue will be issued at an “unannounced future date.” A federal judge heard arguments for 55 minutes this week from attorneys representing R-CALF and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack about the Beef Checkoff program, according to Food Safety News. R-CALF alleges the Beef Checkoff is allowing the Montana Beef Council to use checkoff funds without oversight. Specifically, R-CALF says the state council is using checkoff dollars to promote international beef, and Montana producers cannot opt-out of the program. Justice Department attorneys representing the Department of Agriculture say beef producers may request that all their check-off dollars be redirected directly to the Cattleman’s Beef Board, but there is little record of any Montana producers filing a request. Currently, half of the $1-per-head assessment goes to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, and for Montana, the other half goes to the Montana Beef Council. Secretary Vilsack believes the challenge should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction or for failure to state a claim by R-CALF.


WHO Cancer Agency Asked Experts to Withhold Glyphosate Documents

An exclusive report by Reuters reveals The World Health Organization’s cancer agency advised academic experts not to disclose documents they were asked to release under U.S. freedom of information laws. The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer is facing criticism over how it classifies carcinogens amid a recent classification regarding glyphosate. A letter and email obtained by Reuters shows officials from IARC cautioned scientists who worked on a review in 2015 of glyphosate against releasing requested material. The review published last year concluded glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic,” putting IARC at odds with regulators around the world. Critics say they want the documents to find out more about how IARC reached its conclusion. The agency says it was seeking to protect its work from external interference and defending its panels’ freedom to debate evidence openly and critically.


EPA Investigating Reports of Improper Dicamba Use

The Environmental Protection Agency is investigating dicamba drift issues reported in southeastern Missouri. Pro Farmer reports the EPA executed search warrants earlier this month looking for signs that the herbicide had been used improperly. The searches were prompted by complaints that the herbicide damaged 41,000 acres of soybeans and other crops, reportedly because improperly applied dicamba drifted into neighboring fields. The herbicide can injure crops that are not resistance to dicamba. Reports of drift issues started surfacing this year in parts of the Midwest and Mid-South regions of the United States. The Missouri Department of Agriculture in August said it was investing more than 90 dicamba drift complaints. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says insurance companies will not compensate farmers for losses caused by wrongful or “off-label” herbicide applications, leaving civil lawsuits as a potential recourse for growers trying to recover damages. Meanwhile, the EPA is expected to decide whether to approve “over the top” dicamba application on soybean fields later this fall.

River Infrastructure a Major Concern for Corn Farmers

The National Corn Growers Association says eroding river infrastructure is a major concern for corn farmers. An NCGA spokesperson says “upgrading the navigational efficiency of these waterways is a priority for corn farmers,” more so as most prospective customers of U.S. corn are now overseas. The comments come as new research by the Mid-America Freight Coalition finds the failure of the nation’s aging river locks and dams along the Mississippi River would cost billions of dollars in lost jobs and reduced economic activity. USDA research shows a disruption at Lock & Dam 25 on the Upper Mississippi River, a key location on the river system, would significantly hamper economic activity. The report concludes a Lock 25 closure could result in a loss of more than 7,000 jobs, $1.3 billion of labor income and about $2.4 billion of economic activity annually.  A total of 36 locks and dams, 28 on the Upper Mississippi River, are maintained at a nine-foot depth navigation channel for barge transportation.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service